Monthly Archives: February 2014

Chelsea Market – 10 Great Eats

Cull and PistolEver since god invented the CitiBike, I’ve been spending more time chowing in ultra touristy Chelsea Market.  A pleasant 15 minute ride there, and a strenuous 25 minute ride back on a gassy full stomach.  Navigating through the tourists at the market during lunch time should be an Olympic event.  The Chelsea Slalom.  Opening the door without letting an entire large polish group in and losing your family as a result somehow requires an online course.  With that said, unlike most touristy spots in NYC (e.g. Little Italy, Times Square, Restaurant Row) there’s good food to be had here.

Chelsea Market Los Tacos

Chelsea Market is a little misunderstood.   Since this is by far New York’s most famous “Market”, many avid tourists come here expecting a market similar to the Boqueria in Barcelona or Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem.  Chelsea Market is nothing like it.  Its indoors, not really ingredient heavy, but more a of a collection of unique restaurants and food purveyors.  And just like Eataly, Chelsea Market requires some exploring in order to get it, and avoid disappointment.

Adobada Tacos at Los Tacos #1 – The more I eat those little porky things the more I like them.  Tacos on the small side when you compare to what you get at a NYC bodega, but they are well marinated and deadly.  I often see tourists and locals fill the tacos with salsa and all the other free goodies available on the counter, ever so slowly killing the flavors.  Let the meat do the talking guys.Los Tacos

Pastrami Sandwich at Dickson’s – These guys, who look mostly like Boston Bruins enforcers, dont mess around with their meats.  Top quality stuff is sourced directly from a few hand picked local farms, enabling Dickson’s to produce tasty sausages, hot dogs (great dogs here) and this pastrami sandwich with Apricot Chutney.  This is not your average pastrami.  Bright, peppery, well marbled, fatty in all the right places.  Like slow dancing with your mother in law.Dicksons pastrami

Cappelletti al Prosciutto at Giovanni Rana – Fresh pasta galore at this Verona import.   After trying an array of pastas here (including a surprisingly flavorless Carbonara) I would stick to what they do best;  Ravioli/Tortellini, and the rest of the ravioli familia.  The “little hat” shaped Cappelletti is packed with flavorful, salty, porky goodnessGiovanni Rana

Chirashi Bowl at Lobster Place – Tourists flock to LP for the lobster, not realizing the tremendous sushi strength here.  One of the best ways to sample the fresh seafood at LP is via the Chirashi, a rice bowl topped with chef selected fresh raw goodness.  Other than the somewhat soggy octopus this thing simply rocked.  As long as you dont mind splurging the full $24 for the full bowl if sitting at the counter

Lobster Place Chirashi

Peppercorn Catfish at Num Pang.  Love me some good fish sandwich.  Something you cant easily find in NYC.  This is a fine combination of flaky catfish with mild pleasant heat, fresh veggies, and crispy baguette-like bread adding to a mighty fine Vietnamese Banh Mi resemblanceNum Pang - Peppercorn Catfish

Uni Tagliatelle at Cull and Pistol.  Squid ink pasta to me is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you going to get.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt.  This one works big time.  The richness, and sweetness of the uni sauce puts the Tagliatelle into another dimension.  And while the cherry tomatoes, and squid are just there to look pretty, they don’t hurt.  Even my oldest (13) who swore against squid ink pastas when she tried it in Venice, enjoyed this one.Cull and Pistol Tagliatelle

Lobster.   When I first decided to do a blog post about the Chelsea Market, I said to myself.  “Ziggy, be unique.  Give them something more than what those Asian tourists are coming for”.  But who am I kidding.  Nothing says NYC more to me than this only in NYC thing.  The Maine Lobster Roll!  You can get it at the Lobster Place, or its sister Cull and Pistol with the most addictive, perfectly cut and seasoned fries.  Or, do it Asian tourist style – grab a table and share an entire one.Cull and Pistol Lobster Roll

Mighty Mushroom Roll at Beyond Sushi.  Dont say I’m not thinking of you Mr and Mrs health nut.  For something that is less than zero calories (you lose while you chew and lose some more while you fight a polish tourist for a sit at the steps) this is pretty darn good.  And its not just the truffle essence that puts this thing on the list, its also the Enoki, Shiitake, Tofu, Micro Arugula, Shiitake Teriyake sauce… err who am i kidding, its mainly the truffle essence.  The same essence I blame for not taking a picture.

Chocolate Chip Cookie with Caramel at Liddabit  – This is simply an awesome cookie!  Dont believe me? I once brought the cookie to my cookie obsessed/snob co-worker Lou…

“So, how do you like it?”

“This is a good cookie!”

See?  What sets it a part for me is not so much the caramel, but the liberal use of dark chocolate chunks all around.Liddabit Cookie

Nocciola delle Langhe at L’Arte del Gelato – Pure awesomeness.  If there’s better gelato in the city, I didn’t have it yet.  If you always wandered about the difference between ice cream and gelato, this is a good place to see the difference.L'Arte del Gelato

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Lazy Post – City as Canvas

095Whether you are for or against public graffiti you may still appreciate the City Of Canvas exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.  Martin Wong who died of AIDS in 1999 was an artist and a graffiti pioneer in NYC, the city that defined the whole graffiti movement.  He amassed a huge graffiti collection during the 1970’s and 1980’s which he later donated to the city.  Wong’s works can be found in other museums all over the city including the Met.  After his death the Martin Wong foundation was created to continue his legacy

This is not the only reason to visit the Museum of the City of New York.  Rising Waters, a touchy subject with the Ziggy clan depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Activists New York explores the entire history of activism in New York, among other exhibits on display.

072 092 091 090 089 084 085 087 080 078 077 074 075

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The Road Trip Every New Yorker Should Do At Least Once

SomesvilleRumors have it that our new mayor has dropped the groundhog on his head and as a result we are suffering through the worst winter in recent memory.  Major salt shortages all over the city.  Lower back spasms from all that reaching to the wallet to pay the shovellers.  And not so much eating out lately.  Quality of life is taking a hit due to this winter, and instead of the usual food porn I’m presenting you with the finest New England lighthouses and pretty bridges with flowers.  Yes, the inner Ziggy is out at it again.

With that said, I was asked quite a few times for that New England road trip we did a few years back, and I figured its time to put it up here.  This is an 11 day road trip showcasing some NE highlights.  If anyone has any suggestions/comments/threats please dont hesitate to share in the comments.  But overall, road trips out of NYC dont get any better than this (and we had our share which includes Niagara)

The short Version (1 night each unless noted):

Newport

Sacco

Bar Harbor – 3

Boothbay

Portland

Gloucester – 3

Day 1 – Newport, RI.  One night.  Along with the drive back home this is the longest drive of the trip.  You are here to see the mansions, the gigantic summer cottages where the wealthiest Americans came to play in late 1800’s, early 1900’s.  You have just enough time for a couple of mansions on day one.  Allow around 75 minutes in each.   The Breakers, Elms, Marble house and Rosecliff are the musts IMO.  Consider the behind the scenes tour at the Elms.  Breakers stays open later in the day so you can squeeze it in the first day.  Have dinner in Salvation cafe.  Save your money and spend the night somewhere in Middletown very close by.  There’s a Holiday Inn express among other chains.

Newport, RI

Day 2 – Morning in Newport, and off to Maine.  Visit the rest of the mansion you want to see and do the spectacular cliff walk.  Park somewhere on Narraganset ave and walk to your right and back.  Visit the Touro synagogue, the oldest in the USA (1763).  Not the most beautiful and not the most interesting tour, but it will make you look good at future cocktail parties.  Take a drive on Ocean ave and have lunch in one of the wharf’s.  Black pearl is decent.  Good clam chowder.  Overall, Newport is fairly touristy (for good reason) which means not the most exciting food town.  After lunch start driving toward Bar Harbor with the idea of spending the night somewhere in the middle.  Hampton Inn in Saco near the highway is a good cheap option for families.  On the way to Saco however if its a nice clear day, take a detour to Cape Neddick to see the striking Nubble Lighthouse.  Stop by at the famous Clam Shack in Kennebunkport for a lobster roll on the way to the hotel.

Day 3 – Drive to Bar Harbor.  About 3.5 hours from Saco or Portland.  Take the 295/95 route and leave the scenic route 1 to the way back.  A convenient lunch in the area is the Chart Room off the main road.  This is a good day to simply relax and enjoy your hotel and Bar Harbor, but also a good day to go on a lobster tour with something like Lulu lobster because the rest of the days you would want to stay out of the area as much as possible.  Its a good day to start your lobster meal marathon somewhere although I dont have a particular recommendation.  Last time we had  lobster crapes at Maggies but looks like its now closed.  Have lobster ice cream at Mount Dessert Ice Cream.  Again, for the purpose of future cocktail parties (“Darling, you should have seen all the crazy gelato flavors being scooped up in Rome these days.. Anchovies! Feh! “, “Well, I bet it still beats Lobster gelato in baa haaba, my dear”).  You get my point.

Lulu lobster

I recommend splurging at the Bar Harbor Inn for 3 nights.  Spectacular setting, old rustic hotel with a lot of charm.  While there, please tell them to stop emailing Ziggy promotional material.  I will revisit when I’m ready.  Thank you!

Bar Harbor inn

Day 4 – Explore Acadia.  Essentially you want to do the 27 mile Park Loop road that takes you to all the cool spots.  Start with the visitor center and get a map.  Stop at Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and other stops on the route.  Have lunch at the Jordan’s pond (get the popovers, good lobster rolls).  This is a must.  You will be hard pressed to find a more stunning setting, in the park’s only restaurant.  After lunch or before take a walk around the pond.  Then climb the South Bubble on the other side of the pond for more incredible views.  Drive up Cadillac mountain and walk around the summit and stay till sunset.  Its cold up there so bring a sweater, or a jumper if you are British.

South Bubble

Day 5 – Perhaps my favorite day of the entire trip.  Explore the quiet side of Mount Dessert Island:  Got to Somesville and look for the bridge (top picture).  Go kayak on Long pond, take a swim at stunning Echo lake beach, visit southwest harbor, do the ship harbor trail, and look for bass lighthouse.  “But Ziggy I still don’t see why this is your favorite day” Have lunch at Thurston’s lobster pound in Bernard.  “Ahh. thank you!”

Thurston's lobster pond

Day 6 – Back on the road.  Time to hit Route 1 – Not the most scenic drive, but all sorts of interesting stops on the way.  Consider spending some time in Camden.  But right before you get to Camden drive to the top of Mt. Battie for some great views of the bay.  Not a strenuous climb by any means.  In Camden enjoy the various galleries, shops, etc and you can take a 2 hour Schooner cruise if you like from the various vendors lined up at the port.  Have lunch in Camden or area.  Continue driving on route 1 south.  Another spectacular lighthouse on the way is the light at Pemaquid point.  Spend the night in Boothbay harbor, and consider dining at, what else, the lobster dock.

Pemaquid lighthouse

Day 7 – Back on the road.  Visit the surprisingly majestic and serene Coastal Botanical Gardens.  Its huge, so you can easily spend half a day here if you like.  Walk the forest.  Continue to Freeport and visit the original LL Beans store.  They have all kinds of activities and clinics you can sign up for in advance like archery and canoeing.  Spend the night in Maine’s largest city and one of the greatest food towns on the east coast, Portland.  Consider dining at Street and Co. or its sister Fore Street, widely considered as one of the best restaurants in the USA by all the publications/lists out there.

Coastal Botanical Gardens

Note:  If you opt to stay longer in Freeport to take advantage of the LL Beans clinics and still do the botanical gardens, you may need to stay an extra day in the Portland area or adjust the itinerary as needed.

Day 8 – Visit Portland sites including and especially Portland Light (yes another lighthouse – what else is new, but this is an absolute must).  This is more of a giant sprawling park that attracts a lot of locals and tourists and offer some of the best photo opps of the trip.  Its been over 12 hours since the last lobster meal so lunch at the nearby The Lobster Shack at Two Lights.  Drive toward Glaucester, Mass via Kennebunkport and the popular summer resort Ogunquit.  The idea here is to stay 2 nights in or near Gloucester.  Consider staying at TownePlace Suites in the town of Danvers.  Cheap 2 BR units right between Gloucester and Boston for easy access to both.  I found that the Gloucester popular hotels sell out quickly and/or too expensive for this purpose.

Portland Light

Day 9 – Take the 4 hour whale watching trip with 7 Seas Whale Watch out of Gloucester.  Should be one of the highlights of the trip.  Reserved in advance.  We saw 11 whales last time.  Or one whale 11 times.  Either way it was a blast

Note:  The summer is the best time to see whales in the area.  In order to play it safe weather wise you could do the Gloucester leg of the trip on the way to Maine instead of back, and switch if necessary in case the weather turns resulting in choppy water.

7 seas whale watch 7 seas whale watch Gloucester

Day 10 – Visit Gloucester sites including the various monuments, Hammond Castle, the nearby Rockport and do not miss Motif Number 1, the most often-painted building in America.  And in case it looks familiar and you feel like you’ve seen it a hundred times, you did.  When your kids watched “Finding Nemo” over and over again.  Its one of the paintings at the dentist office.  Have lunch in Causeway (good haddock) and check out Halibut point park

motif no 1 Rockport

Day 11 – Visit Boston

More from Acadia…

Echo lake beach Long pond Cadillac Mountain Sunset Cadillac Mountain Acadia - Sandy Beach Jordan's Pond Jordans Pond

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Caicos Cafe – More Sea-food-gasm

Caicos Cafe beef tartarPreviously on as Caicos Cafe turns

Sometime between the second and third course of the first meal, I made an executive decision.  Scrapping the plan to only go to Caicos Cafe once on this trip in order to give someone new a shot.  A plan I was never comfortable with, and the most likely cause of my Shingles.  Crisis averted, vacation saved.  Ok, a bit melodramatic I know.  But Ziggy’s mind is a mysterious and complex labyrinth, that produces joy via creating anticipations on a whim.

Caicos Cafe in a way represents everything I love about eating in places like Turks and Italy.  A masterful use of “backyard” ingredients by a talented chef, and the perfect formula.  A formula helped by a menu that screams for repeat visits.  A nice mix of old and brand new awesomeness during the recent visit….

Caicos Cafe - Troccoli

Jumbo scallops wrapped in pancetta (bacon for those scoring at home or if you’re alone) on a bed of green pea purée.  Expertly prepared, perfectly cooked scallops.  Goat cheese roll and butternut squash Brie tart with walnuts, sundried apricot, mushroom vinaigrette.  Somehow, I never got to try this so I can only go by Mrs Ziggy’s facial expressions and the words coming out of her mouth… “Ooh yum mmmm ooh need to go peepee”.  I think it was good.

It’s listed on the menu as a yellow tail snapper but we got a fresh grouper instead, prosecco flambeed with all sorts of seafood delights including some tasty bay scallops.  Another great dish showcasing Mad Max’s skills.  A dish of the year nominee for me was a new addition to the menu, Troccoli with octopus.  Troccoli pasta is homemade with a guitar like instrument (Chitarra) pressed against the dough sheet.  It looks and tastes like the Tuscan Pici but with egg and must be cooked more al dente.  With a super tender tasty Octopus (he uses another tool to tenderize the sucker) and Max’s signature roasted tomatoes to balance things out, the entire creation cooked in the locally caught octopus juices.   Simply fantastic!

Caicos Cafe - Wahoo Carpaccio

On the last night there it was again on the specials board, Wahoo Carpaccio.  People if you ever see it on the board and you love seafood, you must order this.  Whenever Max gets fresh Wahoo I believe he puts it up there.  Expertly done with a touch of pink peppercorn, melt in your mouth sea butter foodgasm when harry met sally worthy of a run on sentence goodness.  Another top dish nominee was the beef tartar.  It was tough taking pictures of this one with the strong truffle oil (first time I see truffle oil used here) scent slapping you in the face.  I was just anxious to attack this thing with full force.  Served with toasted baguettes this was another killer tartar (as is the tuna we enjoyed in the past).  The conch and grouper chowder while lacking the spices of Le Bouchon’s version it more than made up for it with hefty chunks of grouper and conch

Seafood Casserole was the last menu classic I haven’t tried yet, and turned out to be well deserved of the classic tag.  Like a glorious bouillabaisse, with every seafood known to man in it.  Or at least every seafood known to south Caicos fisherman.  A sauce you just want to dip anything in, fingers, room keys, anything.  Lobster linguine fra diavolo was as good as ever, but with an extra kick this time seems like.  Shared Ziggy’s fave Affogato (thats what it says on the menu.  Ok, not really, still working on it) and the mango apple tart, possibly my two favorite desserts at the moment.

Caicos Cafe - Chowder Caicos Cafe - Scallops Caicos Cafe - Grouper Caicos Cafe - lobster fra diavolo Caicos Cafe SeafoodCaicos Cafe - Apple Mango Tart

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Taboon – Magic Oven

Courtesy of Taboon

Courtesy of Taboon

March 3, 2016 Update:

Taboon is better than ever.  Our first visit since Efi Nahon came back to where it all started resulted in the best Taboon meal ever.  After leaving his marks at Barbounia and more recently at Bustan, Efi is back with a vengeance at the place he helped built back in 2004.  He got a Sicilian type offer he couldnt refuse.  There he was at the kitchen, doing his thing while us and another couple waited patiently for our table.  Best time I ever did!  Since I had the opportunity to talk to the man next to the blazing, beautiful Taboon oven, like two lovers people near a fire place.  Well, I’m sure he didn’t quite take it like that, and I already had a few drinks by then.  Ok, just one.

You can tell just by looking at the menu that its no longer the same old Taboon, even though many of the classics like Chicken Taboon, Hanger  Steak, and Heraime are still on the menu.  One big difference was the number of interesting specials that night.  And sure enough a Crab Shawarma special, featuring Lior Lev Sercarz’s La Boite Shawarma seasoning and artichokes, turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. Other early winners were the cauliflower and a shrimp filled, harissa and paprika spiced “Red Falafel”.  The Lamb Kebab pot pie Terra Cotta was like going back to Haj Kahil in Jaffa.  A classic you don’t normally see here.  If there’s one criticism now that I’m no longer standing next to Efi (He’s bigger than me, and more importantly Israeli!) is that the Sambusak (bread stuffed with feta) this evening was saltier than usual, and didn’t pair well with the rest of the apps.  For dessert we had just about the entire lineup, and sure enough, the great Silan, was still the clear winner.  Check out this Z-List winner!

IMG_0427

February 11, 2014:

10th avenue is the new 9th avenue.  Thats what I tell visitors when I bring them to 10th ave in ethnic rich Hell’s Kitchen.  That line either prompts a smile, confusion, or in one particular instance, gas.  Among the various new eateries that popped over the last few years, which includes Peruvian, Thai, Mexican, Italian, farm-to-belly (yes The Marshall, I see you), Korean Chicken Wings, “Middle-terranean” Taboon stands as the grand ol’ daddy in this rejuvenated, gentrified, stretch of Hell’s Kitchen.  You could not open a place like Taboon 18 years earlier (Taboon opened in 2004) in that neighborhood without having a Shepherd’s Pie in the menu, or other classics from the Irish mob cookbook.
I was given a task by a group of hard to please New Jerseyans to pick a nice Israeli place in the city for a group dinner, and I immediately thought of Taboon and Balaboosta for a slightly cheaper fare.  Balaboosta’s somewhat limited group menu, and my two year absence from Taboon made the choice clearer.  A coin flip! Ok, not really.  The choice was clear and needless to say the South Jerseyans who miraculously arrived on time after carefully planning a route via Chris Christie supported towns, seamed pleased with the end results.

Courtesy of Taboon

Courtesy of Taboon

Taboon means oven in Arabic, and your host for the evening is the domed wood burning, brick oven which greets you as soon as you arrive.  This is the stuff that dreams are made off.  And pizza!  And once seated it didnt take long to get a taste of the that oven.  Focaccia that would make Italian gourmands proud.  Perfect depth, golden crispy exterior, brushed with just enough olive oil, with a touch of rosemary and salt.  But the bread doesnt just stop there.  A splendid Sambusak stuffed with feta cheese, jalapeño and onion follows.Taboon Foccacia Taboon mezzes

Along with the bread, came an army of mezzes.  Well, an army for NYC standards at least.  In any Arab restaurant in Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem this would be called “Closed till further notice”.  An acceptable Hummus, tzaziki, taramosalata (roe spread – the older I get the less I like it), baba ghanoush, green schoog (the older I get the more I like it, but I prefer it like my wine, red), red pepper spread (the older I get the more I like cookies.  Nothing to do with red pepper spread [which was lovely btw] but I thought this is as good as a time to mention it).  The lovely mezze parade then continued with a refreshing avocado salad, and salmon ceviche (I believe it was salmon, it says red snapper on the site).  But the mezze war was won by the fantastic falafel balls with an all too familiar taste (Amba – that mango condiment we enjoyed so much in Israel last year), and the crowd favorite Zucchini cakes with sauteed snow peas, cipollini onions, fresh herbs topped with yogurt/garlic/mint sauceTaboon Zucchini Cake Taboon ceviche

As for main, I enjoyed my perfectly cooked Hanger with potatos, Brussels sprouts, and garlic.  But I quickly realized that I had this steak here twice before, and a quick look to my right gave me some serious and extremely rare chicken envy.  Yes, the first time New Jerseyan ordered better than me.  The mighty fine looking Chicken Taboon was featuring my true love, Israeli couscous.

A note about Israeli couscous.  Israeli  couscous is not like the couscous you know and love and really only called Israeli couscous in America.  In Israel, its called “Ptitim”, and its essentially tiny oven toasted “Pasta balls” invented when Israel’s first prime minister asked Osem to develop a rice substitute.  For a while it was nicknamed Ben-Gurion’s rice.

Taboon steakBack to the mains.  Two fish dishes that have been on the menu for as long as I remember are particularly popular.  The whole baked Branzino, and the Heraime –  wild striped bass, baked in the taboon oven in a ragout of roasted pepper, tomato, cilantro, mild Moroccan spices, artichokes and hot paprika oil served with regular couscous (booo, but I get it).  If you like meaty white fish with red sauce, get this.  Did I mention that a top Israeli chef who happened to be owner Ayala’s uncle (I think) was brought in to help generate the menu?

Normally in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean I find my refuge in all the apps/mezzes, and the desserts, and any greatness in the middle is a bonus.  Bonus!  The desserts here are just fantastic.  The Silan in particular is a thing of beauty – Vanilla ice cream with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva,  I’ve had this on every single visit.  The Lava Cake however was this crowd’s fave, and the Knaffe capped another great meal at Taboon.

Taboon
773 10th Ave, 52nd Street
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Focaccia, Sambusak, Cauliflower, Terra Cotta Lamb, Falafel, Zucchini cakes, Chicken, Heraime, Silan, Lava Cake

 

Taboon Taboon chicken Taboon lamb Taboon lava cake Taboon Silan Taboon inside

 

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Turks and Caicos – Bugaloo’s

Bugaloos - Conch SaladThere were 3 major milestones during our recent visit…

1) I rediscovered the joy of traveling to Provo without kids.  Sorry kids, its fun to go with you, but its Soooo much more fun to go without, and now that you are eating like mom and dad its so much more affordable too.  The 11 year old would call the manager if she detects her 40 oz. rib eye was not aged properly

2) I discovered a new passion – Beach Yoga!

3) I finally got my conch at Bugaloos in a conch shell.

Bugaloos - Snapper

Besides yet another wonderful conch salad, one of the best things I ate during the entire trip was the freshly caught whole red snapper sautéed with some coconut milk, onions, pepper and garlic.  Great texture, flaky, simply mouthwatering piece of fish.  The light sauce was just the perfect compliment, letting the fish do the talking.  We attacked this beauty in full force.

March 3rd, 2013 post:

Bugaloo'sSo now that this blog has been featured on Trip Advisor, and now that baby Ziggy decided to run for pope, I feel like I have to clean up my act here a little and limit the use of smiley faces.  Just had to let you all know.  You already see the changes reflected in the new site tagline – “Eating Well, Spelling Poorly” which makes no sense whatsoever now that I think about it as I use a spellcheck.  But whatever…

Bugaloo's

My mission on this trip was to try some new places like Bugaloo’s.  Its hard to leave the resort during lunch time, but while the rest of the family is ‘liming’ by the beach, Ziggy has people to see, new conch to try.

The food was terrific.. I think.  Its hard to concentrate sometimes when you are eating with great people in a setup such as this.  No need for Sevantix here!  One of the most spectacular setups in TCI.

I enjoyed my conch salad (bottom) although it was missing some of that heat I was hearing about.  But it was fresh and tasty.  Conch (pronounced “Conk” if you are scoring at home or even if you are alone) salad to me is the best way to experience conch on the islands.  Peruvian ceviche style.  Coconut Cracked conch (below) was fine as well but if I have to choose I’d go with the conch salad.

Bugaloo's - Coconut Cracked Conch

I was here with my new friends Joe and Dash who I met via Trip Advisor.  Everything went well until they started ‘seeing things’.  Mainly fish doing somersaults.  “There it was again, did you see it?”, “Ahhm, ye I saw it” 🙄  But other than that, you will be hard pressed to find a couple as great and better looking if I may say than this two.  What a pleasure it was to meet them.

I’ve been very fortunate to meet some great people through Trip Advisor.  From RedRox in Sedona to Blamona in TCI.  And I’m so looking forward to meeting more like my friend CaribDesi from Atlanta.  If you knew CaribDesi you would know that a place like Bugaloo’s is right up his alley.  Get well soon Desi!  And I’ll see you in Three Queens.Bugaloo's - Conch Salad

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Dude, You Are Researching NYC Food All Wrong

002Dear Tourist,

So you’ve decided finally to go on a “Holiday” to New York City.  Mazal Tov!  You probably read by now in your guide books that NYC is the greatest food city in the world.  And you are probably waking up every morning thanking god for the gift that keeps on giving, the TripAdvisor Rankings.  Between the rankings, the guidebooks, and all the great recommendations by your neighbor’s house sitter Betty (you must go to bubba gump you must) who eloped to NYC last year with 75 of her closest friends, you are all set.  Right?  Not exactly.  Lets take a moment and examine what is wrong with the above plan, and come up with a new one.

Whats wrong with the TA rankings:  Everything, and nothing.  Its just totally meaningless, especially in NYC.  TA is a great traveling tool, but pretty much totally useless in NYC as far as restaurants are concerned.  The main reason for its uselessness is that there are much better research tools in NYC. (more on that later).  But lets discuss the rankings for a second shall we.  They are so flawed and so out of tune with reality that’s not even funny.  The top 50 at the moment is a bizarre mishmash of classics and places I never even heard of.  First of all the TA algorithm puts some major weight on the number of reviews.  So older establishments may be higher than better reviewed younger ones.  And then there are those that have 27 remarkably high reviews that made it all the way to the top 20.  And not to mention that 25 of them may be coming from all their employees and families.  I always recall this one particular place in Milan where the owner single-handedly put his place #1 with a bunch of obvious fake reviews.  At some point he mistakenly gave himself one star, and that followed with 4 quick glorious reviews with a similar language.  And once real reviews started coming in, he found himself arguing with every reviewer

But fake reviews don’t have much of a bearing on the busy NYC listings.  Tourists do.  TripAdvisor is predominately used by tourists, and its especially true in NYC.  While you may see locals contribute in other towns and countries where there’s not much of a choice other than TA, in NYC locals use other sites like Yelp.  Now, couple the tourist factor with the high volume factor I mentioned above and you can see why something like Basso56 will be near the top as its heavily reviewed by tourists thanks to its location near Times Square.  Besides Basso, at the top of the Italian chain on TA at the moment you can find other Italian behemoths like Rafele, Piccola Cucina, Via Della Pace – places I never even heard of.  But if you need more convincing than “Ziggy never heard of”, why not just go to Chowhound where all the NY foodies hang out and pull threads that discuss the best Italian in town.  You will not find any of those places mentioned.  What you will see mentioned are places like Maialino (#95), Babbo (#602), Marea (#194), Lincoln (#882), or even Ziggy fave Costata (#2605).  TA numbers are all over the place as you can see, well outside of the top range for the unsuspecting tourist.  So while you are eating a Carbonara with cream and bacon at a high ranked theater district place near you, locals out there enjoy the real thing with Guanciale and egg at Maialino.

Same applies to using the rankings everywhere else in the world.  My favorite restaurant in our adapted home of Turks and Caicos is Caicos Cafe, rated #20 at the moment, pretty low in T&C standards.

Now, its time to ditch the guide book.  Ok, wait.. pick it up.. its actually quite useful for many things.  But not so much for food.  Yes, you will get some good tips on some NY icons like Katz’s and Russ and Daughters that I recommend.  But then you have something like pizza (namely Grimaldi’s) and bagels that NYC is so famous for.  While you will not easily find better pastrami than Katz’s, you will easily find better pizza than Grimaldi’s.  Actually, all you need to do while standing on line at Grimaldi’s with the rest of the tourists is look to you left at Juliana’s window to see where the real Grimaldi is doing his thing nowadays.  But you dont even have to leave your neighborhood in Manhattan to get great pizza that is arguably better than Grimaldi’s.

Besides pizza, your guide book will mislead you in other areas.  E.g.  Hell’s Kitchen is not a safe area, the place for Italian is Little Italy, and Times Square is a foodie paradise.  Your guide book may be up to date as far as facts are concerned (MoMA hours) but not concepts.  Little Italy is now a block inside Chinatown riding one of those concepts.  There are no Italians living there.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the food contributors to the guides may not be necessarily “foodies”.  Rick Steves for example does not strike me a foodie, and to follow his advice in Italy or anywhere else is Europe in this day and age is pretty silly.  Eating at guidebook recommended establishments and high ranked TA spots also means eating with other tourists who are doing exactly the same thing.  Some may find comfort with that, but if you are reading this blog chances are you want to eat where the locals eat.

And as for your neighbor Betty recommendations go, treat them like meeting your dentist at the supermarket.  Smile, and move on.  Unless Betty, is an avid Eating With Ziggy reader and/or does any of the following…

Read Chowhound – as I mentioned, this is where many of the NYC foodies hang out, and where I get many ideas.  Chowhound is probably my wallet’s single worst offender.

Read Yelp Reviews instead of TA reviews.  I already touched on this, and its fairly simple.  Locals use Yelp, tourists use TA.

Read or Subscribe to Grub Street – You can get all sorts of interesting ideas there, especially from the power rankings.  Same idea applies to Eater, or Serious Eats.

Hang out in the TripAdvisor NYC Forum.  You dont even have to participate.  Its amazing how much knowledge you can get just by reading the forum for a month or two.  There are plenty of locals who contribute on a daily basis, and you can also find many discussions on dining by using the search feature

And the most important tip…

Read EatingWithZiggy.  Whats so funny.  Where do you think I derive my ideas from.

Happy eating, and happy planning!

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, West Village | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

TCI – How to Start the Day Properly

Caicos Bakery TCIIts 6:00 AM.  Do you know if you have pool side lounges today?  Time to get up and reserve your beach hut for the day…  oops, the hut reservations office only opens at 7..   why does the water smell of gas?  Oh its coming from the mud I am standing on…  wait a minute, you are in a different hotel, and here you reserve a hut at 4:00 PM sharp for the next day.  Time to stand on that line….  where did all these cruise ships and Russian babushkas come from…  Waking up in cold sweat.   What a bizarre dream.  I’m not in Aruba, YES!  A nice long walk, some Beach Yoga, and a trip to Tatiana (Caicos Bakery) is in order in this fine morning in Providenciales.

This post is gonna be short and sweet.  I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking this time.  For the past 6 years or so Caicos Bakery, the quintessential mom and pop French bakery has been dishing out all sorts of baked goodies.  From baguettes, quiches, croissants, donuts, to a plethora of mouth watering pastries.  Every other morning, I get those looks at the breakfast buffet.  “Here comes that idiot again with his own bread”.  Hey, I’m on vacation and bread is important to me.  And if I have easy access to a bakery where I can get baguettes that will give me that serious oomph to my breakfast, than why not take advantage.  But if you have a view like below, might as well take advantage of that.  There will be no eye rolling done in that balcony, guarantee.  Unless you tell the wife that you had another cougar checking you out during Beach Yoga

Freshness, attention to detail, and hard work is key here.  Provo has seen its share of bakeries come and go over the years.  Its usually when they realize they need to wake up at 4 am and work their butt off all day, they give up.  The island’s locals and tourists are lucky to have the hard working team of Tatiana, Eric, and Frederic around.

Caicos Bakery 5 Caicos Bakery 6 Caicos Bakery 4 Caicos Bakery Caicos Bakery 2 Caicos Bakery Turks Caicos Bakery 3 Seven Stars

Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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