Monthly Archives: April 2014

As The World (of Hell’s Kitchen Bodegas) Turns

tehuitzingoSome changes to the Hell’s Kitchen Bodega scene prompts me to make quick changes to the guide.

A bodega, for those who dont know, is a Mexican deli or mini market that often serves food (tacos, burritos, etc) as well.  Its sort of a NYC thing, and a good way to experience authentic Mexican in a city not exactly known for it

Hell’s Kitchen theses days is suddenly packed with all sorts of exiting Mexican in different price points.  That includes some of the best bodegas in town.  Unfortunately, one of my favorites Guelaguetza now appears to be closed, and I wish David and his family all the best.  I already miss munching on their terrific burritos while watching Dora the Explorer with their kids.  And it was the good stuff, with Diego around.

But thats no reason to cancel your holiday if you ask me.  Lately I’ve been on the hunt for some good tacos (midlife crisis Stage IV) all over the area and the undisputed winner is Tehuitzingo.  Their tacos are so good they are now multiplying, opening yet another Taqueria on 9th and 41st while at the same time renovating the original to look more like a Mexican disco than a bodega.  Try the Al Pastor taco, roasted marinated pork.tehuitzingo al pastor

 

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Mr B’s Shrimp – Say Hello to My Little Friend

Mr B's BBQ ShrimpSome people visit their relatives.  Some visit a childhood friend or someone who owes them money.  Other folks take a stroll in the quarter while some take a nap.  Everybody has their own ritual as far as their first activity in New Orleans.  Mine?  Mr B’s BBQ Shrimp.  Nothing says welcome to foodie heaven New Orleans more than putting on a bib in this semi fancy local institution for these beautiful legendary crustaceans.  I said no to that bib once, and paid the price (The dreaded wife look).  Never again!

Mr B’s Bistro is one of the jewels in the French Quarters.  Although it opened in 1979, in a town filled with institutions such as Commanders Palace, Galatoires, this is one of the new kid on the block.  Hurricane Katrina did enough damage to shut it down for 2 years until it was rebuilt to look exactly the same as before.  The alumni list that includes Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, the owner (a Brennan family member), its history and look and feel make it seem more ancient than it is.Mr B's - Gambo Ya Ya

You take out the legendary prawns from the equation and the signature dish becomes the rich Gumbo Ya Ya.  A dark buttery roux with chunks of chicken and Andouille sausages.  “Pretty pretty pretty good”.  But this is merely the warm-up act to the main event.

The recipe hasn’t changed since its inception.  A buttery, peppery dark roux you want to dip anything into.  Their terrific bread, shrimp, fingers, room keys (make sure you have a spare), anything.  Unpeeling the huge plump gulf shrimp requires some major finger work, which is why its so crucial to have a bib on.  Its almost strange to wear a bib in a place like this, but things can get messy.  This is as mouthwatering as a dish can get.Mr B's Shrimp

But not everything we’ve had here was nearly as satisfying.  A somewhat bland blackened redfish, and a less than stellar pasta jambalaya we had in the prior visit, begs the question.  What else is good here.  Get the prawns!

And finish the deal with the classic bread pudding with Irish whisky.  In NYC, the closest I got to the classic NOLA bread pudding is in an Israeli restaurant called Balaboosta.  I don’t know why its so hard to get a decent Bread Pudding in NYC.  Everyone is trying to be too cute.  Another winner was the Chocolate molten cup cake with raspberry sauce.

Mr B’s Bistro
201 Rue Royal
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Get the Shrimp! Gumbo Ya Ya, Bread Pudding Mr B's - BBQ Shrimp Mr B's Bread Pudding Mr B's Chocolate Cake

 

 

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5 lbs and a Carrot Later

NOLA 2014 626We live to tell the tale!  Four days in beautiful New Orleans with kids resulted in blisters, a visit to the police station, a carrot, Will Ferrell, choked chickens, and some mighty incredible eats (again).  Here are some tidbits about the trip.

  • As is the case with so many of out trips, perhaps our most memorable meal was the furthest from the tourist areas.  Check out Bevi Seafood if you can
  • Bourbon street is a good place to show the kids what happens if you dont do your homework.
  • Pastry chefs all over town like Herbsaint’s Rhonda Ruckman (killer B’s – Banana Brown Butter tart below) are showing off some major talentHerbsaint Banana Butter tart
  • Cafe du Monde is still the Beignet to beat according to the official by default  Ziggy Family Test Taste.  Edging Cafe Beignet by a hair covered with powdered sugar
  • When both your daughters reach puberty, the “cute vs new vs  comfortable shoes” dilemma that ruins just about every walking tour gets multiplied by 3
  • After a Passover style pilgrimage to the grandmother of all Snowball places, I’m still convinced that there’s nothing worth standing on long lines for.
  • The key ingredient to a good hotel in NOLA is good plumbing
  • Checking out the sculpture garden at City Park is worthwhileNOLA 2014 739
  • WWII Museum is a big time national museum that is getting bigger and bigger
  • If you simply stick to Donald Link establishments (Peche, Herbsaint, Cochon Butcher, Cochon) chances are you will eat much better than the next guy.  Unless the next guy is the Donald
  • Get the hushpuppies, fried bread, crawfish jalapeno capellini, whole grilled fish, pineapple rum cake at Peche (Redfish below) and call me in the morning.  Well, dont call me.  Its just an expression.Peche Whole Redfish
  • Easter is a good time to visit.  Great weather, nicely dressed folks, and if you flash one of them during the parade you get a carrot.
  • Try reserving one day for munching in the quarter panicky first time parent style (eat every few hours).  BBQ Shrimp at Mr B’s, Chargrilled Oysters at Felix’s, Crawfish Etouffee or Crawfish boil at the French market will do for a very special lunch
  • If you hear any form of shouting while at any cemetery it means you need to get the hell outta there before they lock you inside.
  • Atchafalaya may be my new favorite brunch place
  • If the steep sidewalk curbs dont hurt you, stepping on one while suddenly facing 2 girls covered with just paint willNOLA 2014 268 NOLA 2014 462 NOLA 2014 791 NOLA 2014 610 NOLA 2014 416 NOLA 2014 786 NOLA 2014 591 NOLA 2014 322 NOLA 2014 201 NOLA 2014 474 NOLA 2014 198

 

 

Categories: New Orleans | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

NOLA Bound

Zoo10 reasons why this could very well be my last post…

10.  I’ve always said that if I ever get a heart attack, chances are it will be in foodie heaven New Orleans.

9.  Once Mrs Ziggy finds out the eating schedule I have in store, it may be the end of me.

8.  3 cemeteries as part of the itinerary including Nocholas Cage’s future grave may mean plenty of deep reflecting about what exactly I am doing with my life.

7.  I may choke on Mr B’s BBQ Shrimp, out of excitement

6.  Last time I cheated on Matzos I wound up in the emergency room with severe case of hemorrhoids

5.  I don’t know how I will react to being allowed to drink in public

4.  9 out of 10 mental health professionals see a direct correlation between depressed zoo animals and depressed Americans.  Maybe we should skip the zoo this time

3.  I may get killed (thoughts courtesy of 2 full seasons of Treme)

2.  If I survive #9, I may not survive the 1.5 miles I plan to walk for a shaved ice snack.  The bi@#$ will kill me

1.  Last time I biked with the wife in public I wound up in the emergency room, with severe case of hemorrhoids

Bon Voyage.  It was a pleasure!

Nola Zoo

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

HK Guide Update

capizziA few additions to the guide

Dessert (about time eh?) –  Kee’s Chocolates, Little Pie Company

Doner/Turkish –  Adding Turco (needed some convincing) over Hansi (need more convincing but lunch deal is good)

Farm to Table – The Marshal.  A solid Addition to the neighborhood

Pizza – Capizzi.  A nice alternative to Don Antonio

Best HK dining that’s not actually in HK – A new category for theater goers and those who want to experience some of NY’s finest just outside the area.

Tried other candidates which fell short.  Spent a lot of time at Gotham West which saw its first casualty already (Little Chef).  “An exciting replacement” according to a GWM rep will be announced soon.  In case you missed the recent post on Gotham, here it is.  Also added links to the recent “top dishes” posts.

Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Narcissa – The Cow Says Mmmm

NarcissaReaders, meet Narcissa, the cow resident at the Locusts farm on the Hudson.  Narcissa’s hobbies include walking by the river, grass, and Turkish prison movies.  Unlike Rob Lowe whose looks killed his career, Narcissa killer looks keep her at the top of the food chain, or pretty close to it.  The new restaurant at The Standard in East Village is named after her.  An honor you just don’t see these days.  We are talking about the full name, not just the first letter the way soooo many babies are named these days.  I mean if you gonna name your baby after your great aunt Ethel, Emma is not gonna cut it.  And who decided it has to be the first letter anyway.

Narcissa, just like the cow, is a stunner.  Two spacious, comfortable, nicely laid out rooms.  Perhaps a little too attractive to accept the initial offering of the seats next to the busy reception area, while the rest of the row was entirely empty.  The couple seated right after us questioned the move as well, but elected to stay.  I never understood the logic behind this practice, but no harm done.  A very interesting cocktail list with the least imaginative names:  “Roll in the Hay”, “So Pretty”.  Or fairly imaginative depending on how you look at it.  Started with a spicy offering (forgot the name) but much preferred the latter herby and refreshing “Gentleman’s Framer”.Narcissa

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Narcissa is all about Farm to Table.  Unlike other Farm to Tables that could be easily called American or American (new), the veggies here truly shine.  Juts about every menu you see these days has that one veggie main, usually the first dish, that is normally lonelier than that single sock in your sock drawer you keep just in case its partner by pure miracle comes back one day.  That lone dish in Narcissa is the star of the menu, the Carrots Wellington.

Narcissa - Short RibsLets start with the apps.  Two well cooked Short Rib pieces with pastrami spices, buttermilk and radish salad with a nice amount of mustard presence.  The pastrami wasnt evident much, but the dish enjoyable nonetheless.  The sweet “meaty” Crisped Beets with bulgur salad, apples, and creamed horseradish was similar in some ways to the short rib dish.   Just a nice combination of textures and flavors.  I never ever order beets anything as I don’t particularly care for them but this was really nice.

The highlight as mentioned was the middle course of Carrots Wellington.  Should have ordered it as the main course and the Barley Risotto as the middle as originally planned, but commitment issues prevailed (Its a carrot dish!).  The sweet, tender carrots did a great job replacing the beef in those pastries, and the accompanied veggies especially the earthy Bluefoot mushrooms elevated this thing to the next level.  The carrot dish to beat perhaps (over Pioras) in NYC

Narcissa - Carrot Wellington

The two mains were far less thrilling however.  The duck breast was lacquered, undercooked (for my taste) on the rare side, covered by a thick fatty layer, with cranberry sauce.  Just didn’t care for the overall texture and flavor.  The best part was the gingered butternut squash on the side with spiced cranberries.  Should have ordered the much better looking lamb loin.  We expected much more from the “whole” Branzino, filleted and topped with a salad that included fennel and onions that were somewhat off-putting to Mrs Ziggy.  Dried up fairly quickly by the time I got to it.  A rarity for us as we prefer the simpler way we grill them at home, with the bones and skin and all, lemon and olive oil.  Carrot fries tempura style side was the saving grace of the mains.  Just get all the carrot dishes here.Narcissa - Duck Narcissa - Branzino

Desserts were stellar.  Just about the best carrot cake (what else) you will ever eat, and an even better runny creamy chocolate tart with toasted bananas and espresso ice cream.  Yummo!

A few important bathroom tips in a place called “The Standard”.  Remembering how you got there may not be enough.  Pay attention to the tiny red light on the door.  Turn the lock all the way.. again (learned the hard way – sorry strange lady).

A fine meal overall.  Narcissa is not for everyone (I must get the Cialis commercials out of my head).  But if you want to experience something different, especially root vegetables that come to life in ways you never had before, check it out

Narcissa
21 Cooper Square
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Short Ribs, Crisped Beets, Carrot Wellington, Carrot cake, Chocolate tart

Narcissa - Chocolate tart Narcissa - Carrot cake

 

 

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen- Round 2

Pure Thai Ratchaburi Continuing the best of hell series where I feature 5 dishes from Hell’s Kitchen.  Round one can be found here.  Will try to make it a monthly feature pending approval from my gastroenterologist

Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles at Pure Thai Cookhouse (above)– The neighborhood’s dry(er) noodle offerings are intensifying as of late, but this is perhaps the original and still the one to beat.  The noodles are handmade in house in the Thai shophouse-like setting (in fact originally Pure’s name was Pure Thai Shophouse until Chipotle made them change its name – long story).  That dry but tender bright delicious pork, the wonderfully chewy tasty egg noodles, the sweetness of the crab, and nuttiness of the “I cant believe its not Broccoli Rabe” Yo Choy.  Add some of the citrusy broth from the bottom for added flavor.  Easily one of my faves, named after the Ratchaburi region in Central Thailand where one of the owners (the wife) came from.  BONUS:  For an app get the Ribs (below)Pure Thai Ribs

Chicken Shawarma at Azuri Café – I hear disturbing reports lately that Ezra from Azuri is cracking smiles at tourists.  I’m not sure if it means a change in attitude, trouble with Mrs Ezra, or?  This is simply not the neighborhood Ezra we know and love to hate.  With that said, the falafel is still the best in the area.  But you can get good falafel all over town, and lately its the Shawarma that’s winning me over.  After a good amount of shaving from the turning spit, he cooks it a little longer on the griddle with secret sauce and spices.  Then he stuffs the goodies in the whole wheat pita with the fresh salads in the same careful technique that made his falafel a neighborhood icon.  And in true Israeli style adds some Amba sauce (Mango based condiment), pickles, and if you want… spicy “Harif” S’chug.  You have to say “HaRIF” with the jewish spitting Chhhh if you want it though.  The result is a glorious mess of flavors thats worth the extra Shekels.Azuri Cafe - Chicken Shawarma

Trenette at Mercato.  There are quite a few excellent pastas at my favorite casual Italian in Hell’s Kitchen, but if I have to pick one, its the simple but addictive homemade Trenette.  Almonds and garlic used liberally, tomato and basil contribute to the flavor explosion of this $12 dish (yes, a $12 pasta in NYC).  Save some of the bread for this one and I dare you to leave anything on the plateMercato Trenette

Empanada mamma Spicy ChickenSpicy Chicken Empanada at Empanada Mama – Ok, I keep trying various empanadas and every time I go, I must order at least one Spicy Chicken to enjoy last.  I especially need one good one to cool me down after the Viagra Empanada, perhaps my second favorite of the bunch but for different reasons.  Hey, I don’t name them.  Chunks of tender, mouthwatering chicken slowly cooked in Mama’s special picante sauce creating this super pleasant heat.  Just like mama used to make!  Well, its just an expression, my mom has no idea what Empanadas are?

Silan at Taboon – Vanilla ice cream with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva, SHREDDED HALVA!  Need I say more.  I probably should.  But I’m tired!  Laila Tov!

Stay hungry Amigos!Taboon Silan

 

 

 

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Lincoln – Orange is the New Crack

Lincoln Strozzapreti
I never had crack cocaine!  Its a well documented fact that I was smoking cigarettes at the young age of 5 and wearing a patch 9 months later, but I never had crack cocaine nor do I have any idea how it tastes like.  Does it taste like Strozzapreti made with lobster coral (egg sac)?  Does it taste like lobster and scallop sausage with the look and texture of loose chicken skin?  Or does it taste like sweet lobster meat gently floating in a delicate sauce with lemony hints?  Is it like all of the above put together smelling like the sea as soon as it arrives?  If the answer is yes to any of the above, where do I sign up?

Lincoln RestaurantIs it too early to name the dish of the year? Probably.  But a few more like this bright Strozzapreti (most likely named after someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled) this year and I will be a very happy Ziggy.  The chicken skin-like lobster/scallop “sausages” especially gave me a ratatouille moment that almost made me drop my iPhone.  Other dishes I enjoyed between two meals in order of deliciousness….

The Spongata, a superb honey and nut cake came with a satsuma sherbet that was so heavenly it could probably thrive on the dessert menu alone.  Reginette, curly ribbony pasta was perfectly cooked and topped with a chunky veal, pork and beef, would most likely satisfy any Bolognese Ragu craving.  A mild creamy Burrata with fava beans, peas, spring onions and a light minty sauce got a tremendous boost from the sensational prosciutto-like cured pork shoulder.  The only dish I didnt quite know what to make of was a trio of Mortadella, prosciutto, and a thin head cheese slice sitting on top of a puffy fried dough on some fruity sweet sauce.  Do I like it together? Separate? without the sauce?  I found myself experimenting just like the chef was.Lincoln Burrata

Every few months the menu changes to include dishes from a particular Italian region, although you could arrive in between regions as I did yesterday and still enjoy well crafted food.  As is the case with most fine Italian in town, the strength in Lincoln is with the pasta.  And long time Per Se and French laundry alumni Jonathan Benno is widely considered a pasta virtuoso.   Lincoln Ristorante is of course part of the Lincoln Center complex.  A 20 million design triumph includes floor to ceiling windows, 3 dining rooms, and a spectacular open kitchen.  The service ranges from friendly to cold depending on the day of the week.  And the open kitchen may also mean you could hear what they plan to do with you depending on where you sit…

Server just picked up first course from your table:  “Number 37 is done with the first course”

Chef:  “Lets give him a minute to gather himself and pick up his phone.  Give him some more bread”

Lincoln Ristorante
142 W 65th St
$$$$
Recommended Dishes: Strozzapreti, Reginette, Burrata, Spongata

Lincoln Ristorante Lincoln Trio Lincoln Reginette Lincoln Spongata Lincoln

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ma Peche – I Luh Ya PaPi

Ma PecheI have to make this one short and sweet and to the point before the wife comes home (which means I will need to stop writing and talk to her do something around the house most likely).  The point is that Ma Peche is quickly becoming one of my midtown faves, and in true Momofuku fashion keeps reinventing itself with new formats.

On what should really be a national holiday, Baseballs opening day, I took 3 of my least pickiest co-workers for a special lunch that’s becoming a Monday norm.  One doesn’t do spicy, one doesn’t do mayo and seafood, and one doesn’t do anything that is yellowish.  A perfect group for Ma Peche’s new “Passed Plates” sort of like Dim Sum cart ladies format.  Except instead of dumplings and cart ladies you get razor clam ceviche, foie gras, and hipsters.  You can see today’s potential passed items on a piece of paper on the table, and your waiter will put a check next to each item you order (can I come with an eraser in case I eat something I don’t like?).  In addition to that you still have a handful of a la carte “Chef’s Specials” like the awesome fried chicken and the awesomer Brussels Sprouts.Ma Peche - Brussels sprouts

For what amounted to $23 per person, you simply can not get better value in NYC.  While the salad carts were circling, the Habanero Fried Chicken (half chicken $24) and Brussels Sprouts quickly arrived.  The softer, saucier than the usual sprouts with ginger-scallion, cherry, and calabrian chili surpassed Alta as the city Brussels Sprouts to beat.  Is there a restaurant in town that does not have a Brussels Sprouts dish, or kale?

Ma Peche - Pork BunsThe pork buns were the first items we picked from the passed plates and I was slightly disappointed by the overall size and taste compared to buns you get at Ippudo for the same price.  I still gobbled the heck out of this one though.  The spicy rice cakes then followed.  Ok, let me tell you something about those rice cakes.  Similar to Ssam Bar’s spicy sausage dish these pillowy “Korean Gnocchi” with just enough meat ragu and pleasant lingering heat were simply outstanding.  I may be addicted to the Momofuku rice cakes.

Then we sort of waited for the chicken wings to pass by but they never did.  The waiter asked if we would like anything else, we said “wings” and voila.. 5 minutes later we get 8 wings that tasted so much better than they looked (kinda burned).  These wings were tender, perfectly seasoned, and really some of the best wings in recent memory.

Ma Peche
At the Chambers Hotel
15 w. 56th street
$$$
Reccommended Dishes:  Fried Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, wings, rice cakes

Ma Peche - Fried ChickenMa Peche - Rice Cakes Ma Peche - Wings Ma Peche from above

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

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