Monthly Archives: August 2014

Chicken and Wine

photo (10)Is the new Pizza and Beer.  Sometimes tasty surprises come at the most unexpected times, which is why they are called tasty surprises.  I’m in the process of writing about yet another “one of those meals” I had the other day but I’m just running out of time, so instead I decided to write about my day today so far (Yeepee, how exciting!  I know, right?)

At noon today I took a wine class with Corkbuzz in Union Square, examining the great reds of Piedmont and Tuscany.  While I’m mostly already familiar with Tuscan wines overall, I still learned a great deal about them, such as the story behind bad boys “Super Tuscans”.  But it was Piedmont I was mostly interested in, to prepare for my upcoming white truffle orgy trip in the fall.  We tasted some fine Brunello (which made me dizzy just thinking about all the zigzagging Ziggy Andretti did on the way to Montalcino last summer which got some of us sick), Super Tuscan, Barbaresco, Barolo and more.  All nice and dandy, until master Sommelier and owner of Corkbuzz,  Laura Maniec poured a bonus bottle of 2000 Pianpolvere Soprano Barolo Bussia Riserva that  made the other Barolo, and everything else seem light and uneventful.  Dark, intensely aromatic (I can still smell it as I type) with big tannins, and a beautiful finish.  Hints of plum, vanilla, and scallions (I wonder how long it was stuck between my teeth as I didnt have any today).  Quite a lovely bottle, and the heaviest one I ever held.  This was a very informative class overall and I’m looking forward for more from Laura, but its really just Italian wines I’m into
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So I come out and right away I realize that my much anticipated pasta appointment across the street at All’onda is cancelled because they are not open for lunch on weekends.  The Chutzpah!  So what to do, where to eat.  All that truffle talk with my neighbors at Corkbuzz got me in the mood for truffles so I was ready to settle for truffle oil with Pappardelle and sausage at nearby old fave Da Andrea.  Oops, DA never open for lunch which I keep forgetting.  Perhaps go to Gaia finally? Mighty Quinn’s for wings?  Random filthy thoughts fill my mind.  Oh what I’d do to that Motorino Pizza right now.
But then I remembered the recently opened Root and Bone and their infamous fried chicken, so off to Alphabet City I Citibike.  Let me tell you folks about this crazy bird.  Insanity in a basket.  Sweet and zesty, dusted with dehydrated lemon powder which looks sort of weird at first.  The bird is brined in sweet tea, onions and garlic for 24 hours before drying, and is simply marvelous.  Cant get much better than this in NYC.  Bike, dont run to Root and Bone folks
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Categories: East Village, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 Reasons to Visit the New NoMad Bar


Bay Scallops marinated with yuzu & pistachio

10. The place is sort of neat looking.  Like what you expect to find at a secret Playboy tunnel

9.  They have a Chicken Pot Pie that will make you wish you were Amish

8.  Their head bartender has more moves than Nicky Minaj.  Try the Start Me Up!

7.  Their carrot tartare will make you start eating carrots

6.  You now realize that on your previous trip you went to the wrong Nomad.  It happens quite often actually.  Like 1 out of 10 Asian tourists go to the wrong nomad.  Cabbies love it and make bets.

5.  Their Bay Scallops will make you start eating carrots (strange, I know)

4.  The Cocktail Explosion will make your 15 Instagram followers very jealous (and worried)

3.  The meaning of Life, Christmas, and Marriage will instantly be revealed once you try the 28 day Dry-Aged Burger with bone marrow.  Except if you are Jewish of course.  The meaning of Marriage will be revealed after day two.

2.  You could finally say you ate chicken at the NoMad!  Although I dont really get why you needed to say that

1.  Their Fries will make your kids put their phones away and tell you about their day.

NoMad Bar Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie black truffle & foie gras


Burger dry-aged with cheddar, red onion & pickles

NoMad Bar Duck Sausage

Duck sausage with pickled ramps & cherries

NoMad Bar Carrot Tartar

Carrot tartare sunflower seeds & mustard Quail egg

NoMad Bar Pudding

Cookies & Cream ice cream with chocolate crunch, Banana pudding with rum & brioche

NoMad Bar Chocolate

Candy Bar, with dark chocolate and caramel

NoMad Bar Cheesecakes

Cheesecake strawberry & shortbread

115 NoMad Bar

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ivan the Formidable

Ivan Ramen Salmon Donburi

September 22nd, 2017 Update:

I dont usually update a place this soon, but this is kinda important after yet another fine meal at Ivan Ramen LES.  Weather is getting chillier (or seemed to be a few weeks ago at least), and I cant think of a better way to start Ramen season.  The Chicken Paitan at Ivan is not the Ramen dish that made Ivan famous, but to me it’s right up there with NYC’s best at the moment.  As I described 6 months ago when it came out, “the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness”.

A corn on a cob dish always gets my attention, and this one proved to be a wowzer.   Its Miso roasted with bonito flakes and some sort of Japanese magic dust sprinkled.  The fried chicken, brined perhaps, is another exceptional one.  The Coney Island Tofu with that miso mushroom chili has made it’s triumphant return to the menu.  Magnifique as always.  As is the Triple pork, triple garlic Mazemen (brothless ramen) which has been on the menu since day 1 but somehow eluded me all this time.  Being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table hasnt made it easy, but reservations are doable.  Go!

March 5th, 2017 Update:

All sorts of major developments with the Ivan.  The Ramen Junkie keeps reinventing himself, and has even given us some bedtime entertainment.  Yes, Ivan Orkin is featured in the latest season of Netflix’s highly acclaimed Chef’s Table which I highly recommend.  Its refreshing to see someone on the show who you actually know and talk to from time to time.  Naturally the show helped revive his Lower East Side flagship in a big way.  And so if you havent been in a while, or never, prepare for a possible 2 hour shock on some evenings.  Yesterday I heard quotes ranging from 1 to 3 hours, albeit on a Saturday night.

Coincidentally, or not, the menus in both NYC spots have gotten a facelift as of late.  At the Slurp Shop however, at the moment looks more like a botched botox job.  The great Donburis (rice dishes including top) are long gone, and the sick Breakfast Ramen, changed to Breakfast All Day Ramen after they figured why not, is now gone too.  It cameod for a while last month only to see the same results.  Why is no one eating the good stuff.  Lack of appreciation, or people simply want the goods that made the man famous.  I say its the name of the dish.  Give it a cute Japanese name like Mocu Mocu and people will drive in forces.  Oh wait, they tried it already.  With that said, knowing these guys, another homerun is probably on its way.ivan-ramen-trumpet

But at the flagship, things are looking mighty fine these days.  I cant get on Instagram without seeing Ivan tease a new dish that looks infinitely better than what I’m eating (I’m looking at you quinoa).  Something like the brilliant briny Trumpet Mushrooms sliced like noodles, and served cold that I enjoyed last night.  This was a tip I got an hour earlier by the sous chef at Slurp Shop during yesterday’s Hell’s Kitchen tour (there he goes again with the shameless plugs).  Another new potential hit is the Dan Dan Noodles smothered with chili infused ground lamb.  It is probably the spiciest Dan Dan and one of the spiciest noodle dishes I ever had.  By the end I was waving a white flag which turned red by then.  It is purposefully dry and while delicious, I was longing for something wet to counter the heat.  But the most interesting newcomer is probably the dish I had on a previous night.  A bright and gorgeous Chicken Paitan with minced chicken and egg yolk.  It has all the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness.  Its just like your moms chicken soup!  If mom went to culinary school for 10 years, moved to Japan and married the most famous Ramen maker in Tokyo that is.

August 24, 2014 Post:

We all heard the story before hundreds of times.  A Jew from Long Island moves to Japan to teach English, moves back to the states, attends The Culinary Institute of America, leaves his heart in Japan so comes back to Tokyo, gets bored out of his mind and learns how to cook Ramen (just about the last thing that crosses my mind when I’m bored).  So he opens the first restaurant in Tokyo, finds success and opens another… moves back to NYC to open the Slurp Shop at Gotham West market and the flagship Ivan Ramen in East Village.  10 months later, over a dozen visits to the Slurp Shop and over a dozen whitefish Donburis, two visits to the new joint in East Village, and needless to say… Ziggy is a fan of the Ivan.

The Slurp Shop

I’ve already written extensively about Hell’s Kitchen’s main attraction these days, Gotham West Market, the home of the first Ivan outpost.  The Slurp Shop is normally the last stop of my monthly food crawls.  Problem is by the time we get here more often than not, tummy is already full.  The menu settled down over the year and features some unique staples like…

Slow-Cooked Pork Donburi – Another fun rice concoction with super tender pork shoulder, scallion, salted plum wasabi, and chunky roasted tomatoes proving nice balance and much needed acidity.

Ivan Ramen - Pork Donburi

Roasted Garlic Mazemen – I must admit the Mazemen here is more exciting to me than the traditional Ramen.  Mazemen is almost brothless ramen, but packs in more flavor and intensity.  This one comes with Nori, dashi, chicken broth, pork belly chashu, and the same rye noodle as the traditional ramen.  Garlic lovers especially may find this dish quite formidable.  Yes, I’m officially adding formidable to my vocabulary.

Ivan Ramen - Garlic Mazemen

Ramen – I cant find any pictures of any of the Ramen I tried here.  Most likely due to the way I attack them once I see them.  I believe I tried all of them except the vegetarian one and all are quite good in their own way.  The Tokyo classics Shio and Shoyu are cleaner and purer than most of the modern Ramens out there.

Whitefish Donburi – Perhaps my favorite dish in GWM but admittedly not for everyone (what is really).  White rice mixed with sweet soy dashi and topped with cucumber, scallion, salmon roe, and beautiful smoked whitefish.  Jewish heritage meets Japanese school girl.  Or something like that

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Ivan Ramen

Lower East Side is the new East Village.  I can spend a year here and eat something delicious and different every day.  The new Ivan Ramen flagship complicates things even further for those locals that cant decide whether they are in the mood for Burritos, Ribs, Ramen or Israeli Scotch Eggs.  This is more of a sit down than the Slurp Shop, which basically means slurping isnt as encouraged here.  And the menu is quite different and fuller…

Pickled Daikon – shaved daikon (the radish white milder shy cousine), dried shrimp, scallop chili oil.  I expected fishier flavors from the shrimp but it was more reminiscent texture wise of the most freakish tasting bread crumbs ever.  Get this!

Ivan Ramen Pickled Daik0n

Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – Another cold winner.  You taste the Broccoli with that sweet garlic soy sauce and go “well this is nice..”, but then you taste the pickled garlic and the world suddenly beginning to makes sense again

Ivan Ramen Chinese Broccoli & Garlic

Pork Meatballs – Its texturally impossible to come up with more tender balls.  Garnished with bonito flakes, buttermilk dressing, and Japans official unofficial sauce, Bulldog brown sauce.  Marvelous dish!  And no, I’m not adding “texturally” to my vocabulary because its not a real word

Ivan Ramen Pork Meatballs

Tofu Coney Island – A playful and enjoyable take on the Nathan Hotdog.  Fried tofu topped with miso mushroom chili, mustard, and scallion.  Enjoyed this one

Ivan Ramen Tofu Coney Island

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

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 4

136   Partially thanks to the new view, I slept like a baby.  I woke up every 3 hours needed to be fed and changed.  I’m attaching a picture of the “Courtyard View” which I requested over the street view we got last week.  We checked out after playing a game we invented called “I spy a courtyard” (I won!) and off we went to Everyman Espresso for another fantastic latte.

We are walkers, especially in the morning, and on this morning we decided to walk all the way to Battery Park passing approx 17 neighborhoods on the way give or take.  East Village, West Village, South Village, Greenwich Village, Nolita, South East Village, Chinatown, Soho, you get the picture.  Free tip for men:  The best time to walk through Soho is Sunday morning where its nice and quiet, and all the stores are closed!


143We reach the Irish Hunger Memorial, dedicated to the million Irish killed in the great potato famine around 1850.  The great hunger led to millions fleeing to NYC, New Orleans, Australia and the relocation greatly shaped many NYC neighborhoods especially Hell’s Kitchen.  Its a memorial, not a museum, so there’s not a whole lot to see, but its fairly unique.  Large stones were brought in from the different Irish counties to represent them, and other stones were brought in to replicate a typical 1850 Irish cottage.

The transformation from the hustle and bustle of the city to Battery Park is akin to travelling from Milan to a small unassuming Italian Village with fewer cars, tourists, and more families.  We walked by the water toward our main destination of the day passing unique playgrounds, nice looking lawns with stunning settings, beach volleyball, and skateboard courts.  Kids here have it all.  When I was a kid, all I had was a tiny toy soldier, and a pack of cigarettes (I started smoking at 5, quit when 6, true story).  The Times They Are a-Changin’.

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156It may sound strange to new readers, but perfectly fine to the rest, that I built the entire day around a Lobster Roll.  Well, not just a Lobster Roll.  The Grand Banks is a Schooner (a ship for the German readers) that is parked off Pier 25 and offers one of the best lobster rolls in town until November when they go south.  The roll is done Maine style which means cold, and I’m not the biggest fan of Maine style rolls unless they are done right using the meatiest parts of the lobster.  This one features plenty of Maine claw meat with tarragon mayonnaise, cucumbers and worth every penny of the $25.  Fries would have been nice but the potato chips are spiced so very nicely.  “Is Very Nice!” Borat would have said.  The boat rocks by the way.  I mean literally.  At some point after a few beers, the thought of pirates came creeping in.  The Somali type!


We then picked up CitiBikes and rode Hudson River Park a bit toward Chelsea and the Highline.  By this point Mrs Z is like a pro, utilizing all her fingers and command of the language.  I’m very lucky to have her.  The Highline on a Sunday afternoon is Meshugenah!  Crazy busy.  At some point we were stuck behind a family of 4, a rooster, and a pair of parakeets.  It was a zoo!

Real tourists, you are standing on the wrong line.  Instead of tacos, you need to stand for the greatest Brisket in the tri-state area, Delaney’s Brisket.  It was comical to see no line to this while a long line for the tacos.  A trip to Briskettown the flagship in Williamsburg may also be necessary if you are a brisket fan.  I once drove for takeout with the Hummus Whisperer to bring back to Staten Island.  Also right next to Delaney is great gelato from L’Arte del Gelato and not too far, north is a La Newyorkina stand offering artisanal ice pops.  Don’t discount those stands, as this is great stuff folks.

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We shared the brisket sandwich, with the 2 great sides, and off we went to the subway to catch the L to cross East to 1st Ave.  We then picked up the bikes again and rode them all the way to 60th, and I must say once again, if Mrs Z can do this, so can anyone.  And besides, 1st and 2nd avenues are great for bikers and very Obamacare friendly since all the hospitals are right there.

We took the Roosevelt tram to Roosevelt Island.  I was there a few weeks ago for the first time and this time came back with Mrs Z for her first time.  Again, I went the south route to the new FDR memorial park via the only ruins in the city of New York (Smallpox hospital).  FDR has a special meaning for us since we met in FDR high school in Brooklyn (awwwwe!).  Cant say enough about New York parks these days

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I picked dinner close to the tram and for me it was a no brainer especially after the movie the day before, Moti Mahal Delux.  Locals and most visitors may not realize that this is actually part of a world wide empire chain, originating in India.  While menu wise it didn’t feel as sexy as a Kokum, Chote Nawab, and some other we’ve visited over the years, this was a solid North Indian fare.

Evening time, we realize we have kids, they are coming tomorrow, and fridge is empty.  Back to Union Square and Whole Foods.  But right before, we found ourselves singing and dancing with Israel supporters at Union Square Park, which over time became a center for political rallies.

After Whole Foods we loaded the car next to Liquiteria, a new location right in front of the Hyatt which I only noticed on Day 3.  Got my favorite juice the Grasshopper, and back home to Staten Island.

And thats all she wrote folks.  Now if someone volunteers to take my kids to Aruba (or Turks and Caicos) next year again, I would write another NYC Trip Report.  But, until then…Ciao baby!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3


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Categories: East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown East, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 3

053Not really needed on one of the best eating days of the year but to ensure proper drool action, lets start the weekend with my Friday lunch with the boys at work.  It’s becoming a company tradition where I take my coworkers to lunch like on a school field trip (single file, no holding hands). We call it Eating With Ziggy.  This time it was a special occasion so I took them to Danji, a sort of favorite go to spot lately.  I got the usual suspects to share… the addictive tofu, KFC wings, Bulgogi sliders (rule number one of fight club – order the sliders) and both bibimbaps.  Cant recommend this highly enough.  Well, I can, but choose not too.  Slightly different menu for dinner where all those dishes are available and more.
Danji Bibim - Bop
This time we left the house at 8 am much to more confusion from the neighbors (where are their kids, why are they stuffing a suitcase in the car again, are the kids in the suitcase).  We don’t talk to the neighbors on the left who’s main mission in life is to see all their neighbors suffer.  But I digress.  Very light breakfast at home was necessary in order to save room for what turned out to be one of the best eating days of the year.  Hmm, I believe I already said that.
The entire morning centered around the brilliant Summer Streets.  It’s like the biggest baddest block party imaginable. Ok, perhaps not the baddest.  For three Saturdays in August the entire park avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn bridge to around 70th st or so is closed to traffic the entire morning, or from 7 to 1 to be exact.  Bikers, walkers, babies, joggers take advantage with the help of volunteers from New York Cares that control traffic, and even try to entertain sometimes while controlling traffic.  Some seem happier to do it than others but I give big kudos points to all of them.  In addition, you have all sorts of pit stops along the way… Zip Lining, Yoga, Whole Foods giving away free food, concerts, free walking tours, wall climbing, bicycle riding lessons, and much more.  A great way to spend the morning with other New Yorkers.  We parked near our hotel of choice (more on that soon), and rode the bikes to around 30th st in order to walk inside the Park ave Tunnel to the sound of water and waves.  If you ever wondered how Cast Away middle of the ocean feels like, you wont get that feeling here.  They choose a different artist every year to for the sounds.098 095 093 099 058 052
The end of the tunnel you pretty much at Grand Central Station, so like true tourists we took the opportunity to visit it.  Their was a wedding couple taking pictures while posing way too proper for the purpose.  We tried to take an audio guide tour but couldn’t quite wait the extra few minutes for the audio guide person to come back from her break.  It said “will be back in 15” and I swear we waited over 7!  Ok, we are not the most patient people.  I’m waiting for someone to bring me a Cronut directly so I could finally try it.  Right before entering the station we found ourselves at the Grand Hyatt, which felt just (slot machine sounds) shy of a Vegas hotel
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089We then proceeded to the Public Library Main branch and proceeded to do what every normal parents normally do in town without their kids.. go to a children book exhibit.  The ABCs of It exhibit was more interesting than I expected.  History of famous children books and their importance.  Stories like that of a couple who fled Paris right before a Nazi invasion carrying the drawings of a monkey named Fifi.  “Curious Fifi” would have been a better name than Curious George if you ask me.  A fun corner depicting the history of Goodnight Moon.  Nothing about goodnight Ipad, and my favorite classic Goodnight Schnitzel, but whatever.  Goodnight Moon was my favorite book because it was easy to read, short and sweet and I was able to go back to watching the hockey game in no time.  And upon exiting the library there was that wedding couple again following us with the same exact pose.073 091
Back to Summer Streets, we walked Park ave a bit to the Whole Foods pit stop where we enjoyed..nothing! due to the lines.  Picked up bikes and rode to the lower end of the “festival” where things got a bit more chaotic (in a good way).  But just before we picked up the bikes we did what every tourist to NYC must do, eat a hot dog.  I havent eaten in like 3 hours and I was starving
Our lunch was at Ivan Ramen flagship in the Lower East Side, with our young friend Victoria who recently moved to the East Village.  This is my second visit to this location, but I’ve been to the Slurp Shop in Gotham West many times.  They don’t share the same menu.  I will try to write a separate review if I have a chance but meanwhile here’s what I recommend to try at the LES flagship
Pickled Daikon – With dried shrimp that taste closer to breadcrumbs than shrimp but quite yummo!
Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – The pickled garlic is what did it for me
Ankimo Dirty Rice (dinner only) – Ankimo is essentially monkfish liver but dont be scared.  An absolute must
Pork Meatballs – Perfection.  Cant get any more tender this
Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen (dinner) – Didn’t have it yet but perhaps the most popular dish here
Four Cheese Mazemen (dinner) – Rich and flavor packed
Salmon Donburi (lunch) – Like the whitefish Donburi at Gotham West but with Salmon instead.  Fantastic dish
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110Not much dessert here but no worries.  One of my new favorite “I cant believe its not gelato” ice cream spots is not too far at the underrated Essex Market, Luca and Bosco.  Named after the owners dogs.  Two girls, one of whom picked up some valuable trade secrets in the gelato capital of the world, Florence Italy.  The Drunk and Salty Caramel with Bourbon is my pick  again but I urge you to try the rest
We then walked around East Village with Victoria and made our way to the hotel.  I don’t know if it was the beer or lack of sleep but exhaustion hit, and I was craving a hotel bed badly.  And yes, we went back to the Hyatt Union Square and THIS time I got the view I wanted, of the brick wall.  I suppose a view of the city would make more sense to the average tourist but I rather face peace and quiet.  Our room was away from the elevator this time as well, and while the design was a bit different, still the same great king size bed and pillows, decent size, nice shower, and here’s the kicker…  “Great Location” is something you see in just about every hotel review, whether the location is UWS, Times Square, no matter.  Its a cliché.  But, I honestly cant think of a better location than this.  You could come up with some other nearby hotels that may be slightly better situated than the corner of 4th and 13th st, but, this is as center as it gets to great dining, great neighborhoods, and everything else pretty much.  You can walk just about everywhere from here including Times Square.  We walked to Battery Park the next day.  Highly recommend this baby Hyatt.  From baby Hyatt to baby NoMad…113
115After some relaxing at the Hyatt we met up with friends and walked toward the most highly anticipated meal of the “trip”, the new NoMad Bar.  It was even better than anticipated.  Fantastic bay scallop, and carrot “tartar” starters, first rate duck sausage, and as expected a burger that can rival anything in NYC right now.  But that’s not all folks.  The NoMad famous truffled/foie grased chicken can be had in the form of the most luxurious and delicious Chicken Pot Pie ($36).  They bring you the pie with the Foie on the side, and mix it in table side.  Needless to say the most extrodinary Chicken Pot Pie you will ever have.  But that’s not all.  The infamous $110 Cocktail Explosion we shared was a big hit with everyone.  One of the most memorable meals of the year.
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We then made a tourist mistake.  We took a cab to Washington Square Park just to cross it again to reach the next destination.  This time they had what looked like a Shakespeare in the Park session which I’ve never witnessed before.  Our destination was Comedy Cellar which was sold out of all shows, hence the mistake.  Oh well.  We briefly considered the Argentinian aerial acrobatics Fuerza Bruta but then settled for plan A, The Hundred-Foot Journey movie which dictated our next day dinner destination (second only to one of the best lobster rolls I ever had)
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Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coming up…

We just finished our great Stay-cation.  For those checking in looking for the rest of the reports…

Day 3 – Tuesday

Day 4 –  Thursday

Incredible time, and more incredible food on those 2 days…

Categories: New York City | 3 Comments

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 2

036******* YOU MUST BE 18 YEARS OLD TO READ THIS *********

WordPress issues last night published this thing prematurely

Day 1 can be found here.  Day 2 was interesting to say the least.

There’s something about spending the evening in NYC while knowing you don’t have to drive home soon.  Although my favorite part  is waking up in the big city.  There’s this level of serenity, like the great calm after the storm.  Beautiful young drunk boys and girls are coming home after their one night stands, one reminder after another that you went to sleep way too early last night, and you are just old.  People talking to themselves without ear pieces, is another early morning phenomenon.

NY-Times-theaterThe best advice I can give a real tourist (as oppose to the fakes like me) is to skip the hotel breakfast option.  Come out, explore, follow your nose to the nearest bakery, coffee shop, etc.  A Frenchman walks into a bar with a toad on his head.  The bartender asks “where the hell did you get this”, the toad replies “In France, they got a million of those”  So is coffee shops in NYC these days, and bagels everywhere you turn.  Squirrel seekers can even find a plethora of flat whites all over town these days.  Instead of sharing a hotel dining room with sandal and socks wearing tourists, come out and eat where the locals eat, and meet some of them.  Like Everyman Espresso around the corner from the Hyatt Union Square. Voted by the Daily Meal as one of the best coffee in America, where we enjoyed some fine latte and flavored muffins.  A light little breakfast, to save room for a great lunch and dinner, is the way to go in NYC

We then checked out of the hotel and started walking toward our next destination, the one that crashed Trip Advisor.  A trip without walking through Madison Square Park is a like a trip without sunshine.  Its not only the squirrel capital of the world and the place to see unique art installations, but this is also the place where magic happens… Shake Shack.  Well, the original one at least.  Shake shack employees and a few squirrels joined together for a pre-opening meeting this fine morning.  It occurred to me how large this SS operation really is.026 032

Whenever we look for parking in that area with the kids, somehow, for some bizarre Freudian reason we find a spot right by the Museum of Sex.  The kids are too shy and embarrassed to ask any questions about this, and we are too embarrassed and lazy to explain.  Since wifey and I are now kidless we decided to pop in.  Would you believe it if I told you that this was not only fun and unique, but educational?  You got an interesting exhibit dedicated to Linda Lovelace.  Funland, a playground for adults that features a new spin on Kentucky Derby horse racing, Grope Mountain climbing!, and a bouncy house where you are surrounded by inflatable fake breasts, some of which were more wrinkly than others I noticed! And who witnessed a German tourist breast suddenly pop out while bouncing?  This guy!  The educational part:  Animals and sex.  Very interesting facts and tales like about ducks raping other ducks after chasing and killing them.  Another floor offers extremely interesting displays that I can not possiby describe here, and the first floor is a store offering among other things, new pasta shapes I havent seen yet.  A new meaning to Al Dente (firm… get it?)045 s 048 044042

050We proceeded to walk toward our first culinary highlight of the day, but first we pass Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop and it occurred to me..  I havent been here in 13 years since I worked at around the corner.  That brought back memories.  “Just browsing” I told the clerk, as I had brunch plans.  This is not the place for browsing.  You attack this thing with full force.

Add the burger at The Gander to the list of NYC growing must eat burgers.  This beauty is priced well at $16, available for lunch/brunch only.  28 day dry-aged beef, cheddar – adding anything else to it except for the bone marrow mayo that comes on the side would be criminal.   Juiciness level I haven’t experienced since college!  Confit Duck Hash, Poached Duck Egg, Port Béarnaise, Duck Chicharrónes was very good, while could have used some acidity in the form of roasted tomatoes or something, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Good drinks, great service, nice looking rooms (got filled up a few minutes after the picture was taken).  Will be back for more at this 2 month old for sure053 057 051 058

We then took a walk along 6th ave toward midtown to witness one of our great holiday celebrations… The Dominican Day Parade (special thanks to TER and ZTAKS from Trip Advisor for this suffering ;))  It was actually quite fun though a tad too crowded.  We overheard one visitor ask a police officer if this was the American Independence Day parade.

A mistake on my part.  Plan at this point was to walk all the way west to 12th ave, Hudson River.  The 20 minute walk turned to be challenging due to the heat.  And on top of that, the Citibikes in that station (12th and 40th) had problems with credit cards and 24 hour passes.  I have an annual pass but Mrs Z doesn’t.

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We managed to get bikes a block away and Mrs Z managed quite fine for her first bike ride in the city without any incidents.  I chose the Hudson River Park as its flat, carless, and quite Obama-care friendly.  We then parked the bikes in West Village and took advantage of the green space on that end of Hudson River Park, one of my favorite parks in the city overlooking the Hudson and Jersey City.  Manhattan has pretty cool parks these days, something I wasnt able to say 10 years ago.  We then walked all over West Village all the way to the hotel crossing the always vibrant Washington Square Park yet again

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Although we already checked out of the hotel, we were able to use the facilities to make ourselves pretty, or make Mrs Z pretty for our dinner at Ma Peche with friends from Brooklyn.  Cant say enough about this place, their new cart service, the fried chicken, and those addictively sick rice cakes (Korean gnocchi on crack) I constantly dream about.  Highly recommend Ma Peche. Try the Seven Spice Sour cocktail if you go

We capped off the night at one of my favorite bars in town, the rooftop at Ink48.  Glorious moon, glorious views, and another glorious day in the city I call home!

Day 1

Day 3

Day 4






Categories: East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 1

photo (9)There’s very little doubt as to what is my 12 year old’s favorite store in the entire world.  M&M’s World. Whenever we enter the store, her eyes bulge, and she’s not sure what area to hit first.  She’s like a kid in a candy store!  In a way, I felt similar symptoms when I found myself kidless for 9 days for the first time in 14 years.  There’s only one thing I love more than exploring NYC with my beautiful daughters.. exploring without them.  Although I normally feel free to eat wherever I want, this is a brand new level of culinary freedom, with endless wants and possibilities.  Instead of skipping town, Mrs Z and I decided to stay put and play tourists.  We wanted the real Australian tourist experience which includes staying in a trendy hotel, complaining about hotel A/C noise, and taking pictures of squirrels.  Day 1 out of 4…

*****Mostly iPhone pictures on day 1 as I wasn’t planning to do this post.  I don’t want you to think that I’m a terrible photographer.  I am, but I don’t want YOU to think that.

My weakened  eating adventure started the day before where I enjoyed a Don Antonio Diavolo pie and a shared this pizza Fritta, a giant fried calzone stuffed with mozzarella, tomatoes and salami.  Don Antonio to me is the closest to eating pizza in Italy due to the style, ingredient quality, and female employees speaking with Italian accents

Don Antonio Calzone

We started our day 1 around noon in Hell’s Kitchen, where we met Mr Hummus Whisperer and wifey for pre-matinee lunch at Ippudo. My goal for this weekend was to impress mrs Z with good food and get her dunk.  Good start so far.  The Akamaru Modern on point as usual.  Pork Buns so fine that will make you slap your mama.  Chicken wings, fried chicken (fried chicken won by a chicken skin hair), and some gelato and sorbet from Il Laboratorio del Gelato where the black sesame winning top marks.
Ippudo Pork Buns Ippudo Ice Cream
Book of Mormon. The show that upon purchase, made me tell my kids that they need to start being nice to their grandparents as they will need to rely on them for continued education from now on.  I believe its the most expensive broadway show in history.  And with all those inflated expectations, we still managed to enjoy it tremendously.  Like a bizarre, super clever Mel Brooks, Howard Stern collaboration that makes you want to “Baptize” someone in the next few days
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I work in Hell’s Kitchen, and ‘Disiac lounge off 54th and 9th is the place my coworkers frequent the most.  I’ve seen the bar much more livelier than on this Saturday afternoon, but we did discover something important about us.  We don’t like CAIPIRINNA, the Brazilian national drink.  Getting mrs Z drunk – Failed!  We did enjoy however in this Israeli owned bar, a falafel platter, with hummus, babaganoush, grilled pitas, and fine red Yemeni S’chug.  My favorite Hummus in the area is still at Gazala’s however.

Hyatt Union SquareMy hotel of choice was the Hyatt Union Square, a stylish boutique with ultra modern rooms (the ones where you can see yourself shower), comfy bed and pillows, a magazine rack in the bathroom with magazine! (for those not willing to spend extra for wifi!), valet parking (if it costs $65 is that still considered an amenity), and perhaps my favorite amenity in any hotel.. A Flat Screen TV!  If there’s a flat screen TV in every single hotel in the world, is it still considered an amenity?  Why not list “Bed” as well?  But in all seriousness, this was a fine stay that would have been finer if they hadn’t put us next to the elevator.Hyatt Union Square Art

Washington Square ParkWe’ve been to Washington Square Park before many times, but never experienced it quite like this time.  A giant Star Wars flash mob cock fight.  It was quite a scene.  We didnt stay late enough but at some point we were told that they got divided into groups to fight each other to the death.  Or until their little Jedi swords broke, whichever came sooner.  There were also the usual park musicians and art like sand displays, and a fake birds eating fake pizza showing.

We capped off the night at Casa Mono, one of the premier tapas joints in town.  All 6 dishes including one dessert were quite good.  I especially liked the duck egg with potatoes, Mojama and some ultra perfumy summer black truffles.  The calamari like Razor clams were slightly overdone though still quite enjoyable.  Nice skirt steak with Romesco, reminiscent of the Gato scrambled egg.  Goat confit was expertly prepared with avocado purée.  I can’t get enough goat lately.  Perhaps my favorite dish however was the Fideo with chorizo and clams. I don’t understand why I so rarely see fideo on menus.  The one big issue I had was the frequency of the dishes coming out.  Started with two right away, and the next 3 came in at the same time pretty much.  In a place like this where sharing is key you would think they would get it by now

A nice walk back to the hotel included a visit to Union Square Park where I saw the the youngest street performer I’ve ever seen (5 maybe?) among a group of many other dancers.  Day 2 coming up!  Any comments?  Question? threats?

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4


Washington Square Park Star WarsCasa Mono Razor Clams Casa Mono Duck Egg

Categories: East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

RIP Robin

I know some readers are checking in looking for our NYC stay-cation trip report, and I will try to write something in the coming days.  I’m just not in the mood to do any sort of blogging at the moment after learning about the passing of Robin Williams.  I thought it was a hoax at first due to the magnitude of the news.  I once booked a trip to Vegas just to see him perform, and I cant think of anyone else who would make me do something like that.  Simply put, a natural funny man genius.  Depression is a real thing.  And its ironic that someone who brought so much joy to so many people was battling depression for a long time.  He will be greatly missed.

Categories: New York City | 2 Comments

Lumpia Shack – Here Lies Love!

Lumpia Shack Rice BowlI’m risking a lot with this one, and I’m already feeling it.  Wait, till mrs Ziggy reads this, she’ll never forgive me.  It took us 13 days and 17 hours to finally erase from our head the theme song from Here Lies Love, the quirky off off Broadway musical about the life of first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos.  I’m singing it as I’m typing, with the same hand gestures and all as before.

Lumpia (LOOM-pee-ah) is a Filipino snack, like spring rolls.  Lumpia Shack is a stand in both Brooklyn Smorgasburgs created by a Manila born husband and wife.  Lumpia Shack Snackbar is the 3 month old brick and mortar simple hole in the wall shack in the West Village.  The place is almost as tiny as the Smorgasburg stand, but the creativity and offerings more than quadrupled.  In fact I would even venture to say that.. wait for it…Here Lies a lot of Love (oh boy)

Lumpia ShackLumpia the snack, slipped overnight, from being the bread and butter to just about the least exciting thing on the menu.  A testament to the rest of the items.  Even the garlic chips, made from tapioca starch and infused with garlic and tamarind powder reminiscent of the sickest BBQ rice puffs you will ever encounter is more thrilling for my palate.  They even have a Ramen Burger which the Hummus Whisperer proclaims better than the original.  The burger utilizes the same Keizo Shimamoto noodles but instead of beef you got a Soyfull, soulful Adobo Pork Belly.  This has the power to transform Pork Belly haters to lovers.  The mushroom Lumpia still rocks, but I’ve had these before a few times.  The rice bowls offer more excitement with a mix and match protein and sauce combinations.  My chicken with the coconuty Bicol Express could have used more oomph and juiciness but satisfying nonetheless.  I’m looking forward to coming back this weekend to say you had me at “Halo-Halo”

Lumpia Shack Ramen BurgerLumpia Shack Garlic Chips243

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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