Monthly Archives: March 2016

Uncle Boons – Finally!

Uncle BoonsShaky initial reviews, death in the family, Michelin, the dog ate my restaurant sheet – Just some of the reasons why I never made it to Uncle Boons before.  The bizarre Michelin star actually helped for about 5 minutes since I happened to see a tweet of the leak before the news broke out, and I was able to reserve a table immediately.  But on the day of the visit, I had to cancel, and reservations since then are virtually impossible.  Just like Pasquale Jones, and others who use Resy for roughly 20% of their tables, reservations are hard to get.  Solution:  Another gondola stroll throughout Little Italy while you wait for your table.

Ironic isnt it?  That Nolita, which means North of Little Italy, that famous food street, is arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.  Estella, Cherche Midi, Rubirosa, Pearl & Ash, Osteria Morini, Pasquale Jones, Balaboosta, Uncle Boons are just some examples of what you’ll find in this little tiny Foodie paradise.  Thats an impressive list of Z-Listers, and Z-list wannabes.  Taking that Little Italy, Chinaton stroll is one way to combat the NoLita popularity.  Though I fear, one day, one of these “Ciao” guys trying to lure me inside a Little Italy establishment will give me an offer I cant refuse.  Btw, when a total stranger says ciao to you out of the blue, there’s zero chance that he’s Italian.

Uncle Boons Frog legsWhen you walk inside Uncle Boons you immediately notice two things.  1)  How uncomfortable everyone looks.  2) Rotisserie chickens slowly spinning behind the glass.  Clearly the chickens are there to serve as hypnosis, especially against French Rotisserie chicken loving Michelin inspectors.  Otherwise, how else would you explain the anti-Michelin scene at the bar and on the side of the entrance.  One woman was practically bent sideways while enjoying her Yum Kai Hua Pli.  Considering there are two other rooms, one with communal tables, leading you to your table is like the dining version of Russian roulette.  We survived the bullet at first it seemed, but then realized the third wheel of the booth next to us, has his back practically leaning against our table.  The place is so cramped, taking pictures of the food means taking pictures of your neighbor food as well.

But all is well at the end when the food is this good.  The two Per Se veterans created a Pok Pok like menu that is very far from your average Thai.  Just like Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker did, Matt Danzer & Ann Redding traveled all over Thailand, gathering inspiration.  And just like at Pok Pok, creative drinks is part of the game, and a certain chicken is more than just sitting pretty for Michelin inspectors.Uncle Boons Chicken

Frog Legs – If you’ve never had frog legs before, this is a good place to start.  If you had them before, order it still.  Garlic & soy marinated juicy fried legs over addictive glass noodles, and lemongrass & Thai herb salad.  There’s not a whole lot of meat on those bones understandably, but every bite counts in a big way

Crab Fried Rice – A pretty standard fried rice with heaps of chunky crab.  The flavor is there, but if there was one thing missing from that texture is some crunch by way of socarrat

Rotisserie Half Chicken – By itself, with all its tenderness and juiciness, the chicken would have been a solid but somewhat dull dish.  Which is where the sickest green mango salad comes in, along with two dipping sauces.  The lemongrass, Ginger sauce in particular works like magic with that chicken

Seafood in Broth – Another terrific dish.  Red Snapper, prawns and clams in a rich Turmeric broth.  Mrs Z’s favorite dish of the night.  Mine was the chicken

Beef Ribs – I almost ordered it, and sort of wish I did after the table next to us got it.  The best thing I can tell you for now is that it smells amazing.  Next time I would order it along with the chicken with banana blossom salad which I was all set to order until the waitress warned Mrs Z that its extremely spicy.

Dessert – I feel like the Yelp fave coconut ice cream sundae is a bit overrated.  Though it didnt make Mrs Z make a Robert de Niro face and start spitting profusely as she normally does with coconut.  The condensed milk soaked Brioche was like a French Toast gone wrong.  I dont expect greatness out of Thai dessert, so I’m not deducting anything for that.   Uncle Boons is quite possibly the best Thai in NYC right now

Uncle Boons
7 Spring St (Nolita)
$$$
Recommended Dishes: All of the above (except the Brioche)Uncle Boons Talay Uncle Boons Fried Rice Uncle Boons Coconut Ice Cream

 

 

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Babbo – The Taj Mahal of NYC Italian

Babbo Black SpaghettiTo fully appreciate Babbo, one should arrive 15 minutes early.  Stand outside, check out the menu listed that includes today’s specials, and pretend that you are waiting for someone.  But more importantly, check out the people arriving.  There will be the boring arrivals – the locals and those who have eaten at Babbo before.  And then there are those with that special sparkle in their eyes.  The same sparkle you get when you finally reach Machu Picchu.  I saw a grandma with her well dressed family, pausing in front of the sign, exhale a huge sigh, followed by a smile (unless it was gas).  I watched a family of four taking their time, taking it all in, with a particularly thrilled dad who asked me to take a picture of the happy with family.  I happily obliged, and charged them $20 (the Times Square Elmo going rate at the moment).  The only time I’ve seen this type of foodie pilgrimage in NYC was the last time I waited for a slice at Di Fara.  There’s always something special about visiting a place that means so much more to other visitors.  Much like visiting the great churches of Europe, or the Taj Mahal

Babbo Ristorante is Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich first out of many ventures, opened in 1998.  One of the most celebrated Italian restaurants in NYC history, still going very strong even with an ageless menu.  Not many realize that Batali’s first was not Babbo, but a partnership at Pó, also in West Village, 5 years earlier.  Outside Babbo looks like just another neighborhood Trattoria, oddly situated on a quiet residential part of Waverly Place (may mean something to the 16 and under, unless they are like my kids who’ve been to Taim Falafel too many times).  Talking about Waverly Place kids, there were surprisingly quite a few on this particular night, some even arriving with their American Doll lookalikes.  The irony here comes after a tweet the other day where someone asked Batali if he would be willing to open a predominately kid friendly establishment.  In which he replied, kids are more than welcomed in any of his establishments already, and that he wouldnt want to alienate adults.  After all, we are talking about Italian, the granddaddy of kid friendly cuisine.Babbo

The transformation from Babbo outside to inside, is like that of a Minetta Tavern, a time machine.  Buzzy atmosphere, full bar, best of Batali ipod blasting in the background, and a VERY full staff.  Some looked busy, while some could have easily gone on a late afternoon siesta, even with the full house.  This is to me the one major difference between eating in the US and Italy.  The traffic around you is undeniable, which is why louder than usual music is required sometimes.  Not so much a complaint, but an observation.  When you score the friendliest waiter in the city of New York as we did on this night, complaints become observations.  On to the food….

Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette – Although it was somewhat unevenly cooked the last time, it was still good enough to not share one between four octopus loving freaks.  “Two Octopuses please”.  This time perfectly cooked, with a nice snap, and tenderness all around.  The tangy Vinaigrette, and the Borloti, aka Cranberry, aka Pinto and Cannellini had a baby beans, just add to the joy.Babbo Octopus

Pig Foot “Milanese” with Rice Beans and Arugula – Once in a while, not too often, I bump into one of those “I dont get it” dishes.  Its a popular staple on the menu, but I just dont get it.  It tasted like a potato latke gone wild.  The one that Jewish mothers throw out because it didnt come out as the other potato latkes.  Stringy, gelatiny, fried, and very flat cutlet, with a surprisingly flat flavor profile.  The only miss of the night.Babbo Pigs foot

Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles – Great dish, and by far Mrs Ziggy’s fave.  If you feel any affection toward chicken liver this dish is especially for you.  Here its much about the sauce making its best Marsala interpretation, but with Squab liver mixed in with mushrooms, adding more richness to the buttery beef cheeks pureed inside the triangular ravioliBabbo Beef Cheek Ravioli

Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies (top)- Another menu staple that I’ve had before.  Its a fairly dry pasta, but packed with flavor and txture.  The squid ink Spaghetti has that nice sweet heaviness to it, with that crunchy salami, shrimp, and occasional garlic, like the gift that keeps on giving.  This is one of those dishes that makes you Google recipes when you get home.

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage – Like a love letter from the Mario to Ziggy.  “Dear Ziggy, in honor of your unconditional support and love for Eataly, Lupa, Po, and other establishments I’ve been involved with over the years, I’m sending you these refreshing, delectable ravioli filled with peas, mint, and cheese, topped with spicy sausage tomato ragu.  As you can see, the mint and the sausage, compliment nicely, and dont overwhelm… unlike your wallet by Eataly’s Venchi chocolates.  Seriously, I know you are obsessed with Piedmont chocolates, but look at you.  Time to give it a rest.  And please please shave next time you come to Babbo.  Its a Ristorante, not a trattoria so show some respect.  Idiot!  Love, Mario”Babbo Mint Love Letters

Barbecued Skirt Steak with Endive “alla Piastra” and Salsa Verde – Just a perfectly cooked, and marinated Skirt, sliced and arranged Jenga style, on top of an ultra thick salsa verde.  A very respectable meat dishBabbo Skirt Steak

Rabbit with Honey-Glazed Baby Carrots, Peas and Salsa Verde – I normally dont have high expectations from Secondis in Italian, no matter where I go as they rarely satisfy as much as the primis and the rest of the menu.  But here they are given proper treatment, starting with this sweet, flavor packed rabbitBabbo Rabbit

Dessert – A fine chocolate cake, and a finer Semifreddo.  Another great meal at Babbo, a Z-List staple for hopefully many years to come

Babbo
110 Waverly Pl
$$$$
Recommended Dishes: Octopus, Mint Love Letters, Beef Cheek Ravioli, Black Spaghetti, Skirt, Rabbit, Semifreddo

Babbo Chocolate Cake Babbo Semifredo

 

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

Before You Ask For Another Recommendation…

053“Hi, my boyfriend and I are eloping in NYC next week and we would like some recommendations on where to eat near our hotel, but can travel anywhere pretty much.  We are both HUGE Foodies and eat just about anything.  But particularly we love Indian and Vietnamese.  No chains please, and no Italian hehe we got plenty of those lol.  Cheerio for now.  Georgina”

A common food question on the message boards.  Even if you are not one of those, I advise you to read the following before asking for recommendations

“No Chains” –  I see this way too often.  I’m sure it looks like an honest requst to many locals, but I cringe whenever I see this.  Why would we recommend chains?  You are asking for recommendations on where to eat in arguably the greatest food city in the world with the hope that we dont recommend Applebees.  Its like telling us “kindly do you job and recommend something that doesnt suck”.  It also begs the question, what is a chain anyway, but we wont get into that now.  It just implies to me that the poster has no idea about the destination food scene, which is fine.  That’s what this post is for.

“No Italian” – Whenever I see this, my first instinct is to recommend Italian.  Italian in NYC is a complicated web of eateries ranging from NYC classic Italian to Tuscan, Sicilian, Venetian, and even Asian influenced Italian.  Italian is everything and it is nothing.  It took me four trips to Italy to understand what it means.  There’s almost nothing in common between Roman food and canal food in Venice.  We have an incredible array of chefs doing all sorts of wonderful things from great veggies, fantastic seafood, to Roman style pizzas, and Italian with an Asian twist.  So, if you are sick and tired of the Italian scene in your city, its more reason to try ours.  After all, that’s what Italians visiting from Italy do here. including chefs.

“Near our hotel” – Ok, I admit, I sort of like when they say that because in a city with 25,000 restaurants it gives me something to work with.  But somehow, “Foodie” and “Near my hotel” just doesnt add up.  While there’s a good chance that you will find some decent spots near where you are staying, why not take full advantage of the amazing dining NYC offers in other neighborhoods.  Raise your hands if you are staying near Times Square.  Now try East Village, West Village, Lower East Side for a totally different feel.  And if you haven’t discovered Hell’s Kitchen yet, its time.

“Can travel anywhere” – No you cant!  You are vastly underestimating the size of this city just like you are vastly underestimating its offerings (no chains please).  I sort of forced this one in after “Near our hotel” but you get the idea.  Most respondents would be quick to suggest something anywhere in Manhattan with the reasoning that the poster would not mind taking the subway to East Village but I wouldn’t be so quick.  If you are playing the “can travel anywhere” card, give us something else to work with to reduce the 25,000 NYC restaurants into something more manageable.

“We love Indian and Vietnamese” – This is great, but why is it my problem ;).  While people will no doubt respond with fine Indian and Vietnamese suggestions, perhaps even including myself, I would suggest to skip what you like and try something different in the city of different.  Unless of course you are coming from Pocatello, Idaho with one or two competing Indian.  Pizza, Ramen, burgers, and the only in NYC Maine Lobster Roll!, are just some of things NY is known for.  While there’s no doubt you can find some fantastic Indian here, it may or may not be better than what you get at home (I’m looking at you Brits).  And Vietnamese food just never took off here.  Eating something that you can easily find at home, not named Italian, is one of the worst travel offenses

Before asking a food question one should understand the vastness.  NYC is a giant melting pot of world cuisine that comes in all shapes, sizes. and price points.  There are no “Musts” (another popular word) as a result.  To better answer your question, do a bit of homework first to get a sense of the destination.  Guidebooks, food blogs, even simple Googling will do.  If you care about food that is.  On the other hand of the spectrum there are those that just “eat to live” and dont really care about any of this nonsense.  They ask the questions anyway, mainly out of fear that they wont find something near where they are staying.  All you need to do is go out of the hotel, turn right, and the world is your oyster.  Tomorrow, turn left.

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

Gotham West Update

Gotham West Market 2

Latest on Gotham West Market and the next Most Interesting Man in The World….

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2014/03/28/gotham-west-market-top-eats/

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

15 Shades of Caicos Café

Going to TCI anytime soon? Here’s all you need to know.
You welcome!

Eating With Ziggy

Caicos Cafe - Tuna TartarLadies and gents, brace yourself.  Its the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Ever since you discovered the Turkey and Cascos Islands as your co-workers call them (“You back… how was Turkey and Cascos”), the question you always wanted to ask but were too afraid for some reason;  What to order at Caicos Café, the top restaurant in Providenciales.  If you agree, great.  If you disagree, even better.  You just need a little help that’s all.

Although I live 1300 miles away, and have a serious eating disorder (NYC did this to me), I’ve written about Caicos Café more than any other restaurant in the world (trying to sound dramatic, but really it doesn’t mean anything.  I could have said NY but I chose not to).  I’ve written stories, reviews, blog posts, mentioned them in every WWH Seven dishes column, and children books (“Goodnight Grouper”).  So instead of writing yet another boring blog post about our recent meals…

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A Weekend of Firsts: Mogador & Cookshop

Cookshop

Cookshop

We visited two old timer, neighborhood spots for the very first time this weekend, and here’s what happened.

Cafe Mogador (Williamsburg)

Considering the amount of places we visit, it almost feels embarrassing that we never made it to this popular Tagine mecca in East Village or Williamsburg.  Only the couscous gods can explain why it took me so many years, especially considering a well made Tagine is one of my favorite things to eat on this planet.  With that said, now that I’ve finally done it, and made to the schlep to the Burg, I feel like the couscous gods need more explaining to do.

Once inside, its no mistaken that you are in a bustling neighborhood spot in the heart of Williamsburg.  Arm Tattooed hipsters hovering all over, along with arm tattooed hipsters holding arm tattooed babies.  You can tell that these are the coolest babies in the world.  The ones that go to sleep before us.  The quoted 20-30 turned into a closer to an hour, though we didnt mind as the bar was roomy and the drinks were good.  Good Dark and Stormy.

Started with a nice Mixed Platter consisting of an Eggplant & Tahini concoction, an “I cant believe this is not Israeli” Arabic salad, and a surprisingly decent Hummus.  In places like this, the hummus usually lacking the creaminess, and texture that I like.  We also shared a tender tandoor marinated chicken, and a delicious grilled Halloumi cheese.  Unfortunately, and quite shockingly, the fun essentially stopped here.  The famous Tagine, with the choice of apricot & prune was fall off the bone tender and juicy alright, though somewhat one-note and sweeter than should be.  Yes, apricot and prunes are sweet, I get it.  But where are those bold Moroccan spices, the Taginess you bump into from time to time like at Bar Bolonat.  The great Mogador Tagine is widely known for the best Tagine in town (Google it).  This was more like a second place potluck dinner party with friends winner.  The same, albeit, slightly lesser degree can be said about the Couscous dishes which are almost similar to the couscous you get with the Tagine.  I would consider introducing those pearl like bubbly Israeli couscous instead to go a long with the Tagine.  133 Wythe Ave (7/8)IMG_5564

Cookshop (Chelsea)

Yes, I know, I know.  I’ve never been to Cookshop.  Like Cafe Mogador, this is another super popular neighborhood spot, and yeah, I do have some serious hood envy.  But just like with Mogador, I never felt that this is a destination place.  Cookshop is long considered as one of our premier Brunch spots, and now I see why.  40 minutes wait on a Sunday morning, even though the place is kind of huge.  Its so big that the staff, when leaving and entering the kitchen area, is instructed to direct people to the vacant airplane like bathrooms that are in the same vicinity, but not directly next to each other.  A couple of them are essentially in the kitchen.  They can easily hire a bathroom attendant whose job would be to direct traffic while wearing aviation ground headset (its really loud in there) and sticks.

We had some major cooking plans that night courtesy of the Chelsea Market nearby but we did get enough of a taste here.  We started with the Beignets, filled with Di Palo’s fresh ricotta that blended nicely with the dough.  Beignets that NOLA experts may appreciate, though I cant say the same thing about the Bloody Mary.  The kids opted for burgers.  The older opted for a fried egg with hers, which had me shed a little tear.  This is the most important milestone since she tried squid ink pasta in Venice.  The burgers were nicely cooked, though the fries were salty to the point of uneatable.  100 kuddos points for removing the Beignets from the bill after mentioning this to the waitress.

The Baked French Toast here requires more attention than it gets.  It comes with poached blood oranges, and a lovely, cinnamony cream with almonds.  The nutty bread is just rich and sweet enough.  Some of the best French Toasts we’ve had in NYC.  The Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Scrambled eggs, with caramelized onions and a fantastic supersized buttermilk biscuit was another solid dish, if not a tad too salty as well.  We enjoyed Cookshop overall.  In a way it reminds me of one of those SF Farm-to-Hipsters spots like NOPA, albeit not quite as good.  156 10th Ave (19/20)Cookshop Beignets IMG_5579 Cookshop Burger Cookshop eggs Cookshop flowers

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

Taboon – Magic Oven

Taboon Update…

Eating With Ziggy

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…

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