Monthly Archives: June 2016

10 Best Things We Ate in Piedmont

I’m leaving you yet again. This time a bit more extended I’m afraid. Follow me on Twitter @ziggy601 as I eat my way through Sicilia, or just check the tweets on the left column here. There will be seafood, and there will be couscous in my immediate future.
I’m reblogging a post about my favorite region, Piedmont

Eating With Ziggy

Italy 2014 203When you research food in Piedmont, its usually a matter of minutes until you see “Most Underrated” mentioned by some food writer.  Its almost cliché.  Many believe that the Langhe region, especially the 20 mile radius around Alba has some of the best concentration of great dining in the country.  And now that I finally got a good taste of what this region has to offer, me and my chocolates are jumping on the bandwagon to Serralunga.  Here are some of the best bites we had from a recent trip…

Fusilli with pork shoulder atAgriturismo il Cucchiaio di LegnoLake Orta’s lone Slow Food hidden gem produced a feast to remember.  While its nearly impossible to pick one dish from this 10 courser, the Fusilli is etched in my mind perhaps more than anything else.  The title explains the dish almost in its entirely.  Light on ingredients, but big on flavor.  Young master Luigi learned from the best.. Mother!

Italy 2014 147

White Truffles at La Bottega del…

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Categories: Italy, Piedmont | Leave a comment

Pssss… I Have a New Favorite Ramen Spot

Mentoku

Mentoku

I hope I find you readers well, and I hope this stays just between us.  As much as I like my places to stay the same, my mama always taught me that “Sharing is Caring”.  I shared my only toy, a plastic green soldier with my friends, including the friend who introduced me to cigarettes at the coming of age 5 (I quit when I turned 6, and swore off cigarettes forever.  True story).  Up until three months ago or so my go-to Ramen spot has been the Totto branch on 51st/10th, right across the Falafel Nazi Azuri Cafe.  After over a dozen visits to Totto, with the occasional cheating with the great Ippudo Akamaru and Ivan, I’ve gone exploring yet again for that great Ramen bowl in the Kitchen of Hell.  Enter little Mentoku on 9th ave.

Mentoku is not your prototypical Hell’s Kitchen Ramen that is buzzy, with the occasional painful waits, less than comfortable seating, and quick eat.  You can actually spend more than 5 minutes here while enjoying soft Jazz.  There’s one cook, and there’s usually one or two waitresses running the “front”.  And more importantly, I have never seen the place too full to enjoy.  Whether by myself at the counter, or with co-workers, every visit has been comfortable and relaxing, a rarity in NYC Ramen world.  “Akanoren” is proudly displayed on the sign outside, and according to this blogger, its a Ramen chain in Japan.Mentoko Yuzu-Kosho

The specialty here is Hakata style Tokotsu Ramen, where the pork is slowly cooked at high temperatures.  This means the meat and the fat dissolves into the soup more, creating a rich, but smooth base.  Meaning its rich, but not one of those super rich, guilt-filled bowls that makes you want to start smoking again as you declare this day the beginning of the end of your life.  You coming out of there feeling good, which to me is what Ramen is all about.

I started my relationship with Mentoku with the mild and pleasant Tinkichi, but its the Yuzu-Kosho that does it for me now.  The hot Yuzu paste delivers an initial punch but settles down nicely into a very pleasant bowl.  The Nori surrounding the bowl adds a nice fishy element as you smell it with each morsel, and the thin cut chashu is the way to go as far the pork belly goes.  I feel that some of the other guys slice them a little too thick.  Another big hit at Mentoku is their simple but incredibly juicy and flavorful fried chicken.

Mentoku will be added to the Survival Guide, while we say goodbye to short-lived Mocu Mocu.  Oh how I hoped the sisters succeed, but was always afraid that Hell’s Kitchen, and in particular that corner of 10th Ave, is simply not ready for this kind of Japanese.

Mentoku Chicken Mentoku Tonkichi

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

Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Timna Octopus

March 26, 2017 Update:

At Tompkins Square Park, just east of Timna, there’s a Temperance fountain, constructed in late 19th century to help locals with their alcohol self restrain.  Drink water, avoid booze.  Sounds easy enough.  A primarily German neighborhood did all it could to maintain the legacy, up until the prohibition.  Today the park is surrounded by bars!

No such temperance, self restrain luck with Timna’s new spring menu however.  Dish after dish of dazzling combinations between the newcomers and the old heavyweights like the Kubaneh and Octopus, testing my self control and wallet.  Like a fat kid in a candy story, I want to eat all you got, now!

Perhaps if fat kids would eat cauliflower like this, the world would be a healthier place.  At Israeli establishments we are attracted to Cauliflower like Trump to Twitter.  But it was the cured tuna Sashimi that stole the show yet again early on with all its visuals, textures and flavors.  There was melt in your fork short rib with even better mushroom, and cheesy gnocchi done Roman style (Semolina).

The mains sealed the rare triple Z rating.  Legendary octopus whisperer Nir Mesika dishes out killa Octopus which I already discussed in great length here and below.  But on this night a new dish stole the show.  Two hefty fillets of marvelously cooked Striped Bass with Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous invented for the digestive challenged David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister). I’ve been to places where one such fillet made the entire dish for the same price.  Mesika feeds his diners like his children.

Chutzpah Nation is clicking on all cylinders.  A full house of the young and the restless meant we belong alright, albeit texting was required sometimes to communicate.  My dish descriptions dont describe very well in this case.  There’s an art form to the way Mesika assembles each plate, with the goal to accommodate all senses.  We havent run into many chefs with this style.  From such a small kitchen come this ingredient heavy plating.  Not every bite is the same, and in some cases you even scavenge hunt.  Oooh, a raisin, I found a raisin!  Lets look for another one.  Mrs Z and I make our own fun!

IMG_5637

June 22, 2016 Post:

I will make this one nice and simple for you.  Pressing for time as of late, with only a week or so before I leave you yet again on another eating assignment (Sicily).  This one will be the biggest and baddest assignment ever, with a lot of interesting surprises in store.  Though I may be suffering from my first ever FRFS (food research fatigue syndrome).  I’m now seeing Busiate in my sleep and sometimes even when awake, like while watching the Euro 2016 (Football/Soccer).  As much as I’m enjoying the Euro’s, its best served as a rather harmless sleeping pill.  A much needed one since I’m not getting enough sleep as of late due to the mating season in my bedroom.  No, not what you think.  Birds! male birds, doing the entire Hava Nagila rendition at 4:30 in the morning in order to attract their female counterparts.

East Village in June, as I was showing to my Aussie friends, feels like mating season as well.  Its the east coast capital of pretty people.  Friends that live there give 2nd Ave nicknames I can not repeat here.  And on buzzy St Mark’s, in the middle of all that, you find little Timna, a modern Israeli joint with Nir Mesika (Zizi Limona, Milan, knows his hummus geography) at the helm.  When I visited young Mesika in the kitchen, I was announced by the manager Downton Abbey style.  The guy has all the talent and knowledge in the world, but has the look of someone in the early stages of a soccer career, rather than a world class chef.Timna Sashimi

Other than a slight discomfort at the rounded table at the back, with some A/C issues, this was a very enjoyable evening.  Started with the infamous freshly baked Kubaneh that comes with some yogurt, a tomatoee salsa and “Jalapeno Salsa” which is essentially green Yemeni S’chug.  If you have a Challah fetish, you will wet yourself over the taste and texture of this thing, and its a must get for groups especially (I wouldnt order it solo).  But as with most bread courses out there, its a bit overrated, and serves as a sharp reminder that the free bread course days are just about over.  Give me The Marshal french loaf with homemade butter any day of the week.  The obligatory Cauliflower that you will find in every Israeli corner, did not disappoint.  Here Mesika elevates it with curried yogurt, dried grapes among other deliciousness.  A veg-ful burrata is more proof that a sprinkle of Za’atar (oil in this case) makes everything better.

Mesika assembled a playful menu with influences from all over the world (Chinatown salad!) especially in regards to the raw stuff.  A Ceviche salad featuring mahi on this particular night was the weakest of the ones we tried.  A fine tzatziki tartar with minced lamb delighted Mrs Ziggy especially.  And the Mediterranean Sashimi featuring cured tuna, green Tabouli salad with quinoa, and crispy beat “leather” did the trick, including in the looks department  A somewhat deconstructed lasagna featuring slow cooked tender spareribs, and Jerusalem artichoke chips is another example of Mesika’s playful brilliance.Timna Shakshuka

But the most interesting dish of the night sounded the most boring, Bedouin Octopus.  Mesika tenderizes, sous vide style, the heck out of this thing (I’m guessing by the size, it was enjoying the coast of the Portugal a few days prior).  A bit softer than I like my octopuses.  Then he finished it on an open flame like the Bedouin 200 kilometers south of Mesika’s home in Israel.  This is by far the smokiest Octopus I’ve ever had, and one of the better, even while lacking the proper texture.  We skipped dessert.

Brunch in Timna is another delicious event.  And one of the better brunch values out there.   For $25 you get a selection of small salads (salatim) to share, any of the entrees, coffee (very good), and the obligatory Mimosa.  We sampled an average Hummus Masabacha which I’m not a big fan to begin with.  A nice Sabich Croissant, though I still prefer my Sabichs in a pita.  One of the better Shakshukas out there.  And a very solid burger with fried egg.

Timna
109 St Marks Pl (1st/A)
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Kubaneh, Cauliflower, Mediterranean Sashimi, Octopus, Fish, Shakshuka (brunch), Burger (brunch)

Timna Salatim Timna Masabacha Timna Burger Timna

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

Werkstatt – Ich Habe Gut Geschlafen

Werkstatt PretzelI slept well that night.  Like a baby caressed by his mother’s bosoms while sucking on a Jack Daniels soaked pacifier.  It was that kind of night after that kind of evening at Werkstatt.  A gamble of sorts, bringing my entire family to a place I’ve never been before for a family celebration.  A high percentage gamble considering the Austrian fare, though in reality all that was required was a Schnitzel, and a fan.  Comfort food on Coney Island Ave is not so new to us (see Nargis Cafe), but comfort Austrian cuisine, boasting a former 4 NYT stars chef is like having a Michelin Star restaurant in the Staten Island mall.

Werkstatt BeerSo why did it take 9 months for me to get to Werkstatt?  Because its the lone Google Star in an area that I rarely visit.  Ditmas Park is like Family Guy.  I never seek it, but when I bump into it, I stick around and delight in its offerings.  Though something tells me I will be back sooner than later.  Not so much for the other places in Ditmas Park, but this particular one.  Where the German beer just keeps flowing, and the pretzels keep coming.  Well, one pretzel really, which comes with its own Lipitor.

Or is it “Liptauer”, a buttery, cheesy, peppery, paprika infused mixture that requires a German born pretzel the size of half a pretzel cart to enjoy.  Forget the mustard, dip this beast in the Lipitor.  That pretzel was pretzel perfection, and it was making me thirsty!  A silky smooth, light Belgian Witbier (white beer), a perfect match to the humid day.  The smoky pan fried Brussels Sprouts with lemon habanero aioli was more like a side dish but a required order nonetheless considering how satisfying.  But the winner early on was a sauteed Calamari and Kielbasa blend, a gorgeous combination I’ve never seen before.

Werkstatt CalamariEveryone was more than satisfied with their Chicken and Wiener (pork) Schnitzels including my buds from the one bite.  A fine, juicy, homemade Bratwurst came with sauerkraut and potatoes.  And an exceptionally tender slices of goulash-like beef shoulder with bread dumplings that took me straight to Salzburg.  This was a special, which in Werkstatt require paying attention, or you may miss the world famous Viennese Sacher Torte.

As much as I love my sweets, chocolate cakes rarely excite, and the one here (Sacher) wasnt an exception (nor in Vienna).  But if there’s anything the Austrians are good at, is desserts, and boy oh boy there were good at Werkstatt.  The crepes, the nutty Linzer, the creamy hazelnut torte, they just kept coming, and wowing.

This was also an especially fun evening for Thomas Ferlesch and family (wife and daughter).  Not only visited by a world famous blogger, but also by Mimi Sheraton, a former influential NYT ciritic who handed the then young Ferlesch 4 stars back in 1981 when he worked for Vienna ’79 (UES).  A happy, sentimental Ferlesch was running around all over the homey multi room place like a 24 year old again.  Or perhaps he’s always like that, who knows.  The best compliment I can give any such place is that if I would have had this meal in the cuisine country of origin, it would still be considered a good meal.  Something I can not say with the vast majority of the places we go to.  Go!

Werkstatt
509 Coney Island Ave
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Pretzel, calamari, Brussels Sprouts, Beef shoulder (special), Goulash, Sausage Dessert

Werkstatt Brussels SproutsWerkstatt beef shoulder Werkstatt Spatzle Werkstatt Schnitzel Werkstatt Sausage Werkstatt Dessert Werkstatt Werkstatt Out

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

Yet another Seven Stars Update

I’ve got a bunch of suggestions, corrections, hate mail, marriage proposals, etc etc since the last update which was only a few weeks ago.  So I had to update it yet again.  Keep in mind that things are constantly changing on the island, but this is the last update for the time being

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2014/01/01/the-seven-stars-survival-guide/

Categories: Turks and Caicos | 2 Comments

The Grand Banks – Shaken, Not Stirred

Grand Banks ViewA rare post about a meal that frankly wasn’t great.  I dont normally write those, and I’m not necessarily starting now.  On the contrary in fact, this is a recommendation.  On occasion, even foodies have to swallow their pride, and eat overpriced potato chips with a hint of sea sickness, and a view that turns those potato chips into very good potato chips.  Just dont be me and forget your big boy camera at home.  Even take a photography lesson if needed for this one.  To have any sort of view in the city, you either need to be up somewhere, or swim somewhere else.  This is the latter.

Someone asked me recently to recommend something for a couple in their 30’s on a first date.  30 minutes and 20 questions later, I recommended The NoMad Bar, Santina, and The Grand Banks, a schooner (boat) docked on the tip of pier 25 in Tribeca between May and October.  Albeit, this was before my recent meal there, though my confidence in the place wasnt exactly shattered.  The Grand Banks is the kind of place you want to take everyone.  Friends, neighbors, co-workers, work neighbors.  In My office floor, there are two companies, and you can easily distinguish the two when you visit the man’s bathroom (maybe the female too, who knows).  While we go in and out and do our business as quickly and clean quiet as possible while playing Doodle Jump, the other office members like to chat to each other, and wheel and deal while sitting in their stalls.  Yes, those guys especially would enjoy the Grand Banks.  But I cant picture them enjoying the stalls there nearly as much

There’s a good chance upon sitting down, that your first urge will be to get up and leave (wonder how many do).  The boat will shake.  Its just a matter of how much shaking you are willing to take.  But unless you easily get seasick, you should be golden.  It’s sort of a hot spot at peak times, so plan accordingly.  They take reservations on OpenTable which I find a little bizarre, yet convenient.Grand Banks Ceviche

Something tells me the food is better than this.  I’ve been to the Grand Banks before for the coveted lobster roll, but this time we came back with another couple for lunch.  The menu consists of seafood driven small plates ranging between $15 – $28.  The more expensive items like the pictured three piece Tilefish is still considered a small plate by all measures.  The fish was cooked well, but did not offer any distinct flavor.  The Ceviche this day (it changes based on market availability) featured slices of scallops that lacked any sort of oomph, and were rather limp.  The asparagus was perhaps the surprising highlight after the roll.

The lobster roll was still as good as before based on my three bites (I shared it this time with my significant other).  And as with pretty much any lobster roll in town, it will not win any value awards.  But for this price ($26?), I wish they’d pull a Cull & Pistol and offer it with their terrific fries instead of potato chips.  The roll is served Maine style cold, with cucumbers that would probably make roll traditionalists vomit at the sight.  But I dont mind it as it helps keep the bread texture intact, and never gets soggy (I’m looking at you Red Hook Pound) without interfering with the meat flavor.

So whether you are a young couple looking for something different to do, an older gentlemen who likes young couples, someone who likes to chat in the bathroom, or sing in the shower, check out this little love boat.Grand Banks Asparagus Grand Banks Lobster Roll Grand Banks TileFish The Grand Banks Grand Banks

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

Chelsea {Market} Lately – 2016

Chelsea MarketTime to update the old what to eat at Chelsea Market post.  But instead of simply updating it, I will just make a fresh one.  As fresh as the Hummus at Dizengoff, the latest sensation to hit the market.  You can say what you want about the market.  Its increasingly busy, packed with tourists, and theres a decent chance a large polish gentleman will step on your feet.  But largely due to that foot traffic, the market also attracts vendors like no other market or food court in NYC.  For every Amy’s Bread, and Num Pang that you can find all over town, there are 10 vendors and purveyors that are unique to the market.  And besides, the traffic doesnt hamper my movement much.  I come, I eat, I go, juts like anywhere else.  Since I’ve been to the market around 20 times this year alone, I will only post about the food that I like and target these days, not something I’ve eaten 3 years ago and now dont even look at that direction anymore (I’m looking at you Rana!)

Chelsea Lately – 2017:  This year I’ve been spending some time at Los Mariscos, Los Tacos #1 sister restaurant hidden off the Los Tacos space.  While staring at Los Tacos, look left, and walk through the hallway.  It will look like you are doing something illegal and you are about to enter a secret Food Network club where everybody is playing poker and Guy Fieri is the dealer.  No!  Keep walking until you get to Los Mariscos.  Its like a Mexican seafood shack that feels like a Chelsea Market speakeasy.  Their baja style fish tacos are perhaps the ones to beat in NYC at the moment (had today at a competitor – Feh!).  And guess what else they have… bathrooms!  With no lines!  You welcome!

For dessert lately I’m flirting with Sarabeth’s mini Cherry pie, but only if there’s no line.  I’m a little allergic to lines.  This is it.  The rest of the lineup is still awesome….

Lobster Roll at Cull and PistolNo Surprise here.  I’m attracted to this place like a magnet, like Germans to David Hasseloff.  Even when I go elsewhere, I often stop by to check out the ever-changing menu, and on occasion see a game and plan changer (Lobster Ramen!).  This is my go-to Seafood spot in NYC, and an obvious inclusion in the Z-List.  Although I’m picking the lobster roll for the purpose of this post, the entire menu is essentially the freshest of the fresh from the Lobster Place next door.  While most tourists head to LP for the miniature $18 roll, this is much more like it, albeit at $27.  I go for the Connecticut style, hefty amount of mouthwatering, buttery, warm claw meat with a touch of mayo stuffed inside a toasty bun with a good amount of great fries

Cull & Pistol Lobster

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Very Fresh Noodles – One of the newest kids on the block.  As of this writing, they are still under soft opening with a minimal menu, though this kind of menu works for me.  Its not the size, but what you do with it, and how you pull the noodle that matters!  Two giant pulled Biang noodles go into the bowl along with slow cooked braised beef shanks, scallion, cilantro, and chili oil.  The aromatic beef broth packs plenty of heat and leaves a nice tingle for some time.  The noodles are a bit uneven, with some parts chewier than others, but a delicious dish all around.  Sitting is very limited in that hidden corner of the market

Very Fresh Noodles Taiwanese Soup

Adobada at Los Tacos #1.  The Shawarma of the south.  First rule of fight club: you see a line you stand on it, as long as its not the bathroom line.  Second rule of fight club: stand on this line, enjoy the view of the pork goodness dancing on a spit and become its Tango partner a short time after.  The lines move quick, but your mouth should move slowly to the tune of this juicy marinated pork awesomeness.  Dont yield to temptation and add more ingredients because they are there and they are free.  You dont want the flavors of some of our best tacos to get lost. (Note:  I was clearly very hungry when I wrote this)

Los Tacos

Double Cheeseburger at Creamline.  Simple American classics suggests, just like with Los Tacos, quite busy with families, school groups, and other Ziggys who simply admire the craftsmanship.  Grass Fed dry-aged burgers from the butchers next food (Dickson’s), with perfectly matched soft sesame bun makes this one of the best “fast food” type burgers I’ve had in a while.  Order, take a number, and look for a seat which I usually find.  Who said there’s no seating in CM?  I did!  But thats not the case anymore, especially with the selections in this post.  Turkey Burger here is good as well

Creamline Burger

Chirashi Bowl at Lobster Place – Did I mention that Lobster Place has some of the freshest fish in town (see Cull & Pistol)?  As much as I love lobster its usually the last thing on my mind when I’m inside (and not next door).  I get a seat at the Sushi counter and order the same thing every single time, the wonderful Chirashi bowl.  Then I order this at other Sushi places and weep a little.  Last time I got dry rice shaped like a heart.  I will just let the picture do the talking here

Lobster Place Chirashi

Hot Dog at Dickson’s Farmstand.  Hot Dog killed the (previously recommended) Pastrami star.  Instead of paying for a dirty street hot dog, how about spending a few more bucks for a clean naturally raised beef dog.  Or the Mortadella dog that gives me just about the same satisfaction except that its much more twitter friendly.  Mortadella hot dog just looks and sounds much cooler than “Hey look at me, I’m eating a hot dog, that looks like any other hot dog.

Dicksons Mortadella Dog

Hummus at Dizengoff.  The hottest, most anticipated addition to the market since they added another women’s bathroom.  This is a Hummuseria by Michael Solomonov and the rest of the team behind Philly famed Zahav.  Solomonov’s acclaimed hummus has been featured in cookbooks, magazines, children books (“Goodnight Hummus”), and now found its way in section C of Chelsea Market (the hottest section to hit the market since section B!).  Hummus, as fresh as it can get, can be topped with slow cooked lamb neck, egg, tehini, among other seasonal goodies.  You also get a small salad, some pickles, and a wonderfully chewy thick pita bread straight out of the pizza-like oven.  Once you are half way into the hummus, start experimenting with the intense homemade red S’hug sitting on the counter.  And yeah, try sitting at the counter watching the men and women at work

Dizengoff Hummus Dizengoff

Halvah at Seed + Mill.  Raise your hand if you never had Halvah.  Halva is one of those funny trendy items hitting the streets of NYC as of late.  Halvah ice cream, halvah donuts, halvah ramen.  Ok maybe not.  But its funny to me since I’ve been eating Halvah for breakfast with either bagel or fresh baguette for as long as I remember.  And whenever I’m around Seed+Mill it never ceases to amaze me how many people are trying Halvah for the first time, and go “fascinating”, “what a concept”, “who knew”.  Well, we all knew pretty much, but even if you know your Halvah you can try it for free here for yourself.

Seed+Mill4

Gelato at L’Arte del Gelato – This is not your standard, typical NYC gelato or ice cream.  Great raw material like Hazelnuts from the Langhe hills of Piedmont.  This is just about as good as it gets.  And if you always wandered about the difference between ice cream and gelato, this is a good place to see the difference, starting with the way it looks

L'Arte del Gelato

Chocolate Chip Cookie with Caramel at Liddabit  – This is simply an awesome cookie!  Dont believe me?  Just ask my friend Lou who is a self proclaimed cookie snob.  When I brought him the cookie, this is how the conversation went

“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.

Enjoy Chelsea Market, and remember… stay hungry my friends.  (I dont even know what it means anymore honestly)

Liddabit Cookie

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

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