Monthly Archives: July 2018

This Soho Chicken With a Pinch of Sand is Outstanding

Pinch Chinese Wind Sand ChickenSometimes in order to find the best dishes, you need come back with friends.  Not only you can try more, but you can finally order some of the larger dishes, like the chicken for 2 to 6.  Such was the case the other day when we introduced our friends to one of our Soho faves, Pinch Chinese.  An invitation that became a little suspicious when I walked in three hours prior to our reservations to reserve the bird while friends waited outside.  I should have played it more subtle.  As in “Hey, you guys want to try the chicken? I hear its fantastic!”

The Wind Sand Chicken is a Hong Kong classic.  It doesnt look whole and not particularly large, but the 4 of us couldnt finish the $51 dish.  By trying to leave the best for last (dark meat) we left it on the table.  When you taste the flash you taste the labor.  The bird is cooked like Peking duck.  Two days of Marinating (cinnamon, star anise, other herbs and spices), drying, spanking, repeating.  The skin gets thin and crispy, and the flesh redefines moist.  Garnished with fried garlic, like sand that the wind brought (Ahhhhh!).  Maybe if they closed the door, they wouldnt have this problem

Oh and there were pork soup dumplings of course and terrific spicy Wontons (new to us).  And the “Snow Crab in a Chinese Restaurant” with fermented black bean and glass noodles we order each time.  And there was a side of porky Sichuan String Beans that is now our favorite side.  Not to mention those sick Cumin Pork Ribs.  If there was a Fantasy Niman Ranch Pork league, Pinch Chinese would win by three snouts.

More on Pinch Chinese here

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant

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Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Tips for Asturias

IMG_8939Heard of Asturias?  The forgotten Spanish region of Asturias is an absolute stunner and a culinary paradise.  We came primarily to get a glimpse of the magnificent Picos de Europa, but turns out it’s so much more than that.

10.  Check the Covadonga Webcam.   Before going up to the lakes of Covadonga, check the webcam.  It may be clear down below, but heavy fog on top.  Ideally stay in or near Cangas de Onis for at least 3 days and go up on a sunny day.  Webcam:  http://webcamsdeasturias.com/webcam.php?id=159

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9.  Sunday is Fungus Day at Cangas de Onís.  Its not a big market, but a very important one, in front of the main church in Cangas de Onís.  This is where you can taste the funky local Cabrales cheese among many other products.  And if you speak Spanish, maybe make a friend and get invited to see a cave where Cabrales is aged.

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8.  Read up and look for “Indianos”.  Back in the day Spaniards who lived close to the sea in the north, sailed to South America to seek better fortune.  At the turn of the 20th century, feeling homesick, many of those who accumulated wealth came back.  And to show their legacy, they built these lavish colorful homes (“Indianos”).  They would even typically have palm trees as a symbol of their previous tropical homes.  You can visit the chief Indiano at Colombres (Indiano Archive Foundation) and see them in Ribadesella and pretty much all over.

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7.  Visit a Sidreria or 5.  This is perhaps obvious to some, but its importance needs to be stressed.  We travel for “Different”.  And your visit will be incomplete if you dont spend the proper time practically bathing in cider in a cider house.  Read about the proper way to drink it, its not just about the pouring.  Visit Plaza De Requejo in Mieres.  Check out Sidrería Carroceu in Ribadesella (try shrimp in garlic, and mussels topped with tomato sauce, a local specialty)

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6.  Try a Cachopo.  This item can be criminally overlooked when researching this region.  The Asturias answer to, ok, there’s nothing quite like this out there.  Two mammoth fried veal fillets sandwiching ham, cheese, and anything else they opt to stuff in there.  And one the best places to try it is Chigre El Antoju Sidrería in Llanes

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5.  Take your time at Sanctuary of Covadonga.  Dont confuse this for just a church hence a quick attraction.  You may need to walk a little from your parking spot.  You’ll want to take pictures of it every time you look from every angle.  You must visit the Holy Cave across where you may get the best shot of the church.  And most importantly, dont even think about missing this.

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4.  Follow the Oviedo Escultura trail.  Oviedo and its unique statues is a free open air museum.  Well at least on a Sunday when you can park for free.  You’ll see a statue with a story in every park, square, or in front of important monuments including one of Woody Allen (Much of Vicky Cristina Barcelona was filmed in Oviedo).  But the most famous of the bunch is a little girl wearing a red dress sitting on a bench in the park.  Read about Mafalda to see why she’s larger than life 

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3.  Have a leisurely lunch at El Molín de Mingo.  In Asturias, you have these 7 feet chickens roaming around answering to the name Pitu.  Pitu de Caleya is one of the many delicious local specialties and this is where you try it.  Packed places this hidden are packed for a reason.  Always busy therefore reservations are essential, and sometimes only open on weekends.  A little easier to get to via Arriondas as opposed to Cangas de Onis

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2.  Mix it up at Casa Marcial and Guernica.  The location and setting of Marcial is worth the schlep alone to this two Michelin in the mountains.  The fixed menu options will allow you to mix crafty ingredient driven starters (like the best mussel you’ll ever have) with elevated local specialties like Fabada and Pitu de Caleya.  For seafood head to Luanco for the great rice dishes of Guernica

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1.  Read Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding.  A full chapter on Asturias, Basque and other regions you may come across.

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Categories: Spain | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nishi is Now Italian, But Still Momofuku

Nishi Scallops

Eating With Ziggy

July 23, 2018 Update:

This is your annual reminder to check out this gem in Chelsea that continues to fire on all Bucatinis.  Three visits this year alone and about a dozen overall, making Momofuku Nishi my most frequented fine dining destination these days.  Its the only place with a four Z rating in the EWZ NYC universe.  But as with any establishment, its important to keep expectations in check.  The menus constantly change and sometimes those crazy Fuku chefs like to experiment on us.  So allow me to decipher the current menu to uncover some gems for you.  Well, you really have no choice.

To Start – Here I go for the market veggies mostly.  Endive with walnut Bagna Cauda, the classic Piedmontese dish that serves as the perfect counter for the sharp Endives. The various Gem Lettuce renditions always work, and last time the Romano Beans and Burrata with Spring Onions…

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Jose Maria {Segovia} – The Suckling King

Jose Maria in ActionSegovia, the perfect tourist town.  How often do you come across places with such sheer beauty and plenty of unique attractions to boot.  Its rich history plays an important global role, and its essentially one giant lesson in Spanish history.  Which is why its best viewed with a guide.  Its monuments are not only important and UNESCOd for good reason, but they are a feast to the eyes.  The aqueduct alone is worthy of the train ticket from Madrid, even if you’ve seen such aqueducts before.  And then you have the Cochinillo (Suckling Pig).

No one knows how it all started, but everyone knows who popularized it.  In the 1930’s Don Candido started carving Cochinillo with a plate while everyone else watched with Love Eye Emojis followed by Cash Eye Emojis.  Today Meson de Candido is still going strong, while many others all over Segovia are now doing the same thing.  And gastrofreaks from all over flock here not for the Aqueduct or the castles, but for the baby pig.  The whole scene is a little disturbing in a way.  Baby pigs featured on window displays, sometimes provocatively, akin to the red light district in Amsterdam.  I figured if my kids ever become vegan, this would be the reason.

But if Don Candido put the Cochinillo on the map, Jose Maria put it on the Google Map.  Today, Jose Maria is the Taj Mahal of the pig pilgrimage and you can feel it when you are 50 feet away from the 5 room restaurant.  It doesn take much Google searching to see videos of Mr Maria plate carving that thing while proudly wearing his medal.  In 2002 Maria, who owns his own breeding farm, founded PROCOSE, an association devoted to the promotion of the Suckling Pig of Segovia.  He converted the pig into a cultural icon.

The mural behind us serves as a reminder for all the plates Jose Maria used to break in the past.  But it wasn’t clear whether it was accidental or did he throw them Greek style when he was done.  But today the carving is so theatrical that everything including time pauses for that 10 seconds.  He cuts and plates it with the plate.  The flesh maintains much of the juiciness.  The skin is crispier than crisp but still chewy.  And its all rather simple.  You expect something more complicated from such fame, but its really just a suckling pig simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  The reason it works so well, is the quality of the main ingredient.  These guys got this thing down to a science.  From the weight of the pig, to the timing of the kill and what it had for breakfast days 4 to 6.

But there were other surprises contributing to this most memorable meal, starting with the Iberico meat and cheese platter.  While we liked the Jamon and Chorizo alright, it was the dryer more textured Lomo (cured tenderloin) that won.  And then came the Judiones, some of the most massive, creamiest white beans you will ever eat.  Part of a stew of course, a relative of the Asturian Fabada we couldnt get enough.

And I dont normally get excited or even remember house wines, but this house red had the Aroma and complexity of a pungent full bodied aged red.  Even Mrs Z couldnt help herself and had a glass too many.  After the meal while we were walking, she suddenly paused, and turned to me frantically “Did you find the Chorizo?!?”  Translation (after 25 years of marriage):  We didnt have dessert.  Did you find a nice Churros place?

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This is Getaria

IMG_6219Getaria is a tiny fishing village in Basque Country, about 30 minute drive from San Sebastian.  Torbotville, (a town in Pennsylvania) perhaps a more appropriate name due to the widely available fish that became the new symbol of Getaria.  This was the tail end of a 16 day road trip from Madrid, where we spent 6 nights using Getaria as our Basque base.  Some of these pictures came practically from the back yard of our accommodation, Gaintza, a local Txikoli (young but potent local dry white) producer.  Staying in the middle of a vineyard, with a 5 minute walk to the beach, an old town, and world class seafood was not exactly what I imagined.  I will have more on Getaria and its very unique food scene when I get a chance.  Click on any image below to browse through all

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Categories: Spain | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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