Monthly Archives: August 2019

Best Dining in Sabra Village!

19 Cleveland

Courtesy of 19 Cleveland

East village, Greenwich Village, West Village.  These are some of the most famous village neighborhoods in the world.  So famous, other major cities following suit.  Calgary now got a quirky East Village as well.  But have you heard of Sabra Village, the smallest of the four villages?  My guess is that you never heard of it, because it doesnt exist.  Yet!  But we are in the early stages of what looks like an Israeli invasion of Nolita, a made-up real estate name which stands for North of Little Italy.  Little Italy is slowly vanishing and is now essentially one block.  Its a matter of time.

I often said that NYC lacks casual, no frills, but smart Israeli food.  A place I can bring a group of 4 to 10 on a whim.  They are either too refined (Taboon, Nur, Miss Ada), or not refined at all (Nish Nush, Ba’al, Taim), without much in between.  Our real estate market has something to do with it, but deep in the outer boroughs there’s no excuse.  There’s a place on Avenue P in Brooklyn called “Pita Off the Corner” serving awful Falafel, and barely eatable Shawarma.  But the sprawling space serves as a constant tease to what could have been.  Brooklyn is home to half a million Jews, half of NYC’s Jews.  I’m certain that not all are kitchen challenged.

But in Manhattan at least, it looks like the newest Sabra are on a mission to change all that.  Two of the three I’ll focus on below feel like you are transported to Dizengoff.  Not Philly, but Tel Aviv.  Sabra btw, has nothing to do with hummus.  Its an old term that essentially means Israeli born.  “Sabres” is the Hebrew name for prickly pear, a fruit that is rough on the outside, but soft on the inside.  And by rough I dont mean Harvey Weinstein, but as in direct, to the point.

Here are some of the early settlers of Sabra Village…

Taim – Yes, Taim is now a local chain, but a very important one.  Perhaps after X’ian Famous, the most important, and a good representation of fast food in NYC today.  Owner Einat Admony certainly knows her Hummus and Falafel.  And while I give the nod to Nish Nush as far as Falafel sandwiches go, Taim’s platter is as good as it gets.  And dont be the lame one that pronounces Taim like “lame”.  Its Tah-eem.

Taim

Shoo Shoo – If there’s anything these places need to work on is the names.  Its not clear to me what Shoo Shoo means exactly, other the sound my wife makes when the blind neighborhood cat mistakenly comes to our door instead of the next one where he normally gets his food.  The name may not sound inviting but the bright decor is, and the menu brings much freshness to the area.  Very solid hummus even when topped with boiled chickpeas that can use some texture (minor quibble).  And a legit sesame ladened Tel Aviv style chicken Schnitzel.

19 Cleveland – Continuing the questionable name theme with probably the most important Sabra on the block.  This is the first serious brick and mortar by the EWZ fave Nish Nush team.  A menu that respects tradition but at the same time playful, and elevated.  We already know they can dish out killer hummus and unmatched Falafel sandwiches.  But at 19 Cleveland (also the address) you can also find a nifty, well balanced Falafel burger, along with fish and vegan Shawarma, and a slew of other healthy eats.  Looking forward to checking out the rest of this menu.

You know what they say.  Two is a crowd, three is a village!  Nolita is a very small area, and the sudden Israeli pop is noticeable.  I’ve seen some call it Little Israel, and some call it Little Tel Aviv.   Less than a year ago there were five actually.  There’s also a branch of Cava, a kinda Israeli, fast-casual national health focused chain.  And then there’s Dez which shuttered a year after opening.  Did we reach saturation?

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

Random Banff

Peyto LakeAnother incomplete North America National Park visit in the books.  Still, no bears.  Just like with the elusive sea turtle after hundreds of snorkeling sessions (ok, more like 15), this is starting to feel personal.  We even got stuck on two “Bear Jams” between Yosemite and Banff and nada.  A Bear Jam is when traffic builds up on a road because bears were spotted.  Its the National Park version of a NYC accident on the other side of the highway.

Since I live close to Jersey, I might as well try to spot them there since they are everywhere apparently.  Bear population is so high in Jersey, hunters can now hunt for bears in December, a la The Purge:  The Jersey bears addition.  Thats why in Yosemite we were confused at first about the “Speeding Kills Bears” signs randomly placed on the main roads.  Are we supposed to slow down, or speed?

Here are some pics.  Click to view

 

Categories: Banff | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Cappun Magru {Manarola} – What’s in a Name? Everything

Cappun Magru - the dishTo say that Cappun Magru offers the best Cappun Magru in Cinque Terre is a fair assessment.  Its the only one making it.  This old Ligurian specialty is slowly disappearing from Ligurian menus, even in Genoa where its most associated.  Cappun Magru is an elaborate seafood and veggie salad to put in the simplest of forms.  Its most common spelling is Cappon Magro, but here at the headquarters of EWZ, with the tagline “Eating Well, Spelling Pourly” we dont care about spelling all that much.  My guess is that Cappun Magru is the more ancient spelling.  Sort of like Giovanni da Verrazzano ancient spelling had only one Z.  If only NYC would have known about it before spending millions to change the name.

When you talk to Christina, the owner of Cappun Magru, you can easily forget that you are in Cinque Terre.  This is not a place I expected to easily find Slow Food.  Two hours prior I was elbowing my way through a sea of tourists, pizzas, and Limoncelos in a boot in Vernazza.  Since Rick Steves discovered this corner of Italy, restaurants dont need to go through great lengths to please us tourists.  But Christina and husband who moved Cappun Magru from the mountains, closer to the sea, continue to march on, trying to preserve whatever tradition left.

There’s no one universal way to prepare this monster.  But its often involved shrimp, mussels, oysters, fresh fish, and a Parsley led complex green sauce that involves eggs, anchovies and a slew of other ingredients.  Its not a simple dish by any means, but the reward is a feast to all senses.  Even the non photographers on the table will reach for their phones.  It a rich poor people’s food.  It goes back to the days when fishermen would indulge in the leftovers of their bosses rich feasts.  It then became a feast in itself, and a popular lent preparation in Liguria.  There’s no meat involved of course but the name sort of means “light fat chicken” (Capon is a type of fatty chicken).  Like.. “I’m a vegetarian”.  “Oh, in that case here’s a little lamb”.

And did I mention that its delicious?  So are the smartly crafted sandwiches like the shrimp with fish roe, Zucchini, and Egg.  And while Cappun Magru does have a good wine selection (Its more of a wine bar), this is a good place to take a break from wine, and indulge in some beer.  Italy’s craft beer is some of the most underrated in the world.

Cappun Magru is ideal after a long hike.  But dont come too late as they close at around 7:30 (in the summer at least).  A light early dinner at 6 is perfect because you are after all in Monorola, and you dont want to miss sunset.  Thats the reason you are here.

Manarola

Categories: Italy, Liguria | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

New Essex Market’s Best Bites

IMG_1435I won’t lie to you people.  I rarely do.  When I first saw the new Essex Market, it felt like I just discovered a new Foodie paradise as the NY Post put it.  A mini Chelsea Market without the crowds, was the first thing that came to mind.  A striking contrast to the old Essex Market which felt sad and unwelcoming at times.  But around 10 visits, a few hits and too many misses later I come back crawling to the Chelsea Market zoo asking for forgiveness, and a Currywurst.

It turned into a strange love hate relationship.  I keep gravitating to Essex Market, so there’s something definitely there.  Mad kudos to the designers of the space.  Its pleasing to the eye, comfortable, and the sitting area on top is just pure joy when compared to other food courts.  Its part of a new complex that also includes a swanky new Regal with reclined seats and giant food trays. I never understood movie theaters that serve food or food friendly theaters like this.  My enjoyment of watching a movie while eating somehow never transferred to watching a movie while sitting next to a total stranger munching on chicken wings and almost spilling his coke on me three times.

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But while the Essex Market vendors wouldnt really fair well at Chelsea Market, there’s definitely a very interesting variety of eats.  Some of the old vendors are back, and some new ones joined, and still joining (Another section will eventually open looks like).  Here are some of the best bites I tried so far.

Bourekas at Zerza – I’ll give them a pass for serving it a little cool in the middle.  The flavors are there and its what you normally would expect from a well crafted Bourekas.  Loaded with Spinach, raisins, feta, and pine nuts.  A sound competitor to the Bourekas queen in Hell’s Kitchen, Gazalas.

Fried Chicken at Eat Gai – Come for Gai, stay for fried chicken.  Its known for Khao Man Gai which is a Hainaese chicken and rice dish that is popular in Thailand as well.  Might be an acquired taste or a cultural thing as it just didnt do it for me.  The fried chicken on the other hand, marinated with Turmeric was more like it, especially the first time I had it.

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The Nordic Sandwich at Nordic Preserves – One of the old guards from the old Essex Street Market (Note they dropped the “Street” at the new place).  Its a Scandinavian cured and smoked fish specialist that also crafts a couple of sandwiches like the outstanding The Nordic with Creme Fraiche, Lumpfish Caviar, Pico de Gallo in a Pain D’avignon olive Baguette.  Or better yet, buy their Pastrami lox, and enjoy it with a fresh bagel with cream cheese.

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Croissant Bread Pudding w/ Crème Anglaise at Pain D’avignon – Bread Puddings in NYC rarely come close to something you can find in every corner in New Orleans.  Its often too dry, too bready or just missing any zing.   Leave it to baking legend Pain D’avignon to correct that with a perfectly balanced, apple filled (on this occasion) bread pudding that comes with a creamy Crème Anglaise on the side.  So you can pour as much of it as you want (suggested amount:  all of it)

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Banana Ice Cream at LES Ice Cream Factory – Not sure if its the best way to build a brand, but the folks from The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory opted to give themselves a different name here.  I suppose, and this is just a crazy guess, that the reason is that this is not in Chinatown.  That didnt stop many other businesses however.  Not every flavor works (had better Horchata in NYC) here, but the banana does.

Also Consider:  Chicken Shawarma at Samesa, Arancini at Arancini Bros, Empanadas at Dominican Cravings, Salted Caramel Panna Cotta at Mille Nonne.

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

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