Monthly Archives: November 2019

Three to Consider in Brooklyn

Hometown BBQ PastramiEvery time I sneeze a new restaurant opens in Brooklyn.  Every time Mrs Z sneezes, a dove commits suicide.  Its the loudest sneeze on the planet, that comes without warning.  Think a samurai shout or a mother giving birth to triplets.  Some of the new restaurants generate hours long waits or impossible to reserve, but thankfully plenty of solid oldies around.  Today you get three for the price one.

Xixa – I dont know what took me so long to get to this Mexican fusion.  Maybe the inner Jewish guilt.  Xixa after all, and its sister Traif (where we ate before), are situated just outside of Hasidic Williamsburg.  Xixa, pronounced Shiksa, means gentile woman (not Jewish).  Traif means not Kosher.  Its like two bullies laughing while pointing fingers at a kid eating Gefilte Fish off a can.  But Xixa has been around for a while now, and still packs young folks nightly.  Its hard to pick favorites from the many small and large plates.  But give the Elote (corn or carrots), beets, duck or short rib Carnitas a try.  Playful menu, with playful drinks to match.  241 S 4th St (Williamsburg)

XixaOlivier Bistro – Its beginning to sound like another cliche, but Olivier Bistro is the type of place every neighborhood needs.  I’ve been frequenting Olivier for a few years now but for some reason never wrote about it.  Talented French born Olivier Verdier is constantly on his toes, offering a mix of specials and a plethora of French classics for the steady regulars.  Its the closest you’ll get to an authentic French Bistro in Brooklyn.  The burger is always solid.  As are the Shishito peppers, Cassoulet, Moules Frites, Hanger Steak, and make sure to ask about today’s poison! (fish).  I’ve never had a bad dish here.  469 4th Ave (Gowanus)

Hometown BBQ Industry City – I havent written much about Industry City because, well, I can never find parking.  And I havent had truly compelling reasons to keep going.  Until now.  The ultra flaky pastrami sandwich at this new Hometown branch may be as good as it gets in NYC today.  It borders too salty on the first few bites, but settles in beautifully.  Its a nice homage to the classic Jewish deli pastrami on rye.  Industry City (Sunset Park)

And talking about pastrami, I inform you with heavy heart and slightly elevated cholesterol that EWZ fave Harry and Ida’s in the East Village is closing this weekend.  I wish nothing but the best to Will and Julie.  There will never be anything like Harry and Ida’s.

Hometown BBQ

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24 Hours in Washington, DC

IMG_2108When I was watching the Washington Nationals beat the Astros for their first title in the modern era (post iPhone), I never imagined that two days later we would be trapped on Constitution Ave, trying desperately to swim out of the Red Sea (parade crowd).  We spent roughly 24 hours, which was also the amount it took me to plan for this last minute getaway.  Arlington and Indian – that was pretty much my base, the starting point for this trip.  I’ve never been to Arlington, and I got sick and tired of hearing the praises of Rasika.

Saturday

11:50 am – We park at Colonial Parking (reserved via Parking Panda), and checked into the super convenient (for our purpose), State Plaza Hotel.  We accidentally found ourselves in the middle of a quiet, and picturesque George Washington University where my youngest is applying.  This school visit was not planned, but of course we told her it was.

12:30 pm – Plan was to check out Momofuku CCDC, but that means potentially missing our tour at the Capitol.  A Brunch menu makes this decision easier as I feel places like Momofulu and Brunch dont mix.  But a dumb down eggified version of a Momofuku is still probably better than most brunches out there.  Instead we do a quick take out from errr.. Cosi, along with roughly 654 National fans.

1:23 PM – An uneventful walk through the White House, on our way to the Capitol.  The crowd is getting bigger, and rowdier.  Its like the Astor Place riots except that everyone but us is wearing red.  Not fully knowing the parade route we get caught in the middle of it all.  At some point I even lost Mrs Z for a minute.  One can only dream…

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2:03 PM – At this point it feels like we just completed an Amazing Race task as we are greeted by an Anne Hathaway look-alike at the Capitol who gives us the next clue.  Go downstairs and join a group led by an Elisabeth Moss look-alike (whats going on here).  A 45 minute tour of the Capitol is one of the many cool freebies this city has to offer.

3:10 – Still feeling safe underground we cross the tunnel to the granddaddy of all free attractions, the magnificent Library of Congress.  The largest library in the world, with over 168 million items.  It will add 15,000 items by the time I finish writing this post (I’m a little slow).  Since 2006 it started collecting every one of the 50 million tweets.

IMG_20783:48 PM – We peep out like Meerkats and it looks safe to come out and walk outside.  After a Starbucks emergency (for Coffee…), we are off to walk the 2.6 miles National Mall, arguably the greatest outdoor museum and memorial in the world.  The plan was to check out the National Museum of the American Indian (Free), but long lines and… jet lag kicks in.  It was a 3.5 hour drive after all.  From the outside the museum resembles something that belongs in Bilbao.  Thats a good thing.

4:17 PM – We enjoy a local refreshment called Coca Cola.  “Refreshments” are the US version of the Cicchetti or Tapas.  Small, in between meal snacks like Hot dogs, burgers, fries, etc.  Refreshment stands are the only food options in this part of the capital.

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4:38 PM – We are now staring at the Washington Monument.  Not at the actual monument, but at the row of people lying on their back against it with their feet up.  Clearly we missed an Instagram opportunity, or they are just very tired.  This was the world’s tallest building until it was surpassed by Eiffel Tower.  No building in Washington is allowed to be taller.  We end at the Lincoln Memorial, and perhaps the biggest surprise of them all, the mesmerizing Korean War Veterans Memorial.

9:00 PM – Dinner at Rasika West End.  I was curious how a restaurant offering dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala can be considered one of the best Indian in the country, but I get it now.  Its really is just solid Indian offering a full menu of inventive, and expertly cooked mainstream dishes.  The signature Palak Chaat is a beautiful combination of baby spinach fried to a nice crisp along with tamarind, dates, and yogurt.  A lesson in texture and balanced flavors.  Another highlight surprisingly was a perfectly flaky Snapper sitting on top of rice vermicelli.  The Dal Dhungaree was like a very rich Dal Makhni.  And if you like your curries spicy and complex, give the Andhra Chicken Curry a try.  The Date and Toffee Pudding will take you back to Grand Cayman (I imagine only 1% of my readers will get that, but its worth noting)IMG_2120

Sunday

8:10 am – a 20 deep line forming for brunch at the appropriately named Founding Farmers.  In a house that can fit roughly 400 diners, we somehow managed to get the worse seats, right between the kitchen, and the line to the bathroom.  I was in perfect position to trip anyone coming out the of the kitchen but I figured we should try the food first.  Excellent French Toast, and Pastrami hash with eggs, a la pastrami egg Benedict.

10:00 am – Ever since I visited the cemeteries in New Orleans many years ago I’ve become fascinated with them.  My so called Food Tour of Brooklyn includes a visit to Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn a place near and dear to my heart.  Arlington Cemetery was at the top of a very short list of cemeteries on my bucket list.  Its crucial to visit cemeteries with a tour and Free Tours by Foot proved to be a fine option.  Tip:  At The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dont leave immediately after the changing of the guards is over as many do.  There may be an important and moving wreath laying ceremony that follows.  Another Tip:  Dont miss the US Marine Corps War Memorial, a short drive away with easy parking.

IMG_21301:30 PM:  We have important unfinished business in other states, so bye for now

Bonus for New Yorkers or anyone driving from the north…

2:45 PM  A crab fest like no other at Nick’s Fish House in Baltimore, right off the highways.  If you never had proper Maryland crab cake, this is a good place to have one.  And its such a great place to experience the Chesapeake Blue Crab.  Yes its an experience.  If you never had them, its worth watching some youtube videos and/or ask the waitress on how to crack them open.  I would go to Baltimore just for this.

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Santina – Stays Fresh a Little Longer

Santina - CecinaRemember that old commercial.. “Stay Fresh a little longer… say goodbye a little longer..”,  The actual products dont stick, but the songs often do.  If you dont remember this one its probably because, well, it doesnt exist.  Its actually a Wrigley Big Red gum commercial that goes “So kiss a little longer…”, and the fresh part was only in my head.  But the idea of the commercial is that the gum will keep you fresh longer than normal so you could kiss longer, for some reason.  Why would anyone want to do it in public is beyond me.  Kissing in public for more than 3 seconds is rare, awkward and should be banned frankly for the safety of the individuals and motorists.  You practically asking for herpes.  And at home you have Listerine for that.

But last time I checked, this is not Hygiene With Ziggy.  Its a food blog.  Major Food Group’s Santina, five years later, still feels fresh and unique.  With the ever changing regional Italian scene on the island, Santina stays true to its concept – fun, inventive spin on coastal Italian.  Italians, like in many cultures around the world, generally live very close to their land.  On the coast of Sicily for example you may find beautiful sweet Gambero Rosso (red shrimp).  While 10 km inland, you find yourself wrapping Focaccia around sausage and ricotta.  Coincidentally, ever wonder why we have so many lobster/crab shacks, and various seafood joints by the water?  Its not like any of the seafood comes from the Hudson or Buttermilk Channel near Red Hook.

Santina Squash CarpaccioMuch of Santina’s originality is attributed to one item, Cecina.  While Santina bills itself as coastal Italian, mainly Liguria and Tuscany, this chickpea pancake is different than anything we had between Genoa and Lucca.  Its softer and spongier, but not in a bad way.  On recent visits I enjoyed it with tuna infused with Calabrian chili, and avocado thats essentially the best Guacamole within a two mile radius.  Once wrapped with the Cecina ‘slice’, you get four tasty snacks.  Add the accompanied red sauce to the second or third Cecina for a change of pace and maximum oomphness.  The Cecina is reason #365 why you should stop reading Infatuation.  Clearly I cant!

The only thing better than a restaurant with a signature dish is one with two.  The Squash Carpaccio is a brilliant combination of thinly sliced squash, pumpkin seeds, brown butter, pink peppercorn, and crème fraiche dropped like Hershey kisses.  Another recent discovery is the Capellini Blue Crab – simple but effective.  Perhaps a spoonful of crab shy from being VERY effective.  Avoid the boring wild rice calamari.  The spicy potatoes side is one of those dishes I’m seeing elsewhere nowadays, but rarely comes close to Santina’s version.  In previous visits we’ve also enjoyed the chicken, Shrimp Zingara, and Santina Fusilli that are menu staples.

Santina
820 Washington St (under the begining of the High Line, south end)
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Cecina, Squash Carpaccio, Capellini Blue Crab, Spicy Potatoes, Shrimp Zingara, Santina Fusilli

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