Brooklyn

Fair Weather Bushwick – Breaking Bad

Fair Weather Bushwick bay scallopsNo, we didnt get lost trying to get back to Roberta’s, Bushwick’s proud Z-List representative.  And no, we dont have a new-found graffiti fetish, although dont mind it so much if striking enough.  On average we visit Florida more often than this up and coming hipsterhood, but we are finding more and more reasons to change that.  This time, the reason was to check out a little Coffee shop that’s not so little and not so coffee shop anymore.  A full transformation from hipster coffee and wifi, to a full blown mature dining spot with weekly tasting, supper club style.  Instead of staring at their laptop, locals will now converse with other humans.  An experimental concept that is so Bushwick.

Fair Weather Bushwick, making that unflinching transition at the beginning of the year, is like a breath of fresh air to a neighborhood in dire need of such spots.  Led by John Creger, fresh from cheese mecca Artisanal, FWB (sounds like a radio station) offers brunch, dinner seven days a week, and the weekly $65 ten courser I will tell you about shortly.  I believe this is the first time I wasnt quite sure about what to wear to a restaurant in NYC.  A pricey tasting menu, in Bushwick!  Talking about getting caught between a rock and a hard place.  Like when you feel the need to go take a leak at 9 pm, an hour or two before bed time.  You missed your 8 pm, and you are too early for the pre-bedtime stop, strategically trying to avoid the dreadful 3 am wake up call.  Do you hold it in for another hour, or risk it?

John CregerWith that said, even a proper schedule didnt stop a 2 am wakeup call this time, after John Creger’s crafty beer pairing that night.  The beer just kept flowing and flowing.  John Creger has been around.  I’m not so sure I grabbed the most desirable picture of him (like the brainchild of Marilyn Manson and Hitler).  Quite possibly just an off hair day, or just another day at the offices at Sleep No More where he was head chef.  After stints at Le Cirque, Gradisca, Artisanal, and a cameo on Food Network’s Chopped, Creger is now turning heads in little, obscure Fair Weather Bushwick.  The first thing I noticed when I walked in is a smiling happy chef.  Happy chef normally translates to happy Ziggy.  Normally.

This was the first tasting of the new spring menu (Spring is here apparently.  Never got the memo).  The atmosphere was that of a supper club dinner, featuring a communal table and an open kitchen.  Creger came out 15 times to explain every beer, and every dish in Slow Food style (“The ramps came from an upstate farm ran by runaway Russian brides”).  All 10 dishes were plated Ko-esque style so you I couldnt help but compare this one to much pricier tastings.  An early highlight, a beet course with spiced pumpkin seeds and dehydrated beets set the tone.  There were carrots, slow roasted, sitting on Zatar spiced yogurt, and Fenugreek seeds.  “The carrots taste very different than carrots at home” she said.  “Thats because these taste like carrots”.  And there wouldnt be spring tasting without spring peas.  Here, Creger serves a crispy Prosciutto decorated chilled soup that delivers an initial spring pea punch and then settles down nicely.Fair Weather Bushwick Beets

The vegetable heavy menu featured vegetables (duh!) that came alive by use of mild exotic spices, and herb purees.  Creger is like a free bird now, dishing out playful, bright plates, that are attractive to the camera eye, but does not leave the other senses in the dark.  Although my taste sense could have used a few more bay scallops in one of the only protein plates.  The two dessert courses, in particular a Matcha Creme Brulee with ginger and chocolate mint was a very solid finisher.

Without offending our close friends, I have a new-found appreciation for dining with strangers.  We sat next to a fun, young doctor couple who had stories to tell, and Achilles Tendon advice to share.  At some point, toward the end of the meal (I would never do it at the beginning), I felt the urge to put my left foot on the table for a free (presumably) checkup, but it didnt seem appropriate at that moment.  A fun evening to say the least, and perhaps now we’ll have to make it to Bushwick more often than Florida

Fair Weather Bushwick carrots Fair Weather Bushwick cheese Fair Weather Bushwick pea soup Fair Weather Bushwick Mushrooms Fair Weather Bushwick clam Fair Weather Bushwick brulee Fair Weather Bushwick inside Fair Weather Bushwick yard Fair Weather Bushwick

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

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

Best Wings in NYC

Kolkovna Olympia wings

Updated 1/24/17

Ok, so we are all adults here.  We all know perfectly well that these are NOT the best wings in the city.  In the city that never sleeps, and never runs out of wings, there are hundreds of wings out there, not counting the simple bar wings you can find in every corner.  But I’m just one Ziggy, with different taste sensitivities than many readers, and I cant taste them all.  “Decent wings” or “favorite wings” doesnt sound as convincing, or Google friendly.  With that said, there’s only one certainty:  The competition is rather fierce.  And any new joint offering wings has to be creative, and deliver something more than palatable.

Since the average wings researcher has shorter attention than other researchers (eg Ramen), I’m only listing my favorite five, with more solid options at the end

Ma Peche – Jerk Wings. (Upate 9/19/16:  Havent seen them on the menu in a while due to rotating chefs.  Shame, shame, shame!).  If I have to pick one, this is probably it.  The love affair started with the wings being part of the cart service.  Whenever I would bring guests here, my attention span would drop to wings researcher levels until I’d finally spot the cart of dreams carrying them.  These days the wings are part of the menu and they are better than ever.  An explosion of complex jerky, zesty, habanero, brown sugary flavors fill your palate and stay for a few good minutes, or days sometimes if you don’t rush to wash those handsMa Peche wings

Distilled – Distilled Wings.  A former Momofuku alumni has been quietly dishing out great wings in Tribeca.  Distilled may be better known for their mixologist team as of late, but those wings have been on the menu since day one.  These are grade A quality hefty wings.  They are double fried to crispy perfection, and coated with a thick and messy layer of Gochujang (that fermented Korean sauce you put on your Bibimbap).  And they serve it with their own version of not too funky blue cheese dressing to cool things down.  Truly excellent wings.Distilled wings

Danji – Spicy ‘k.f.c.’ Korean Fire Chicken Wings.   Love at first sweat, around four years ago.  I like to bring visitors here on occasion, though I don’t love when they witness me lick my own fingers which may be considered rude.  What’s more rude me thinks is wiping off that awesomeness with wet napkins.  Heat level has been steady all these years, so make sure to have the fantastic tofu before altering your palate.  This is pure delicious heat, as opposed to senseless.Danji - Wings

Biang! – Chicken Wings Skewers. This dish prompted me to bump up this post.  In fact it was as soon as I finished my wing, and right before trying to convince my daughters that its way too spicy and there’s more food coming.  It didnt work, as they gobbled those things in full force.  One can easily overlook them because Biang! is known for just about everything else but wings, but dont make the mistake.  Like Pok Pok below these are full high quality wings, and oh so nicely seasoned to absolute perfection.  And while you at it, also try the Cauliflower skewers.  Yes, not a typo.  Cauliflower!

biang-wings

The Cannibal (Gotham West Market) – Chili and Garlic Wings.  These wings dont carry the same spice punch as the others.  They are milder, but far from lacking in flavor.  The wings are marinated, slow roasted, and breaded before cooked in the Cannibal’s high powered oven.  Kitchen space is limited in Gotham West so they need to be creative.  The zesty aioli and the little oniony salad served on top compliment nicely.  And the skin and the juicy meat are happily married.  And dont forget about the sick Pig’s Head Cuban.  This is quickly becoming my favorite Gotham West menuCanibbal - wings

Jun-Men Ramen – Chicken Wings.  A must order for me on each visit since discovery.  4 plain looking wings, but far from plain tasting.  They are double fried to give them a nice crisp, but retain plenty of juice and strong peppery notes from the secret Jun-Men sauce.  Even without the wings this is one Chelsea favorite.

jun-men-wings

Pok Pok – Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  Unlike the other wings here, wing historians out there are probably already well too familiar with this legendary pick.  Articles, cookbooks, essays, children books (Goodnight Pok Pok Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings!) written about these wings.  Somewhat inaccessible to most people so you wont find any tourists or Staten Islanders here normally.  You can have the wings at the Whisky Soda Lounge next door while you wait for your table.   The wings are huge, spicy, garlicky, on the dry side, but flavor packed.  Put this one on your bucket list.  Before the Great Wall of China, after Story Time with Bill Cosby.Pok Pok Wings

Pondicheri – Masala Wings.  These wings are as complex as the name.  Is it Masala wings? Is it Madras?  Doesnt matter, its all good.  The wings are slow baked, liberally coated with Garam Masala, and Mango Powder seasoning and served with two chutneys including chili and tamarind.  They are aromatic and delicious, with the proper texture in and out.  And while you at it, try any of the Thalis for breakfast or lunch, followed by anything from the unique bakery like the ice cream sandwich

pondicheri-masala-wings

Bar Goto – Miso Wings.  Black Sesame, Scallions, House Spicy Miso Sauce.  These are some of the best bar wings you will find in NYC.  But in this semi-classy tiny Japanese cocktail joint, they will test your high-toned manners.  You may find yourself sitting at the bar, talking politics with the bartender, while in desperate need of extra napkins to wipe the Miso glaze around your lips and sponge your sweaty forehead (these are hot!).  And while the bartender exclaims his views on Trump, all you can think about is “Is it Miso, or is it Buffalo”.  And once you think you got your classiness under control, you cant help but lick your fingers.  All of them.  Slowly.

goto-wings

Han Dynasty – Dry Pepper Chicken Wings.  For a white, spicy lover like myself, these are what the Mission Chinese Food wings should taste like.  They are marinated in sherry, cayenne, garlic, white pepper, and ginger. And stir-fried with a hefty dose of chili paste, chili peppers, garlic and scallions.  They are more subdued than Mission’s, but not without its share of nice pleasant heat.  Some of the pepper action bunched together into something reminiscent of a Yemeni S’chug (hot pepper spread).  The skin is as crispy and delicious as it comes, which made me wish for more flesh to balance.  Wonderful stuff!

han-dynasty-wings

FOB – Spicy Chicken Langkawas.  This one is all about the sauce.  When the waiter takes the plate before you are totally done with that sauce, you stare at him like he’s a bully trying to take your food.  The wings are grilled, so not so much of a skin crunch.  But the flavor is there thanks to the wonderful, addictive thick salsa of chilies, lime, and coconut milk.  I’m starting to think that finger-licking-good was invented in the Phillipines, with all that Adobo, and various sauces they make.  The wings are one of many inspiring goodies coming out of this homey Filipino kitchen in Brooklyn

fob-chicken-wings

Other Notables:  Mighty Quinn’s, Mission Cantina, Bonchon, Mission Chinese Food (not a fan personally but it has a huge following), International Wings Factory

Categories: Brooklyn, Midtown West, New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Battle of The Bridges: Seeking Best Pizza, Fuku, Wings

204Winter is coming!  Time to file some Citibike miles under the belt.  About twice a year the Hummus Whisperer and I take a day riding between the boroughs (Brooklyn and Manhattan) losing crazy amount of calories, while gaining back three times as much from munching in various places.  We try to hit at least 5 random spots, some are planned, some not.  This time HW couldn’t make it, but we did meet up at some point.  Here’s how the ride went

In my constant pursuit of great chicken wings as of late (another middle age crisis symptom), I targeted two year old Distilled in Tribeca.  Distilled originally opened as an interesting looking destination spot from a Momofuku Noodle veteran, and settled down into more of a popular neighborhood gastropub with a talented team of mixologists (partly judging by the exceptional Bloody this morning).  But the one constant since the beginning seem to be the glorious wings.  They are double fried to crispy perfection, and coated with a thick and messy layer of Gochujang (that fermented Korean sauce you put on your Bibimbap).  They serve it with their own version of not too funky blue cheese sauce to cool things down.  Really excellent hefty, top quality wings.Distilled wings

Back on the bike, sort of full after just 5 wings (I left one for good luck), where to go next?  Cutting across east I decided to bike the selfie stick happy Brooklyn Bridge.  With all the crowds and craziness, I still rather bike iconic Brooklyn Bridge than any other bridge.  Then down to Sands street, Flushing, and Kent before crossing the Jewish side of Williamsburg and parking by old favorite Zizi Limona.  The one big surprise here is the large Puerto Rican community in this part of the woods.  The big parade was in Manhattan this day, but I felt the celebration here in Brooklyn.  With Citibike, I feel like I’m rediscovering my own city

Best PizzaMy next destination is a slice of Pizza.  Yes, I biked all the way here from Tribeca for a slice.  But lets go back for a sec.  About a year ago, when I had one of those cherished free days, I decided to drive around Brooklyn for various iconic slices I haven’t had in a while and more.  I had the great L&B Spumoni, the legendary Di Fara (after a 45 minute wait), and then drove to Williamsburg for Best Pizza which proved to be Best of the bunch especially while factoring in some of the pain involved getting some of the others.  The funny part is that Roman based food writer Katie Parla did something similar a month later, and also proclaimed Best Pizza as the winner.  Now, back for yet another NY style slice (need to save room for the next most highly anticipated stop) from the wood burning oven, with that signature basil leaf in the middle for added aroma.  Great slice again with an unusually well balanced cheese/sauce proportions.  Owner Frank has an extensive pizza resume, along with a stint at the Culinary Institute of America.  The paper plate art alone including the “Jews love Best Pizza” plate is worthy of a schlep.Best Pizza art

photo (18)Back on the bike, and back to the “city” via the much quieter Williamsburg Bridge.  The emptiness means more freedom to move around so you can fly like a bold eagle!  Until you realize you are on a Citibike, and you are dangerously close to being passed by an 80 year old woman (that actually happens often to me in Italy).  Its hard to look cool on those little blue bikes, especially in Central Park.  The only chance you have is to ride in the rain (not drizzle, rain), or with just one hand.  Until you face another blue frontal balding biker riding with one hand and you realize it doesn’t look as cool as you thought.

Anyway, sometimes the most anticipated items prove less than thrilling at the end (see Best vs Di Fara).  Such is the case with Fuku, the hottest sandwich in town at the moment from David Chang’s Momofuku empire (As some of you know, I’m a fan).  Perhaps I got Fukued.  My 30 minute wait was about half outside, half in after paying for it.  “Credit Only for now” is something I haven’t heard anywhere yet I don’t think.  After paying, you get a number with a stick, and you can stand with your number just about anywhere looking like a dork, for the order girl to eventually find you.  Sort of like one of those bachelorette games…”bachelor #23 if you were a kitchen appliance, what appliance would you be”… Eventually the “spicy fried chicken” arrives.  Its a flat almost schnitzel like, thigh meat sandwiched by a tiny potato roll that is meant to serve as a handle.  Not the sexiest looking thing.  There are also sliced pickles in there somewhere that serve almost no purpose.  The first few bites were interesting, featuring decent flavor, then the struggle took over.  Stringy, uneven texture throughout, with crust and meat not so happily married.  Not very spicy for a sandwich called Spicy Chicken. It wasn’t a total mess, but far from that hot, much anticipated item I was so looking forward to.  Try for yourself!Fuku

photo (99)A Battle of the Bridges is incomplete without my favorite thirst quencher which happens to be nearby, the Grasshopper from Liquiteria.  Its not cheap at around $9, but so refreshing on a hot day.  I proceeded then west, cruising 13th st, passing Da Andrea, All’Onda and eventually Santina on the way to meet Hummus Whisperer and baby Hummus Whisperer at the new Whitney Museum by the Highline.  There I rediscovered the joys of quirky American art, and the joys of watching quirky American art while holding hands of a baby surrounded by the striking Manhattan upper class.  Its a a scientific theory that’s proven time and time again; Babies, preferably cute ones, are babe magnets!  The museum is actually very cool.  You can couple it with the Highline, and dinner/lunch at Untitled (thats the name) inside the museum, or Santina a few steps away.photo (16)

I said goodbye to HW and baby for hire and headed uptown via Hudson River Park, perhaps our most important and one of the most scenic bike paths.  Between the rotating art in the 50’s and 60’s, various parks (another good place to bring your neighbor’s babies!), piers, people watching, and stops along the the way like Chelsea Market, Gotham West, I can easily spend a whole day here.

My last stop was at one of the newest Hell’s Kitchen bakeries, Bibble & Sip.  Well technically just outside Hell’s Kitchen but got all the making of another unique Hell’s Kitchen bakery.  Nice place to sit, relax and BS all you want!  The Earl Grey Banana Bread is quickly gaining neighborhood fame.  Add the Matcha Cream puffs, various scones, the occasional English Muffins sliders and all sorts of rotating goodies.  I visited it three times before, and on this day the Earl Grey Panna Cotta proved to be the perfect finisher to a fun day.

bibble photo (13) photo (14) photo (15)

 

 

 

 

Categories: Brooklyn, East Village, Midtown West, New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take Your Daughters to Roberta’s Day

IMG_1598I, Ziggy U, because Google will not allow accounts without a last name a la Cher, hearts Roberta’s pizza.  I’ve been eating Roberta’s pizza for the past two years.  I’ve been stung by its Bee Sting, and started riots when they stopped offering it at Madison Square Eats.  I’ve been touting its pizza and recommended Roberta’s to total strangers asking for pizza and even non pizza stuff (Can you recommend a good shoe lace store in Bushwick that wont break the bank).  I’ve gone to the annual Roberta’s festival in its back yard once where they give away the pies for free.  I’ve done it all.  Except for one tiny little detail…  Eat at Roberta’s.  Up until yesterday I’ve never eaten inside Roberta’s.  I’ve gone close a few time.  Remember the Zizi Limona post last year?  I didn’t feel it was fair to Zizi to mention that we were actually on our way to Roberta’s that day, but the wait for a table was over an hour.

IMG_1602That’s the norm at Roberta’s.  Over one hour waits.  Regulars will be drooling over the pictures here, not so much for the all too familiar food, but the empty tables.  This is Wednesday at 3:30, nap time at hipsterland, and perfect timing before 4-5 where only pizza and Romaine salad are available.  Why are there long waits?  A)  Its extremely popular B)  The pizza is great C)  There’s nothing else whatsoever in the immediate area, but empty lots and graffiti filled structures.  Its also pretty freakin far.  We somehow, by pure Hanukkah miracle, survived the drive and ensuing meal without the unimaginable:  The youngest’s phone dying.

We started with a salad, which turned out to be $5 more expensive since in true a la carte fashion, the bread and butter is a menu item.  This is a New York trend that I hope reverses soon as I didn’t find much wrong with the concept of receiving the bread and butter for free.  Here, you expect to get something that resembles this, but instead you get something that you normally get for free elsewhere, albeit a nice warm baguette and butter that was a little oversalted.  The Romaine “I cant believe its not Caesar” Salad was as good and fresh as Romaine Salads can get, with candied walnuts, Pecorino and mint.

IMG_1592Ribs or Carbonara? Ribs or Carbonara?  “We are out of the Ribs”.  That settles it me thinks.   The Carbonara arrives looking nothing like traditional Carbonara, and more like some heated yellow mess, was surprisingly quite delicious.  The Guanciale was missing its snap, but the pasta was peppery, eggy and rich.  We attacked this thing with full force.  The pizzas were the same classic Neapolitans we’ve been enjoying for years.  Margherita was perfectly light and airy, and so was the busier secret menu item Bee Sting with the honey and Soppressata.  Try it at a food festival near you, or take the schlep over the bridge and then some

Roberta’s
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NYIMG_1595IMG_1597 IMG_1600 IMG_1601 IMG_1603 IMG_1605

 

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

A Gentleman’s Guide to Pok Pok

Pok Pok WingsAnthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown Thailand” with Andy Ricker is one of my favorite food episodes of all time.  It was real, it was fun, and it gives you a good size glimpse of what exactly is behind Ricker’s motivation… women!  Yes, food and the culture are probably high up there, but its probably the women that made the man move back and forth and back again for 20 years.  Even some of the servers at Pok Pok NY including the boys were a sharp reminder that you are at a Ricker establishment.  I vividly recall one particular moment from that episode where they visit a family run shack somewhere remotely, where Ricker starts flirting with a girl pretty much in front of her parents.  Now that is some Chutzpah.

The last time I was accused of being a gentleman was the last time we visited Turks and Caicos, where I kept opening the car door for Mrs Ziggy.  But that was because I can never get used to the location of the wheel and keep opening the wrong door.  At Pok Pok blvd in Red Hook Brooklyn, Mr and Mrs Hummus Whisperer and us got to open three different Pok Pok doors;  The Whiskey Soda Lounge while munching on the famous wings (the only item available from the flagship menu), Pok Pok NY (the flagship), and Pok Pok Phat Thai (Pk Pok light) just for the hell of it.  A fun meal overall, and vastly different than the 9th Ave Thai some of us are so used to.  Here’s the food rundown

Pok Pok Boar Collar

Pok Pok Boar Collar

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  I don’t know who this Ike guy is but I’m guessing he is a good guy, and an honest citizen, and probably a fantastic cook.  These are plus size Amish wings that are seasoned in such a way that you will contemplate not washing hands for a few days.

Het Paa Naam Tok – Spicy forest mushrooms with soy sauce, lime and chili powder dressing, shallots, lemongrass, mint, cilantro and toasted rice powder.  Perhaps the only dish I didn’t care much about.  Sounds exciting at first but the result was way too much acid for those delicate mushrooms.  Probably works better with meat

Kaeng Hang Leh – Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, burmese curry powder and pickled garlic.  This was really good.  Super tender pork in a rich, sweet but tasty brown curry.  An important note to Yelpers:  Pork Belly is in fact fatty

Muu Paa Kham Waan – Boar collar meat rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar.  Grilled over charcoal and served with chilled mustard greens and a spicy chili/lime/garlic sauce.  Even the slightly overcooked Boar didn’t stop it from being the dish of the night.  Its all in the sauce of gods that could even make your car keys eatable.  Fantastic dish!

Pok Pok Khao Soi

Pok Pok Khao Soi

Khao Soi Kay – Northern thai mild curry noodle soup made with curry paste recipe and coconut milk, served with house pickles mustard greens.  A little trickier to share but Khao Soi as good as I ever had

Cha Ca “La Vong” – Vietnamese catfish (or as they call it in South Florida,  Grouper ;)) marinated in turmeric and sour sticky rice, fried in turmeric oil with scallions and dill, served on rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint, cilantro and mam nem.  One of my favorite dishes here and something I’ve had before.  Before you even take your first bite, the herbs aroma make their mark and tell the brain “this is gonna be exquisite”

Winged Bean Salad – This was a special.  Florida grown crunchy sliced Winged Bean pods mixed with prawns, pork and a hefty amount of Thai Chilies.  The spiciest dish of the night by far, and something I would definitely order again.

Dessert was as exciting as Thai desserts can get.  A not so smelly Durian scented creation on sticky rice with coconut milk.  Slightly less successful than the similar pumpkin at Pure Thai Cookhouse.  The Affogato was your good basic Affogato but with Churros-like doughnuts.  The lone clunker was the ice cream sandwich which didn’t work for any of us.

Pok Pok NY
117 Columbia St, Brooklyn
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Wings, Catfish, pork belly and shoulder, Boar Collar, Curry Soup

 

Pok Pok Catfish

Pok Pok Catfish

Pok Pok - Bean Salad

Pok Pok – Bean Salad

Pok Pok Mushroom Salad

Pok Pok Mushroom Salad

Pok Pok affogato

Pok Pok affogato

Pok Pok Durian

Pok Pok Durian

 

 

 

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

What to Eat in NYC – The Ethnic Plays

Taim falafelContinuing the What to Eat in NYC miniseries.  Part 1 is here.  Ethnic food is a big part of our daily diet hence it requires its own page.  What should you target in NYC of course depends on where you are coming from, but these are generally the areas of excellence in NYC…

Eat Thai – NYC has a thriving Thai food scene, and for reasons unknown to me the area known as Hell’s Kitchen is leading the Pad pack.  New Thai restaurants keep opening and existing ones keep multiplying right next to each other.  Yum Yum 1,2,3 all on the same block, and Wondee Siam with its three locations is another example.  But my favorites are Pure Thai Cookhouse with its vibrant menu, and fun vibe, and Larb Ubol specializing in Isan (North Thailand) cooking.  Lately however I’ve been cheating on those two with an old timer, Pam Real Thai.  Outside of HK, you got the great Somtum Der in East Village, and the popular Uncle Boons not too far.  Zabb Elee is another excellent Isan, and if you can somehow make it to Pok Pok in Brooklyn, you are in for a treat.  While not exactly Thai, the Laos inspired Khe-Yo is quite unique in itself and deserves a mention

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Eat Indian – We eat a lot of Indian food, and the scene overall is fairly competitive.  Between Curry Hill and Curry Row in the East Village alone you have a slew of very good options.  In the East Village, guidebooks and TV shows may direct you to the Gimmicky Bricklane Curry House, but I suggest heading to Malai Marke around the corner.  In Curry Hill you have Chote Nawab, the vegetarian Vatan, and the southern flavors of Kokum and Anjappar.  Moving uptown, Moti Mahal Delux is part of a worldwide chain known for their butter chicken, and newcomer Awadh across in the west.  But if you are mesmerized by the Times Square lights and cant leave, Basara on 9th may do the trick

Moti Mahal Cauliflower

Moti Mahal Cauliflower

 

Eat Middle Eastern -Middle Eastern plays a big part in our Mediterranean diet.  You got a few mini empires fighting for the top rights.  Einat Admony with Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat and Taim is perhaps the biggest Israeli name at the moment.  While Taboon continues to be a strong option in midtown, especially now with its original chef coming back.  Baby sister Taboonette dishes out unique healthy[ier] street food in Union Square.  Modern Lebanese hot spot Ilili has been around for some time now.  Gazala showcases her Druze specialties in two location, Gazala’s and Gazala’s Place.  And Zizi Limona in Williamsburg is a product of three veterans who know how to treat the classics well.  Speaking of which…

Bar Bolonat - Creme Brulee

Bar Bolonat – Creme Brulee

Eat Falafel – While visitors seek that perfect New York Cheesecake, keep in mind that we New Yorkers argue more on who has the best Falafel.  Is it Taim  in the village?  Is it Azuri in midtown where watching Ezra make it is like watching Picasso paint.  Or is it the nostalgically cheap Mamoun’s.  None of the above.  Top marks go to Nish Nush which is yet to be discovered by many locals, and those who did will certainty not appreciate me touting it.  But the others, especially Taim’s marvelous platter, and Azuri’s sandwich and Shawarma will do you just fine.

Nish Nush - Falafel

Eat Ramen – We are in the midst of a ramen revolution in NYC, and I dont hear anyone complaining.  Except for Mrs Z perhaps who wants to go to Ippudo now on a regular basis including Jewish holidays.  In Hell’s Kitchen alone you can feel that craze.  Even former none ramen establishments are joining the fun.  The delicious Akamaru Modern at Ippudo is leading the pack, while the Spicy Ramen at Totto is not far behind.  Ivan Ramen in Gotham West is another option, though I would be tempted to get the Smoked Salmon Donburi, formerly known as Smoked Whitefish Donburi instead.  But to get a fuller taste of the Ivan without sounding too dirty, one must go to the downtown location.  One option that gets overlooked by many is Bassanova in Chinatown with its fiery and unusual Green Curry Ramen.  And while you ate it, give the lemon and pepper Ramen a shot as well.

Ippudo - Akamaru Modern

Ippudo – Akamaru Modern

Eat Chinese – Some folks familiar with the Chinese scene here, may be asking themselves at this point, how is this guy going to cover our entire Chinese arsenal in one paragraph.  I cant, and I wont, but I’ll offer a small glimpse just like with the rest.  Some of the best Chinese Food is offered outside of our many Chinatowns, like the Szechuan Gourmet empire (I frequent the one on 56th st).  A recent discovery for me is Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns and their addictive Shanghai style soup dumplings.  Talking of which, Prosperity Dumplings is perhaps the biggest value in town, and that’s saying a lot.  Mission Chinese Food is the hottest Chinese play in the city right now, and may even be when you read this a year from now.  Han Dynasty, a Philly chain is doing a lot of things right seems like.  And do check out at least one of our Chinatowns.  Dim Sum in Golden Unicorn, or if you feel adventurous, East Harbor Seafood Palace in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, followed by cruising along tourist free zone 8th ave.

Gourmet Szechuan 56 - Shredded beef

Gourmet Szechuan 56 – Shredded beef

Eat Mexican – Lower your eyebrows and listen up.  The notion that there’s no decent Mexican in NYC is sooooo 2013.  In the last few years a slew of exciting young chefs like Alex Stupak has given us some very cool options.  Stupak perhaps is leading the rat pack with the Empellon empire… Empellon Cocina is the flagship, Empellon Taqueria is the high end Taqueria, while the new Empellon Al Pastor is the more basic Taqueria highlighting the namesake Al Pastor.  Other options include Tehuitzingo, the fine taqueria in Hell’s Kitchen and its bigger neighbor Tulcingo Del Valle.  Visitors flock to the more polished and Toloache practically in Times Square, and while I don’t have any quarrels with it (I recommended it myself), I tend to feel more at home in the previous two.  Los Tacos #1 at the Chelsea Market is another great option if you can brave the crowds, though I would opt for something more along the lines of Otto’s Tacos which is in the process of opening a branch in Hell’s Kitchen.  Another one to consider is Mission Cantina, home to the best Burrito in NYC, not surprisingly coming from the Mission neighborhood in SF

Mission Cantina Tacos

Mission Cantina Tacos

Eat Eastern European – Perhaps this is more for the Coney Island bound tourists who should keep in mind that there’s much more to downtown Brooklyn than a Hot Dog.  The area adjacent known as Brighton Beach is loaded with all sorts of great Uzbek, Russian, Georgian and even Uzbek/Korean delights.  Consider Cafe Glechik on Coney Island Ave, sort of a Russian institution in the area.  Or perhaps Tone Cafe, aka Georgian Bread for the great Adjaruli Khatchapuri.  Uzbek/Uyghur specialty Kashkar Cafe is an absolute gem, and one of my favorite restaurants in whole of Brooklyn.  For a livelier Uzbek filled with Russians on a daily basis there’s Cafe Nargis a few blocks north on Coney Island ave.  Cant leave Manhattan but still want a small taste?  Veselka, Oda House, and Uncle Vanya in midtown should be able to take good care of you.  Unless you are a vegeterian

Kashkar Cafe - Geiro Lagman

Kashkar Cafe – Geiro Lagman

Eat Tapas – Basque, other Spanish, Mediterranean tapas galore all over.  In Chelsea alone you can Patata Brava to your heart’s delight, starting with tiny Tia Pol and ending with Toro near the Chelsea Market.  In the East Village you have the fun Cata, and lately I’ve been itching to go back to her sister AltaTertulia has its fans in the West Village, while I’ve been enjoying its sister El Colmado in Gotham West Market lately.  Many locals are in love with Casa Mono, but I need a bit more convincing.  And watch out for newly opened Espoleta, some big names behind this project

Casa Mono Razor Clams

Casa Mono Razor Clams

Eat Miscellaneous – Do you honestly need more ideas?  I didnt think so.  But all of this is just scratching the surface of what the greatest food city in the world has to offer.  In Staten Island for example, you can take advantage of the large Sri Lankan community by trying the museum-like Lakruwana, San Rasa or New Asha.  Vietnamese food, while still lagging behind other cities, is getting better.  Try Co Ba and Co Ba 53.  How about some Korean like Danji, Jungsik, HIT Korean Deli or Food Gallery 32Filipino inspired?  We got plenty of that too.. Lumpia Snack Shack, and Maharlika are just some

Overwhelmed?  Join the club.  I only live here.

Jungsik Steak

Jungsik Steak

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

What to Eat in New York City

 

Best Pizza

Best Pizza

Oh no you didn’t…  Oh, yes I did!  A post on.. well.. everything.  I’m not writing about pizza or Indian food, or where to get the best Cheesecake, this is a post on everything.  A one time stop for the confused visitor that knows only what he reads in his guide book, and Trip Advisor ranking.  In other words, just a tad smarter than Klauss.  I have news for you Mr visitor.  We New Yorkers don’t eat Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders.  Well, the last one on occasion, but having the word “Manhattan” in it should not automatically qualify it for the guidebooks.

A month ago at our company we had visitors from Minnesota.  When we ordered food for lunch, there was a moment that shook me a little.  One member of the Minnesota gang pointed to something and said “What’s that”.  To which I replied “this my friend, is a Falafel”.  Locals eat more falafels than Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders combined in NYC, but you would never guess by just reading the guidebook.  Let me help set you straight

I will try my best to make it as comprehensive as possible, and update as often as I can.  Something to chew on before I leave for yet another trip to Turks (lobsta calling my name).  But there’s a chance I may forget a few things, so I would appreciate some help via comments if that indeed happens.  Its essentially a guide to help you understand what you should be targeting in NYC.  Here we go…

Eat Pizza – Yes, we eat a lot of pizza.  Every block where I live has these 3 essentials.  Pizza, Bagels, and a pharmacy to help you cope with all that pizza and bagels.  There’s great pizza everywhere in NYC and I’m not going to even attempt to name all the best spots, but here are a few

Merilu (2)

Merilu

   Slice – You have the usual suspects like Joe’s on Carmines and Di Fara in Brooklyn, but the truth is that there are plenty of solid slices out there and the 50th best slice is not really that far behind the 2nd best slice taste wise.  Consider Sacco in Hell’s Kitchen, Prince Street Pizza, Best Pizza” in Williamsburg might very well be best with their wood burning oven slice, and for something a bit different and not very New Yorky consider the thin squares at Merilu.  BTW, for those Di Fara bound, the pilgrimage may cost you half a day of travel and waiting for quite a while for your slice.  Not worth it if yo ask me, but if you must…

   Pies – While the guide books will guide you across the bridge and make you stand for 30-90 bone chilling minutes on a long line (and fail to tell you that the real Grimaldi is actually next door dishing them out at Juliana’s), you can get similar or better quality all over the city.  Consider Capizzi in midtown, where you will not find any long waits whatsoever.  Or how about the thin vodka pies at Rubirosa, an offshoot of the great Joe and Pat’s in Staten Island.  For your fancy Neapolitan pies there are a lot of great options and I strongly suggest to try at least one.  Consider Motorino, Don Antonio, Keste, Paulie Gees, and Roberta’s at a food festival near you (if you cant Bushwick it).  You can even get a decent pie in Eataly.  Also consider the Neapolitan archenemy, the mighty Roman pie at Marta.  Well, its not very mighty with its matzoh like thickness, but its quite delicious, not to mention everything else Marta offers.  You can have a great meal here without even touching the pies

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Eat Burgers – As with pizza this is a very difficult topic to cover as there are so many choices, and so many kinds.  You are not only dealing with a plethora of Burger joints but you also have them on just about every French/Italian/American, you name it menu and everyone trying to outdo each other.  For your fast food smallish burger, yes, I suppose Shake Shack will do, and the pain that comes with it (long lines, fighting an old lady for a seat).  But head to Gotham West Market, and you can find another solid burger at Genuine Roadside where you’ll find no lines, and no old ladies to fight.  Try the terrific Chicken Sandwich too while you at it.  For the middle of the road, regular burger try Corner Bistro, Island Burger and Shakes and the rest of my Hell’s Kitchen picks I outline here

Dutch - Burger

Dutch – Burger

For the fancier stuff, Minetta Tavern’s Black Label is still the king, as one of a few burgers out there where the meat is so good, you can get it practically naked.  Meaning the burger!  Also consider Minetta’s sister Cherche Midi’s much hyped burger these days.  Bowery Meat Company uses the same supplier for its excellent patty (though I wish the fries would have been better).  Other solid players include the Breslin’s terrific Lamb Burger, Bar Sardine’s popular Fedora burger, The Gender’s burger with beef aioli, and the Spotted Pig with its addictive fries.  But if you’d point a gun at my head and make me choose one, I would ask you to please put the gun down, then proceed to kick your ass and call the cops.  Once you are out, I would direct you to the NoMad Bar where you’ll find the best combination of quality burger, fries, and ease of getting a table (No reservations tho)

Spotted Pig Burger

Spotted Pig Burger


Eat Bagels, Lux
 – No shortage of great bagels all over town.  With Absolute Bagel, Pick-a-Bagel in midtown, Ess-a-Bagel, and Murrays you pretty much have all the corners covered.  And while Russ & Daughters doesn’t bake their own, their Brooklyn Supplier is as old school and solid as they come.  R&D is an icon, and so very touristy for good reason.  But once you experience it, consider something like Shelsky’s in Brooklyn, or Nordic Preserves in Essex Market, for much of the quality and none of the pain.

Russ and Daughters lox

Russ and Daughters lox

Eat Italian – In NYC, one should take advantage of our Italian dining. Even Italians coming from Italy do so, and appreciate the wide array that NYC has to offer.  From the amazing seafood of Marea, to simple neighborhood spots like Da Andrea.  Consider Mercato and its southern Italian fare (real southern, not Brooklyn southern), or perhaps Bat Pitti in the village.  How about All’onda, and Piora for some Asian influence.  Or a taste of Emilia Romagna in Osteria Morini or Salumeria RossiMarta can certainly enter the discussion, and its sister Maialino is perhaps my favorite of all.  If you need to choose one, thats the one.  Or consider Scarpetta whose menu includes many popular staples.  Babbo is possibly entering icon territory, Del Posto may be already there among the high ends, while the inventive Lincoln remains under everyone’s radar.  In NYC we also have the classic New York Italian, aka red sauce American Italian cuisine that one may try.  The Guide Books will direct you to the Theater District and Little Italy, but for proper tasting consider something like Rubirosa or Carbone

Lincoln Strozzapreti

Lincoln Strozzapreti

Eat American – This is another big topic.  The one place that always comes to mind where you can get that old quintessential NY feel is Minetta Tavern.  Eleven Madison Park light, The NoMad is another solid choice with its celebrated Chicken for two.  In Midtown consider Betony, runner up for James Beard’s Best New Restaurant award last year.  Louro is a dependable neighborhood joint with rotating menus, and theme dinners on Mondays.  Consider the Dutch and its terrific fried chicken and more, which brings us to Root and Bone where the bird reigns over a solid southern inspired menu.  The veggies reign supreme at Narcissa, and the Marshal is not only extremely veg friendly, but covers all the classics well.  For something different consider the winter game festival at Henry’s End.

You also have a slew of Asian inspired American like the inspiring Annisa, and the David Chang’s empire, especially Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Ma Peche.  Consider a visit to newcomer Tuome, featuring a young chef with an attitude.

NoMad Chicken

NoMad Chicken

Dicksons pastrami

Dicksons pastrami

Eat Pastrami – Yes, yes go to Katz’s.  That’s not a tourist trap, but the real deal.  In Midtown, Carnegie Deli keeps chugging along, while Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in Flatironhas been raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929.  Try perhaps the Montreal Jewish style pastrami at Mile End.  Or for something completely different, consider the pastrami sandwich at Dickson’s the great meat purveyor in Chelsea Market where the pastrami is more marbled and comes with a smear of apricot chutney or however they do it that day.  Yummo!

Eat Steak – Visitors come to NYC looking to eat steak in something called a “Steakhouse”.  It’s one of the most common questions on Trip Advisor… what is the Best Steakhouse.  Well, you do have the icons like Keen’s, and Peter Luger that folks will no doubt pick over Wolfgang’s which started by an employee that worked for Luger for 40 years and offers a similar Porterhouse.  But the beauty of NYC steaks is that just like burgers, you can get great steak anywhere pretty much including in modern “I cant believe this is not a steakhouse” steakhouse.  Consider the Bowery Steak at Bowery Meat Company, which consists of the Ribeye cap (the best part of the ribeye).  The Minetta Tavern Cote de Boeuf is perhaps the most celebrated cut in Manhattan.  Though for us, that honor would go to the Costata Tomahawk Ribeye which like the Cote de Boeauf, can feed a small Armenian village.

Costata - Ribeye

Costata Ribeye

Eat French – Classic french, new and old are still plentiful in the city.  You got the usual haute suspects with Per Se, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Daniel (who am I missing.  I dont want to upset anyone and get hate mail).  Then you have the bistro fair like Balthazar, and yes even Minetta Tavern which I’m adding to just about every category here (they even have a take on the Italian Carbonara, called Pasta Za Za).  Consider Benoit in Midtown, and Chez Napoleon may be as old school as it gets.  For something different however, consider Le Philosophe for a fresh take on old classic

Le Philosophe - tournedos rossini

Le Philosophe – tournedos rossini

Eat BBQ – A few years ago, the proper recommendation would be to skip BBQ in NYC.  But time, they are a changing.  In midtown if you must, head west to Daisy May’s BBQ USA, in case you forget what country you are in.  In Brooklyn you have Fette Sau and BrisketTown which also sells its sick brisket on the High Line in the warmer months.  But the mightiest of all might very well be Mighty Quinn’s which you can enjoy in both West and East village, among other more remote locations.  For the “I cant believe this is not BBQ” experience that almost no one talks about, consider Georgia’s Eastside BBQ in the Lower East Side.

Eat Ethnic – Need to take a break.  More to come after these words from our sponsors…  Are your menopause changes causing bleeding, irritation, pain during sexual intercourse?  Try Premarin, a Virginal Cream you can count on.

Ok, I have a confession.  This was not a real commercial!  But, I do need to take a break, as my arm is tired and I already used all the adjectives known to me on one page

The ethnic plays will have their own page when the time comes.  Stay tuned…

Mighty Quinn's Brisket

Mighty Quinn’s Brisket

 

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Houston Street, We Have a Problem!

161A Note from the Editor:

In the summer, during my much anticipated staycation, there was a moment on the High Line that is etched in my mind.  We found ourselves almost paralyzed, stuck in rush hour Sunday afternoon traffic behind a family of 4, a rooster, and a pair of parakeets.  It was like a zoo!  We’ve seen our share of tourists at the High Line before but not to this degree, and with characters no less.  We needed to get out of there and we had to do it fast, after a bite of the Delaney Brisket of course.  A trip to the storied High Line coupled with braving the crowds of the Chelsea Market is now firmly on the tourists path.  Great for NYC, and all those Chelsea eateries that must be thriving just about now, right?  Not exactly.

A few weeks ago someone asked me if my knowledge of Hell’s Kitchen extends to Real Estate, for the purpose of finding a new home for La Lunchonette, a long time Chelsea institution.  In what seems like a daily occurrence of businesses closing its doors, La Lunchonette is just another one to bite the dust of rising rents.  Culprit in this case:  The High Line.  The park, along with new zoning permits attracting Real Estate developers who now see a lot of green in West Chelsea, and I’m not talking about the plants along the High Line that no one looks at anyway.  Current building owners succumb to offers they can’t refuse, essentially forced to evict their tenants in many cases.  According to Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, the High Line is the cause of La Lunchonette’s demise, and presumably, many more will follow.

I guess we are done with gentrifying the island and now focusing on hyper gentrification?  I’m not pretending to know anything about economics or real estate.  I’m just a poor software developer who wants to have a f*** bagel or matzoh whenever I choose to, or whenever Jewish holiday dictates.  Excuse my Yiddish there.  Oh did I mention Streit’s Matzo Factory is closing soon and so is the original Ess-a-Bagel to make room for Bank of America and you guessed it.. a bagel shop.  How can anyone afford to run a business or live in NYC anymore.

The Union Square Area alone is one giant “For Rent” sign, led by Union Square Cafe which is forced to move after its lease is up.  Restaurants are getting squeezed left and right from 57th street to Houston Street.  In Hell’s Kitchen the action is slowly shifting to the West.  A Mexican restaurant owner recently told me he couldn’t afford being on 8th ave anymore and had to move all the way to 10th.  Meanwhile downtown, Brigadeiro Bakery finally found affordable space in Soho after selling their Brazilian Truffles from a Basement nearby for years.  Do you have a Bodega (Mexican deli) near you nowadays?  Bodegas are closing all over or forced to transform and unbodega themselves.

So whats in store for 2015 and beyond.  Brace yourself for more Bank of America, 7-Eleven, Chipotle, and Eataly which plans to open two more stores in NYC in the future.  While I love Eataly as much as the next guy (I spent 3 hours there last Sunday), I need more Eatalys like I need a pimple on my ass.  This expression never made much sense to me, until recently when I finally got one.  Those things can be truly annoying.  Anyway, I cant help but wonder how many more small mom and pops will close as a result of two more Eatalys.  Places like Di Palo’s, where you get a much more personal service, need to cherished like we cherish our kids.

But is it time to panic?  Yes!  I suppose 2014 also saw many new restaurants open, and I believe I even saw “Record Year” being proclaimed somewhere out there.  But with that I also noticed that my spending has increased, so no doubt I’m paying for the rent hikes as well.  How many of the new openings are truly affordable, with entrees below $20.  For every Lumpia Shack there seemed to be 10 Batards opening last year.  In Hell’s Kitchen new business owners used to find refuge on 9th ave, but now they find it on side streets where foot traffic is much lighter, or 10th ave where traffic is even worse.  Whenever I walk to Inti, a Peruvian gem on 10th where the Rotisserie chicken rivals anyone’s, I always wonder how they are still in business.  My co-worker believes they have a healthy delivery business

I still believe NYC is the greatest food city in the world, don’t get me wrong.  And the options I have in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens are limitless.  But I’m a little worried about the direction.  Perhaps the worry is for nothing and I should stick to writing about food.  Time will tell.  Meanwhile, avoid the High Line

Ziggy

Editor in Chief

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, Queens, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, Trucks, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Top NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiLast update: August 23, 2016

Just a quick note that some of these pastas are seasonal and arent on the menu the entire year, but worth mentioning anyway

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.

From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with a simple stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea

One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top)

One of the best pastas I ever had is on, off, on in the seasonal Lincoln menu.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Black Spaghetti at Babbo

A menu staple at a NYC staple.  How can one go wrong.  I’ve seen Babbo post a picture of this dish on Twitter one day, and the rest as they say, is history.  Squid ink Spaghetti, Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies.  Its another good example of a fairly dry pasta, that is packed with wonderful flavor and texture.  The Spaghetti has that wonderful sweet inky richness, 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.  Until your mind get intercepted by more Kardashian news.  Apparently Kim already lost 80% of her baby fat.

Babbo Black Spaghetti

Malfadini at Lilia

Choosing a favorite pasta at Lilia is like choosing your favorite current presidential candidate.  But for opposite reasons.  The ‘imperfect’ conveyor belt-like Malfadini is essentially Cacio e Pepe on crack.  Take your average Cacio e Pepe, change the pasta to something with more texture, add sharper cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, and pink peppercorns, and you essentially got Cacio e Perfect

Lilia Malfadini

Agnolotti del Plin at Pasquale Jones

I dont care if this wintery delicatessen is not on the menu as of this writing.  You should be eating pastas here regardless.  They do have a lovely sounding Tajarin with summer truffles which just adds to the impression that Tim Caspare just knows how to handle those Piedmontese classics.  This is the only del Plin in NYC that stays true to its origin, and would make any Piedmont nonna blush.  Buttery, pillowy, explosive little dumplings, packed with Guinea hen, sage and Pancetta.  PANCETTA!

Pasquale Jones Agnolotti

Uni Mushroom Ramen at Jun-men Ramen

Calling this one Ramen is like calling Maialino’s Cacio e Pepe, Ramen.  Its essentially a nicely crafted, rich, and gorgeous looking pasta.  Mushrooms, salty Pancetta, Porcini butter, truffle oil, noodles, and Uni that gets better and better in quality.  I keep returning to Jun-men for this.

Uni Jun-Men Ramen

Jun-men

Pasta with Crab at Ulivo

If you are scoring at home, or if you are alone (stupid old Baseball joke) we have more than 10 pastas this time.  Which is why I had to remove the “10” from the title.  And while you are alone, you should try this messy beauty by Mercato’s baby sister, otherwise you will find yourself alone in a hurry.  The sauce featuring spicy slow braised stone crab is worth the price alone.  Add an entire meaty stone crab to play with, and its party time.  No one that I know, makes this.

Ulivo Crab Pasta

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta

Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (sup man) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright, and utilizes the highest quality raw material.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness on every bite.  The smell alone will cause shaky hands, and blurry pictures.  See?

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Clams Grand Lisboa at Nishi

While polishing up on their policies, and any identity issues, one thing remains constant at Nishi.  Executive chef, Joshua Pinsky dishing out some of the most unique pastas in NYC.  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top fried Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein almost sounds like an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple sauce which gives it this sweet deliciousness you wont find anywhere.  This is David Chang’s favorite dish here and I can see why

Nishi Grand Lisboa Clams

Agnolotti at All’onda

As of this latest update, not on the menu, but All’onda continues to make killa pastas.  This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy tasting homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and plenty of depth to otherwise just fine Agnolotti

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino

Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini

From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

Pasta with White Truffles At ??

Ok for this one you need to do a little bi of homework.  Its white truffle season at the (original) time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

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