Lower East Side

Ivan the Formidable

Ivan Ramen Salmon Donburi

September 22nd, 2017 Update:

I dont usually update a place this soon, but this is kinda important after yet another fine meal at Ivan Ramen LES.  Weather is getting chillier (or seemed to be a few weeks ago at least), and I cant think of a better way to start Ramen season.  The Chicken Paitan at Ivan is not the Ramen dish that made Ivan famous, but to me it’s right up there with NYC’s best at the moment.  As I described 6 months ago when it came out, “the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness”.

A corn on a cob dish always gets my attention, and this one proved to be a wowzer.   Its Miso roasted with bonito flakes and some sort of Japanese magic dust sprinkled.  The fried chicken, brined perhaps, is another exceptional one.  The Coney Island Tofu with that miso mushroom chili has made it’s triumphant return to the menu.  Magnifique as always.  As is the Triple pork, triple garlic Mazemen (brothless ramen) which has been on the menu since day 1 but somehow eluded me all this time.  Being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table hasnt made it easy, but reservations are doable.  Go!

March 5th, 2017 Update:

All sorts of major developments with the Ivan.  The Ramen Junkie keeps reinventing himself, and has even given us some bedtime entertainment.  Yes, Ivan Orkin is featured in the latest season of Netflix’s highly acclaimed Chef’s Table which I highly recommend.  Its refreshing to see someone on the show who you actually know and talk to from time to time.  Naturally the show helped revive his Lower East Side flagship in a big way.  And so if you havent been in a while, or never, prepare for a possible 2 hour shock on some evenings.  Yesterday I heard quotes ranging from 1 to 3 hours, albeit on a Saturday night.

Coincidentally, or not, the menus in both NYC spots have gotten a facelift as of late.  At the Slurp Shop however, at the moment looks more like a botched botox job.  The great Donburis (rice dishes including top) are long gone, and the sick Breakfast Ramen, changed to Breakfast All Day Ramen after they figured why not, is now gone too.  It cameod for a while last month only to see the same results.  Why is no one eating the good stuff.  Lack of appreciation, or people simply want the goods that made the man famous.  I say its the name of the dish.  Give it a cute Japanese name like Mocu Mocu and people will drive in forces.  Oh wait, they tried it already.  With that said, knowing these guys, another homerun is probably on its way.ivan-ramen-trumpet

But at the flagship, things are looking mighty fine these days.  I cant get on Instagram without seeing Ivan tease a new dish that looks infinitely better than what I’m eating (I’m looking at you quinoa).  Something like the brilliant briny Trumpet Mushrooms sliced like noodles, and served cold that I enjoyed last night.  This was a tip I got an hour earlier by the sous chef at Slurp Shop during yesterday’s Hell’s Kitchen tour (there he goes again with the shameless plugs).  Another new potential hit is the Dan Dan Noodles smothered with chili infused ground lamb.  It is probably the spiciest Dan Dan and one of the spiciest noodle dishes I ever had.  By the end I was waving a white flag which turned red by then.  It is purposefully dry and while delicious, I was longing for something wet to counter the heat.  But the most interesting newcomer is probably the dish I had on a previous night.  A bright and gorgeous Chicken Paitan with minced chicken and egg yolk.  It has all the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness.  Its just like your moms chicken soup!  If mom went to culinary school for 10 years, moved to Japan and married the most famous Ramen maker in Tokyo that is.

August 24, 2014 Post:

We all heard the story before hundreds of times.  A Jew from Long Island moves to Japan to teach English, moves back to the states, attends The Culinary Institute of America, leaves his heart in Japan so comes back to Tokyo, gets bored out of his mind and learns how to cook Ramen (just about the last thing that crosses my mind when I’m bored).  So he opens the first restaurant in Tokyo, finds success and opens another… moves back to NYC to open the Slurp Shop at Gotham West market and the flagship Ivan Ramen in East Village.  10 months later, over a dozen visits to the Slurp Shop and over a dozen whitefish Donburis, two visits to the new joint in East Village, and needless to say… Ziggy is a fan of the Ivan.

The Slurp Shop

I’ve already written extensively about Hell’s Kitchen’s main attraction these days, Gotham West Market, the home of the first Ivan outpost.  The Slurp Shop is normally the last stop of my monthly food crawls.  Problem is by the time we get here more often than not, tummy is already full.  The menu settled down over the year and features some unique staples like…

Slow-Cooked Pork Donburi – Another fun rice concoction with super tender pork shoulder, scallion, salted plum wasabi, and chunky roasted tomatoes proving nice balance and much needed acidity.

Ivan Ramen - Pork Donburi

Roasted Garlic Mazemen – I must admit the Mazemen here is more exciting to me than the traditional Ramen.  Mazemen is almost brothless ramen, but packs in more flavor and intensity.  This one comes with Nori, dashi, chicken broth, pork belly chashu, and the same rye noodle as the traditional ramen.  Garlic lovers especially may find this dish quite formidable.  Yes, I’m officially adding formidable to my vocabulary.

Ivan Ramen - Garlic Mazemen

Ramen – I cant find any pictures of any of the Ramen I tried here.  Most likely due to the way I attack them once I see them.  I believe I tried all of them except the vegetarian one and all are quite good in their own way.  The Tokyo classics Shio and Shoyu are cleaner and purer than most of the modern Ramens out there.

Whitefish Donburi – Perhaps my favorite dish in GWM but admittedly not for everyone (what is really).  White rice mixed with sweet soy dashi and topped with cucumber, scallion, salmon roe, and beautiful smoked whitefish.  Jewish heritage meets Japanese school girl.  Or something like that

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Ivan Ramen

Lower East Side is the new East Village.  I can spend a year here and eat something delicious and different every day.  The new Ivan Ramen flagship complicates things even further for those locals that cant decide whether they are in the mood for Burritos, Ribs, Ramen or Israeli Scotch Eggs.  This is more of a sit down than the Slurp Shop, which basically means slurping isnt as encouraged here.  And the menu is quite different and fuller…

Pickled Daikon – shaved daikon (the radish white milder shy cousine), dried shrimp, scallop chili oil.  I expected fishier flavors from the shrimp but it was more reminiscent texture wise of the most freakish tasting bread crumbs ever.  Get this!

Ivan Ramen Pickled Daik0n

Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – Another cold winner.  You taste the Broccoli with that sweet garlic soy sauce and go “well this is nice..”, but then you taste the pickled garlic and the world suddenly beginning to makes sense again

Ivan Ramen Chinese Broccoli & Garlic

Pork Meatballs – Its texturally impossible to come up with more tender balls.  Garnished with bonito flakes, buttermilk dressing, and Japans official unofficial sauce, Bulldog brown sauce.  Marvelous dish!  And no, I’m not adding “texturally” to my vocabulary because its not a real word

Ivan Ramen Pork Meatballs

Tofu Coney Island – A playful and enjoyable take on the Nathan Hotdog.  Fried tofu topped with miso mushroom chili, mustard, and scallion.  Enjoyed this one

Ivan Ramen Tofu Coney Island

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

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 3

053Not really needed on one of the best eating days of the year but to ensure proper drool action, lets start the weekend with my Friday lunch with the boys at work.  It’s becoming a company tradition where I take my coworkers to lunch like on a school field trip (single file, no holding hands). We call it Eating With Ziggy.  This time it was a special occasion so I took them to Danji, a sort of favorite go to spot lately.  I got the usual suspects to share… the addictive tofu, KFC wings, Bulgogi sliders (rule number one of fight club – order the sliders) and both bibimbaps.  Cant recommend this highly enough.  Well, I can, but choose not too.  Slightly different menu for dinner where all those dishes are available and more.
Danji Bibim - Bop
This time we left the house at 8 am much to more confusion from the neighbors (where are their kids, why are they stuffing a suitcase in the car again, are the kids in the suitcase).  We don’t talk to the neighbors on the left who’s main mission in life is to see all their neighbors suffer.  But I digress.  Very light breakfast at home was necessary in order to save room for what turned out to be one of the best eating days of the year.  Hmm, I believe I already said that.
The entire morning centered around the brilliant Summer Streets.  It’s like the biggest baddest block party imaginable. Ok, perhaps not the baddest.  For three Saturdays in August the entire park avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn bridge to around 70th st or so is closed to traffic the entire morning, or from 7 to 1 to be exact.  Bikers, walkers, babies, joggers take advantage with the help of volunteers from New York Cares that control traffic, and even try to entertain sometimes while controlling traffic.  Some seem happier to do it than others but I give big kudos points to all of them.  In addition, you have all sorts of pit stops along the way… Zip Lining, Yoga, Whole Foods giving away free food, concerts, free walking tours, wall climbing, bicycle riding lessons, and much more.  A great way to spend the morning with other New Yorkers.  We parked near our hotel of choice (more on that soon), and rode the bikes to around 30th st in order to walk inside the Park ave Tunnel to the sound of water and waves.  If you ever wondered how Cast Away middle of the ocean feels like, you wont get that feeling here.  They choose a different artist every year to for the sounds.098 095 093 099 058 052
The end of the tunnel you pretty much at Grand Central Station, so like true tourists we took the opportunity to visit it.  Their was a wedding couple taking pictures while posing way too proper for the purpose.  We tried to take an audio guide tour but couldn’t quite wait the extra few minutes for the audio guide person to come back from her break.  It said “will be back in 15” and I swear we waited over 7!  Ok, we are not the most patient people.  I’m waiting for someone to bring me a Cronut directly so I could finally try it.  Right before entering the station we found ourselves at the Grand Hyatt, which felt just (slot machine sounds) shy of a Vegas hotel
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089We then proceeded to the Public Library Main branch and proceeded to do what every normal parents normally do in town without their kids.. go to a children book exhibit.  The ABCs of It exhibit was more interesting than I expected.  History of famous children books and their importance.  Stories like that of a couple who fled Paris right before a Nazi invasion carrying the drawings of a monkey named Fifi.  “Curious Fifi” would have been a better name than Curious George if you ask me.  A fun corner depicting the history of Goodnight Moon.  Nothing about goodnight Ipad, and my favorite classic Goodnight Schnitzel, but whatever.  Goodnight Moon was my favorite book because it was easy to read, short and sweet and I was able to go back to watching the hockey game in no time.  And upon exiting the library there was that wedding couple again following us with the same exact pose.073 091
Back to Summer Streets, we walked Park ave a bit to the Whole Foods pit stop where we enjoyed..nothing! due to the lines.  Picked up bikes and rode to the lower end of the “festival” where things got a bit more chaotic (in a good way).  But just before we picked up the bikes we did what every tourist to NYC must do, eat a hot dog.  I havent eaten in like 3 hours and I was starving
Our lunch was at Ivan Ramen flagship in the Lower East Side, with our young friend Victoria who recently moved to the East Village.  This is my second visit to this location, but I’ve been to the Slurp Shop in Gotham West many times.  They don’t share the same menu.  I will try to write a separate review if I have a chance but meanwhile here’s what I recommend to try at the LES flagship
Pickled Daikon – With dried shrimp that taste closer to breadcrumbs than shrimp but quite yummo!
Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – The pickled garlic is what did it for me
Ankimo Dirty Rice (dinner only) – Ankimo is essentially monkfish liver but dont be scared.  An absolute must
Pork Meatballs – Perfection.  Cant get any more tender this
Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen (dinner) – Didn’t have it yet but perhaps the most popular dish here
Four Cheese Mazemen (dinner) – Rich and flavor packed
Salmon Donburi (lunch) – Like the whitefish Donburi at Gotham West but with Salmon instead.  Fantastic dish
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110Not much dessert here but no worries.  One of my new favorite “I cant believe its not gelato” ice cream spots is not too far at the underrated Essex Market, Luca and Bosco.  Named after the owners dogs.  Two girls, one of whom picked up some valuable trade secrets in the gelato capital of the world, Florence Italy.  The Drunk and Salty Caramel with Bourbon is my pick  again but I urge you to try the rest
We then walked around East Village with Victoria and made our way to the hotel.  I don’t know if it was the beer or lack of sleep but exhaustion hit, and I was craving a hotel bed badly.  And yes, we went back to the Hyatt Union Square and THIS time I got the view I wanted, of the brick wall.  I suppose a view of the city would make more sense to the average tourist but I rather face peace and quiet.  Our room was away from the elevator this time as well, and while the design was a bit different, still the same great king size bed and pillows, decent size, nice shower, and here’s the kicker…  “Great Location” is something you see in just about every hotel review, whether the location is UWS, Times Square, no matter.  Its a cliché.  But, I honestly cant think of a better location than this.  You could come up with some other nearby hotels that may be slightly better situated than the corner of 4th and 13th st, but, this is as center as it gets to great dining, great neighborhoods, and everything else pretty much.  You can walk just about everywhere from here including Times Square.  We walked to Battery Park the next day.  Highly recommend this baby Hyatt.  From baby Hyatt to baby NoMad…113
115After some relaxing at the Hyatt we met up with friends and walked toward the most highly anticipated meal of the “trip”, the new NoMad Bar.  It was even better than anticipated.  Fantastic bay scallop, and carrot “tartar” starters, first rate duck sausage, and as expected a burger that can rival anything in NYC right now.  But that’s not all folks.  The NoMad famous truffled/foie grased chicken can be had in the form of the most luxurious and delicious Chicken Pot Pie ($36).  They bring you the pie with the Foie on the side, and mix it in table side.  Needless to say the most extrodinary Chicken Pot Pie you will ever have.  But that’s not all.  The infamous $110 Cocktail Explosion we shared was a big hit with everyone.  One of the most memorable meals of the year.
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We then made a tourist mistake.  We took a cab to Washington Square Park just to cross it again to reach the next destination.  This time they had what looked like a Shakespeare in the Park session which I’ve never witnessed before.  Our destination was Comedy Cellar which was sold out of all shows, hence the mistake.  Oh well.  We briefly considered the Argentinian aerial acrobatics Fuerza Bruta but then settled for plan A, The Hundred-Foot Journey movie which dictated our next day dinner destination (second only to one of the best lobster rolls I ever had)
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Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Riding With Ziggy – Battle of the Bridges Part III

photo (17)Twice a year the Hummus Whisperer and I are freed by our spouses to ride with the winds between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan while enjoying culinary freedom.  This time our tour included a neighborhood in Brooklyn, a romantic deserted island, a burrito, and a whole lot of butt texting.  All photos and texting courtesy of an Iphone 5 fresh off a broken lock button, which meant butt calling and but texting galore before I realized that the top button no longer does it job.  I would call people while talking to them.. “Excuse me… oh its you”.. “What?”

photo (9)We parked near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge as always, and this time we opted to stay relatively close for a breakfast snack and explore the area of Boerum Hill.  Walking on Smith st reminded me how much I miss that area.  I dont know if it was a hangover symptom but you can actually hear birds singing in some of the relatively quiet and tree lined side streets.  Smith st. has some of the best concentration of fine dining/bars/food stores in Brooklyn.  It was slightly truer before Michelin Starred Saul moved to the Brooklyn Museum.

photo (12)Our first food stop was Shelsky’s, a mini Russ and Daughter’s with an attitude if you will.  The plain bagel with cream cheese and a silky smooth Gaspe Nova was just what we ordered!  Great loxy flavor without the R&D pain (I’m talking about both Russ & Daughters and the lox our R&D dep’t consumes).

After our little picnic in Brooklyn Borough Hall, we picked up a bike and crossed Brooklyn Bridge which was relatively quiet at 10 am.  Plenty of bike lane wary tourists still but not wall to wall zoo as before.photo (14)

On the Manhattan side not too far from the bridge I noticed a large Asian group practicing Falun Dafa (or Falun Gong) meditation.  This practice which disciplines Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, got so popular in china in the 90’s that it was quickly banned by the government as it was seen as a threat.  I was told by a Chinese woman that a million Chinese followers have either died or imprisoned over the years and the rest of the world cant do much about it.  Seeing this group was a sharp reminder that we take our freedom for granted.

Riding in Chinatown is not the most pleasant ride, but always interesting.  There arent too many neighborhoods out there where you get a sense of community like here.  At some point on Hester street we saw people dancing in a park.  Where else do you see that at 10 am?  HW and I debated whether to show them a few moves of our own but we had an appointment with dumplings, Prosperity Dumplings.  Four meaty, greasy (in a good way) pork and chive dumplings for a buck.  You cant get a better deal than this in NYC – its not economically feasible.  Last week I tried the recently opened Mimi Cheng’s dumplings in East Village which is getting some press and lines out the door.  While they were good, for $8 per 6, I would take Prosperity any day.Prosperity Dumplings

photo (99)We continued to ride to the East Village for a desperately needed thirst quencher and its pretty clear where we are headed since we get this drink on every one of those rides.  The Grasshopper at Liquiteria, a popular neighborhood fresh juice joint.  They used to make it fresh on the spot but now you can find it in the fridge on the left.  Try it with some Gray Goose for a much smoother Citibike ride

We now head North to the romantic portion of the trip to 60th, riding entirely on 1st ave which has a great bike lane btw.  Both of us making it to Roosevelt Island for the very first time.  I always thought I would make it with Mrs Ziggy one day, never with the romantically challenged Hummus Whisperer.  It took us about 30 minutes of aimless walking and some bus shuttle hopping to nowhere to realize that god invented Google for a reason.  Apparently we need to head to one of the ends, the closest one.  So we head south and now I see what the hoopla is all about.  Nice park along the water, another park, NYC’s only monument ruin (an old smallpox hospital), and right on the tip, FDR Four Freedoms Park.  This is got to be one of New Yorks most stunning parks, and what a setting.  FDR’s huge bust overlooking the island brought me back to my old FDR high school in Brooklyn where I learned how to write properly (you guessed it, the school is now closed!)

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We headed back to the mothership island, and straight to a game I call Amazing Citibike Race.  Its where we realize that the area around us is suddenly short on bikes and we have to scramble.  For 15 minutes we had to scramble and run around while constantly checking the bike app.  We split, we texted (both real and butt) and at some point some running was even involved, until we got the bikes.

We cruised 2nd ave all the way back downtown.  I must say the east side (2nd and 1st) is much friendlier for bikers than the west side (8th,9th).  Our best eating is still to come.  Well, we haven’t eaten much as you can see and I’m approaching the elusive 1000 word mark (what the hell did I write about).  We nixed the two Ivan Ramens and opted for an infamous burrito, and one particular place in Brooklyn that I feel embarrassed for visiting for the first time.

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The chicken Burrito at Missions Cantina was a burrito revelation.  I’ve had some crafty burritos over the years but this one may have topped them all.  The main difference.. no rice.  The lack of rice meant less heaviness (a welcome plus in the summer) letting the rest of the ingredients shine.  And the toasty flour tortilla is crispy, thin but holds its own for pleasant mess-free eating.  I want to come back for the wings and tacos.

You know that the burrito was good when the ride across Manhattan bridge becomes a little more difficult.  I felt like telling everyone passing me “dude, I had a burrito.. without rice, more beans”.  Manhattan Bridge is a solid alternative to Brooklyn if you don’t want to share the lane with pedestrians taking selfies of themselves getting hit by bikes.

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Pok Pok, the Hummus Whisperer’s favorite restaurant in NYC was our last stop.  Although I’ve been a big fan of Andy Ricker, I somehow never made it before.  The new location in Red Hook looks like a simple diner, but the food is anything but.  We only had room for 2 dishes and one of them had to be the wings I kept hearing about.  Very solid meaty delicious wings that were plenty sweet and plenty of spice.  I liked the Cha Ca La Vong even more (below).  Catfish marinated and fried to flaky perfection with all sorts of herb action, rice vermicelli and tangy pineapple-y sauce.  Now I really cant wait to come back for more.  Great finish to a wonderful day

The End

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Categories: Brooklyn, Chinatown, East Village, Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lower East Side for Meshugenahs

Eastwood Israli Scotch Eggs****** Taking a much needed break in TCI beginning tomorrow which means no posts for a little while *******

009To continue our Meshugenah series we move over to the Lower East Side, a neighborhood rich with Jewish history.  When we parked our car we couldnt help but notice this beautiful red church right in front of us on Norfolk street.  However, by the time we came back to the car for the all important shoe change (women schwomen you know what I’m saying?), the church transformed into a synagogue, after overhearing a tour guide stationed with a group right by our car.  Evidently German Jews built all sorts of modern looking synagogues in “Little Germany” as it was once nicknamed, and some of those synagogues have been designated as historic landmarks by the city

In fact the entire Lower East Side neighborhood has been added to America’s Most Endangered List by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who is suspect #1 in the case of Mission Chinese closings by the way.  Is it too late for Lucca style Kebab Laws?  Most likely.  But something tells me the Jewish identity will remain in the area for a while.  That something is the guidebooks and tour groups flocking the area.  You cant walk a block in there without a “And this place here is home to New York’s best Knish, but their Gefilte Fish sucks”.  Our food focus on our annual father’s day (delayed by a few weeks this time) neighborhood crawl wasn’t particularly on Jewish food, but it did start out that way…

Russ and Daughters loxRuss and Daughters.  Our only iconic stop of the afternoon was at this 100 year old legend.  I’ve enjoyed those sandwiches before, but not my family.  The new R&D café had a 90 minute wait so we settled for taking a number at the original which turned out to be a 45 minute or so wait.  Silky smooth, rich Scottish Salmon with cream cheese is as good as it gets.  Unless you get the same Salmon rubbed with Pastrami seasoning with onions.  Great stop at this old timer appetizer (an old NYC originated term for such Jewish places) that involves a little bit of pain.  But if you have a low pain threshold, consider the following lox stop, with less of the hoopla, and much of the flavor

Russ and Daughters Sandwich Russ and Daughters

Nordic Preserves Fish & Wildlife Company at Essex Market – One of the most talked about sandwiches on the forums is the Nordic…  Nova Scotia lox, black lumpfish caviar, some onions, dill, tomatoes, capers on a Ciabata from Pain D’Avignon, a high quality French bakery also in Essex Market (some of the best baguettes in town).  An outrageously delicious, high quality sandwich cheaper than the R&D sandwiches.  Nordic Preserves is unlike anything you will find in NYC, selling all sorts of imported Scandinavian items from candy to jams, caviar, game meat and more.  As hidden gem as it gets in NYC

Nordic Preserves

Schapiro’s – We then needed a rest after all that eating and stumbled upon this nifty looking bar.  One quick glance at the menu and.. Jewish theme is still very much intact (will be broken very soon though).  An Israeli Gastropub? Hebrewpub?  Very interesting menu filled with all sorts of inviting goodies.  Couldnt quite pass on the not so traditional, but still quite tasty Shakshuka (the Israeli version of Huevos Rancheros).  And to make the little one happy, her favorite dish in the world, Mac and Cheese – A slam dunk as far as crafty mac and cheese in the city goes.  Schapiro’s is an homage to another neighborhood icon, Schapiro’s wine company which ruled the neighborhood for 100 years (1899-2000) right next door.  A very nifty, inviting space

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That was a failed eating break by the way.  I just wanted to go somewhere for a drink while catching some of the Russia-Belgium world cup snooze-fest.  We then walked down to the east river for some nice waterfront views under Williamsburg Bridge and New York’s most hidden attraction…. the East River Sea Lion Park, a bunch of Sea Lions sculptures I discovered while Citibiking with a friend a few weeks ago.  Kids, summer, water, sea lions, what else can you ask for.  Tacos!  But that’s later (well that was the plan at least)022

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EastwoodEastwood – Its been over 45 minutes since the last Hebrewpub visit and my left hand started to shake.  What happens when you put a falafel and an egg in one room to the tunes of Michael Bolton with Brokeback Mountain showing the background?  Israeli Scotch Egg (top picture).  A hard boiled egg wrapped in a falafel, served with a side of Tehina.. a crafty and tasty little snack which I had before but wanted to show Mrs Z.  And surprisingly solid Fish and Chips (the things I do for the Brits here, and for what?) can be found in this fun, as local as it gets Hebrewpub.  I first learned of Eastwood at last year’s Grub Street Festival where I met its energetic and fun owner.

Eastwood Fish and Chips

Eldridge Street Synagogue exteriorWay before the term “Hebrewpub” was even invented (10 minutes ago), there was the Eldridge Street Synagogue, on you guessed it, Eldridge Street.  Arguably, the most important establishment in the LES with the richest history.  While its really inside Chinatown these days, the synagogue is as much part of LES as anything else.  Opened in 1887, it was the first Synagogue built by Eastern European Jews in the USA.  Late 19th, early 20th centuary saw roughly 1.5 million Jews moving to the Lower East Side, while less than that moved elsewhere in the country.  The hour long tour (included in your admission) on the hour can help you imagine the daily activities and what this place meant to the community.  Although we actually did not take the tour (kids started to get tired, and I started to get hungry) we briefly spoke to the young girl running the tours, and also saw her in action while inside.  This is a striking looking structure by the way that will surprise even the European church lovers inside with its craftsmanship

Eldridge Street Synagogue

Prosperity Dumplings, Vanessa Dumplings – Jewish theme continues.  It is after all what we eat on Christmas.  These dumpling places are on every Cheap Food list, and for good reason.  Four delicious dumplings for a buck just doesn’t get any more value than this.  Verdict: Prosperity (left).  Bigger, fuller, more flavorful Pork and Chive dumplings than Vanessa’s.  Also, there’s something about irregular shape anything food that I find more attractive.  Like pizza for example.

Vanessa's Dumplings Prosperity Dumplings

 

Melt Bakery – This first rate ice cream sandwich shop was more of a secret 5 minutes ago, before they opened their 4th location.  Delicious ice cream, and even better cookie dough (choc chip walnut, hello!).  I also love that they have mini sizes so you could try more, or just have a smaller one.  I’m finding many of the artisanal ice cream sandwiches out there too big and too expensive these days.  This is New York’s first Ice Cream Sandwich Shop, and they now also have a stand on the Highline

Melt Bakery

This was the end of our little LES adventure but… I came back for more after a few days…

Di Palo’s – While not technically in LES, close enough and worth mentioning to those that are not aware of this neighborhood institution.  This is as old school as it gets.  For over 100 years selling imported cured meats, cheeses, and other Italian specialties (pastas, truffle sauces, fresh red sauce, etc).  But what is so special about this store to me is that even when quite busy with people waiting with numbers in their hands, you still get what I call a “Salumi Concierge” that will guide you and let you try anything you want with zero hassle.  You can be with your concierge for 30 minutes and no one will mind, because the people waiting want the exact same experience.  Try the Prosciutto, Finocchiona (salami with fennel), Cotto (Cooked ham) including truffled, and top notch Mortadella.  And don’t leave without trying some of their Truffled Pecorino – yes, more than one kind.  A rarity in this town.

Georgia’s Eastside BBQ – While killing time waiting for Mission Cantina to open, I stumbled upon this tiny BBQ joint.  I did hear about this place before, but had no intentions of eating here on this particular day, as my mission was clearly on Mission and their highly regarded riceless Burritos which we didnt get to a few days prior.  Mission failed again.  Half a rack of baby back ribs ($11) was simplify glorious.  Meaty, good quality, fall off the bone, perfectly seasoned dry rub with a side of homemade BBQ.   Plan was to leave room for the burrito, but I couldn’t help it and attacked this thing with full force.  Just solid!  The menu features all sorts of southern goodies like catfish and fried chicken.  Cant wait to bring the family here next.

Georgia's ribs

Luca & Bosco – The most famous dogs in the neighborhood will soon become the most famous dogs in the city, Luca and Bosco.  Their proud owners opened this Ice Cream stand inside Essex Market about 7 months ago, and folks, it just doesnt get much better than this.  Drunk and Salty Caramel with candied pecans was heavenly.  Light, fresh and very gelato like.  They are currently making the ice cream at an incubator in East Harlem, but soon moving to a new place with a bigger kitchen.  One of the partners studied in Florence, the gelato capital of the world, where she mastered a few techniques.  Anyone who ever visits Florence knows how standards get elevated.  Highly recommend this one.

Luca and Bosco

End of my eating adventures in the LES.  Other notable spots in the area:  Cata,  The new Ivan Ramen, Mission Cantina ;), Gaia, il laboratorio del gelato, and Katz’s of course

Follow my latest TCI eating adventure on twitter @Ziggy601

Stay hungry my friends.

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

Dude, You Are Researching NYC Food All Wrong

002Dear Tourist,

So you’ve decided finally to go on a “Holiday” to New York City.  Mazal Tov!  You probably read by now in your guide books that NYC is the greatest food city in the world.  And you are probably waking up every morning thanking god for the gift that keeps on giving, the TripAdvisor Rankings.  Between the rankings, the guidebooks, and all the great recommendations by your neighbor’s house sitter Betty (you must go to bubba gump you must) who eloped to NYC last year with 75 of her closest friends, you are all set.  Right?  Not exactly.  Lets take a moment and examine what is wrong with the above plan, and come up with a new one.

Whats wrong with the TA rankings:  Everything, and nothing.  Its just totally meaningless, especially in NYC.  TA is a great traveling tool, but pretty much totally useless in NYC as far as restaurants are concerned.  The main reason for its uselessness is that there are much better research tools in NYC. (more on that later).  But lets discuss the rankings for a second shall we.  They are so flawed and so out of tune with reality that’s not even funny.  The top 50 at the moment is a bizarre mishmash of classics and places I never even heard of.  First of all the TA algorithm puts some major weight on the number of reviews.  So older establishments may be higher than better reviewed younger ones.  And then there are those that have 27 remarkably high reviews that made it all the way to the top 20.  And not to mention that 25 of them may be coming from all their employees and families.  I always recall this one particular place in Milan where the owner single-handedly put his place #1 with a bunch of obvious fake reviews.  At some point he mistakenly gave himself one star, and that followed with 4 quick glorious reviews with a similar language.  And once real reviews started coming in, he found himself arguing with every reviewer

But fake reviews don’t have much of a bearing on the busy NYC listings.  Tourists do.  TripAdvisor is predominately used by tourists, and its especially true in NYC.  While you may see locals contribute in other towns and countries where there’s not much of a choice other than TA, in NYC locals use other sites like Yelp.  Now, couple the tourist factor with the high volume factor I mentioned above and you can see why something like Basso56 will be near the top as its heavily reviewed by tourists thanks to its location near Times Square.  Besides Basso, at the top of the Italian chain on TA at the moment you can find other Italian behemoths like Rafele, Piccola Cucina, Via Della Pace – places I never even heard of.  But if you need more convincing than “Ziggy never heard of”, why not just go to Chowhound where all the NY foodies hang out and pull threads that discuss the best Italian in town.  You will not find any of those places mentioned.  What you will see mentioned are places like Maialino (#95), Babbo (#602), Marea (#194), Lincoln (#882), or even Ziggy fave Costata (#2605).  TA numbers are all over the place as you can see, well outside of the top range for the unsuspecting tourist.  So while you are eating a Carbonara with cream and bacon at a high ranked theater district place near you, locals out there enjoy the real thing with Guanciale and egg at Maialino.

Same applies to using the rankings everywhere else in the world.  My favorite restaurant in our adapted home of Turks and Caicos is Caicos Cafe, rated #20 at the moment, pretty low in T&C standards.

Now, its time to ditch the guide book.  Ok, wait.. pick it up.. its actually quite useful for many things.  But not so much for food.  Yes, you will get some good tips on some NY icons like Katz’s and Russ and Daughters that I recommend.  But then you have something like pizza (namely Grimaldi’s) and bagels that NYC is so famous for.  While you will not easily find better pastrami than Katz’s, you will easily find better pizza than Grimaldi’s.  Actually, all you need to do while standing on line at Grimaldi’s with the rest of the tourists is look to you left at Juliana’s window to see where the real Grimaldi is doing his thing nowadays.  But you dont even have to leave your neighborhood in Manhattan to get great pizza that is arguably better than Grimaldi’s.

Besides pizza, your guide book will mislead you in other areas.  E.g.  Hell’s Kitchen is not a safe area, the place for Italian is Little Italy, and Times Square is a foodie paradise.  Your guide book may be up to date as far as facts are concerned (MoMA hours) but not concepts.  Little Italy is now a block inside Chinatown riding one of those concepts.  There are no Italians living there.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the food contributors to the guides may not be necessarily “foodies”.  Rick Steves for example does not strike me a foodie, and to follow his advice in Italy or anywhere else is Europe in this day and age is pretty silly.  Eating at guidebook recommended establishments and high ranked TA spots also means eating with other tourists who are doing exactly the same thing.  Some may find comfort with that, but if you are reading this blog chances are you want to eat where the locals eat.

And as for your neighbor Betty recommendations go, treat them like meeting your dentist at the supermarket.  Smile, and move on.  Unless Betty, is an avid Eating With Ziggy reader and/or does any of the following…

Read Chowhound – as I mentioned, this is where many of the NYC foodies hang out, and where I get many ideas.  Chowhound is probably my wallet’s single worst offender.

Read Yelp Reviews instead of TA reviews.  I already touched on this, and its fairly simple.  Locals use Yelp, tourists use TA.

Read or Subscribe to Grub Street – You can get all sorts of interesting ideas there, especially from the power rankings.  Same idea applies to Eater, or Serious Eats.

Hang out in the TripAdvisor NYC Forum.  You dont even have to participate.  Its amazing how much knowledge you can get just by reading the forum for a month or two.  There are plenty of locals who contribute on a daily basis, and you can also find many discussions on dining by using the search feature

And the most important tip…

Read EatingWithZiggy.  Whats so funny.  Where do you think I derive my ideas from.

Happy eating, and happy planning!

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

NYC – Top 10 dishes of 2013

NoMad breadAnother year, another amazing eating year in the city of New York.  Keeping up with all the new and excitement here is like keeping up with the Kardashians.  But 2013 proved to be one heck of a year, probably the best ever.  And if there’s ever a post on EWZ that could be helpful to visitors or locals seeking great chow in NYC, this is IT!

Ma Peche – Fried Chicken (with a side of the Brussels Sprouts).  I’ll start with the last great dish.  Haute Fried Chicken doesnt get any better than this.  Habanero, coriander, black pepper and other spices used to create this fried pieces of awesomeness.  Its a large shareable whole chicken at $48, but for lunch you can get half for $24 which can still feed an Armanian village, or 2 Americans.  And the amazing Brussels Sprouts dish are worthy of their own spot here.

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Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop– Smoked Whitefish Donburi.  With salmon roe, sweet soy dashi, cucumber, scallion over rice.  Need I say more?  I probably should.  Tell me if you heard this story before.  A Jewish man from Long Island opens a Ramen shop in Tokyo which becomes critically acclaimed, then comes back to NYC to open a Ramen shop in the New Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen.  Sounds familiar? The Donburi is a nice clash of the 2 cultures (Japan meets Jew)

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Momofuku Ssam Bar – Spicy Sausages & Rice Cakes.  Second Momofuku mention already (Ma Peche is the first)   This dish is insane.  Plenty of heat and plenty of joy.  Its a beautiful medley of ground sausage, Chinese broccoli, Sichuan peppercorn, and the awesome rice cakes which were essentially Korean Gnocchi made from rice flour.  Puts the Mssion Chinese rice cakes to shame.  Photo courtesy of Never Too Sweet

Betony – Short Ribs.  A revelation!  Tender, full of flavor goodness.  It takes 3 days to make them we were told.  We told the waitress that we cant stay that long, but we quickly understood the meaning.

Betony - short ribs

Maialino – Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe.  Its so simple, it shouldnt be here.  But along with the carbonara perhaps my favorite dish at one of my favorite Italian spots in the city.  Perfectly creamy, peppery, and addictive.  Having it sit there among the other pastas on the table is like visiting the bunny ranch after trying out all the bunnies, and constantly picking your favorite.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

The NoMad – The Chicken.  This is a no brainer, and a top dish nominee even before it reached our table.  Once you get over the facts that a) is costs $78 (for 2) and b) its freakin chicken, you will enjoy this one no doubt.  Perfectly crispy skin, moist juicy white meat, along with some foie gras and black truffles (all cooked) nicely tucked beneath the skin.  Each bite of that combination together was a Tour de Force.  But that’s not all.  Add a glorious plate of the dark meat with garlic espuma (foamy light garlic goodness) in the middle to share.

NoMad Chicken

Ippudo – Akamaru Modern (with egg).  “Welcom”, “Goodbye”, “Aim Well”? I have no idea what they are screaming in Japanese at Ippudo every time someone arrives or goes to the bathroom.  All I know is that this is my favorite dish here.  Rich, complex pork broth, along with hefty pieces of pork belly.  Add the egg and spicy miso paste for even richer flavors

Ippudo - Akamaru

Costata – The Costata.  Perhaps the dish of the year.  A mammoth 44oz $120 very shareable Tomahawk Ribeye cooked to perfection.  Basted ever so beautifully with a rosemary brush, this beast was a feast for all senses.  Add some Black truffle butter, fries and asparagus, but good luck remembering the sides in between bites of perhaps the best steak in town

Costata - Ribeye

Nish Nush – Falafel.  I know Falafel.  I grew up with falafel.  My car runs on falafel (its the trade-in period while waiting for the new car so dont want to use the real thing).  This is good falafel.  Fresh pita from the oven, and free (great) hummus can only help

Nish Nush - Falafel

Kashkar Cafe – Geiro Lagman.  Little Asia in little Odessa (Brighton Beach) and perhaps the only Uyghur spot in town.  I’ve had this dish 3 times in the last 8 months.  Nice and chewy hand pulled noodles with lamb, veggies, cumin, garlic, other spices and herbs make up this highly palatable dish.

Kashkar lagman

Special mentions:

Malai Marke – Chicken Xacuti (and Bindi Sasuralwali)
Sakagura – Maguro Tartar
Pure Thai – Wok Curry Paste with Pork
Mercato – Trenette
Jungsik – The rice dish that comes for free for b-day boy 😉
Louro – Octopus Bolognese (tie with monkfish)
Mission Chinese – Kung Pao Pastrami

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Battle of the Bridges Part Deux – Grub This!

photo (66)With 2 major food events scheduled for the weekend, the big news could not have come at a better time.  We apparently not pooping properly!   Yes thats right!  Leave your iphone in your pockets and invest in baby wipes and a little stool for your feet and squat away.  Is our society ready for this?  Meaning, can I be seen leaving a meeting at work early for the sole purpose of going to the restroom carrying a little stool, or would that be awkward?  But it makes complete sense to me.  However,  as with all the studies out there, I would wait about month for any disputing “Wrong! We ARE pooping just fine” arguments to emerge.

I already wrote about the first event of the weekend.  The next day the Hummus Whisperer and I planned another one of those bike bridge tours where we Citibike from place to place and eat various things.  A bike tour that would have been so much more fun if not for a certain someone’s WIFE WHO NEEDED HER PRECIOUS TO BE HOME BY 3:30! ok, needed to get it out of my system.  Here’s what we did and what we ate last Sunday…

As before, we parked by the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn Side and biked Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.  The earlier you do it, the easier it gets on this bridge due to the amount of tourists that flock it.

photo (58)Stop 1 – Grub Street Food Festival on Hester street.  The mother of all NYC food festivals.  If you have to choose one food festival to attend a year, this is the one.  The who’s who of the top vendor names, great space, plenty of seats, and great music.  While we were returning our bikes, we met a dutch couple who were having trouble with their bikes and needed to get to another docking station.  They were able to return only one bike.  I offered to bike along with the wife to another docking station and walk the wife to the festival but the husband insisted on running along the sidewalk much to the delight of some locals.  I cant blame him for not trusting me as I had a very bad hair day.  Anyway when they were leaving, they asked me if its a weekly thing and couldn’t believe how lucky they were when I told them its yearly.  Here’s what we ate…

photo (53)Pastrami sandwich from Ducks Eatery – Started with a bang!  Very meaty, juicy, thick sliced as pastrami should be.  Delicious.  Great job by Ducks

Israeli Scotch Eggs from Eastwood.  Fan-freakin-tastic.  “Taim Meod”.  Very unique and very good.  Add some Tehina on it and its like the Falafel and Sabich making boogie right in front of your eyes.   Eastwood people, I see you now!  I dont need a liquor license to visit you.  Some Nesher Bira Schora (Israeli black beer) will do, thanksphoto (59)

Khao Man Gai from Khao Man Gai – Essentially Chicken and Rice, ginger based sauce and a light soup.  Khao Man Gai is thai street food.  Basic compared to everything else but pleasant.  To enjoy this one is best with Thai iced tea and a seat

photo (55)Teriyaki Balls from Mimi and Coco – I dont know why it took me so long to try these.  I suppose I was never really in the mood for them, but this time those beautiful Schweddy Balls were like “Come To Ziggy”.  These were bursting with flavor on every bite.  However, I made the mistake of putting an entire ball in my mouth and for a few seconds suffered greatly from the heat (not spicy, HOT).  I would have them again

Canela – Cajeta Ice Cream from La Newyorkina – Perhaps the best thing I ate all day.  Very sweet but in a very good way, Mexican caramel, cinnamon and some love.  This is artisanal ice cream at its best.  No frozen air here.

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For the same reason I’m obsessed with travel, walking around Chinatown is one of my favorite things to do in NYC.  Live frogs, dragon fruit, massage parlors with “No special favors” signs, 99 cent new favors (see below) and all sorts of prices that cant be beat (except of course if you get for free).  Just things I don’t normally see on a daily basis.photo (61)

photo (60)I enjoy walking inside buddhist temples (until I see too many swastikas and run the hell out there) and perhaps for the first time heard a “welcome” from a monk.  It was in Pu Chao Buddhist Temple on Eldridge street.  very nicely decorated, serene temple

Near the temple you will also find one of New York’s hidden treasures, the Museum at Eldridge Street.  The museum is housed inside the great Eldridge Street Synagogue, the first synagogue in America built by East European Jews.  Built in 1887.  A strange location nowadays smack in the middle of Chinatown, but its not stopping from tourists to flock it looks like.

Back to eating, back to the bikes.  We alter plans to go to Hells Kitchen and rode back to Brooklyn instead, this time taking the Manhattan Bridge back.  Sooo much easier riding the Manhattan Bridge.  No people, No ringing, great views (below).  BTW, the Hummus Whisperer is the only person I know that rings cars.  They cant hear you HW!photo (62)

We opted to stop by and visit the Brooklyn Navy Yards, a giant shipyard used to build and repair navy and commercial vessels.  An informative little museum tells the story of not only the shipyard but the entire city.  Tours are offered by either bus or bikes due to the size of the area.photo (64) photo (63)

Picked up the bikes again and moved on toward Dumbo, the #1 destination currently for wedding, bat mistvah, get out of prison pictures.  People watching and scenery doesn’t get much better than Dumbo these days.

Our destination is the new Smorgasburg which recently moved from Dumbo to Pier 5.  Pier 5 is as stunning.  Before we parked I get a text from my friend Val saying that he’s at this food festival near the Brooklyn Bridge Park, figuring he’s telling me something new that I ought to know.  I surprised him and family minutes later.

We sampled some Short ribs from Takumi Taco yet again.  Still good though perhaps a tad drier this time.

Fried Chicken from Buttermilk Channel was just ok.  A bit greasy and sweet batter that’s not to my liking.  Not a very good line/taste ratio here.

Mighty Quinn’s and its mighty line still rule this show rightfully so, but I didnt have it this time (My friend Val did and loved it)

The best thing that came out of this for me was Vermont Maple Lemonade.  This grown man drives every weekend to NYC to open a lemonade stand.  Holy smokes it was good.  Refreshing and tasty.  Perhaps the best lemonade I ever had.

One last bike pick up, a quick randevu with the red hook, a near death with a cabbie, and another one where a leaf landed on my face and blinded me temporarily, and back to the car in one piece.  Till next timephoto (65)

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

Cata – LES is More

Cata - QuailTo find my next dining destination, I turned to a little site I like to call Eating With Ziggy.  While browsing the site I noticed the following 3 things:  I haven’t eaten anything in the Lower East Side for a while; I haven’t eaten tapas in a while; My fonts are terrible; and my tagline “Eating Well Spelling Poorly” makes no sense whatsoever since I use a spell checker.  Ok, that was 4 things.  It was 3 when I started writing the sentence I promise you that.  So I figured its time to eat something in the Lower East Side, and make it tapas.  And as to the terrible fonts?  Well, that’s your problem!  I don’t read the stuff, just write them.

Although I have a list of new restaurants to try that’s almost as big as my Netflix cue (one of those words I hate spelling properly, like “tho”), I tend to sometimes ignore the list and look elsewhere for much added excitement.  This time I looked at the newly released Michelin Bib Gourmands.  Or “Baby Michelin Stars” if you will, given for quality cheap(er) eats.  And I noticed a place that somehow slipped through my radar, Cata.  Coupled that with an endorsement from Kathryn off Chowhound and off we went.

While taking a closer look I noticed Cata was Alta’s sister, a place we enjoyed in the past.  And like many of my friends and coworkers, Cata owners are big fans of 4 letter words looks like.  I suggest Nada for the next one (private joke for my Providenciales friends)

An array of Gin and tonic drinks is one of the specialties here…  I liked the Kaffir Lime one.  While Mrs Ziggy would not even look at the rest of the menu once she sees her Aperol Spritz.  She gets up and does the Macarena from excitement – starting to get embarrassing, for her.  The food menu is much better organized than Alta which is one giant list.

So is Cata short for Catalonia or Catastrophe?   Lets see..

Baked Cana Cebra – Goat cheese with honey.  Quite good.  Perhaps not as good as Alta version with lavender infused honey but quite good

Deviled Eggs with fried oysters – Very tasty, if not a tad on the salty side.

Quail Egg Bendecits with chorizo, hash browns (top picture) –  Another nice dish.  Pretty to look at too.  Wife much preferred this over the deviled but the opposite was true for me.  So far so delicious

Mushrooms with shallots, red wine – I got to have my mushrooms (especially since she doesn’t eat them) and this did not disappoint.

Tuscan Kale – With Parmigian thin “crisps”.  Simply grilled and tasty.  Wife liked this one especially

Long Island Razor Clams – Cant pass on fresh razor clams.  The one must coming in.  Simple, “Meaty”, a tad chewy and absolutely delicious overall

Gambas al Ajillo – One of the best dishes of the night.  4 jumbo perfectly cooked shrimp.  I prefer this dish more garlicky but this was tasty nonetheless.  I still haven’t found something similar to the Gambas al Ajillo that we had in Ramiro in Lisbon if anyone familiar.  Where readers?  Where can I have these beauties?

Jamon Iberico Bellota – I asked if they can bring a little sampler instead of the $27 full plate of it and they did for I believe $10.  This tasted just fine to me.  Not something I would order again.  This is some of the finest Jamon Iberico on the planet, made from pigs eating only acorns (Bellota) as their last meals on earth.  Coincidentally, this was my wish as well

Skirt Steak – Good, a little uninspiring but good.  This is perhaps a good time to complain that it was a little hard to read that menu with dimmed lighting as I initially didn’t see the “Add: Organic farm egg $2”.  I would definitely add the egg here.

Charcuteir Board – lard toasts were fine,  jamon Serrano we didn’t get due to the Bulotta, Chorizo we didn’t care for – not much flavor.  The best part of the board by far were the Almonds.  Perhaps this is the only miss of the evening

Torrija – Excellent!  Like the crème brule and bread pudding had a baby. A beautiful, delicious baby.

Terrific meal overall

Cata - Devils Cata - Charcuterie Cata - Jamon Cata - Steak Cata - Kale Cata - Baked Cata - shrimp Cata - Razor Clams

Categories: Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Citibike Confessions 2 – Battle of the Bridges

photo (49)“We are going shopping”, the most beautiful words for a man to hear since “I do”.  “We” – as in just us, without You”.  Here’s how I took advantage.  A Labor Dy trip report if you will…

Picked up Mr Hummus Whisperer and parked the car by the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side.  Picked up a Citibike and rode the Bridge over to the other side.  Unlike the day before where we walked the bridge after (and before) visiting the Smorgasburg in Dumbo (will try to write a separate post) the bridge in the morning was fairly quiet.

“Cruised” Lafayette and dropped the bikes by Houston.  Wanted to try La Colombe Coffee after watching the guy on the travel channel exploring the world for coffee beans but it was closed.  I was surprised to learn how many places are closed on Mondays in NYC.  Like being in Milan in August.  Too hot for coffee anyway.  We made our way to Russ and Daughters, picked our bagels and went to a nearby park where an elderly Asian couple were doing an exercise I haven’t seen before:  Bouncing a basketball.  Buttery Lox, cream cheese, tomato, onions, on a fresh crispy bagel never tasted this good.  R&D, one of many Lower East Side institutions is touristy for good reason.   We were without the wits of our women which means without napkins but we somehow managed with minimum stain action.photo (50)

We proceeded to pick up the Citibikes nearby again and rode to Delancey and Williamsburg bridge.  We crossed over to Brooklyn and just biked around Kent Ave without a plan whatsoever.  None of this was planned BTW.  Feeling hungry again we decided to park and just walk to Egg for another round of breakfast.  But the line was too big so we just went to Verb Café nearby on Bedford and had ice coffee with our takeout Bialys from R&D.  Ok, the R&D mention again reminds me that I need to go back to work.. Ok I’m back.. where was I… Oh ye.  Verb Café  – Ive been there before.  If you ever need a reminder that you are in Williamsburg you head to this café and the mini mall attached to it

We picked up the bikes again and rode the Williamsburg bridge back.  An unfortunate incident occurred where a bra-less woman riding a bike was accidentally flashing more than the laws allowed.  Unfortunate for her.   Anyway, we had a good laugh and continued riding by the East River toward midtown.  Nice views of the manhattan skyline open up at some point with the river a few feet away.  This is a nice section to bike on.  We U-turned on 30th and turned on 20th toward the flatiron area.  Just rode around aimlessly until it was time for you know..eat.

We dropped the bikes in the East Village.  A trip like this is incomplete without eating something in the East Village.  Opted to go to Maharlika but we got distracted by a little piggy and shared a Porchetta sandwich in Porchetta.  In here they do it differently than in Italy.  They get whole loins with the skin and all, season, roll it, and roast it for 7 hours.  The result is one fatty, garlicky, porky goodness.  Fantastic sandwich.  Highly recommend Porchetta.photo (51)

Time for a cleanser.  Liquiteria is thee place in town according to my juice obsessed friend.   I’ve been there before and ordered the same thing again, the Grasshopper – a great blend of apple, pear, pineapple, wheatgrass, mint, old cellphones, or god knows what else they put in there.  All freshly squeezed, naturally sweet and very refreshing.  A little pricey but you pay for quality

Too full for Maharlika we pick up the bikes yet again and head to Tribeca.  Dropped the bikes by Whole Foods and spent some quality R&R time (Relieve and Read) in Barnes and Nobles.  This branch has my favorite travel section.  We are in Tribeca which means we have to go to Nish Nush.  Shared a Masabacha which is essentially hummus with Tahini, some other sauce, chickpeas and boiled egg.  Added some Falafel balls as well to this party.  Since I introduced HW to this place a month ago he’s been here 6 times.  He was so excited he stained himself again right next to the R&D stain.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the best falafel in the city.photo (52)

Time to pick up the bikes again and cross the Brooklyn Bridge back to the car.  Now its raining which means I finally look cool on those bikes.  I tried the one hand move before and nope.. need it to rain.  The bridge is much busier now even with the rain and those darn pedestrians are all over the bike lanes.  Of course I was also all over the bike lanes when I was a pedestrian the day before

We dropped the bikes for the last time and started to head home.  But hey, we are already here, next to a place I wanted to visit for a while now, so whats the rush.  The only one who has the balls to open a pizza joint next to Grimaldi’s is.. well.. Grimaldi.  The place is called Juliana’s and the Margherita pie was absolute perfection.  I’m not gonna go into the details of the story and controversy here but the gist of it was that Grimaldi’s sold the Grimaldi name rights years ago and now he’s back.. right next door.  So when you come to Brooklyn to stand on the hour long line to Grimaldi’s just keep in mind that the place next door with no lines has probably better pizza – I think it does.    And for the sake of the neighborhood locals who finally got their pizza back this is the last time I will mention this.

And that’s how I spent my Labor Day.photo (53)

Categories: Brooklyn, East Village, Lower East Side, New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mission Chinese Food 1 – Ziggy 0

A short but sweet review on one of the hottest new restaurants in NYC.  If you haven’t heard of Mission Chinese food you either live under a rock or in Staten Island.  Sorry for the Iphone photos

Mission Chinese Food

Getting there at 12:30 pm proved to be a perfect time – No Meshugenah line.  While looking at the menu I was eyeing no less than 8 dishes for myself and my companion, The Hummus Whisperer, but settled on 6, still much to the dismay of the bartender who assured us we’ll be leaving with a hefty number of doggy bags.  Ha!  The joke is on him I’m thinking.  He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.

I asked the bartender as I was giving him our orders if he can somehow arrange it so we could get the dishes in their proper order, from mild to intense as some of the dishes can be so intense they can burst your palates.  He said in a very polite way, No!  “They will come in a furious pace..Bla bla, bla” whatever.  Next time I will simply order the mild ones first and later will order the rest.  Here’s what we had in the order of arrival…

Mission Chinese FoodCumin Lamb – Wasn’t too crazy about this one.  The lamb was way over spiced to my taste.  I understand its called Cumin lamb, but it still needs to taste good and it wasn’t.  And way too salty

Mapo Tofu – This is it.  Now I get it.  A flavor festival.  Like a beautiful Tofu with thos melt in your mouth tender Pork Shoulder spice de jour soup.  Delicious, but palates are starting to burst

Chongqing Chicken Wings – Palates burst.  After one, just one chicken wing, and that Tofu I needed to take a break.  Those wings were super spiced and very intense.

Thrice cooked bacon – I don’t know what to think about this one.  It came with those “I cant believe its not potatoes Rice cakes” and after having a few of those at this point I started to wonder where the explosiveness is coming from.  Mapo TofuThis was not one of my favorite dishes.  Maybe they need to cook the bacon a 4th time.

Kung Pao Pastrami – My favorite dish and the best Kung Pao I ever had.  They make their own pastrami, not from Katz’s as the rumor was.  Very juicy and flavorful Pastrami cubes and the entire dish really worked

Salt Cod Fried Rice – Very good but why are we getting the mildest dish last.  Loved the tiny Chinese sausage bits.

This was a defeat like I never experienced.  We couldn’t even finish the 6 chicken wings.  My request for milk from the bartender resulted with just a grin.  No, I’m serious, I want Milk.  Whatever! I’ll be back for a rematch now that I know what to order and how to order it.  I’m outta here.  With the doggy bags!

Categories: Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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