Midtown West

Introducing EWZ Tours

img_7142-1Some tours developments for ya…

We have a name, a website, and the least attractive attractions on TripAdvisor (meaning the guide, not the experience)

The three tours are shaping up quite nicely.  I’ve made some changes to all three already and quite satisfied with all the routes.  I’m fairly booked for the holiday season, but not so much after January 3rd.  Yes, I’m doing the walking tours throughout the winter

I think the most painful part of this whole process was coming up with the name.  Eating With Ziggy Tours ultimately beat Angry Panda, Touring With Ziggy, and Hungry Penguin.  I was all set on the last one, but no one liked it.  Touring With Ziggy was the natural progression, but then the expectations of Drinking With Ziggy, and Sleeping with Ziggy would follow.  I would have already gotten a review on the last one, and I’m afraid it’s not good

It took about 6 weeks but we are finally on Trip Advisor, and Facebook.  On Instagram which I finally joined in the summer, I’m “EatingWithZiggy”, and on Twitter I’m still good ol’ Ziggy601

In order to get on TA, I had to quickly create a dedicated site which I’m still working on https://eatingwithziggytours.com/

Why East Village

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Foodpourri

danji-big-korean-breakfastRandom EWZ food discoveries, announcements, and other nonsense…

Danji, the long time EWZ fave in the kitchen of hell is now doing brunch.  In addition to the best tofu dish in town, you can now enjoy delicacies like the Big Korean Breakfast (top picture), Kimchi bacon fried rice, and their version of the Filipino Sisig.  This medium size Jew did the big Korean Breakfast and (of course) the tofu last week, and as much as I enjoyed them, I would love to try the other offerings next time

Talking about Sisigs, I accidentally had it twice last month.  My favorite was in Maharlika in East Village.  Gorgeously fried pig ears, snout, belly with garlic, chilies on top of garlicky rice.  Just a solid combination of flavors and textures.  And while you at it, try their Lumpia rollsimg_4401

lam-zhou-handmade-noodle-dumplingsHaving trouble sleeping?  Problems in the bedroom, ever since Prosperity Dumplings closed by the health dep’t.  Before you reach for the red pill, blue pill or any pill for that matter, check out Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle in Chinatown.  Even at room temperature, you get some of the tastiest fried pork dumplings in NYC today.  8 for $3 is still quite cheaper than what all the new places charging today

In Pizza news, while I dont normally get excited about Sullivan Street Bakery‘s thin, often room temp Roman pies (I do get excited about everything else), the day I walked into a fresh Pizza Capicola changed all that.  Coppa ham, green olives, chili, fennel, Mascarpone.  A masterful combo with plenty of nice heat to keep your taste buds happy for a while.

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Discoering Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market is like discovering a secret Speakeasy, or Tom Hanks discovering a secret garden full of typewriters.  The Los Tacos #1 team leased the space that leads from the tacos hallway to 15th st where there’s a separate entrance.  The place meant to resemble a Mexican seafood shack, and the Baja style fish and shrimp tacos are as solid as they get in NYC.  And at $3 to $4, quite affordable for Chelsea Marketlos-mariscos

I’ve been eating quite a bit in Brooklyn as of late.  Some ups, some downs, with the highlight coming from the most unexpected, Olivier Bistro in Park Slope.  Homey, basic French Bistro fare done well.  Escargot, Hanger, Daurade special particular standouts.

Stop me when I start sounding like Crazy Eddy, but the new East Village Food Tour is beginning to look like a smashing success food and sightseeing wise.  I assembled a pretty nice route that includes a stop at the always fun Caracas Arepa Bar where we’ll sample some Venezuelan mini Arepas they do especially for the tour.  Not all tours will be the same, but this one is shaping to be one the most popular stops.caracas-bar-pork-shoulder-mini-arepas

img_4469In my constant pursuit of great Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao) in NYC that included the much hyped Drunken Dumplings, and others, The Bao in, you guessed it, East Village, makes possibly the best I’ve had in NYC.  Thin skin that holds it on, and a very fine filling of pork and crab which is what I recommend.  Love the dumplings, not so much the stuffier than it should be, $10 per person minimum, space.

Right below Bao on St Marks place is another place we’ve been obsessing with as of late, Spot Dessert Bar.  Playful, imaginary desserts like the Harvest, a plant of berries and soft cheesecake that you water with black rose milk tea.  Dont overlook however the more normal looking and sounding Green tea lava cake spot-dessert-bar

In Bakery news, I cant get enough of Breads Bakery (Jerusalem baguettes, babka, multiple locations), and Arcade Bakery in Tribeca.  Arcade is located in a lobby of an office building and the hours are office kind hours (m-f 8-4).  Go early for the sensational buttery Laminated Baguette, Whiskey-pecan Babka and call me in the morning.

Miso Cherry!  Say it with me, c’mon.  Slower.  Say it like you mean it.  Meeesooo Cherry!  Another wacky Oddfellows Ice Cream flavor that is perhaps the best ice cream/Gelato I’ve had this year.

Stay Hungry My Friends arcade-bakery oddfellows-miso-cherry-ice-cream

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hell’s Kitchen Heroes and Villains

img_4256Its that time of the year again.  When you take the bus or the ferry, and you look left and go “what the f$%^k is that”, followed by “Oh, it must be Comic Con weekend”.  Its a great weekend to bike on 9th ave, checking out the scene flocking to Javits.  I had plans to write a post about the best places to eat near Javits in anticipation, but kinda forgot got busy with all sorts of assignments.  One of which was a request by Hell’s Kitchen’s own W42ST to write about the food heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen.  The result… there are now 3 places requiring me to wear my Natcho Libre attire in order to come incognito.  Page 38-39.

 

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Hell’s Kitchen – Summer Update

ziggysite1New Ramen, Mexican, Sushi, and Indian Lunch Buffet.  Thats right, Indian Lunch Buffet

The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Meet the New Mexican Sheriff of Hell’s Kitchen – Tacuba

Tacuba

Tacuba

November 20, 2016 Update:  Three months later, Tacuba of Hell’s Kitchen is clicking on all Chimichangas!  A big birthday bash for a close friend last night started with a sound concern, but ended with another fun meal.  If you go however, try to avoid Friday and Saturday nights if you can.  The word is apparently out (ahem!).  There were quite a few large groups there besides the usual turnout, and they can get busy.  Tacuba has all the red flags of places I usually avoid.  Younger crowd, loud, overzealous vibe sometimes.  But the touch of Julian Medina (who I finally met last night) of Toloache fame, gives it this nice balance of food and energy you cant get out of Mexican in Hell’s Kitchen.  Nothing new to report food wise.  Stick to the Carnitas, Pulpo and the rest of the appetizers.  And the drinks here are quite good.

August 7, 2016 Post:  To open a Mexican restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen these days requires some major Chalupas.  I need to double check with the EWZ stats department but its entirely possible that Mexican is more represented in the Kitchen of Hell than Thai these days.  The last couple of years saw Taquerias, Tex-Mex, and all sorts of various sit-downs flood the area.  All while old fashioned Mexican bodegas forced to close or transform themselves.  So forgive me when I say this, but when I saw yet another Mexican being developed on 9th between 54/53, I said the same thing when they replaced Little Chef with Choza at Gotham West Market.  We need another Mexican here like I needed Shingles

Then I find out this is another place from Julian Medina, of Toloache fame.  That intrigued me enough to stop wishing for shingles, but not quite enough to make it a priority (sorry Medina).  But I needed to try it for myself eventually.  Oh and by the way did I mention that spot is cursed?  It saw a bunch of places come and go, whose names no one can recall.  The only memorable thing about this location saw one of my co-workers get slapped by a former CEO when it was an Italian joint.  It was a playful slap, but a slap to the face nonetheless.

But the reason that intrigued me wasnt Medina (sorry again Julian, I owe you a drink), but the fact that with all the Mexican we have in Hell’s Kitchen, I was never truly comfortable recommending any of them to visitors looking for a “Mexican restaurant”.  They are all either too authentic, too taqueria, too hole in the wallish, too tex-mex, too chilish, or just simply too suck.  I couldnt think of one spot, but I think that’s about to change.  There’s this new place opening soon on 10th promising to make Mission style… just kidding Medina (make it a pitcher).  I think Tacuba may very well be it.Tacuba OCtopus Tosdata

Talking about Mission, the dish that is simply called Carnitas at Tacuba has that Mission District slow roasted nastiness.  It comes with Chicharron (Cracklings), four little tortillas for you to master your taco skills, but thats not all… A beautiful, tangy tamarind habanero salsa that will make you want to dip you car keys into.  You may also want to add some sides to go along like the rice and beans, and the unique Avocado Fries.  But dont overlook the terrific Sweet Plantains.

The one thing I love about Tacuba is its short, to the point menu.  Other than the good looking Ceviche section, they only have about 5 appetizers, which they seem to master.  The Guacamole is thick and proper, with chile serrano giving it a little kick.  The Zucchini Flower Quesadilla with Burrata, Manchego and kale pesto tastes much better than it sounds.  Good luck finding this in your neighborhood Cantina.  But the one must eat here for both lunch and dinner is Octopus.  For lunch you got a Torta featuring Chorizo, Octopus, and Chipotle Butter.  And for dinner (and lunch) Octopus comes on a toasty Tostada with chipotle butter and mezcal.  Carnitas Burrito at lunch time is well done as well, other than the accompanying fries that can use some work – I suggested rosemary and garlic chips or something to oomph them up.  No Complaints on the desserts and drinks side either.  Go!

Tacuba
802 9th Ave (53/54)

Tacuba Carnitas Tacuba Tacos Tacuba Octopus Torta

Tacuba

Tacuba

Tacuba

Tacuba

 

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Flavor of the Month – Gazala’s Place

Gazala's HummusI will have more about Sicily soon, but meanwhile…

This is a new monthly feature on EWZ that simply features a NYC establishment that I like right now.  Not a full blown post as I will spare you the unnecessary details and jokes and simply say GO, and why.  And yes, I’m changing the meaning of the conventional usage of “Flavor of the Month” and making it my own

There aren’t that many places more deserving to kick this thing off than Gazala’s.  I’ve been going to Gazala’s in Hell’s Kitchen for many years, and only met Gazala a handful of times.  Thats partly because for a while Gazala was cooking at the bigger Gazala near the Natural History Museum until she was forced to close it.  As a result she spends more time in Hell’s Kitchen these days, especially during lunch time making dinner preparations.  Middle Eastern is the proper way of categorizing Gazala’s, but its more than that

At the moment Gazala is in Israel, visiting her family at the Druze village of Daliat el-Carmel, in the north near Haifa.  The village where years ago as a young girl she had to make a decision that would shape the rest of her life.  The decision to whether follow the religious path or not, as every Druze boy and girl requires to decide.  Sacrifices surround each decision, and luckily for us New Yorkers she chose the non-religious path (as most do).  This essentially allowed her to travel, and bring us a taste of that druze culture.  This may be the only Druze restaurant in the country

Gazala’s Place is not a particularly sexy place.  For that go to Room Service across the street where you can swing by their many chandeliers.  But if you want some of the best and freshest Hummus in NYC, a Bourekas (like Bourek, flaky pastry stuffed with cheese and other goodies) popular with food tours, and fantastic falafel the size of a small monkey head, come to Gazala’s Place.  Her $10 lunch specials alone like the Kafta kebab with outragously delicious chicken, hummus, salad, rice, and Baba ghanoush is the best deal in Hell’s Kitchen.  Like the gift that keeps on givingGazala's Gazala's Bourekas Gazala's Meat Cigars Gazala'a Place Bourekas Gazala's Osh Al-Saria

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The Joy Suck Club does Blue Ribbon Sushi Columbus

Blue Ribbon SquidSomeone out there in Denver owes me an American dollar.  And I know where she lives!  The bet was that taking my immediate extended family (The Joy Suck Club) to something like Blue Ribbon Sushi will be a big flop.  Last time I attempted this, we wind up in Rosa Mexicano due to the reluctance of the Denverphile who should pay me another dollar for enduring another meal at Rosa Mexicano.  The belief of the Denverite is that Blue Ribbon Sushi is all about that.. Sushi, and blue ribbons and stuff.  And that this is simply a disastrous match to the members of some of the pickiest eaters on the planet.

Introducing the Joy Suck Club….

One is so picky that anything remotely slimy will make her puke in her mouth a little.  Forget Oysters.  I’m talking about mushrooms!  She had her first mushroom at the age of 65, and said it was “ok”

One requires everything well well well done.  Forget steak!  I’m talking about pasta and eggs.

One likes generally everything, but will immediately tell you where you can get this better somewhere else even though he doesnt get out much.  “I understand this is prime meat, aged 60 days and perfectly cooked.  But there’s this place near where I live who does it better”

One can not handle anything with… whats the word I’m looking for… Flavor.  The dish requires zero flavor whatsoever.  No sauce, no seasoning.  I will take the Spaghetti alle Vongole, without the Vongole please.

And then there’s the one who needs proper lighting to enjoy his meal.  And by proper I mean nothing short but stadium power, blinding kind.  “This is good, but I cant see anything.  I would like to see what I’m eating please”

In other words, everything sucks!

Blue Ribbon Sushi Deluxe

To them we are freaks of nature.  “You are eating uncooked meat.  Should I call an ambulance now, or you’ll do it later in the middle of the night”.  And so with us in the mix I’m constantly looking for that balance.  Italian normally works, but gets a little challenging in the theater district (if nowhere near Mercato).  At Blue Ribbon I have a secret weapon that the Denverite may not know about.  Chicken!  And Salmon!  Not to mention steak, the sickest fried rice dish in town, and a very full menu.  But what I like about Blue Ribbon and large groups more is that I can reserve at any time, and have a family style meal.  I’ve done it with co-workers, and now it even passed the Joy Suck Club.  The biggest test there is

Blue Ribbon Sushi has been a staple in the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide, even though depending on how full the moon is, and who you ask, may or may not be in Hell’s Kitchen.  But deliciousness has no borders.  And Blue Ribbon needs to be in a neighborhood like HK.  Blue Ribbon is a chain, but one should not hold it against them.  While you can find their sensational oxtail fried rice with bone marrow and omelette  downtown as well, they do some things unique to this location.  Like the Ika Shoga, simply sauteed squid with ginger and garlic.  Why no one else does this is a mystery to me.  Its not only a dish I enjoyed many times, but I do get some pleasure from watching people react when they try it for the first time.  Mrs Ziggy, kids, and yes, even some members of the club, raved about this one.

Blue Ribbon Chicken

For me, family style meals are not about going to Carmine’s and eating 2 oversized dishes shared by 6 people.  There’s just so much you can order and share, and the quality of large dishes is almost always poor.  Instead, go to any place and simply order as many dishes as necessary of the same thing.  Blue Ribbon is great for this because some of their signature dishes like the fried rice, and the squid are very shareable.  I once sent a group there (I wasnt invited, just consulted) and pretty much wrote the entire order for them based on how many people were in the party.  You want variety, especially with picky eaters.  And Blue Ribbon chefs know how to cook

The rest of the meal was a big success with the Suck Club.  My secret weapon fried chicken, and the salmon with a light teriyaki glaze worked like magic.  The only concern was that the salmon would not be cooked enough for the club, but hey, they ate, and raved about it.  I especially loved the smoky bean sprouts and rabe that accompanied the fish.  While I’m not the biggest fan of the fried chicken, its almost always a smart order, and I’m slowly warming up to the honey sauce that comes with it.  The fried rice is a smash hit as usual, and I’ve essentially already written essays and articles about it.  Nightly specials included a fine Nobu-esque rock shrimp tempura, and finer spare ribs.  There was plenty of sushi as well, shockingly gobbled up by some JSC members who may not have been aware that they were eating raw fish.  And to complete the experience, I was reunited with my favorite Japanese light beer, Hitachino Nest.  This did not suck.

Someone in Denver awes me a buck.

Blue Ribbon
6 Columbus, 308 W 58th St (8/9)

Blue Ribbon Fried Rice Blue Ribbon Sushi Squid Blue Ribbon Ribs Blue Ribbon Salmon

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Pssss… I Have a New Favorite Ramen Spot

Mentoku

Mentoku

I hope I find you readers well, and I hope this stays just between us.  As much as I like my places to stay the same, my mama always taught me that “Sharing is Caring”.  I shared my only toy, a plastic green soldier with my friends, including the friend who introduced me to cigarettes at the coming of age 5 (I quit when I turned 6, and swore off cigarettes forever.  True story).  Up until three months ago or so my go-to Ramen spot has been the Totto branch on 51st/10th, right across the Falafel Nazi Azuri Cafe.  After over a dozen visits to Totto, with the occasional cheating with the great Ippudo Akamaru and Ivan, I’ve gone exploring yet again for that great Ramen bowl in the Kitchen of Hell.  Enter little Mentoku on 9th ave.

Mentoku is not your prototypical Hell’s Kitchen Ramen that is buzzy, with the occasional painful waits, less than comfortable seating, and quick eat.  You can actually spend more than 5 minutes here while enjoying soft Jazz.  There’s one cook, and there’s usually one or two waitresses running the “front”.  And more importantly, I have never seen the place too full to enjoy.  Whether by myself at the counter, or with co-workers, every visit has been comfortable and relaxing, a rarity in NYC Ramen world.  “Akanoren” is proudly displayed on the sign outside, and according to this blogger, its a Ramen chain in Japan.Mentoko Yuzu-Kosho

The specialty here is Hakata style Tokotsu Ramen, where the pork is slowly cooked at high temperatures.  This means the meat and the fat dissolves into the soup more, creating a rich, but smooth base.  Meaning its rich, but not one of those super rich, guilt-filled bowls that makes you want to start smoking again as you declare this day the beginning of the end of your life.  You coming out of there feeling good, which to me is what Ramen is all about.

I started my relationship with Mentoku with the mild and pleasant Tinkichi, but its the Yuzu-Kosho that does it for me now.  The hot Yuzu paste delivers an initial punch but settles down nicely into a very pleasant bowl.  The Nori surrounding the bowl adds a nice fishy element as you smell it with each morsel, and the thin cut chashu is the way to go as far the pork belly goes.  I feel that some of the other guys slice them a little too thick.  Another big hit at Mentoku is their simple but incredibly juicy and flavorful fried chicken.

Mentoku will be added to the Survival Guide, while we say goodbye to short-lived Mocu Mocu.  Oh how I hoped the sisters succeed, but was always afraid that Hell’s Kitchen, and in particular that corner of 10th Ave, is simply not ready for this kind of Japanese.

Mentoku Chicken Mentoku Tonkichi

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The Only Three Food Courts You Need to Know About

Gotham West Market - Ivan

Gotham West Market

Pretty much overnight, food courts in NYC went from a concept to “What, another one?  We need another food court like I need a pimple in my tuches”.  Food courts, food halls, semi-annual festivals like Madison Square Eats have become part of us, like bagels, and pizza rats.  It almost seems like a new one opens every week, and one can easily lose track of openings just like with new restaurants these days.  At some point you just stop and ask yourself, how many more Luke Lobsters and Mighty Quinn’s does this city really needs.  Some of them start to look the same, and one of them even invited me for a free tour and tasting.  I get such invites on a weekly basis and its either something I’m not interested in, or in Staten Island.  Ziggy will not be bought.  PERIOD!  Unless you invite me to one of these three.

Chelsea Market

CM is busy, touristy, perhaps the most crowded food hall out there, and I cant get enough of it.  I bike there for lunch more often than some of the places by my work I can walk to.  And, yeah, you guessed it, I dont go there for its history.  The vendor list is incredibly impressive, and for the most part unique to Chelsea Market.  A high quality butcher, An “A” List Taco joint, fresh seafood, top notch gelato, Halvah, and the soon to be best hummus in NYC, Dizengoff, which will open any day now, are just some examples.  Its unlike any market in the world, so comparing it to something like Venice, Barcelona, Mahane Yehuda markets is silly.  Some may even suggest its not much of a market, but a collection of high quality food purveyors, but there’s definitely enough market in it.  In fact one of the things I love about CM is that some of the vendors source their stuff directly from next door.  Cull & Pistol gets their seafood from sister Lobster Place, while Creamline (great turkey burger) gets their meat from Dickson’s Farmstand next door.  If you are a food enthusiast (well. you are reading this blog post) you owe it to yourself to stop by.  But dont do it when you tired or stuffed.  Many tourists just walk the main isle, leave the other door and then ask whats the big deal about this place.  Stay for a little bit, explore, and meet some of the vendors, like Rachel from Seed + Mill.  Tell her Ziggy sent ya.Chelsea Market Los Tacos

Eataly

Yeah, nothing shocking about any of these picks.  Long time readers already know that Ziggy hearts Eataly.  Unlike, say Little Italy, Eataly is super touristy for good reason.  And like Chelsea Market, yes, there’s a good chance that a large Polish man will step on your foot when you least expect.  But do you know who especially likes Eataly, that may come as a surprise?  Italians.  Italians who appreciate quality, and can even find items that are not easily available back home.  Whether we go for a little shopping, Nutella Bar, or have a snack at one of its restaurants, we cant get enough of it.  I usually have a small mental laundry list of stuff that we “need” like Italian craft beer, Venchi chocolates, fresh pasta like the Agnolotti dal Plin, sauces, cookies, and whatever else catches my eye on each visit.  Yes, the stuff is expensive, and I dont shop there on a monthly basis.  But cheaper than this is, well, essentially “Stop and Shop”.  Quality and imports come with a price tag.  Another reason for tourists to come to Eataly is the location.  Your attraction heavy guide book may not tell you that Madison Square Park and its surroundings is a must see, especially during squirrel season.Eataly

Gotham West Market

While I was waiting for my Steak Barbacao bowl at Choza the other day, I bumped into something I dont see very often at GWM… Tourists.  The process of ordering anything at Choza for tourists can be as complicated as our current presidential race, so I was happy to put my Matt Murdock mask on and step in to help.  GWM, simply put, is one of the best things to ever happen in Hell’s Kitchen, and one of its main advantages and what separates it from the pack is that its out of the main tourist route.  Other than the Intrepid nearby I cant think of any reasons why tourists would come here.  Maybe check out our incredible lineup of auto dealerships?  GWM is also a very different food court.  Its compact, with only 8 or so vendors, and it has more of a neighborhood feel than other food courts.  Think of it as one large restaurant with 8 different menus to choose from, where your kids and husbands can run around freely.  You can order something at one vendor and eat it at the counter of the next.  The funky Avroko design of the place may be reason enough to stop by for some, but I personally go for, you know, the food.

Gotham West Market 3

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Gotham West Update

Gotham West Market 2

Latest on Gotham West Market and the next Most Interesting Man in The World….

Gotham West Market Top Eats

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