Posts Tagged With: NYC

Lazy Post – City as Canvas

095Whether you are for or against public graffiti you may still appreciate the City Of Canvas exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.  Martin Wong who died of AIDS in 1999 was an artist and a graffiti pioneer in NYC, the city that defined the whole graffiti movement.  He amassed a huge graffiti collection during the 1970’s and 1980’s which he later donated to the city.  Wong’s works can be found in other museums all over the city including the Met.  After his death the Martin Wong foundation was created to continue his legacy

This is not the only reason to visit the Museum of the City of New York.  Rising Waters, a touchy subject with the Ziggy clan depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Activists New York explores the entire history of activism in New York, among other exhibits on display.

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

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.

photo (4)

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

Brighton Beach For Meshugenahs

Kashkar lagmanPost Sandy Brighton Beach is not only alive and well but kicking some serious foodie tuches these days.  Tuches (pronounced Tooches with a jewish Chhh), if you are scoring at home (or if you are alone) means rear-end in Yiddish.  Its one of a few Yiddish words you need to know when visiting predominantly Russian speaking Brighton Beach.  E.G.  “$3 for this Mondalech?  You can kiss my Tuches”.  Anyway, there’s all sorts of deliciousness waiting your way in good ol’ BB.  And as you will see here only a portion of it is actually Russian.

KalinkaOne can actually argue (me included) that the best food in Brighton Beach is not really Russian at all.  An argument I wouldn’t make with the Dominoes players on the boardwalk or on Ocean Parkway.  But if you must, here’s another word you need to know:  “Gavno”.  As in “Their Strogonoff looked like my Yozhik’s Gavno!”.  In addition to Russian, you can get some tasty Georgian, Turkish, Uzbek, and even Mexican food in Brighton.  BTW, to demonstrate how predominantly Russian this neighborhood is, just hang around in any grocery store and hear Mexican workers argue converse with Russian Babushkas in Russian.  It can be quite hysterical when you witness it for the first time.  Babushka asks a question in Russian, you think OMG this is too funny, but when the answer is in perfect Russian you feel like the joke is on you.

Yes, one can survive without knowing the language here I suppose.  Well not for too long at least.  Dont be surprised if someone approaches you in a restaurant or a store speaking to you in Russian.  But no worries, Ziggy is here to help.  First step to enhance your experience, do it Ruskie style:  Empty a bottle of water, fill it with vodka, and put inside your jacket/bag.  It will be handy later on.  So lets go for a ride, shall we…

Vintage2Vintage Foods – Lets start with my favorite store located on Brighton Beach Ave (Between Brighton 2nd/ Brighton 3rd) .  This is a Mediterranean specialty food store that needs to be explored thoroughly.  You can find not only every nut known to man but every nut known to man covered in some sort of chocolate (ok, a little exaggeration with the last part).  In fact it started as a simple Nut and dried food store but now expanded into something so much more.  You got a plethora of various Russian chocolates – I usually get some sort of mix (rule of thumb:  Anything with a picture of a squirrel or a camel is normally good).  I also get some of the exposed giant dark chocolate bars used for cooking.  I use it for eating!  The Halva is very good, as well Turkish breads, coffee and so much.

Vintage 3 Vintage

Brighton PierogiPierogi Window – Right to the left of Vintage Foods (when looking at it).  This is the national snack.  A large fried dumplings usually filled with savory meat (my favorite), potatoes (possibly with peas), or sauerkraut.  For normally around a buck and half this can be pretty filling and satisfying.  You can wash down the national snack with the national drink, Kvass, a malt beverage that for the most part quite frankly doesnt taste that great.  If you can get your hands on Israeli Black Beer (non alcoholic) sold in various markets/delis, its a much better alternative.

Pierogi window

Oceanview Cafe – Right across the street from Vintage on the corner of Brighton 2nd is this little cafe serving all your classic Russian dishes.  Here you can sample good Borscht, Kharcho (lamb, rice soup I prefer over Borscht), and its a good place in particular for Pelmeni.  If you dont feel like experiencing the scene at Glechik (more on that later) and want more of a quick and relaxed meal, this is a nice alternative.

Glechik - PelmeniA word on Pelmeni:  Essentially the Russian Ravioli.  Mike Tyson’s favorite Russian food as its related to the Italian Orecchiette by name alone.  Both names mean something along the line of “Little Ears”, though the Pelmeni origin isn’t Russian.  Different Pelmeni kinds include chicken, veal, mystery meat, or my favorite the Siberian which is a mix of ground meats like beef, pork, or veal and spices.  Most people enjoy them with sour cream which will be served in some places (otherwise ask).  But my preference is with black pepper and white vinegar which you can askKashkar - Manti for if its not on the table already.  You also have the Pelmeni’s uglier but pretty on the inside cousin, the  Ukranian Varenyky, flatter, may be filled with different stuff as well but for the most part Varenyky referred to the ones stuffed with potatoes (correct me if I’m wrong Varenyky aficionado).  Another cousin is the Manti, aka “Pelmeni Gone Wild” found in the various Uzbek spots in the area.  More on Manti later

Kashkar CafeKashkar Café –  Remember when I talked about Manti 🙄  If I have to pick one place to visit in Brighton, I think this might be it.  This is the place where you get your Uyghur fix ladies and gents.  Closer to Asian food than Russian overall, the flavors here are little bigger and more coplex.  Try the homemade Lagman noodles in the form of a soup or a dish called Geiro (top picture).  Here you can also sample those Manti, and the Uzbek Plov (rice Pilaf), along with some of juiciest and cheapest chicken and lamb kebabs.  Tremendous stuff here folks.  There’s a similar place on Brighton 4th with a Korean twist where the name translates to something along the lines of “Cafe At Your Mother’s-in-Law”.  The name is a big reason why I never set foot there, but I’ve read its pretty good.  I will spare you the historic details of the Korean Uzbek connection.  I recommend this thing called Google.

Georgian Bread Adjaruli

Georgian Bread – Or Tone Café as its now called since it expanded.  Those love boats are just something else, baguettes on crack.  People flock here mostly for the bread, and the patient ones stick around for the Oasis of the Seas, the Adjaruli Khatchapuri, a mammoth boat with Farmer’s Cheese and egg.  This is very shareable of course.  And if you are staying take advantage of some other goodies like the terrific Lobio, a red bean salad, with ground walnut, pomegranate and spices.  This is on Neptune Ave which is a couple of blocks north from the main hub Brighton Beach blvd.  But the mini schlep is a worthy one.

Café Gletchik – A Brighton institution/Pelmeni legend.  Right off the main blvd on Coney Island Ave.  This is where you can have your complete traditional Russian meal in a lively setting.  Wash it down with a Kompot, the Russian fruit punch.  This is where your water bottle can become handy.  Below is an example on the type of meal you can enjoy here (note: Pelmeni, a must here, is already pictured above)…

Herring with potatoes

Herring with potatoes

Borscht

Borscht

Glechik  - Varenyky

Potato Varenyky

Cherry Varenyky

Cherry Varenyky

Homemade Napolean.  Perhaps the best I ever had

Homemade Napolean.  Absolute must!

Schnitzel with Egg

Schnitzel with Egg. More like a big fat chicken cutlet

Brighton lotteryLa Brioche 2Bakery La Brioche Cafe – This is one of the premier dessert spots on Brighton Beach blvd and Brighton 13th.  Last time I brought my baking obsessed sister in law who required to be dragged out of there with police escort.  Things turned a little ugly when she had a Borat Cheese moment where she went down the aisle and asked the clerk what each item was, until the clerk finally gave in and said “This is cheese Ok?, its Cheese!”.  I kid you not!  And there was no cheese there.

Anywhere on the Boardwalk.  Cant get any more people watching than this.  Between good ol’ Tatiana and its neighbors (or is it down to one neighbor now) you have your pick.  And dont forget to buy Russian seeds on the far left corner (Brighton 4th) of the boardwalk.  I’m pretty sure its illegal to walk on the Boardwalk without holding a bag of seeds but I may be wrong.Brighton Boardwalk

So let me ask you now tourists.  Will you come to South Brooklyn next time to eat a hot dog (Nathan’s) as instructed by your guidebook, or visit the neighborhood next door.

Other than food there’s plenty to do and see in Brighton Beach.  You can visit stores like Kalinka (corner of Brighton 4th) for your souvenir needs.  Or check out the latest Babooshka fashion trends on the Boardwalk.  In the warmer months don’t be surprised to see street performers entertaining Russian children, and if you are really lucky, drunk Parakeets cursing in Russian.

Kalinka Matrioshka

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Momofuku Ssäm Bar – Mama Funky!

Ssäm Bar KitchenWhen the going gets tough, the tough turns to his iPhone auto-correct to come up with the title

After surviving 5 full days of this I needed a strong meal.  It was like having unexpected construction at home the past week.  5 full days of the youngest practice walking on the high heel shoes she chose for her big Bat Mitzvah day.  5 days and counting.  And the day is not until February.  I needed something real good, not Hearth which I had scheduled originally but something stronger.  The answer came off a tip from Kathryn from Chowdown about the new Chanterelles dish at Mama Funky.  So instead of the famous Hearth Gnocchi, I got Gnocchi that gave me a Ratatouille Moment like never before

Momofuku Ssam BarSsam Bar is located in the Momofuku quarters of the East Village.  Ok, I may be getting ahead of myself a little here, but that’s the direction we are heading looks like.  Next to Ssam around the corner you got Momofuku’s popular Booker and Dax bar, right across the street you got Momofuku’s Milk Bar, and a block away you have of course Ko, the 2 Michelin Star powerhouse.  David Chang is to East Village what beards are to the Red Sox.  Or something like that.

The place for the most part.. borrowing yet another line from Breaking Bad… Tight, tight, tight.  If you are a group, 3 or more, you not only get a table but you can also take advantage of some of the family style offers like the Bo Ssäm meal (slow cooked pork shoulder, a dozen oysters, white rice, bibb lettuce, ssäm sauce, kimchi and ginger scallion sauce) and the popular whole rotisserie duck.  However, if you are 1, 2 you get the long communal table where you sit across from each other.  No room for camera which I didnt bring anyway.  To my right, a guy who suspects his neighbor is a serial killer.  To my left, a tower of napkins! Sitting with easy access to an unlimited amount of napkins is surprisingly comforting.

Ssam bar - Roasted ChanterellesWith that said, the food is heavenly.  Between the 6 dishes we shared, 4 great ones, 1 ok, 1 eh!  The breakdown…

The Great…

Striped Bass – Raw, with lychee, rye guajillo bonji, and cilantro.  Just enough acidity and very tasty.  Mrs Ziggy will only eat raw if its exceptional and she ate this

Roasted Chanterelles – Excellent! With scattered ‘drops’ of egg yolk and melted bone marrow.  Just a nice combination of flavors all around.  Coudnt get enough of this dish

Ssam Bar DuckRoasted Jurgielewicz duck – Expertly prepared tender duck with barley, butternut squash, and cranberry.  I found myself wanting more sour from the accompanying stuff but a very nice dish overall

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes –  Insane! By far my favorite dish.  And I almost didn’t order it.  When I asked about the dish, the waiter assured us it was “Very Spicy” and “Exactly like the one at Mission Chinese” which I don’t care much for.  But I decided to order it anyway and he couldn’t be more wrong.  Plenty of heat but 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.  A top dish of the year nominee.

The Ok…

Apple Kimchi –  With maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula.  It like eating a well spiced apple.  Its a popular dish and I still recommend ordering it but I just didnt find it as thrilling as the others

The Eh…

Cashew Hozon – Like a cashew “hummus” with some off-putting anchovies.  A regular fresh hummus would have been preferred.

Dessert here is limited so we went to the Milk Bar which we found just ok.  I suggest heading to Chikalicious Dessert Club on East 10th or Sundaes and Cones.  Highly recommend Momofuku Ssam Bar

Momofuku Ssam Bar

207 second avenue (13th street)

Ssam bar - Apple Kimchi Ssam Bar - Spicy Pork Sausage Rice Cakes

Categories: East Village, 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

Betony – From Russian With Love

Betony* Terrible pictures alert, due to a combination of poor lighting and zero photography skills with poor lighting! *

You know that you spend too much time with a couple when the following happens.  You start receiving texts from them intended for each other.  Such is the case with Mr and Mrs Hummus Whisperer.  Examples:

From MRS HW:  “I bought bananas”.  Ahhm, OK?!?

From HW:  “Just picture everyone naked!”.  What?  Oh I see.  The wife is away presenting something in a conference.  Ok, that took me a few minutes

Thankfully, none of the texts were about us or embarrassingly kinky.  Though the last one came close.  The moment I get a “Carlos Danger” type text from HW it will be pretty much over between us.  Pretty much!

A few weeks ago we took Mr and Mrs Hummus whisperer to Betony for HW’s birthday.  Betony is the latest brainchild of Russian entrepreneur Andrey Dellos who previously owned Brasserie Pushkin in the same space.  This time he brings with him 2 Eleven Madison Park veterans.  Bryce Shuman is no stranger to the kitchen and according to his bio, an enemy of cats!  Eamon Rockey is formerly with new Michelin star Aska and EMP, and his bio is not clear where he stands in regards to cats.  Betony is now a tough ticket after recently getting 3 stars from the New York Time.  Many will kill for just one star.  And Betony most likely just missed the Michelin 2014 cut, but there’s always a 2015, I think (I dont have the Mayan calendar next to me at the moment)

I must say I was a bit in awe when we entered Betony.  A mature, sophisticated vibe that quite frankly we are not used to.  But we were comfortable.  Not only we were comfortable but the ladies bags were comfortable.  You know that you are at a high end place where your bag has its own seat.  And I dont mean this.  I’m talking about real furniture.  The menu is designed for you to spend a little, but eat very very well.  They advise you to share the first courses, and to have your own middle and main.  Sorry, not gonna fly with us.  Sharing is for caring! (Yes I’m looking at you Mrs HW) Something I learned a long long time ago.  So imagine our surprise when we ordered just 3 middle courses for the 4 of us, we all get our plates and the birthday boy is the one stuck with a beautiful empty plate.  Overall however, good, knowledgeable service and the food delivered big time

Foie Gras Bonbons wrapped in cashew – Quite good.  Though the salt from the cashews was a little too dominant, this was enjoyable.

Chickpea Panisse – Liked this one a lot.

Fried pickles – Surprisingly a bit greasy but pleasant nonetheless.

Beet amuse – A bit on the salty side surprisingly as well.  So far a bit of a salty start including the salty bread sticks which I didnt care for at all.

Gnocchi with corn – Smokey, super large, very soft and tasty.  A bit too soft for me but still enjoyed this.

Chicken liver mouse – Rich and decadent.

Marinated Sardines – Oh this one was quite good.  Lovely with that tomato “salsa”  Broke a mini streak of stinky sardines

Short Ribs – A revelation!  Best of show.  Tender and full of flavor.  It takes 3 days to make them we were told and HW was please to find out that it doesnt mean we needed to stay there for 3 days.  We were free the next day, but not the day after.

Poached lobster –  Very tasty as well, but very light (to me at least).  Great broth.

We opted to skip dessert on this night.  A fine and enjoyable meal overall.  Hard to say if I will be back partly because I’m allergic to that location, but I would like to sample that chicken and anything else Mr Shuman got up his sleeves.

Betony - Bonbons Betony - Fried veggies Betony - Amuse Betony - Pate Betony - Gnocchi Betony - Sardines Betony - Lobster Betony - short ribs

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

Confessions of a Citibiker

photo (48)On a balmy August Monday, as I sweep ever so dangerously between a sea of cabbies on 8th ave in Midtown, I reach a red light. And within seconds I’m surrounded by 5 other frontal balding middle aged men looking “Heisenberg” tough on those blue Citibikes. We all look at each other with a sense of accomplishment, uber coolness, until we smoothly shift attention to the lowly pedestrians crossing the street. Say my name pedestrians!

Ok, I need to stop watching Breaking Bad. It affects my sex life and now my writing style. But I did join the Citibike program 6 weeks ago with an annual membership. Today, I got notice that the credit card they have on file will soon expire and I spent no time rushing to correct the issue. Which means I cant be without it even for a day. Citibike is the best thing that happened in NYC since the invention of General Tso’s Chicken.

I somehow convinced myself that one reason to join was to lose some weight. I was only about 5-10 pounds overweight, but I figured that if I join, riding the bikes will give me that much needed exercise I lack in my daily routine. Well, I gained 5 pounds since I started. Not 5 pounds of muscle. 5 pounds of glorious white fat. And the reason is fairly simple. The bike takes me to more food and I eat more. Last night I took the bike to Di Palo, a store in Little Italy, and now my fridge is stocked will all sorts of Italian imported Salumi and truffled Pecorino cheese. Last week I met a friend at the Chelsea Market where we shared all kinds of goodies together. I’m discovering all sorts of new 9th ave possibilities that were not very easily reached pre Citibike, and I go there alone since non of my coworkers have memberships. The bikes are a game changer. But with the weight thing and eating more solo, something will have to give. As of now I vote for anti social and weight gain.

Ok, I’m half kidding about the anti social stuff. The truth is I’m actually meeting quite a few people while using the bikes, whether meeting someone at a bar for lunch (no worries Mrs Z its just casual sex. Not true love) or a tourist struggling with the process of getting a bike which is very common for first timers. The other day I helped a German couple take out their bikes and besides the fact that at that moment my breath was sporting a garlicky, peppery mess courtesy of Szchechuan Gourmet where things got mildly uncomfortable, it was pleasant meeting and talking to them. A few days ago I met a Russian stunner student who was having a hard time with one particular station so I walked her to the nearest station.  Although I had to go back to work she really needed some help.

And now to the big confession you’ve been waiting for.  I, Ziggy, am not wearing a helmet!  Why aren’t you wearing a helmet Ziggy?  Good question Timothy.  Here’s why…

1)  I don’t like wearing helmets

2)  Its not like the bikes can go very fast.  There are 3 speeds… slow, slower, and Angela Lansbury.  You can pedal as fast as you can (and look like a dork as a result) and still stop within 2 seconds.

3)  Not that many are wearing helmets.  50% of all bikers out there wearing helmets and less than 25% Citibikers wear them.  The ones that do look like dorks, especially the ones on the Angela Lansbury speed.  The other NYC phenomenon, walkers who text and cross the street while doing so need helmets more.

4)  In order for me to wear a helmet I would pretty much need to carry one at all times.  Take my helmet on the bus, to work, take it to lunch, and take it back home.

5)  The most important reason.  The cool factor.  You cant look cool on those bikes no matter how hard you try.  On my first ride I got yelled by an old lady “Arent you too old to ride on the sidewalk? idiot!”.  That was my grandma.  Sometimes you have no choice but ride on the sidewalk a little bit to avoid traffic.  I already touched on the speed issue and how dorky you look when you pedal like superman in order to go 3 miles per hour.  And then there’s that old 1 hand move trick.  You see a beautiful girl and suddenly you are cruising ever so smoothly with only one hand.  Doesn’t quite work on the Citibike, I tried.  Today I saw someone ride a regular bike with no hands, while texting.  Now he looked cool even with the helmet.

But don’t try that at home kids.  Citibikes like I said is the best thing that ever happened to NYC.  Riding on the west side by the Hudson especially is such a delight.  The inner Ziggy comes out of hibernation, free to explore, and eat more while doing so

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

Malai Marke – Shiva latest + German Draft Beer = Success!

I will make this one short and sweet and spare you the usual nonsense.  East Village is kicking butt lately.  What else is new.  Already perhaps the best foodie neighborhood in NYC which makes it one of the best in North America, things are only getting more and more exciting, and deserving of a run-on sentence.  Its almost like something new pops up in the East Village on a daily basis.

The title refers to Shiva Natarajan, not what you do when your goldfish dies (sit shiva).  Malai Marke is the latest from Natarajan, the king of Indian food in NYC.  Shiva owns more restaurants than I own boxer shorts and briefs combined (note:  I know what you thinking and its really none of your business.  Its between me, my wife and my briefs.  I should have more briefs but mrs Z keeps throwing out all my “air conditioned” ones whenever she packs for vacation).  While Shiva virtually owns Curry Hill including Chote Nawab and about 4 eateries on one block, his presence on “Curry row” is now firmly established with Malai Marke.

I’ve already been to Malai Marke twice now, sampling all sorts of complex deliciousness…

Garlic Naan fresh from the oven as good as it gets.  German draft beer, major bonus.

Kurkuri Bindi – Okra.  Fried and dry which was a surprise. I was expecting a saucy okra but  it was still very good.  Reminded me of one of those spicy Indian nut snacks.

Bindi Sasuralwali – I much preferred this Okra – “okra you would eat at your in-laws house.” as it says on the menu just like in Chote Nawab. If anyone here can introduce me to someone who’s parents can cook like this I might need to reconsider my status. My in-laws don’t even know what Okra is.

Chicken Xacuti – Outstanding!  Had it twice already.  Mild but subtle, with roasted coconut, peanut, and poppy seeds

Lamb Madras – One of the better Madras dishes I’ve had.  Tender lamb and the dish overall was fairly similar to the Xacuti

Tand Mix Grill – Another must for me.  Great chicken tikka, Tandoor, unique lamb kebabs with just enough heat

Lamb Chettinad – So good. Thicker and heavier than the others but in a good way.  Again I expected more heat but was pleasantly surprised with just the right amount.

Chicken Tikka Masala – something I eat often but never in places like these even tho I’m always sure it would be much better. This was no exception.  Creamy and perfectly buttery, tho I sort of liked it more as an occasional bite vs eating it continuously if it makes sense.

Chicken Rizzala – Green nutty korma almost dessert like compared to all the other dishes.  Korma is another dish we eat often at home and this was like eating it for the first time.

As with pretty much any Indian restaurant I would not bother with dessert.  East Village has too many great choices like Chikalicious, Big Gay Ice Cream, Sundaes and Cones

Add another one to your East Village list people.  and excuse the horrific Iphone pictures please

Malai Marke - Tikka masala Malai Marke- Garlic Naan Malai Marke - Chili Chicken Malai Marke - Bindi

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sakagura – Tale From a Crypt

SakaguraTaking a short break from Italy blogging.

You think you know someone.  I’ve known my friends Igor and Natasha since the high school days.  At least I thought I did.  Staring somewhat confused at an office building looking for an entrance to Sakagura, Igor turns to an Asian couple standing near us and asks them where is the entrance.. in Japanese.  “They said its 2 blocks down” “how can it be 2 blocks away if Google Maps tells me we are standing right in front of the building.” I answer.  “And is it my imagination or did you just ask for directions in Japanese in New York City.”

SakaguraTurns out I needed this to be spelled out to me.  Go inside the unassuming office building, go down to the basement and Voila!.. Sakagura, one of the cities most popular Izakayas, aka Sake bar, aka Japanese tapas bar, aka an oasis for Russian middle aged men who somehow picked up some Japanese from coworkers and waited many years to showcase their new found skills to their friends.  A quick sprint to the desk by Igor to inform the confused girl that we are here and we get comfortably settled in a nice booth.  Décor takes me back to the Tokyo underground dining days.  Meaning, the images Ive seen on the Internet

We agreed that I’ll take care of the food ordering while Igor handles the Sake menu.  Both quite challenging but I came prepared. But when Igor started talking Japanese to the Sake Sommelier, the shocked fellow had the kind of expression as if he was just asked if his daughter is 18, twice.  But we somehow managed and before you knew it the food started flowing.  More on Igor later but lets do a quick run down on dishes I (we) liked and disliked.  Other than a few clunkers this was a great meal

Sakagura - DessertLiked:

Gomaae – Spinach with sesame sauce.  Nice and pleasant to start things off.  Aromatic and heavy seasame presence in a good way

Onsen Tamago:  Fantastic soup with soft boiled egg, uni and salmon roe.  I’m not a huge fan of uni but this was quite good, along with the rest of the soup.

Maguro Tartar – Tuna tartar with all sorts of fish roe and caviar.  Best and most expensive ($16) dish of the night

Sakagura - FlukeHirame Ponzu – Buttery, very tasty Fluke Sashimi with this acidy grated radish salad I couldnt get enough of.

Buta Kakuni – Melt in your mouth yummy stewed pork belly.  Perfect fat/meat ratio 

Tori Tsukune – fairly nice but basic Chicken meatballs with terriyaki sauce.  Not all of us enjoyed this one

Chawanmushi – Egg Custard Ponzu soup with chicken and shrimp and something resembling a mini Easter egg

SakaguraGindara Yuan Yaki – Not Yaki at all.  very nice and sweet black cod

Sremeika Yaki – Grilled Japanese squid with garlic sauce.  Was growing on me more and more as I was eating it

Saikoro Steak – diced steak with great sauce.  One of the best dishes of the night

Desserts – we sampled 3.  Very nice coffee jelly, a savory seasonal Mango pudding, but the big winner was the crème Brule with black sesame.  holy smokes that was good

Sakagura - rice ballsDisliked

Sanma Onigiri – rice balls with shiitake, radished and veggies wrapped in whole baked Mackarel.  This had a strong fishy odor and taste.  I’ve had mackerel many times but not quite like this

Snow Crab with steamed rice.  Quite dry and surprisingly fishy as well.  Kept trying it to no avail

Overall a fantastic but pricey meal.  Sakagura (“Saki Storage”) is far from your typical Japanese sushi joint.  Fine service, cool décor, and “cool” clientele that will satisfy the Anthony Weiners and Carlos Dangers of the world.  And as we were leaving…

Mrs Z:  I should probably go to the bathroom before the long drive

Igor:  Its right there on your right.  If you cant find it just ask someone “Toire wa dokoda”.  With a slight and sudden head nod after the last word like in those samurai movies

Me:  But Igor, we are in NYC and they all speak English here.  Why would a white girl… ok never mind.  “Tolet wa dokota” got it.Sakagura - Tuna Tartar

Sakagura - Steak Sakagura - Squid Sakagura - Cod Sakagura - Chicken Sakagura - Soup Sakagura - Spinach

Categories: Midtown East, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aska and You Shall Receive

050There comes a time in life when you have to count your blessings for not being allergic to shellfish.  Otherwise, you quickly find out if you are allergic to cow’s thyroid or a goat’s heart.   Or baby formula!

Aska, is one of those places that you book first and research later.  The immediate “hotness” it got off the bat coincided with “where am I eating on my birthday” to the point where I quickly had to reserve a table for 2 before the critics pour in.  But the more I looked into it, the more I questioned the decision, especially after seeing the announcement that Saturday’s only option is a 10 courser.  Will Mrs Ziggy eat blood sausage, dehydrated scallops, baby formula, cow’s thyroid, anyone’s thyroid?  After taking a quick glance at the menu Aska emailed to me, her response was “Its ok I guess”.  Good enough for me!

This was a memorable meal to say the least.  20 diners at the back of an art studio,  20 servants (including cooks and the man himself Mr Berselius bringing you teh final touches with the explanations), what seemed like 10o people by the bar, Morrissey blasting in the background, and one extremely interesting 10 courser.

Ok, before I start any rumors, there was no baby formula on this night nor any night as far as I know.  But it did cross my mind while we were eating our apple sauce and milk

Started off with some delicious bread, crispy hard bread with whipped NY butter. 039

Molasses shortbread, trout roe and cheese was interesting.  Seemed more like an Amuse than one of the courses

Hay, milk, tomatoes, parsnip, and milk salad.  Clearly the best Hay, tomatoes, parsnip and milk salad I ever had.  Seriously this was good.  I couldn’t help comparing to the amazing Jungsik salad from the night before but this was inventive and satisfying.  Great tasting veggies040

Parsnip with brown butter and more whipped butter thank you. Delicious!  The closest I get to eating parsnip normally is the leftovers from  the veggies my wife throws out right after finishing making her chicken and bean bullion.  So best Parsnip I ever had goes without saying.  Berselius really does a great job bringing all those veggies to life.043

Pheasant with sunchoke, liver. Sort of a Pheasant extravaganza with both the dark and white meat (much preferred the dark), and the liver which integrated nicely with the broth of the cooked sunchoke.  Sunchoke itself had a nice crispy texture045

Blood pudding with seabuckthorn, lardo, dill and anchovies.  Pretty to look at without much substance, like Paris Hilton.  Didnt care much for this one046048

Oats, tiny bits of bone marrow, Shad roe, egg yolk (pictured on top).   Just like mama makes!  All worked together beautifully.  one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Pork and beets.  A very tasty piece of fatty pork belly and the beets were another example of the great taste Berselius brings out of veggies. Beets is something I never order and the only time I eat them is with an occasional red Borscht, but this was simply delicious.051

Whelk – Snails of the sea.  Dont believe I ever had them.  Although it was very interesting and you could really sort of taste the sea here, it wasn’t one of our favorites.  But loved the dehydrated scallop “chips” that cam along054055

Beef, Burnt potatoes.  60 days aged served rare and very tasty.  Potatoes were smoky and fantastic.  Add sweet onion – Great dish.058

Egg yolk.  Not a fave of this one.  Looked more promising than its tasted.  Sort of sticky, gummy and not much flavor063

Apple sauce, oats, cream, baby formula.  Awesome!  Ok, so there was no baby formula here but as we were discussing with our neighbors it wouldn’t be a total shock to see and Berselius could probably pull it off066

Dessert – Some sort of sick ice cream with hazelnuts and other goodies.  A great finish.067

So there you have it.  Dinner was a 4 hour marathon with a lot of big breaks between the dishes.  It was mostly a local crowd with the exception perhaps of one particular couple that looked like Michelin inspectors.  It was fun seeing the boys (all but one) casually Williamsburg dressed do their thing.  Would I come back?  Probably not but still a very enjoyable, memorable meal and perhaps the closest I will ever get to Noma, considered by many the world’s top restaurant in Copenhagen.

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

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