Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wu's Wonton King

Wu's Wonton King stands where Wing Shoon once was (East Broadway and Rutgers streets). Before Wing Shoon, there was Wing Shing. Before that, the Garden Cafeteria.

We went back (Significant Eater was hoping for the ghost of Trotsky) to Wu's Wonton King for lunch yesterday; what we had was pretty tasty.  Good enough roast meats; by now I've tried the roast pig, the roast pork, the duck and the soy sauce chicken.  The surprise was a bowl of what they call "Bone Soup Noodle," in their "Special Noodle" category.  It's a different prep of broth, made with actual bones (beef, pork, and chicken) allegedly (per our nice waiter) cooked for a long time, as opposed to the 95% salt and MSG broth used in their "HK Style Noodle Soup." And the noodles are quite ramen-y, so they have a nice bite to them (though they will let you select another style of noodle). The soup is cloudy (once again, think ramen) and extremely tasty, without being overly salty.

A giant platter of gai lan ($11, with about 6 cloves of minced garlic) was properly cooked - and evenly sliced, so we didn't have to wrestle with long spears of this almost-bitter-enough vegetable.

Nice to have them in the neighborhood, and there is plenty more to try on the menu, including dishes like Rack of Lamb (at $21!) and the ubiquitous Butt G So White (at $29), which I might have to try just to figure out what the hell it is.

Oh - for those who wonder (and for those who take pictures) - the inside of the place is bright - think dining on the surface of the sun, and you've got the right idea.

Wu's Wonton King - 165 EAST BROADWAY, NYC

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Acme Smoked Fish...Beep Beep

Remember Wile E. Coyote? Constantly trying to outwit (and perhaps dine on) the poor Roadrunner. Mr. Coyote used all sorts of tricks in his quest, all to no avail. But at least he shopped at the right place...
Wile E. Coyote - thanks to Boomerang
Yes...Acme. But his Acme is probably not this one, the one and only Acme Smoked Fish Corporation, of Brooklyn, New York...
Acme Smoked Fish from the outside
If you ever find yourself at this intersection, in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, on a Friday morning only...
Keep your eyes open for this chalkboard...
Acme's Chalkboard
Now, once you've found the door - step inside this massive, refrigerated warehouse, purveyor of smoked fish and other assorted goodies. Yes, they supply much of the smoked fish to various retail outlets around town - and around the world. Look at the happy shoppers (they actually are happy, I think)...
Happy (?) shoppers
I'm happy when I see piles of this stuff...
Piles of smoked salmon
I ended up coming home with 3 kinds of smoked salmon, belly lox, whitefish, sable, herring, and other assorted goodies. It's a fun Friday outing, easy enough to get to via subway.  And even easier by car, with lots of parking. But don't worry if you can't get there on a Friday morning. I'm pretty sure they're ready to ship...
Acme shipping department
Acme Smoked Fish Corporation

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Steak on the Lake...or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation

This is a public service announcement...Vegetarians and vegans - turn away! I'm gonna be talking (mostly) about beef; in this particular instance - steak.

On Labor Day weekend, Significant Eater and I were lucky enough to spend time at our friends' home, on a beautiful lake, somewhere in the Adirondacks. And when he (a cook) and I (a cook) were discussing some of what we might indulge ourselves (and the wives) with over the weekend, steak popped to the top of our list.  As an aside, I'm always looking for a great steak, to be cooked at home or a friends' home; one of the reasons for that is that if you go out in NYC for a great steak, you can expect to spend a small fortune. Peter Luger's, a place many people think of when they think steak, fails to show prices on their online menu. Spark's Steak House, perhaps as well-know for its steaks as for its murders...
Paul C. problem outside Sparks - NY Daily News 
No prices. The Palm? No go. Suffice to say that if you plan on indulging in a beautiful steak, at one of the well-known steakhouses, plan on at least $50 per diner, just for your meat. But let's look at another way to enjoy a great steak.

First, procure your beef. Make sure it's at least of "choice" quality, though prime and various aged cuts are easy enough to find these days. Make sure it's good and thick (maybe 2"?) and nicely marbled.  It can be a rib steak, a rib eye, a T-bone, a Porterhouse, a strip, whatever you like the most - after all, you're cooking the damn thing. Then...
Build yourself a freakin' hot fire on one side of your grill (ok, I realize many of you don't have grills. I don't. Use your imagination and pretend you do). Let the grill heat up once that flame dies down and you've spread the coals out. Scrupulously clean the grill. Be careful - it's hot! Place giant steaks over the fire for a minute or two. Turn them and cook for another minute or two. Turn them again - once they get a nice char, move them to the other side of the grill (yeah, I know - it's called indirect grilling). Cover that sucker and cook the steaks till they're done. (I don't know how you like your steaks cooked. I do know a good meat thermometer will help  - cook them until they're about 7° - 10°F less than what you want to finish with, as they'll continue cooking while they rest.) They may look like this...
Steaks - Done! Negroni in background.
Now, enjoy your Negroni (or Martini, or Manhattan) while those steaks rest. A good 15 minutes for these Porterhouses was how long we let them rest. Then...
Porterhouses sliced up real nice.
Slice them up. Everyone gets some strip and some filet. The bones are pretty great to gnaw on also. Leftovers?  That's simple...
Steak salad.
Steak salads for lunch the next day are a nice treat, no?

But don't think all we did was cook steaks. No - one evening we were enlisted to do a clam "boil" for about 2 dozen folks. Bushes of clams, corn, potatoes, kielbasa, and shrimp - all simply boiled in salty lake water. And then dumped onto tables covered with newspaper...
Clam boil.
That was fun. And my buddy's smoker got a workout too...
Smoker in action.
Ribs and duck in smoker.
There was plenty of time to relax. Sunset cocktails on the lake. Star gazing at night without any city lights nearby is pretty great. There's this view of their house as you approach via boat - the only access...
Lake house.
Everyone has dogs, and they like the boat rides too...
Pepper and Otis.
And at the end of the day...

Not a bad way to spend a long, summer weekend, right? Thanks, J & J!

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Clafoutis Season - What Are You Waiting For?

Clafoutis is a French, fruit-filled (dark cherries are classic) dessert, sorta like a cross between a baked pancake and a flan. I was first exposed to clafoutis while learning how to "professionally" cook, at Peter Kump's NY Cooking School, way up on E. 92nd St. When I say "way up," I'm not kidding. The school was in an old brownstone, and to get to class you first had to climb a few flights of steep, rickety stairs; once up the stairs, a whole new world awaited. That world included, among many other revelations, clafoutis.

Fast forward a few, ummmm, decades - and I'm reading one of my favorite food writer/Francophile's web site, and whaddya know? David Lebovitz is writing about clafoutis!  David gave up the restaurant grind years ago (after many years in the kitchens of Chez Panisse), and has since published a number of fine cookbooks, including 2 favorites of mine, The Perfect Scoop (really one of the great ice cream books ever) and My Paris Kitchen. And - as the title of his most recent book states, he lives in Paris full-time.

The timing of the clafoutis piece was perfect; I had a few pounds of beautifully ripe NY cherries in my fridge, and was wondering what to do with them. Weirdly, I can't eat raw cherries like I used to when I lived and worked in Silicon Valley, California. Back then, I would race out of work at lunch time during cherry season, to buy a few pounds of the best Bings I'd ever tasted, from C. J. Olsen's cherry stand, in Sunnyvale. Now, I eat a few at a time, and I'm happy. Or, I cook them.

I wanted to follow David's recipe exactly, and indeed I did, other than adding a pinch of salt to the batter. But I didn't want to turn on my regular oven (it is the middle of summer), so instead I used my Cuisinart Combi oven - and because of its size limitations, I made two separate clafoutis, which meant I could experiment a little. First one was in an enameled, cast-iron gratin dish...
Pitted cherries
Then, you pour the batter over...
Ready for baking
 And bake, per David's recipe, at 375°F, till done...
Clafoutis #1, with spoonful gone
This was quite good, but I wanted to try a slightly lower temp, in a different type of dish, so...
Pitted cherries in cazuela
With batter...
Ready for baking
And baked, per my adjustment to a slightly lower 350°F...
Clafoutis #2
We actually liked the second one a little more; I found it a touch more tender without the browning that occurred at the higher oven temp. But both were delicious.

Now, cherry season doesn't last forever. Actually, it's really short, especially using local stuff. But I think the clafoutis would work just fine with frozen cherries. And other fruits? Well, I did find some apricots in the market last week, and they worked out just fine!
Apricot clafoutis
A great thing about clafoutis is that it can be served warm, room temp, or even out of the fridge - you can even make it the day before! Thanks, David!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Go To Goto - Bar Goto, That Is

Ahhh, July. Summer vacation. I always looked forward to July with great joy; it meant school was coming to a close (I kinda didn't like school), and that the next two months would be all about enjoying summer vacation with my friends. Of course, now that I'm older and allegedly wiser, there are many months I like much more than July and August - you know, it's not the heat, it's the humidity. Whatever. All I know is that I haven't posted in over a month - I guess I was reliving those great old summer vacation days. And then, all of a sudden, it hit me - I'd been to a half-dozen or so new places, or at least places we hadn't been before, and hadn't muttered a word. Time to get back to school. work. okay - blogging.

Let's start with drinking. A few nights ago, Significant Eater and I, along with a couple of friends, were some of the first (post f&f) customers at Kenta Goto's brand new Bar Goto, in the Eldridge Street heights (okay, upper Eldridge - you know, the block between Houston and Stanton streets). Kenta and his hired hands have transformed a space that was formerly a restaurant, into a serene, lovely drinking spot. With some tasty bar food as well. Have a look at the interior, in a shot provided by Bar Goto...
Bar Goto (provided by Bar Goto)
I originally met Kenta when he working at NYC's Pegu Club (he was the first bartender to ever make me a Jasmine), where his zen-like approach to bartending, and his perfect rapport with customers, assured him of always having an audience. Now, like many others who mastered their trade behind Pegu's stick, he's an owner himself.

I don't want to say that we drank a lot. But, we drank a lot. Why? Well, because there was so much to try...
Bar Goto's Cocktail Menu
One of the things I like about Kenta's drinks are that they are not as "spiritous" as many cocktails can be. Of course, there are those who think the only reason to drink a cocktail is for the ethanol, and that's what makes the world go 'round. But take the Sakura Martini, which is a sake-based Martini, enhanced slightly by the funk of Maraschino liqueur. A great drink, smooth as silk, garnished with a dried Japanese cherry blossom...
Sakura Martini
You can have more than one of these - and still be walking. As I mentioned, there's food; Japanese snacky stuff, to help soak up some of the booze. We tried the excellent house-cured pickles with yuzu pepper paste, and 2 of the 5 varieties of okonomi yaki on offer; I particularly liked the Fisherman's, filled with rock shrimp, squid, and octopus, while Significant Eater and friends enjoyed the Herbivore even more. I'm far from an expert on Japanese food, and even less of an okonomi yaki one, but these seemed to be a great match for the cocktails on offer.

As the night's final drink, I figured I'd try something totally out of my wheelhouse - the Improved Shochu Cocktail, a blend of barley shochu, aged gin, and hop liqueur; in other words, it's a shochu cocktail that's been improved! Quite tasty, if I recall correctly...
Improved Shochu Cocktail
What if you're not a fan of these mostly clear-spirited drinks? What if you like bourbon? Rye? Scotch? Well, have no fear - the bartenders here will mix you anything you desire, and mix it well. Or you can have a Kanpai! - a shot and a beer. Because as Kenta and other great bartenders learned a long time ago, the customer gets what the customer wants. I'm already planning our return trip; there are more cocktails to try, more food to sample. And the graciousness of one on New York City's newest hosts to make sure your evening is a great one.

Bar Goto - 245 Eldridge Street, NYC
(212) 475-4411

P.S. - I have a feeling we were comped a drink or two, but who the hell remembers?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Salad Days - Watermelon's Better Than You Thought, Especially With Feta

I remember, back when I was a kid growing up, me and grammy and grampy would sit out on the back porch, grampy having just harvested a big, old 30 pound watermelon. We'd just sit there, them in their rockers, me on the steps, with the sweet juice running down our chins, seeing who could send those pits the farthest, while meanwhile the hogs would gather round, cuz they really loved the rinds and any fruit we might share with 'em.

OK - not really. Grandma and Papa were in a 4th-floor walkup, off Gun Hill Road, in the Bronx. And watermelon was a real treat, if there was any at all (I don't remember any). More likely, it was helzel, or if we were lucky, chicken feet. And Grandma could make a mean potato latke.

And now, it's summer once more, my season of complaining a lot - and cooking as little as possible. So yesterday, when my local grocery store had cut watermelon on sale for a mere 49 cents a pound, I bought a big wedge. Normally, I just bring it home, and keep it in the fridge - it's a good dessert for Sig Eater and me, when we pretend we're trying to be healthy.   

But I wanted to make dinner, and without "cooking," that can be a challenge. Looking around the fridge, in addition to the watermelon, I noticed I had some organic parsley and cucumbers. Some feta. And on the counter some reasonably nice tomatoes. Bingo - salad time...
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Because the watermelon and tomatoes are so nice and juicy, the dressing can be kept to a minimum. A drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and some fine Spanish dry Oloroso vinegar from Despaña, and we were good to go. Well, we did need something crunchy...
Za'atar Pita Crisps
So I cut a pita bread in half, cut the halves into triangles, brushed them with that olive oil, sprinkled them with za'atar and salt, and baked them in my toaster oven for about 7 minutes. Not a bad dinner, with (almost) no cooking.

Watermelon, Feta, Tomato, Cucumber and Parsley Salad 

All the above ingredients, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar.

Make a salad out of them.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Provincetown - The "Outer" Cape and Wellfleet Too

There's an old Woody Allen line, from his stand-up days, which goes something like this:  "I'm a little fair-skinned. When I go to the beach, I don't tan - I stroke." Which pretty much describes how I feel about a day at the beach, or just in the sun.

So, you ask, what the hell am I doing up on the Cape, (excuse me - the outer Cape) in Provincetown, in June? Fortunately, the weather was what some might consider miserable - cold, windy, damp, drizzly - in other words, perfect for me! 

And last year, Rebecca and Sean (hmmm - let's see - Rebecca is Sig Eater's niece, which means she's my niece too. Sean is her husband which means he's our nephew, right?) took their 5 or so years of Brooklyn food experience up to Provincetown, and bore this child (their parents are very proud)...
Pop + Dutch is a general store/sandwich shop, in what used to be, ummmm, a general store and sandwich shop (I think). Lots of sweat labor went into making the place as lovely as it is now. Of course I'm biased, but we tried at least 6 different sandwiches and 2 salads, and I only wish I could get a sandwich as fresh and tasty down here in my neighborhood. Anything that can be prepared in-house is. They roast the beef; the turkey; the chicken for their chicken salad and mighty club sandwich (though it's called a "505" instead of a "212" - when you go in, they'll explain). They bake muffins and biscuits. They bake pies and cookies. They go through dozens of eggs for breakfast sandwiches and egg salad. And if you're a cooking geek, you should know that this gets a big work out...
In addition to the seriously delicious prepared foods, Pop + Dutch carries a bunch of unique grocery products. Duke's mayonnaise. Zapp's potato chips. Mr. Q Cumber soda - which happens to mix very nicely with gin, thank you. Mallo Cups and Whatchamacallits. Wiffle Bats and Balls. Milk, eggs, and fresh produce, too. This year, they are hooking up directly with some farmers, like a CSA kinda thing. Basically, everything you need for a day, week or month in Provincetown. And no bagels!

Go? Of course - it's in the "west end" of Provincetown, a bit away from the insane tourist part of the strip -   you'll be glad you stopped by.

Of course, heading up to Provincetown to visit the mishpucha didn't preclude us from various other endeavors. And since we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, it meant we actually got to spend some time with the kin. During the season, P+D is open daily, and they have no time for anything or anyone. But pre-season, they were closed on Tuesday, and with early-ish closing times on Sunday and Monday, we were able to sample some of Ptown's (and Wellfleet's) finest. 

Our first stop, on the drive up, was at Mac's Seafood On The Pier, in Wellfleet...
Mac's Lunch
The fried scallops, clam chowder and lobster rolls hit the spot after a 6-hour car ride, though I think there's a bit too much mayo in the lobster and oy vey with the lettuce on my lobster roll.

Checking in at the Red Inn, here's the view we enjoyed, right from our gorgeous room, for the next 3 days...
Provincetown Bay
We enjoyed that view and relaxed for a while, while our erstwhile hosts closed up shop. Since their apartment is literally across the street from the Red Inn, we met there for cocktails - gin and Mr. Q Cumbers all around! Looking for a nice, local, relaxed dinner, Rebecca and Sean suggested Devons Food Bar, and we were soon ensconced at the bar, enjoying some nice wines and beers by the glass, bar snacks and a small plates-y dinner. But not just any bar snacks - salt cod fritters, excellent linguica with figs, a fine littleneck clam ceviche, and my favorite - the crispy fried pig ear strips - oh yeah. Then my small-plate main really knocked me out; a butterflied quail, buttermilk basted and deep fried - one of the best versions of this dish I've had in a while.  Everyone else enjoyed their mains as well, though i have no idea what anyone else had. Oh - before we left their apartment, I was able to snap a quick shot...
Pop + Dutch People Sean and Rebecca
The next morning we awoke to a bit of a chill and breeze. But no matter what, Sig Eater was getting in her deck time...
Hanging on the Deck
It got a little sunny and Monday turned out to be perfect for checking out some of the other stuff Ptown is known for: you know - the Cape light, landscape, beaches, wildlife - all that stuff I can take or leave. (It happened to be quite beautiful)...
Race Point Lighthouse
Nature - AKA A Fox
One of the beaches. It's all beaches.
After all that outside stuff for Significant Eater and me, Sean drove us down to Wellfleet for dinner - lobsters - at PJ's Family Restaurant. It's...well...a family restaurant, so buy your beer next door at the gas station, or bring it from home. Bring a flask, too, if you feel like it. Sig Eater went for the clambake, including a pound of steamers...
Clambake Dinner
Bigger lobster
While I opted for the simple 2-pounder, since I've never been a huge steamer fan. Stan, my dear old dad, loved steamers - me, I never really got a taste for those sort of slimy, sort of sandy, sort of like swallowing a mouthful of funky beachwater piss clams. That said, my lobster was perfectly cooked. Thomas Keller can butter poach all the lobster he wants; me - gimme a few people who've been cooking lobster all their lives to prep mine, and I know it'll be okay...juicy, sweet, briny, luscious and messy. As it was. Early lobster-dinner means you get to head back into Ptown in time for a few drinks. And while a few drinks can be had most anywhere in Ptown, for a real, honest-to-goodness cocktail (both my on-menu and off-menu drinks were great), head to the Nor' East Beer Garden, right smack dab in the middle of the action on Commercial St. Oh - one little thing - don't go if it's raining. There's no roof on the place, and they evidently are only open "weather permitting." Fortunately, it was "permitting" the night we went.

Tuesday morning we woke to a slightly different view...
Provincetown Bay Low Tide
Tide's out - which evidently happens 2x a day - but even I remember that from my science class in 5th grade or so. That big, tall thing in the background is called Pilgrim Monument Provincetown Museum.  It's on a a hill. It's like 250 feet up after you get up the hill. You can climb to the top via stairs and ramps. Even on a day when the winds were about 50 mph up there, we did - though I'm still trying to figure out why. Other than the view, I guess...
Provincetown Harbor
There's a fantastic museum at the base of the monument. Both worth an hour or two of your time. So we spent an hour or two of our time there, did a little more sightseeing and ended up back at the Inn for a nice, lazy afternoon looking at the water...
It also gave us time to get ready for the fanciest dinner of our trip, a 7-course tasting menu at Ceraldi, in Wellfleet. Chef Michael Ceraldi's restaurant is basically his ode to the Cape and its ingredients (including, of course, some locally foraged stuff) in the same sorta way that Sean Brock's is to low-country cuisine and its ingredients. It's good. It's raison d'être is good. Chef does his plating right in the middle of the big, comfortable U-shaped bar...
Chef Plates Oyster
We started off with a single smoked Wellfleet oyster, and moved into a fabulous escarole soup with tiny meatballs. Wild milkweed tempura came next, and we were off and running. Lobster and scallop sauced Michael's fine gnocchi, and the halibut course, accompanied by wild rice and local greens, showed a great hand with fish - and that's what a Cape Cod cook should have. Dessert was a textbook perfect panna cotta finished with honey-roasted nuts and rhubarb syrup.  There are some excellent wines to be had by the glass or bottle. If I remember correctly, there are 2 possible pairings, but we chose some stuff on our own. That 7-course meal - $70 (before wine, tip, etc.).

In my mind, chef's time at places like Metamorfosi in Rome, Felidia and Del Posto in NYC, and, most importantly, in his mom's kitchen that he grew up in, really serves him well...bringing those experiences to develop his own philosophy and using excellent ingredients and letting them shine. Nice job.

When we got back to the Red Inn, we spent an hour or so enjoying the night time sights from our room...
Provincetown Night
Heading back out of town the next morning, on our way back to the big city, our final stop was at -  you guessed it - Pop + Dutch. After all, we wanted two more sandwiches for the ride home - and the iced coffee was great too!

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