Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Back to Alder

I've missed my regular rotation at Alder (hadn't been in 2 months), but we were back last night for a quick bite and a drink or two before my wife headed off to see a show with a friend of ours.  So 4 of the 5 plates we shared were new to me.

The new-to-me fall/winter cocktails are very nice. "Dock Ellis" (we all remember him, right?) showcases applejack, while the "Burnt Reynolds" is a bit of a riff on the 1794, with rye, smoked vermouth and Campari. Tasty, those.

And the new plates?  Really, really good.  I think the French Onion Soup Rings have been on the menu for a while, but I hadn't had them before, and they were well worth the wait; the gravy and perfect frying technique elevates these rings way above standard "pub" food.  Same can be said about the Jalapeño Poppers, though I'd guess the uni cream cheese stuffing and trout roe also add to the equation.

Shrimps on Shrimps was a nice, light break from those two items; sweet Maine shrimp green papaya salad, with a good jolt of heat, served on top of a shrimp cracker, beats the pants off the stuff served at your local Thai joint. Or even a good Thai joint.

I was a bit worried about Scotch Quail Eggs, because I'm not a big Scotch egg fan.  But I shouldn't have been, as these are perfectly bite-sized, and maybe that's the problem with Scotch chicken eggs - they're practically a meal, whereas these just make you want to have another. 

PIABs are still alive and well, and still good.  

We didn't get around to the duck breast or hangar steak or new foie iteration, and it was mentioned to me that a bunch of new menu items are in the works, so I plan on getting Alder back in my regular rotation soon.  And I know it's a busy week, but they were slammed last night at 7; there wasn't a seat to be had, and we were lucky enough to ensconce ourselves opposite the bar, standing room only.

COMP DISCLOSURE:  A dish from the kitchen, and some drinks.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shoulder Fix

Having a little shoulder surgery to repair my biceps today.

Back soon...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Donostia - Barcelona on Avenue B

Though it may not be 100% ready for prime time, according to Eater Donostia is: Status: Certified Open.

By sheer coincidence (seriously), we happened to find ourselves sitting at the bar just after 6 PM tonight.  And though there may have been technical glitches in getting the food out of the tiny kitchen, the concept, the warmth of service and the tastes on the plate mean we'll be giving this place a bunch of visits in the near future.

Modeled after the great Quimet y Quimet in Barcelona, most everything that is served food-wise starts out in a can or a jar (which are for sale) or is preserved in one way, shape or form. It's presented, perhaps on a slice of bread (montadito) or on a pick (banderilla). There are bocadillos; there are tortillas; there is ham; there is cheese...the menu is long and deep - we barely made a dent.  What we ate, we mostly liked (though the hand-sliced ham needs a sharper knife and...a better hand) and I would prefer some stuff more room-temperature-y as opposed to fridge cold, but that's probably a DOH thing.

There's a quite nice sherry list. Delicious cocktails made with sherry.  A nice vermouth list. Cocktails made with vermouth. Cocktails made with vermouth and sherry.  There are sidras (ok, ciders) including a super tart, crisp one on draught - from Michigan, no less.  A number of beers.  I didn't read deeply into the wine list, though it also had plenty of choices. You won't run out of things to drink or eat here, that's for sure.

The room, directly across Avenue B from Thompkins Square Park, is long and narrow, and by narrow I mean it's about as wide as the 4th floor walk-up railroad flat apartment Sig Eater and I shared for years, but they've made good use of the space. There are tiny two-tops along one wall opposite the bar, and as you walk towards the back, there's a little semi-private alcove with a dining table that holds 6 (or 8, if they're all models).  And a few more tables in the back, opposite the kitchen.

Give it a week or two, then give it a try - they're even open for breakfast at 7:30 in the AM - and evidently have a local guy from the neighborhood as their barista.  I have a weakness for this type of food and a weakness for sherry and vermouth, too. Donostia  Kafetegia y Merkatua fits the bill and is a nice addition to Alphabet City's dining and drinking options.

Donostia - 155 Avenue B (9th & 10th)

Monday, November 25, 2013

To Fung Tu, Thanks For A Fine First Meal

Significant Eater and I were battling through jet lag over the weekend...I mean, going to sleep at 9 P.M. and waking at 4 A.M. is fairly annoying, no?  And our meal times were a bit screwed up as well, but it apparently worked to our advantage Saturday night because I remembered reading that Fung Tu had just opened (ahead of schedule! right around the corner!) a few nights prior. So, after a quick Negroni at home, we bolted out the door and arrived as the 2nd paying customers of the night at tiny little Fung Tu, on the next-to-lowest block of Orchard St.

Fung Tu bills its food as "creative Chinese-American" (oy) and it's a venture between partners Wilson Tang (of Nom Wah fame - one of our favorite dim sum parlors, btw), Jonathan Wu (Per Se), John Wells (Mas Farmhouse) and Jason Wagner (L'Atelier, plus stuff in Chicago).  I think the chefs are Jon and John, because I believe we were being served our wine/cocktails by Jason, but with all these names, I'm a bit confused (remember, jet lag).

Walking in the door we were greeted by a darling hostess, who took our coats and asked us where we wanted to sit - that's one of the plusses of going out to eat early.  Sig Eater and I often like to sit at the bar, but after taking one look at the bar stools, we chose a banquette instead - that's not to say the stools are uncomfortable, because I'm sure they're fine if you're in your twenties and wear a size zero...I'm not and I don't.  But the place is adorable (and I gotta say the seating at the table was very comfortable)...
We ordered cocktails to start, which considering we (okay, me) told them exactly how I wanted them, came out great (I imagine I'm pretty annoying to some of these restaurant peeps, but I'm always really nice about it).  The menu is divided into - well - you know, snacks, small plates (hot & cold), large plates, sides and sweets, and we started by ordering a couple of "snacks"...
At the top is "Smoked & Fried Dates Stuffed with Duck," and these were delicioso.  Four to an order, perfectly fried and filled with shredded duck, what could be bad?  Below is another fine combo, "Peanuts, Dill, and Chinese Beef Jerky" which actually tastes a lot better than it sounds, and is perfect cocktail food.  Of course there are those who will argue about Chinese beef "jerky" - a well-known friend of mine claims it's not really jerky and I sorta believe him - but it's good, and it's sourced locally, so...

For our first courses, we enjoyed the "Smoked Chicken and Cilantro Salad with Masa Scallion Pancake and Cashews," almost pictured here (note to self: the cheap camera doesn't work as well as I thought it might)...
I really liked the use of cilantro in this, as well as the tofu strips - and the chicken was perfectly moist, a big plus in my book.  Our other starter was the "Jian Bing Crepe Rolls Stuffed with Braised Beef, Pickled Cucumbers and Watercress."  Unexpectedly, as I'm sorta used to soft, gummy crepes in Chinatown (and love them), this was crispy on the outside, easily cut into portions, and the pickled cucumbers add a great jolt of flavor.

We paired a couple of glasses of wine with our food - I had a Koehler Ruprecht Riesling (I think Rieslings go great with pan-ish, Asian-ish, fusion-ish, Chinese-ish food) and Sig Eater had a fine Close des Trielles "Chenin Méchant," which also went well with our food choices. There are well over a dozen wines by the glass offered, none of which duplicate what's offered by the bottle.  There are a couple of sherries, a couple of sakes, and 6 or 7 beers on the nicely put together (OK - curated) list.  The by the bottle list is short (I count 22 bottles), and if you're looking for an eminently drinkable $30 a bottle of wine, stop - you won't find one here, as the lowest-priced white is $44...still reasonable, in my opinion.

For a main course, Sig Eater and I decided to go healthy, and instead of the dumpling knots (she wanted) or the fried pork chops (I wanted) we chose the "Whole Steamed Fish with Fennel, Tangerine Peel, Chili, and Fermented Black Beans (FOR TWO)."
Another local product, this delicious, super-fresh fish was a sea bream caught off Long Island, and since we're trying to avoid bad fish (hello farmed shrimp & salmon), perfect for us.  And perfect it was - partially boned, juicy and moist - we ate it right down to its eyeball sockets. A side of rice and a side of sauteed greens, smothered in umami, completed this course.

And since we couldn't leave without having dessert, the "Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ganache Sesame Balls" were just right - almost like a Chinese-American Reeses' Cup - they hit the spot of bitter sweetness we were looking for.

So - what will a meal like this run you? This isn't Nom Wah.  And this isn't Chinatown, Jake - it's the lower east side, where the likes of Skal and Fat Radish are right across the street or around the corner.  Our bill - which included 3 glasses of wine and 2 cocktails was $155 before tip - not cheap, but really right in the wheelhouse for any place serving food like this.  The service was exemplary too.  And we'll be back for sure - those fried pork chops are so calling my name.

Fung Tu - 22 Orchard Street, NYC

Friday, November 8, 2013

That's a Bunch of Baloney

Well, Bologna. La Dotta - The Learned One.  La Grassa - The Fat One.  La Rossa - The Red One.  A few of the many nicknames earned by this city.

A city that is known for the oldest existing university in the world. Its socialist leaning politics.  Its food.  Its towers.  And on and on.

And it's where Significant Eater and I are headed.  Tonight. I hope to be blogging a bit from Italy.  Last time we went was my pre-blog era.  But I still managed to take a few pictures.

 Arriverderci, amici!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Louro - Invite Your Foodie Friends and Watch Them Be Amazed

Foodies.  Jesus, isn't that the most annoying word - what the hell is a foodie, anyway?

Oh wait, I know - someone who waits on a godforsaken 2-hour line for cronuts?

How about a 2-hour line for ramen burgers?  Or even, you know, a 2-hour line for ramen? Which, of course, will happen once Ivan Orkin-ramen opens his ramen-ya on Clinton St. (which I thought was supposed to open like a year ago? Must be the long lines at all those permit places...)  Anyhoo...so where am I going with all this? Oh yeah, foodies.

Last week I joined a group of friends for a delicious dinner at Louro, a cute little restaurant deep in the heart of Greenwich Village...
David Santos is the Executive Chef of Louro, and on Monday nights David and Louro offer a supper club called Nossa Mesa, which is Portugese for "our table." It's a prix fixe multi-course dinner and it's BYO; literally one of the great bargains in dining this city has to offer.

Take last Monday night, for example...
Yes foodies, a wild game dinner; perhaps not as exotic as a ramen-burger or a cronut, but probably went a little bit better with the stuff we were drinking.

Dinner started, after we'd all indulged in home-made Negronis, with an amuse of a lightly pickled oyster topped with a bit of venison tartare, not a combo I'd had before, but one which I'd gladly have again.  I loved the texture the oyster took on from the pickling (and it went nicely with the Asturian cider I'd brought)...
The oysters were followed by rillettes of wild pheasant, which could make me reconsider my craving for duck rillettes.  Next up was wild duck ham & eggs, the duck ham served with a perfectly cooked duck egg, sweet potatoes, red eye gravy and confit.

Moving along, partridge was the next course, the rare breast accompanied by a romesco sauce and barely cooked (the way I like them) shrimp...
It's easy to overcook game birds like this, and it's easy to overcook shrimp (god knows I've had plenty of those), so it's worth pointing out that the technique here is excellent.  A hare course followed, with hoppity turned into a deeply rich ragu, served with wild mushrooms atop a creamy bed of polenta.

Our final savory course was wild Scottish grouse, a truly gamey-tasting bird, served blood-rare in a bit of its own jus, along with oats, jicama and blackberries which had been soaked in mezcal to pick up a smoky flavor, nicely complementing the grouse...
Dessert was charred figs with cardamom cream and butter pecan crumble; not too sweet, and really a good way to end this meal.

Our table of six had brought along a bottle of Negronis, a couple of bottles of cider, 5 or 6 bottles of wine, and a lot of healthy appetites.  A few of us are or were in the food biz; a few just really enjoy good dining. I think I can speak for everyone by saying that this is one that this is one of the great values in dining in NYC.  

So get with it all you foodies - Pickle Day is over (yeah, it was yesterday) and you don't know what you're missing.  And, there's no line.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fish Soup

Fish soup isn't something I make on a regular basis. But because my really excellent fishing adventure just after Labor Day gifted me with about 5 lbs. of gorgeous striped bass (vacuum sealed and in the freezer), and because Significant Eater (for some reason?) decided that she wanted fish soup, out came the 4 quart saucepan the other night.

Oh yeah, I've made different variations of fish soup before.  Once, I made an outstanding Cioppino, even making a fish/crab stock for the base; the house smelled like fish for about a week after that.  I've made clam chowder - both cream and tomato based.  I've even made Bouillabaisse, and boy is that ever a lot of work...just spelling it is a pain in the ass.

Anyway, this fish soup was gonna be easy - I only wanted to use stuff I had in the pantry and or fridge.

Fish Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 whole red bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery (and leaves, if you have them), chopped
1 lb. potatoes, cut into 2" chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. pimenton - bittersweet or hot, your call
1/8 tsp. saffron, toasted lightly

1 pound striped bass (you can sub other white, meaty fish), cut into chunks

1/2 cup white wine
1 28 oz. can tomatoes (seeded), otherwise use all
1 cup chicken stock or canned broth
1 cup water

parsley, minced (use stems with thyme and bay leaf to make bouquet garni)
Salt and pepper

Sweat the first 5 ingredients.

Bring stock to simmer and add saffron to infuse.  Oh yeah, if you don't have saffron, don't worry  - do you have any Old Bay?

When vegetables are translucent, add pimenton and stir. Add wine and cook it off. Add tomatoes, broth, water, bouquet garni, salt and pepper.  Bring to simmer; let simmer for 30 minutes. Season it to taste.

Add fish - cook till done - maybe 5 minutes, maybe 8 or 10. Remember, it's going to keep cooking after you turn off the heat, so better to undercook slightly. Remove bouquet garni, add parsley, stir, TASTE and serve.

Monday, October 14, 2013

North - Working the Nordic Food Festival

The first week of October, sponsors Honest Cooking, Restaurant AquavitThe International Culinary Center (nee The French Culinary Institute) and the Norwegian Seafood Council, along with a number of outstanding NYC Scandinavian restaurants, hosted the first ever North, a Nordic Food Festival.

North brought together outstanding chefs and purveyors from NYC, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. There were lunches, dinners, classes and more; good times were had by all.

And me? Well, I simply volunteered, via Honest Cooking, both to work with the chefs preparing and serving the opening Gala Dinner for 80 people at ICC, and a few days later helping out at a number of classes.

It felt great that it only took a week for me to get the feeling back in my hands, back and feet, after a day that started at Restaurant Aquavit on the morning of the Gala.  Marcus Jernmark is the Executive Chef of Aquavit; he ran the show for the Gala Dinner - and man, is he ever good. Also at Aquavit that morning were Gustav Trӓgårdh, head chef at Sjömagasinet in Göteborg, Sweden, and Frode Selvaag, head chef at Landahuset, in the Ryfylke region of Norway. Frode happens to be a spokesperson for the Norwegian seafood industry, and that group brought along some great salmon and white halibut to showcase at various lunches, dinners and classes.

After getting the grand tour of Aquavit, Frode, Gustav and I ended up together in the fish kitchen. Watching real pros butcher fish is a treat. My job was a little more pedestrian - I  got to shuck a few Maine diver scallops...
Okay, 250 diver scallops, and now you know what I meant by getting the feeling back in my hands.  Check out the little anchovy-like fish in the bottom left of that picture - that's what the scallops were having for dinner, so you just know they're going to taste good.

We worked at Aquavit for about 4 hours, and then packed up and headed down to the ICC for dinner prep.  Dinner was a collaborative affair, some chefs working together on a course, others alone - and it was 8 courses long.  As I mentioned above, the chef for this event, the big Kahuna, was Marcus Jernmark, who ran the kitchen like clockwork.  As the former executive chef for the Swedish Consulate here in NYC, his experience at feeding large groups of people multi-course menus runs deep. Here's Marcus, letting everyone know what's up...
Snacks, to go along with cocktail hour, were Preserved Summer Vegetables, and they were prepared by Frederik Berselius, who had literally just earned his first Michelin star at Williamsburg's Aska, and Esben Holmboe Bang, of Oslo, Norway's Restaurant Maeemo, which has 2 Michelin stars - oh - there were a lot of Michelin stars floating around in the kitchen that night, and it was a privilege to be in their company.

The first seated course was Gravlax, Cured Salmon with Dill, Seaweed, Cucumber and Micro Fennel, and what a winner. Prepared by Gunnar Karl Gíslason, of Reykjavik, Iceland's DILL Restaurant, here's what plating for 80 looks like...
The finished dish looks pretty scrumptious, no?...
My mistake was in not asking Gunnar for some of that "soil" strewn across the top of the dish (or maybe the recipe for the whole dish, Gunnar?).  This was followed by Acme Chef Mads Refslund's Fermented Fall, Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables, a melange of, well, fermented and raw seasonal fruits and vegetables and (I sliced the chestnuts for this dish)...
Marcus and Gustav collaborated on the next dish, and here's the setup for that...
Norwegian King Crab with Parsnips and Dill Flower.  Plated, it looked like this...
The tapioca pearls and charred leek bring a nice, earthy dimension to the sweet crab meat...pretty damn delicious.  Frode was up next, serving...
Lightly Smoked Norwegian Salmon, with Cauliflower, Dill and Cucumber.  This was the dish that Frode was prepping while I worked alongside him shucking those fucking scallops.  First, beautiful, whole salmon are butchered into filets and brined for a short period of time. Then cold-smoked. Finally, before service, the salmon is briefly roasted till barely cooked...it's quivering. There's cauliflower puree. Roasted cauliflower florets. There's cucumber and dill oil. There's soil. There's raw stuff. There are about 10 components to the dish and 10 steps to finishing it; suffice to say, it was super. 

Carl Kristian Frederiksen, of NYC's Aamanns-Copenhagen, showcased the Castello produced Unika cheeses from Denmark. Carl paired an awesome dill flavored cheese, called Troldhede Krondild, with Honey, Pickled Elderberries and Rye, for one of the best cheese plates I've ever had.

Spelt Licorice, Licorice Ice Cream with Sourdough Chips was the first of the 2 sweet courses, and the brainchild of Sasu Laukkonen, of Restaurant Chef et Sommelier in Helsinki, Finland.

The final dessert course was from NYC's Mast Brothers Chocolate; Chef Vesa Parviaine's Chocolate Petite Four, Chocolate, Rye and Pickled Blueberries was just sweet and tart and earthy enough to let you know that you had just experienced a unique meal...
Of course I'm a little biased about all this food and its deliciousness, but that'll happen when  you have the pleasure of working with some really nice people and some great chefs.  Also - it was that good...and I learned a ton.

Kalle Bergman, the founder of the international online culinary magazine Honest Cooking and Marcus Jernmark, partner and Executive Chef at Aquavit, were the driving forces behind this NYC first - a week-long food festival dedicated to Nordic cuisine. They, along with their staffs and every other chef, teacher, partner and volunteer who gave their time to make this event a success, should be proud.

Me - well, Significant Eater and I are looking forward to some upcoming meals at the restaurants here in NY that I mentioned above.  And we've always wanted to vacation in Scandinavia; after tasting these chefs' dishes, I don't know where I'd want to go first.

Oh - as for next year's North festival - I've already ordered the oyster gloves. You know - just in case I get the scallops again.

And thanks to photographer Signe Birck, I was able to sneak myself into this photo of all the great chefs mentioned above...I'm the nebbishy guy with the glasses, btw...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Marcella Hazan - RIP

If you're a cook, there are probably any number of people who helped shape your cooking chops.   There's family, of course - grandmother, mother, father, etc. And there are probably some TV personalities too; I always loved watching Julia, Jacques, Pierre, Graham, Jeff, James, Yan, etc. Nowadays, god forbid, it's Rachael and Guy, but that's another complaint and another post, and if they're shaping your cooking chops, maybe you should be, I dunno, drinking?

And then there are the cookbooks and their authors.  When I started cooking (I mean, other than helping my mother bake cakes and making scrambled eggs and stuff when I was 7), I took some cooking classes and I taught myself by buying and reading cook books.  One of the first, if not the first Italian cookbook that I bought, read and studied was The Classic Italian Cook Book. Released in 1973, I read it cover to cover, many times over.  I still turn to it, for inspiration, guidance and just because it's a great read.  I mean, look at these lines from the preface:
Nothing significant exists under Italy's sun that is not touched by art.  Its food is twice blessed because it is the product of two arts, the art of cooking and the art of eating.  The art of cooking produces the dishes, but it is the art of eating that transforms them into a meal.
Marcella Hazan passed away this morning at the age of 90 (and if that's not an endorsement for the art of eating well, I don't know what is), and the world of cooking has lost one of its greats.

RIP Marcella.  And thanks for all the lessons you taught me...

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons...or Tomatoes and Corn

You know that old saying: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade...?" Anyone who knows me knows that that is pretty much the life philosophy I follow on a daily basis...I never let anything aggravate me because really, what's the point? Complain - you'll never hear a complaint from me. Bitch and moan? You've got the wrong guy.

OK - now that that's out of the way, back to lemons and lemonade.  Or in this case...
Yep - tomatoes and corn, because that's what I found when I rode up to the green market on Friday morning.  The green market is great this time of year...there's still plenty of summer's bounty (see above) and the fall fruits and vegetables are showing up.  The same guy with those weird looking tomatoes also had this...
This farmer is all about trying to grow vegetables (in Roscoe, NY) similar to those grown around Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. More power to him.  Spigarelli is a cultivar of broccoli rabe - the leaves excellent braised with garlic and red pepper flakes.

And what about the corn and tomatoes?  Simple -  I scraped the corn off the cob and sautéed it in some olive oil and garlic, cut up a few heirloom cherry/grape tomatoes, and then tossed the whole lot with orzo pasta and a few handfuls of freshly grated parmesan...
It wasn't lemonade, but as Significant Eater declared: "This is delicious!"

Orzo with Tomatoes and Corn

1/2 lb. orzo pasta
1/2 lb. great cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 ears corn, corn scraped off
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T ev olive oil
2 T chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
S & P

Bring salted water to a boil. Cook orzo. At the same time, gently heat the garlic in the olive oil in a frying pan.  Throw corn in as orzo approaches doneness, then drain orzo (by now you know to save at least a cup of pasta water, right?) and throw orzo into the pan along with tomatoes and parsley.  Turn off heat and start adding cheese and a bit of pasta water and tossing. Taste for doneness and seasoning. Keep going till it tastes right and the pasta is barely al dente.  Serves 2 hungry peeps.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dimes on Division, NYC - A Nice, New, Neighborhood Spot

It goes something like this, the scene at an L.A. restaurant on the boulevard...

Waiter: "What will you be having, sir?"
Alvy (looking sorta askance at the menu): "I'll have the alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast."

I'm sure you know that's from one of Woody Allen's finest movies, Annie Hall, and if you've never seen it, just...oy. C'mon - it won 4 Oscars including best picture, best director and best actress. See it sometime.

Where does that bring me?  Oh  yeah, Dimes, a cute brand-spanking-new little place that hovers at the triangle formed where Division meets Canal - the lower, lower east side - aka Chinatown. There's the requisite semi-legal bus stop, a newly opened tattoo parlor right next door (the neighborhood's happening like crazy right now) and also some scaffolding - why not...
That's Daredevil Tattoo under the Lipton Eyecare sign, and I hope they keep that sign for old time's sake. Dime's tiny (like 18 seats tiny) storefront is a little further up Division, at 143...
Back to Woody, Annie Hall, and that L.A. California scene. When I first looked at Dimes' menu, I thought of the alfalfa sprouts/mashed yeast line, as stuff like herbed barley, spiced quinoa, chia seeds, acai bowls and wilted kale all appear. I said to Significant Eater as we decided at our tiny two-top: this place could be on Potrero Hill in San Francisco just as comfortably as it sits on Division...which is fine by me.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I dug a little deeper into the menu - there's bacon and sausage to be found, and breakfast is served all day. The breakfast sandwich the guy at the next table had looked good - and in my future - but today we were having lunch. Sig Eater wanted the chilled noodles with that wilted kale plus eggplant, mango, chili, basil and for a supplement of $2, a hard-boiled egg...
It hit the spot, and $2 for that perfectly cooked egg is ok by me. Both the bowls and The Big Salad are available vegetarian like, or you can pick a protein to add to your what-starts-out-as-vegetarian bowl and make it even better. Another protein (yes, it's a menu category) available yesterday was house-pickled salmon, with cucumber and a green-grape jalapeño relish.  It actually rocked...
I paired the salmon with one of their two tartines; an almost-a-puree of spicy beet spread atop some good toasted bread and topped with slices of that perfect hard boiled egg, dill and microgreens. Calling Annie!
To drink, a cayenne lemonade, good for the sinuses I kept telling myself...it was spicy hot but it could've been a little lemony-er and a little sweeter too. Much better was Sig Eater's perfect cold-brew, made from Cafe Integral's tasty Nicaraguan beans.  A brown-sugar cube (demerara, of course) at the bottom and you're having a coffee old-fashioned.

I love this place. It's practically across the street.  Can't wait to go back to try that breakfast sandwich, and they have a lunch set priced at $12.50 - pick a protein and two of their 3 daily vegetable offerings. Friday they were doing a brisk take-out biz, and Saturday they were packed when we walked by going to and from NY Noodletown - hey, a guy's gotta have his roast pork too, you know.

Go?  I don't think there's a need to rush because I'm sure they're gonna be here for a long time.  For us, on the lower, lower east side, Dimes is just what the neighborhood ordered.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Day After Atonement

Yom Kippur was yesterday.  Started at sundown Friday and over at sundown Saturday. And now today, in prep for Sukkot which starts in about 4 days, the lulav and ethrog sellers are out in force at the junction of Canal/Essex/E Broadway, formerly the ethrog center of NYC...
I like it because it's like a mad bazaar.  And I like it because it so showcases the old and the new, or to quote a famous comic, the battle of the ancient cultures...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Labor Day's Ovah

The end of summer (aka Labor Day) can mean different things to different people.  As a kid, I hated it because it meant school was starting.  And even though I'm not a fan of the heat of summer, I was always less of a fan of the start of school.  You pick your poison, you know?

To the people on Cape Cod, I think Labor Day means the end of tourist season. Or so they hope; because as the local woman of a certain age who came into the Chatham Pier Fish Market muttered when she saw the line to grab lunch : "Labor Day's Ovah.  I'm goin' home to watch the Sox - gimme a pound 'o haddock!"

She got her haddock, and we got our lobster rolls and clam chowder...
Which, having just arrived in Chatham, were just what we wanted.  The chowder was superb, full of big meaty clams and the lobster roll was loaded with beautifully cooked lobster - though they should change the roll they use and stop with the lettuce and so much celery already.

Oh, yeah - Chatham.  We were lucky enough to be invited up to Beth and Jack's, which is right up the block from the pier;  Jack's a relative of a relative of a relative of mine (OK - Sig Eater's niece's husband's dad), and he and Beth are wonderful hosts who love to entertain in their small home...
These days Jack might be out on the water aboard his 28-footer looking for fish...
Because he's a licensed captain starting a little business, called Roil Blue Charters, and if you're ever in the mood to catch some stripers, this gentleman knows just where to find 'em. When the five of us headed out (3 for pleasure and Jack and me for fishing), I don't know if Significant Eater was particularly thrilled...
Though she hung in like a trooper.  It was only a little rough heading through the cut to the Atlantic, but once out it was smooth as glass. My first catch was a dogfish shark, released because they're evidently a pain in the ass to prep, even though they're good eating.  I mean, Alder serves it in their fish and chips, and they're abundant as this boat unloading them at Chatham Pier proves...
Next I caught a blue, which many people don't like for eating. What do they know? As Cap'n. Jack knows, if you bleed it and ice it immediately and then grill it - it's delicious. Finally, when the tide was right, it was on to the stripers. It can be a little bloody...
But there really is no feeling like hooking your first striped bass. And after we caught a few, including 3 keepers, we just had to show 'em off.  It's why you go fishing, no?
Well, that...and the eating.  Nothing quite like striped bass fillets, simply pan fried, delicate and meaty at the same time.  Or collar, salted and grilled.

The ride back in past a marker...
With these guys (when they're not keeping an eye out for great whites) looking for a handout...
And these guys, because once you've caught a fish...
Jack and Beth want to make this an annual event.  With Shivery and Swayze and Sig Eater and me.  And others.  Who am I to argue?  Even if we don't catch any fish, it'll be a great time.  And there's always the Lazy Lobster, Chatham's best breakfast and lunch joint.  Try the house-made corned beef hash...
And if there's a line to get in (there will be), please step aside and get out of the way - after all, Labor Day's Ovah.

Roil Blue Charters Web Site

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Elm. By Paul Liebrandt. Brooklyn, New York

It might've been fun if I'd been able to title this blog post "Nightmare on Elm Street."  But then again, since it's been almost two months since The Elm opened, that would've already been used.  And even though it's sometimes hard to come up with titles to blog posts, it's not true.  What is true is that The Elm is damn good - even to someone like me, who often finds food as art kinda hard to digest. 

First, have a look at the titles of a few of the blogs I read regularly:

The Elm Grows in Brooklyn  - Insatiable Critic

An Elm Grows in Brooklyn  - at the Sign of The Pink Pig

An Elm Grows in Brooklyn - NY Observer

See what I mean?  But back to The Elm, Paul Liebrandt's new restaurant in the King & Grove Hotel.  As mentioned above, it's been open less than 2 months. And in a couple of meals there, I've seen and tasted a good chunk of the menu, and even though it is art on a plate, I liked it just fine.

Last week, Significant Eater and I started with a pre-dinner drink at the bar, and her Charred Lime Mojito, made with 8-year Barbancourt, hit the spot on a really hot night.  Moving to our table, we shared our "first course" (because who really knows what a course is these day? - the menu is divided into Raw, Sea, Land and Share - so you tell me), which was Kanpachi "Jamon," the fish cured for 24 hours, and served mixed in with watermelon and heirloom tomatoes...
Oh, the bread they serve is delicious too...
And they were perfectly happy to refill with a second serving.  On to our appetizer course, Sig Eater had the Gnudi, a perfectly seared scallop served in a pool of tom yum broth, with tiny little gnudi floating around. Wow...
I had to have the Swiss Chard Agnolotti, because the first time I had it, by the time the plate was passed to me there was nothing left.  Of course, it's not just agnolotti, but a sweet corn broth laced with lobster and shisito peppers...
They grate some 5-year old (i.e. pretty intense) cheese over this dish at table, and I still can't figure out if it adds or detracts from the lobster, but I'd eat it again in a second. 

Our mains were next up, and Sig Eater didn't love her lamb dish - lamb neck can tend to be pretty fatty, and this was. The charred eggplant served alongside literally tastes like it came right out of a fire, so if you like baba ghanoush to the 10th power, please order this dish.  My slow-roasted duck with pickled plum, on the other hand, is something I'd order every time (and I have no idea what I did to this pic)...
There's usually a time during the meal when the picture taking stops.  Either it's too much of a distraction because you just want to eat, the old man might've had a little too much wine, the food's not worth it, etc.  So while we loved our cheese and dessert courses (especially the roasted peach ice cream), there are no pictures to post.  A quick shot of the mignardises was necessary if only because of their simple plating after all that art...
Liebrandt's a highly regarded chef in this city, and deservedly so. The Elm is serving, at reasonable prices, some of the best French-influenced food around, and is easily one of the top 2 or 3 restaurants to open this year. There is plenty of consternation on food boards and blogs alike as to whether PL will be in the kitchen for long, as there are other projects in the works.  There's also the question of pricing and whether it will remain this friendly for long. So there are plenty of reasons to try it - and soon.

Oh - one of the best food bloggers/photographers around was there the night we were; taking pix, schmoozing a bit with chef, getting stuff that I don't think was on the menu, etc.  Take a look at his drool- worthy shots - I do all the time...