Archive for the ‘Out of the Kitchen’ Category

A Boom With a View

June 16, 2011

  

Last Friday’s afternoon adventure was a walk on the new addition of the High Line with lunch at The Lot, the food truck endpoint at 30th Street.  As expected, the High Line was gorgeous and cool in an only in New York way.  Snaking between buildings, evidence of old tracks, and all the greenery, exhibits the multi-tiered layers that I love about New York.  Best of all, you don’t notice that you’re walking 15 blocks.

There was less to love about The Lot.  Our plan to have lunch at many of the food trucks was thwarted with Taim and the Taco Truck being out of order.  Only Rickshaw Dumplings had something savory and substantial, and they were mostly sold out.  In the blazing heat, I succumbed to Kelvin Natural Slush Co.’s tiny peach ginger slushie, refreshing, but overpriced.

In our wander back downtown, we stopped at the Boom Boom Room on top of The Standard Hotel.  Since it was largely empty before 6pm, we brazenly took a table with a view, ignoring the “reserved” sign at the sunken banquette.  Facing south and west towards downtown and the Hudson, this view does not get old.  It took my breath away to walk into the spacious high vaulted room surrounded by the open views and anchored by a twisting helix at the bar.  Stunning.

The topper is the bathroom.  Through the hall of mirrors, any of the unlabeled doors lead to an airplane sized bathroom.  Compact, in reflective shiny black, it is walled by windows, so you can make your business with a view, or express how you really feel about this town.

Needless to say, the drinks are terrible, overpriced ($20!), and cloying sweet.  “Snacks” at $7 is a trio of pistachios, beet chips, and surprisingly delicious gin and tonic-like olives.  The Boom Boom Room isn’t for drinking, but looking longingly at the city you love.

Amo Philadelphia

June 9, 2011

When I think of Philadelphia, I don’t really think about Mexican food.  There is Jose Garces’ new Latin cuisine empire – Distrito, Tinto, Chifa – all destination worthy.  But I didn’t expect to find the best tortillas in recent memory at Tortilleria San Roman, in the heart of the Italian Market.  It makes sense since tacquerias are starting to encroach upon the butcher shops, pasta makers, and Italian importers, so why not good basics, different culture?  The modest tortilleria sells only a few things – corn tortillas, homemade chips, sopas, and huaraches – masters of masa.  The tortillas, sold in kilos and 1/2 kilos, are pillow-y soft, nothing like the cardboard tortillas that I’ve come to expect.  Tortilla chips in 1-quart ziploc bags for $1, are crisp and flaky, making me want more.  I’m planning to stock up como loco on the next trip down.

Tortilleria San Roman

951 S. 9th Street

Philadelphia, PA  19147

443-220-7222

Destination: Lunch

June 2, 2011

Every day for the last x years, I’ve brought my lunch to work.  Not just to save money, but because it’s not worth the small fortune to eat the mediocre crap in midtown, not even in my own cafeteria.  My lunches are healthier, I’ve fine tuned them to my taste, for pennies.  But I need to live a little this summer.  So on summer Fridays, I’m going out for lunch.  Not near my office, destination lunches.  Or lunches that are normally to crowded and annoying for dinner.  Or lunches that are great deals.

My first summer Friday lunch plan was to go to Totto Ramen on my way out of town.  I love Yakitori Totto, so their ramen  offshoot must be good.  Located on 52nd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, it’s around the corner from an old, now defunct workplace, but not so conveniently located to me now.  The alley-sized restaurant seemed to be everyone’s favorite lunch place with a half an hour wait, which I did not have with a train to catch.

I ended up at Danji, a few doors down, which I had remembered was reviewed favorably in New York Magazine.  The $14 lunch special made it all the better.  Diminutive and tastefully minimal, the look of the restaurant aptly reflected the modern Korean cuisine – bright and clean.  The lunch special of the day, pulled pork, was served on an immaculate tray, daintily served alongside a bowl of rich brisket soup and two mounds of pickles, each with their own personalities.  The pulled pork itself, laid languishingly on a bed of rice, blanketed in a spicy dynamite-like mayo/cream sauce and a showering of tempura batter bits and scallions, a dreamboat of flavors.  Despite the disappointment of my thwarted plan, Danji more than made up for it.

Spring is here, and summer is near!

April 28, 2011

With the temperature rising, I am declaratively listing what I’m looking forward to:

-more produce at the farmer’s market – move aside potatoes and onions, the greens are coming, starting with ramps, lettuces, and asparagus

-flowers in bloom -walking the streets, every day gets prettier

-no socks – feet, finally liberated from the tyranny of boots

-Summer Fridays – I am counting the weeks until half day Fridays.  Fine dining for lunch, afternoon adventures, found time.

-longer days – it’s light out when I get up, and light out when I leave work

-barbecues – accepting invites

-strawberries, watermelon, peaches, and cherries – there is no other time to eat them

-stoop sales and the Brooklyn Flea outdoors again – I love the discoveries on my Saturday shuffles

With the upside, there inevitably comes a downside:

-crowds everywhere, especially the farmer’s market

-allergies

-the subjugation to other people’s feet and their ill-fitting shoes and band-aids

-working through Summer Fridays

-shorter nights and earlier, brighter mornings

-mosquitos

-unbearable heat and humidity that makes me long for the chill of winter

-it goes by all too quickly

Eat, Pay, Shove, pt. 2 – Bali

April 14, 2011

Vacation in Bali was not for the food, but for the natural and cultural beauty that is quite singular.  Lush, verdant jungle meets manicured rice terrace meets adorned Hindu aesthetics, it is stunning.  The food is not.  I mostly found Balinese/Indonesian food to be muddy in flavors, and in Ubud, where we stayed, compromising to cater to foreign palettes.  A few places stood out:

-Ibu Oka – known for its suckling pig and rice, this locally reknown place is a swarm of Asian tourists.  An extra treat is a plate of crispy pig skin on the side.

-Naughty Nuri’s – another popular destination that has earned its place in the guide books, rightfully so.  Very good, although at times inconsistent ribs; mighty cocktails; and a fantastic nasi goreng (fried rice).

-Nasi Ayam Kedewatan – a very local chicken and rice place, no tourists to speak of, set in a large, high thatched pavillion.  Clean, bright flavors for only $2 a plate.

I also loved the black rice porridge with coconut cream that I had almost every day for breakfast, and sometimes dessert.  Balinese kopi made with roasted brown rice was also a special morning treat.

The fun of going away also lies in what to bring back, to savor and remember, to elongate the trip.  The best:

a jar of Killiney Kopitiam’s coconut jam.  If only I could recreate those eggs, my breakfast would be complete!  The worst:

durian caramels.  I don’t really like durian, but I love caramels, so maybe it would be the best of both worlds?  Instead, the hard caramel sits in my mouth to soften releasing its rot flavor, before I can chew it to release its milky sweetness.  Horrible, it’s like something died in my mouth.  This is how to punish small children and break them of their sweet tooth.  How can paradise be so cruel?

Eat, Pay, Shove – Singapore

April 12, 2011

Not quite a tale of self-discovery and love, only a small trip to Singapore and Bali.  specifically, we went to Singapore to eat, and Bali to, well, be in Bali.  The two places couldn’t be more dissimilar, down to the food.  Singapore’s food is vivid and varied, I felt like I only ate a tip of its enormous foodie iceberg, and it left me wanting more.  Bali was a different story…to be continued in another posting.  For today, here’s my all too brief hit parade in Singapore:

-Newton Circus – Being in Singapore for less than 36 hours, we went to the most well know hawker stand open late on Saturday night, Newton Circus.  We were not disappointed with our veritable pig out trying a variety of dishes at each specialized stand.  #72 had many of our favorites – the popiah, which is like a moo shu, but better, a freshly made thin-skinned roll of sauteed white radish, hard boiled egg, and some crunch bits, plied with a smear of spicy garlic sauce; expertly charred satay served with a vibrant peanut-chili sauce; and rotisserie wings that were stretched and burnished for smoky, juicy flavor.  #73 changed my mind about oyster omelet from a previous fear of slime to a study of crisp and tender delight.  #28 specialized in carrot cake, which is not carrot but white radish, not unlike the cakes on the dim sum cart, but more of a freestyle, yummy, sauteed mess.  An evening well spent after almost two days of airplane food.

-Killiney Kopitiam – A great way to start the day – kopi and kaya toast.  Kopi is coffee with condensed milk.  Kaya toast is what I consider a butter sandwich – toasted white bread is slathered with coconut jam, which is more like the egg-y custard in an egg tart than coconut, sandwiched together holding a pat of not quite melted butter.  A “plate” is served with soft boiled eggs, which are made in some special machine, topped with soy sauce and white pepper.  Delicious.

Chendol – How I found room to entertain dessert on my last night, I’ll attribute to sheer will.  A snowball of shaved ice hides red beans, corn, and grass jelly in coconut milk.  Dark palm sugar syrup tops the ice, as does the mysterious neon green silly string.  As multi-textured as what I’ve come to expect from Singapore.  And I have yet to have roti, rojak and chili crab.  Something to look forward to next time!

The Twinkie

March 17, 2011

I’ve never been a fan of Twinkies, always preferring chocolate covered Ho Hos or Ring Dings to the bland airiness of yellow sponge cake and suet.  That is, until I had Lulu Bakery’s version of the “twinkie”, which I now crave.  The mini loaf of tender yellow cake is injected with a tart passionfruit custard, with a minimal white chocolate glaze, it’s more like an embellished Tastykake than a Twinkie.  And in these cupcake crazed times, a refreshing change to the overloaded frosting heavy monstrosities.

Lulu Cake Boutique

112 Eighth Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets

Chelsea

212-242-5858


Mucho Mac

March 8, 2011

It’s Friday night, I’m walking to the G train from a work event in the outskirts of Greenpoint.  The desolate neighborhood goes from deserted warehouses where no one can hear you scream to single family homes where a few people can hear you scream.  Nary a Korean deli in sight, a sure sign of civilization.  But shining like a beacon (and smelling like bacon) at 10:30pm is the little takeout joint, Brooklyn Mac.

Offering a variety of macaroni and cheese and salads only, it confirms that one only needs the sides for a meal.  Each mac combo is named after a Brooklyn neighborhood incorporating different cheeses and fillings, like the Red Hook, which is bacon and smoked gouda.  I added caramelized onions to create my neighborhood, not on the menu.  Brooklyn Mac steps up the game by baking it all in a pie tin covered in bread crumbs, creating a pleasing ratio of crunchy crust to creamy insides with the increased surface area.  With nowhere to sit, the anticipation of eating my freshly baked macaroni cheese was killing me, the G train couldn’t take me home fast enough.  It lived up to expectation, but the crusted on baked bits stuck to the pan was a bit of a killjoy, I wanted every bite.

Brooklyn Mac

77 Norman Avenue at Manhattan Avenue

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

718-706-9622

G to Nassau

My Top 10 Cookies

February 24, 2011

After investing and analyzing the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, I thought that I’d compile my Top Ten, in appreciation of the fine art of cookie making:

-Ruby et Violette’s chocolate chip with violet – in my mind the masters of chocolate chip cookies.  Small and pricey, witht he perfect butteriness and slightly chewy texture so that no crumb goes to waste.  Available in may variations to the classic including blueberry, mint, and my favorite, violet, a truly unique treat.

-Big Booty Bakery’s peanut butter – big and chewy dotted with chunks of not just chocolate or peanut butter, but peanut butter cups.  It’s a win-win situation of tender cookie enrobing gobs of chocolate and peanut butter in a tasty Mobius strip of flavor.  Until it’s gone.

-Bread Shop oatmeal chocolate chip – whenever my good friend from Boston would visit, I would make her bring these mammoth cookies.  More than my love for chocolate chip cookies, is my love for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Oats add an extra dimension of flavor and texture, balancing the sweetness of the chocolate.

-Baked’s monster cookie – it’s everything that I love – oats, chocolate, M&Ms, and peanut butter – and it is surprisingly flourless.

-City Bakery’s vegan chocolate chip – a little lighter than their ur-chocolate chip,  I’m not sure why I like it more, but I do.

-Billy’s butterscotch gingerbread – almost an inverted chocolate chip with a dark flavorful cookie surrounding lighter butterscotch chips.  So nicely done.

-Bread Alone’s oatmeal butterscotch coconut cookie – a harmony of hearty oatmeal, creamy butterscotch and toothsome coconut.  It almost feels healthy, but it can’t be for how good it tastes.

-Momofuku’s cornflake marshmallow – I almost think of this as a marshmallow treat in cookie form. Instead of rice krispies, there’s cornflakes, which give a better toothy grind.  The cookie batter merely holds it together.

-Amy’s Bread cornmeal lime – not quite cornbread in a cookie, but better.  I do love the cornmeal grittiness.  Lime adds a piquant edge.

-Bouchon’s oatmeal cookie – yes, they’ve elevated the Oreo and the Nutter Butter, but I love the perfection of their oatmeal cookie.  Dense, spiced with cinnamon, and decked out in nuts and cranberries, it’s a crowning acheivement in oatmeal cookies.

*Honorable mention – William Greenberg Jr.’s black and white cookie – I consider a good black and white cookie to be more like cake than a cookie, something that reminds me more of a leftover cake top economically dressed with a fondant.  In most delis, it’s stale and horrible, I have to go all the way up to the Upper East Side for the good ones.

Having read Serious Eats’ chronicles in search of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in New York City, I am inspired and drooling, and want to try all the winners.  Especially since my list doesn’t seem to have the classic.  Maybe that will change.

This Is Art

January 25, 2011

One of my favorite shows last year was the Marina Abramovic retrospective at MOMA.  I fell particularly hard because I usually hate performance art, and she completely won me over.  Given the opportunity to “be” a part of her newest work, a chef and artist collaboration with Creative Time, I jumped.  This newest endeavor is a dessert at Park Avenue Winter called Volcano Flambe, essentially a baked Alaska.

As a participant, not just a diner, you are presented with a wooden box with headphones at the onset of your “dessert”.  Abramovic instructs you to close your eyes, letting your sense of smell take over, breathing in the fumes of torched rum in three counts.  This moment, when you hear Abromovic’s deep and accented voice, is actually the most profound – an intimate interlude in the public space of a restaurant, connected by the anticipation of eating.  When she’s done and your eyes are opened, the dessert itself is a beauty to behold – a burnished cloud of meringue on top of dirt-like chocolate cookie crumbs, haloed by a spun sugar spirogram – Vesuvius in sugar and spice.  As a dessert, it is suitably tasty, but not an artistic challenge to the tastebuds, even with the cold chocolate ice cream surprise inside.  At $20, it’s an expensive dessert, or the high price of being arty.