A few MORE notable eats in NYC

Back at it again- working in New York City and exploring various eats and cheap eats this grand city has to offer. For those of you that don’t know about Grubstreet’s ‘Absolute Best of New York’ Reviews- well go look at it. It’s awesome and they list at least 5 recommendations for almost every food group from fried chicken to BBQ to steakhouses. Great to pull up on the smart phone when you are out and about and need a few hours to kill and you know exactly what food you are craving.

Here were my cravings this past week:

Andy’s Deli– few locations

What sounded as a fun and great New York Deli turned out to be a slight disappointment. Nothing super exciting but cheap Boar’s Head brand deli meat sandwiches with the works on a big roll. I guess I was expecting too much. But in their defense- it was exactly what was advertised- a bargain stuffed sandwich.

 

Jin Ramen-462 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 (Upper Westside)

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I was recommended this place last time I was in town and, sadly, ran out of time to go pay a visit. When I finished work early the first night back in the city on the upper west, you bet your bottom dollar I fled over to this place to sample. Jin Ramen, which occupies a few locations in the city, is a little more upscale for a noodle bar. The one on the upper west has a bar and cozy tavern feel when you walk in. Since I was alone, I opted for a seat at the bar to chat with the bartender and look at all the various high end Japanese whiskeys. Although I had every intent to commit to a HUGE bowl of noodles in a rich bone broth, the bartender actually recommended I try the house fried gyozas and a rice bowl with soy braised brisket, mixed mushrooms and tofu. With a light Japanese lager, it really hit the spot. Fresh ingredients and flavors, incredibly outgoing and passionate staff and affordable. I really liked this place and can’t wait to go back and actually try the ramen!

 

Lavain Bakery- 167 West 74th Street (Upper westside)

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Arguably rated New York City’s best chocolate chip cookies. Well, the cookies are of the chewy and soft variety and they are buttery, rich bombs! One cookie could probably have enough calories as one needs in a day. Other notable varieties are ‘chocolate walnut’, ‘double chocolate’, ‘oatmeal raison’ and ‘chocolate peanut butter’. Who doesn’t love a cookie that contains a stick of butter per cookie??

 

Hometown Barbecue – 454 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (Redhook)

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While doing research and ogling over all the barbecue videos and books in preparation for an upcoming project, I decided I had to make the trek out to Redhook to try the top rated BBQ brisket (according to Grubstreet) in New York City.

What an awesome joint.. Although I haven’t [yet] been to very many Barbecue joints, I can say that this place is capturing the simplicity of a typical southern joint with perhaps a Brooklyn flair. There was a little line (which I suspected) which wasn’t as bad as I thought that moved very quick up to the counter where brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs and turkey were cut to order and served on a good ol’ metal tray lined with paper with some sides and a big ol’ hunk of cornbread dipped in honey butter. I was in heaven..

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Now Barbecue is the kind of thing that traditionally is eaten at lunch time rather than dinner. Although there are plenty places that serve late night barbecue, it was always an early in the day kind of fare. For a couple reasons: a) The food is rich and heavy. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to burn off that fatty brisket and pulled pork after lunch by walking it off or returning to work than I am after dinner and them tucking into bed. b) The origins of Southern Barbecue originated during the turn of the 19th century when German and Czech immigrants would sell various meats for other migrant workers. Smoking the meat was the best way to preserve it and utilize the tougher, less desirable and naturally less expensive cuts like the brisket and these joints were open during typical early day market hours.

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Back to Hometown- the brisket and pork were amazing. Beautiful smokey and tender flavors and texture. I did have a significant amount of time to kill so I literally camped out here for 2 hours while writing, checking emails, and taking alternating mouthfuls of smoked meat, cornbread and coleslaw.

The guy at the counter apologized for the line being so long. He better get used to it and look forward it to being a lot longer because I have a feeling this place is finally getting all the attention it deserves.

In fact, Brooklyn Barbecue is getting as much attention (if not a tad more) than the southern styles of barbecue. While I won’t attempt to write about that controversial and senstive topic, check out the this latest article in ‘Munchies’ covering it. 

 

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery-198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)

On the last day before I had to book over to the Bronx, I new I wanted something quick, cheap and tasty. So I thought I’d hit up this recommended banh mi joint over on Grand Street while catching up with a dear friend. It’s a no frills little place that is impeccably clean with very friendly staff. Walking in, it’s a bakery with a jewelry counter to the left side. I didn’t have a need for jewelry today so I made a b-line straight for the counter with a tower of bread. When I asked the guy at the counter which banh mi sandwich I should try from their list of about 20, he looked at me and pointed at the ‘BBQ pork banh mi’. Good man….he knows me. Although it sounded delicious, I opted for the classic- Ham, pate, carrot slaw and roasted pork on a warm and toasty french bread. For $5, I was delighted with my choice and could have easily bought another for the ride back home, even if it got stale and bread crumbs ended up in every corner of my car.

The banh mi sandwich is perhaps what the club sandwich was in the 90’s. It appears on a lot of bar and sandwich menus and has various versions and creative components. At it’s classic best, its a toasted baguette, ham, smooth liver pate, carrot and cucumber ‘slaw’, and loads of cilantro. The French influence on the Vietnamese around the 1950’s led to this great collaboration of ingredients and, like I said, has managed to really create a buzz today with foodies and chefs.

Until next time….

 

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

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Over breakfast this morning, Veronica and I were discussing eggs and how it’s funny that some people are SO particular about how their eggs cooked, or rather how they perceive them to be perfect. There’s scrambled, sunny side up, over easy, poached, hard boiled, soft boiled and if you are more particular- over medium, sunny side up but with the yolks cooked through, well done, whites only, fried in butter, olive oil or coconut oil.. I’m sure the list goes on..

 

 

My first dish I ever learned, age 7, was what I called ‘egg in toast’ but what is more commonly referred to as ‘egg in a basket’. Toast with a hole cut out with my favorite collector’s cartoon jam jar and then an egg fried in the middle.  Since then one could say that I have a soft spot for eggs, as a breakfast choice, their countless culinary applications and addition to any meal, savory or sweet.

I’m always experimenting with new egg dish ideas.

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So.. how do most people like their eggs cooked?? And better yet, what might that tell you of a person? Might it describe their personality as average, adventurous, creative, annoying, inconsiderate or even optimistic?

I laughed when we talked about the bit from Julia Roberts 1999 classic ‘Runaway Bride’ where Julia’s character never could decide how she liked her eggs cooked when asked so she just went along with whatever the man who she was with ordered. Sunny side up, over easy, poached, whites only..

Honestly, I’m a straight scrambled or over medium kind of guy. I like the egg yolk to be runny but not so much that it is as thin as water and gets lost all over the plate with the disastrous chance of not having the proper vehicle to mop it up. Based on those particulars, I rate my egg personality to be particular and somewhat judgmental. Whenever I’m at ‘ye ol’ greasy spoon diner’, I now rest my culinary ego at the door and don’t expect more than over easy style eggs on this request but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by the cook’s delivery or default. When I’m at home, I geek out to perfecting the eggs to just as I like them.

Look, I get the demands of a breakfast place- catering to a bunch of early morning, often hung over, hangry and otherwise particular customers that want their breakfast their way and in a quick manner. Well, when most breakfast establishments are working with a large cook surface with varying degrees of heat, multiple egg, pancake, omelette, french toast, crispy bacon, and eggs Benedict orders, it’s just a little hard to keep track of Susan’s request for over medium eggs on table 54. Give them a break!! If you don’t like it, cook eggs for yourself at home or better yet, open up your own breakfast joint and see how fast it takes for your mind to get ‘scrambled’ during a typical weekend breakfast shift. I love and respect a good old fashioned neighborhood diner and am 9 out of 10 times pretty darn happy and grateful for what I get.

As for me and scrambled eggs, well this is a whole different beast. I recall reading and watching a few bits with Gordon Ramsey (that British celebrity chef with a temper) saying how he judges his new cooks on how well they can make scrambled eggs. But I feel he is more critical on if they produce the eggs to his liking rather than their views.

Again, I like mine fluffy and buttery but I know some who like them more well done or even a little brown on the edges. Sorry, not sorry, Gordon..

As for omelettes, well that is a whole different ball game….

For more resources on eggs, cookery, and fun recipes, check out the –Serious Eats Guide to Eggs-

Throwback Fish Friday

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‘This is our town, this is Friday night
Dressed in our rags and our rage and our best
Piercing eyes looking for something – anything, anyone.
Stare across the floor as they begin to dance….’

The lyrics from that New Model Army song run through my head as I recall fond memories of a pivotal point in my culinary path.

What was going to be a ‘Throwback Thursday’ post is actually more suited towards Friday this week.

Remember when Friday nights were the sh**? I mean like Friday night would just be party time, throw it all against the wall, stay out till 2 (or later..) in the morning, and spend the rest of the weekend into the next week talking about it (and, of course, recovering). For most of us, the nostalgia of Friday night with the boys (or girls) is something we always carry with us. Ha, perhaps even when we have kids and Friday night is no different than Monday night or we just grow older- secretly in the back of our mind we recall the Friday nights of our youth with great enjoyment and a surge of energy.

When I first started working in food retail in my mid 20’s, I created a fresh fish buying program for my local land-locked community and prided myself on the ultra fresh and stunningly beautiful ocean delights that my little landlubber town just never really saw outside of a restaurant. Oysters, Lemon Sole, Tasmanian Sea Trout, Maine Smelt that ‘smelt’ of fresh cucumbers, Uni, and Wolffish were a few of the many varieties of seafood I was bringing in through a popular word of mouth preorder seafood program every Friday.

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Inevitably, I would order a little extra of each to assure every one of my customers got the absolute best product and no tail pieces of fillet. What to do with these extra ocean gems?? Friday night pregame??

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The idea at first sounded crazy- Bring anywhere from 5-8 different odds and ends of amazing seafood to a friend’s remote cabin to host a sort of ‘underground restaurant’ for my skater, punk, PBR aficionado and marijuana enthusiast friends. I mean, would they really appreciate the delicate and exotic fishes like I did or were they set with the pizza or Chinese food before hitting the bars or clubs?

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Well, the first Friday I brought over my assortment of treats, I sent everyone in a complete state of shock and awe with standing ovations and requests for encore performances. ‘Fish Friday’s became a thing. There was a text roll, people were telling their friends and before I knew it the little ‘pregame dinner party’ turned into a 25-30 person tasting menu/ fish jam session. With riffs like raw oysters and uni, Tasmanian Sea Trout Tartare, Skate Provencal, Fluke en Papillote, and Bouillabaisse, not only was I learning and teaching my friends to shuck oysters, but I was having one of the best times of my life in the the process. I mean, think about eating a dozen of the freshest and crispest Oysters at a rock concert…It doesn’t seem like they belong together but when they are there and done right, it blew people away.

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I say this was a pivotal point in my food path and passion because these friend dinners opened up my creativity in a stress-free and familiar setting and showed me that people don’t just enjoy good food but also love the show and the story of it.

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We hosted about 20 ‘Fish Fridays’ over the course of that year and I’m still asked by some of the members if I’ll ever do it again just like the good old times….well who knows.. One thing is for sure though, Friday nights still rock, even if its just in your memories and heart…