Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Hunter and the Hunted @ Papa Lima

Ahhh truffles. Add a little, and it costs a lot, yet people pay for it willingly. At least I was. This little guy set me back $13.00.

I went to Papa Lima in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to try one of their gourmet sandwiches. The name of this one my eye. The Hunter and the Hunted is a panino with salted french ham similar to prosciutto (jambon de bayonne), melted swiss, and black truffle butter on a pressed 6" roll. The hunter references the pigs that are used to sniff out truffles (the hunted). Pigs have an innately keen sense of smell and have been used traditionally to find truffles, but are prone to eating them. What did you expect - they're pigs. Specifically female hogs are used due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted. Today dogs are trained to find truffles these days since they don't eat the truffles.

I have to admit that I got this sandwich before, but the newish deli clerk cut the salted ham against the grain making it impossible to bite through. The second time I ordered it everything came out perfect. The nuttiness of the truffle butter perfectly accents the buttery saltiness of the ham. Add the gooey deliciousness of melted swiss and crunch of the toasted fresh local made bread and you've got a satisfied customer. And for an added bonus the place gives away free loaves of their day old bread.

Burger and Fries @ Mesa Grill

Oh Bobby Flay... you New York Patron Saint of all that is Southwestern and Tex Mex cooking... you God amongst men of grilling perfection. I turn to you and your Mesa Grill for a good burger, and it better be for $15.

Bobby Flay knows a good burger when he sees one, so he says. I'd have to agree. The burger was cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of char. From bottom to top the lightly toasted bun was sealed off from the burger juices with a nice slathering of spicy horseradish mayo, then came the burger almost completely enveloped in a casing of hot melted double cheddar cheese, topped with sauteed onion, mixed greens, and fresh tomatoes. The mixed greens are the more aesthetically pleasing rabbit food topping, but lacked the refreshing crunch of the tradition iceberg to help cut through the horseradish and thick layering of cheese. The spicy hand cut fries are amazing. If you look in the background you can see my friend's pressed roasted pork sandwich - looks like something to go back for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kenyan Coffee from a Clover @ Cafe Grumpy

On my plane flight home from Chicago I read an article in Wired about the future of coffee and how it will be commandeered by Starbucks (again). A company called Clover built a machine called the Clover which brews individual cups of coffee. These machines cost $11,00 and are supposed to make the best coffees in the world. Each cup of beans is ground by itself, then the grounds are put into a hole in the top while hot water is poured in through a spigot. The temperature of the water can be controlled to produce the exact taste that the customer wants. Then the mixture is hand whisked by the barista for an amount of time only beknowst amongst them, the grounds are then drained, and the coffee is poured into a cup at the end of the production line. Overall, a very time consuming process for a single cup of coffee, even if it is now $4.

I went over to Cafe Grumpy in on 20th near 7th to see what all the hubub was about. The coffee menu offered a variety of choices of beans all all the employees had an impressive wealth of knowledge and passion about everything there. I chose the Kenyan coffee. After the performance I sipped the piping hot beverage. Unfortunately, besides the subtle accent of wine I really stretched to notice, I didn't taste or smell anything too above-the-ordinary, but I'll try again with a different bean selection. Maybe I should start experiementing with water temperature...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fired Cheese Curds @ The Twisted Spoke

While visiting my friend in Chicago I made a mandatory stop over at The Twisted Spoke, the biker brunch bar/restaurant famous for it's Smut and Eggs, a Saturday night event from midnight to 6am which involves porn being shown on TVs in the bar area and a full brunch menu. I didn't make it out for all the free porn, but I did get to go for one of my favorite Bloody Marys the following Sunday morning. This Bloody involves an impressive flag consisting of cocktail onions, pepperonicinis, olives, and 2 folded slices of salami, all topped with fresh grated romano. And for a kicker they give you a 6 oz. beer back.

Obviously there's a whole meal in the drink itself, but we decided to eat a midwest favorite, fried cheese curds. Being downstream from Wisconsin, one of the cheese producing meccas in America, Chicago is priveledged to have a wealth of cheese and they use it liberally. One local favorite is the cheese curd, which is known for it's spongy texture and should be eaten within hours of their manufacture. These were perfect - a nice firm cruchy breaded crust with the squeaky interior, although the honey mustard sauce was somewhat boring. I would have opted for something tomato based instead.

Now that I've visited the world of cheese curds, I'm interested in trying their Québécois cousin - poutine, which involves french fries and gravy. Anyone have a suggestion for here in NYC?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fish Tacos @ a mall in LA

I'm in LA for work , but am staying on New York time since I'm here for only a few days. Needless to say, when I got done with the LA work day I had only a few hours to grab a bite to eat before I was ready to pass out. Seeing as I don't have a car, I was left to more basic modes of transportation and went to the Howard Hugh's Center/Promenade across the highway from my hotel.

Now I know this is not a fair sampling of Cali cuisine and culture, but the only decent crowd of people to eat with was at On the Border b/c it was empty. As I bellied up to the bar I overheard a gregarious waiter say the special tonight was fried fish tacos for $2.50. Then the bartender said I could double the size of my beer for a mere $2. Done and done. The fish taco was crisply fried and and tender and topped with an innocuously spicy mayo. A little shredded radicchio and some pico de gallo filled out the rest of the bland flour tortilla. This is exactly the right kind and the right amount of food to help you finish a 24 oz goblet of beer. Nothing spectacular, but very utilitarian.

I'm glad I get to stop off on my way home and visit my friend in Chicago. Anyone have any requests? What's your favorite food in Chicago?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Rainbow Grows in Brooklyn

I know this might not seem food related at first, but give me a second. I got stuck in this crazy summer isolated thunderstorm riding my bike home from work today. I was soaked and cold and yelling at the top of my lungs to keep my spirits high and not to give up and take the subway. At the apex of the Williamsburg Bridge the rain stopped and so did I. This is a photo from the bridge facing north into Greenpoint, a Brooklyn neighborhood historically Polish, but now seeing the influx of those escaping rising housing costs in Manhattan.

Where there's a rainbow, there's a pot of gold. Where should I go? What should I eat?

Duck Breast BLT @ Tre Dici

The first photo I took for this blog was from Tre Dici on 27th between 6th and 7th Ave. I had told my friend about their Duck Breast BLT and she was game to try it. She ordered it but I took the photo, hence the distance of the sandwich from the lens. If this is a half bad picture then I guess I owe you a 500 word explanation... Roast duck breast and cured bacon with lettuce, tomato, and a delicious walnut mayo served between two toasted slices of raisin nut bread. Now the question on everyone's lips - Can you have both duck and bacon on one sandwich? My logic would dictate that yes, bacon goes with everything. I felt the thin cured bacon didn't stand up the the portion of duck breast in this sandwich, which would have benefited from a thicker cut of smoked bacon to give it more of a substantial crunch against the soft and fatty duck breast. Yet, when do I not say that there needs to be a thicker piece of bacon on my sandwich?

The parmesan truffle oil fries served on the side were fabulous dipped into their homemade cajun mayo. As you can see from the photo, they are served in a parmesan crisp. Basically the kitchen shaved a bunch of parmesan into a cooking tray, bakes it into a malleable hot disc, and then let it cool after shaping it into a cup. This was also good dipped in mayonnaise.

I'm surprised I haven't had a heart attack yet

Friday, August 8, 2008

Skate at BLT Fish (Sk8 is Gr8!)

As suggested by my good friend Laser McNeal, I ventured over to BLT Fish Shack on 17th and 5th Ave to try their skate, a dish I've never tried before. Let me begin with the accouterments. You are already A-OK in my book if you make your own tartar sauce in house and you cut your own fries. It's the simple things like this that make an establishment stand out. Even if your tartar sauce tastes like baby shit and your fries are better paper weights than food you're doing better than Sysco canned tartar cause and frozen fries. Luckily for me both were amazing. Fries dipped in tartar sauce... even better.

The skate is actually skate wings. It has a noticeable striation that was fun to peel apart. I was able to reserve the entire contents of my ramekin for the fries because this skate was perfectly cooked in oil and a little vinegar to give it a kick. The taste was similar to monk fish, which would make sense since they both are bottom dwellers that feed off of crustaceans. All washed down by a refreshing Blue Point Toasted Lager.

I will definitely come back for the impressive raw bar.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Best Restaurant Website Theme Music

I spent a morning chatting with my friend one hang-over Sunday a while back and we went through every nYc restaurant's webpage we could think of until we found the best theme muzak we could find. Hands down, this site has the undeniable groove that keeps you coming back for more. Hmmm, I've never eaten there though. What does this groove make you hungry for? Take a gander at the menu and see what looks good to you. I have some ideas but will wait for everyone to weigh in first. What looks good to you? More importantly, have you heard better restaurant theme music to make you chow happy? Let us know!

Fried Calamari at Cafe Cuba

I went to Cafe Cuba at 20th and 8th Ave to try their cuban sandwich (another post), but when I saw they had a Frita Mixta, I had to give it a shot. There is one thing you must know about me - I always order fried calamari if it looks good. It's like a litmus test for all restaurants. If they can't do a passable calamari, there's no need to move on to the main course. I've tasted plenty of bad (mainly of the frozen variety), nibbled on the mediocre, but I've also been spoiled by some of the best.

Overall, they did a good job. This restaurant added fried shrimp to the package (the mixta part of the frita). The calamari was very tender, as were the shrimp. There was a nice touch of salt, but yet nothing else. The so-called Caribbean sauce tasted just like normal marinara, which would be fine at a restaurant that didn't have so much decorative flair. Yet with all the colorful murals and the up tempo Cuban music I was expecting something with a little more zing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mujaddara at Kalustyan’s

I've been planning this blog and documenting my 'better' lunches for a few weeks now and began to get backlogged with photos. This first post is by no means the first subject of the blog. I'll be posting them out of order just to get them uploaded until I've caught up.

I read about this mujaddara sandwich in NYMag while on a return plane flight from Charlotte, NC to LaGuardia. I'd walked through the area lovingly know as Curry Hill, but had never stopped by to eat, although I had been into Kalustyan’s to buy Ras al-Hanut after seeing a contestant on Top Chef liberally sprinkle the spice mix on every dish in the one episode I saw (while waiting to be interviewed for the show itself).

The mujaddara sandwich here is a large pita stuffed with a mixture of lentils, bulgur, tahini, fried onions, lettuce, tomato and a crunchy sour pickle. Of course I asked for extra hot sauce. This sandwich is big enough for two small people or enough for me to snack on until I have 2nd lunch. It literally weighed 5lbs! Not bad for $5. Overall it's a very earthy flavor with not much texture outside of the pickles, but very satisfying. The olive oil gives the sandwich its moisture and helps the loose mixture clump together. This is a messy sandwich to eat. Overall a great find and I'm sure I'll go back soon to try their other offerings.