Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ramen Setagaya

Our goal for Saturday was to eat at Ramen Setagaya for lunch and see the new Wes Anderson movie. Along the way we stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket, got bubble tea, bought wine, and had decent falafel.

I've been seeing Ramen Setagaya written about all over the place. I told Lei that there was this new ramen shop that everybody has been saying is the real thing, and he went to check it out. He walks the earth, like Caine from Kung-Fu. Except instead of looking for his brother, he is on a quest for the perfect bowl of ramen in the tri-state area. I'm not sure if he knows Kung-Fu, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did. Anyway, he says that it was the best shio ramen he has ever had in Manhattan. So I had to make a trip to check it out myself.

I had a sense that the line at Setagaya was going to be really long, so we rushed over there from the subway stop. There were two Asian couples walking in front of us that, for some ridiculous reason, we thought were on their way to the exact same place. So we passed them. I mean, who's ever seen Asian people in the East Village? And of course they're going to an Asian noodle shop, and how many of those could there be in the neighborhood?

So, there was no line. We got seated immediately.

Those 2 couples never did show up. Maybe they got lost after we left them behind.

Lei suggested getting extra egg and extra pork, both of which came before the noodles. The egg was awesome.

So good. Perfectly soft boiled, it was somehow salty and flavorful all the way through. We'd never had a better soft-boiled egg. And for $1! I would have been happy just eating 6 of these for lunch.

The pork was great too. The pieces were grilled. Some pieces were lean and a little dry, some almost all fat and awesome.

When the Shio Ramen came out Mabel and I stopped talking to each other. I only realized this after about 5 minutes of eating in silence and said, "Hey, we stopped talking." She nodded but didn't seem to be paying attention to what I was saying.

So the noodles were really good. Mabel says that it was the best ramen she has ever had. I thought the whole meal was fantastic. We'll be back.

Ramen Setagaya
141 1st Ave (btn 9th St and St Marks Pl)
New York, NY 10003

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Panama Esmeralda Geisha

James and Christine got Mabel a Peet's Coffee Tasting Tour as her med school graduation present, and we've been enjoying it for the past 4 months now.

We've had Guatemala, Kenya, and--still my favorite--Major Dickason's Blend. I've decided that I can only really distinguish 3 things in my coffee: freshness, body, and acidity. Everything else is lost on me. That observation was only reinforced with this month's coffee, which was a "Top Blend" called Panama Esmeralda Geisha. Here's what Peet's has to say about it:
Characterized by an unforgettable jasmine-like fragrance and pristine citrus clarity, this coffee has garnered 10 first place awards in the last 4 years. Only 215 sacks of this rare coffee were produced in 2007. As the original buyer of this remarkable coffee, Peet’s purchased 50 sacks in advance of the harvest, enabling us to offer it at the same price as last year. After the harvest, a select ten sacks of Panama Esmeralda Geisha auctioned for $130 per pound unroasted, and was judged the best coffee in Panama.

You'll see why this coffee has won such acclaim as soon as you open the bag. The fragrance — variously described as smelling like jasmine, citrus blossoms and bergamot — is extraordinary. We'll leave you to decide which, but there's no question that the bright, sweet citric acidity, and delicate flavor nuances will remain in your memory long after you've drained the last precious cup.

Panama Esmeralda was born of a misfortune – a silver lining on a very rainy cloud. The coffee is grown on just one small block, at the highest altitude of Hacienda La Esmeralda, in the Boquete region of Panama. 1998's La Nina season decimated the farm's crop of 15 different varieties – bar one. This heirloom variety – known as "Geisha", after its probable origin in the Ethiopian region of Gesha – was the strongest survivor of the relentless rains and the fungal diseases that accompany excessive moisture.

Tasting it for the first time on its own, the grower was astonished by the flavor of "Geisha", and has reserved and milled these beans separately ever since. Whether it is the altitude, the mists, or the soils of the microclimate, or the Spartan yields of this rare variety itself, the beans develop a flavor that hasn't been experienced anywhere else.

Wow, $130 per pound. That's insane. Peet's sell's it roasted for $50 a pound, and we would never have gotten it if it weren't for James and Christine. But I have to admit, I couldn't smell the Jasmine or distinguish anything else from the coffee other than it tasted like it came from Peet's and was generally good. I would definitely not have guessed that it cost more than their typical coffee. Unfortunately, we only got around to drinking it about 1.5 weeks post-roast. That's still pretty fresh in my mind, especially since the bag wasn't opened for that time. Also, the beans were still very shiny.

The beans will look more dull as it becomes stale and these were not dull at all. But it's definitely possible that some of those fragrances were lost while it was waiting around.

Anyway, Mabel still sensed that "there was something extraordinary about it" when she drank the coffee for the first time, so I believe that there's something to this coffee. It's just beyond me.

I figured that some people in the lab might want to try it, and maybe they could provide some extra insight. So I brought some freshly ground beans into the lab last week.

Lei said that it was very, very good and had what amounted to a clean finish.

Nicolas and Cecile both couldn't get over it being lighter bodied. They said that it seemed dilute even though I used 4 tablespoons for 14 ounces of water and brewed it in a French press for 5 minutes.

Ian said that he got hints of Jasmine up front, then citrus and noted, "It is a clean finisher." He was joking about the Jasmine but was serious about the citrus.

Dave Malito said no Jasmine, but got citrus as an aftertaste.

Priscilla said it was very good but noted that yesterday when I overbrewed it she could taste one of the flavors more. The flavor wasn't Jasmine. She added, "But you could smell the Jasmine a little bit." I'm not sure if she was saying that to make me feel better.

Everyone agreed that it doesn't leave a coffee aftertaste in your mouth and that it was very clean tasting overall.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A bread disaster

This morning I went to grab leftovers from the refrigerator and discovered the dough I was planning to bake last night.

I completely forgot about it. It was only supposed to rise for 2 hours, not 12 hours. Oh well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A sandwich miracle

I had a sandwich miracle this morning. Last night Mabel said that I should make a sandwich with some prosciutto she had just bought. I said, but what about bread, then I noticed a loaf of Amy's Bread on the counter. Okay, sure I'll make a sandwich.

I went to make it this morning and found that she had bought the really good stuff, Prosciutto di Parma. I mean, it would have been cheaper to buy my lunch. Awesome, what a treat. And then there was the fresh bread. What could be better? Hey, it would be nice if I could put some basil on it, I thought. I open the fridge and find a ziplock bag of plucked and washed basil. Unbelievable. What about tomatoes? Right in front of me was a cup of cherry tomatoes. I cut those up. How about cheese? We just bought a fresh wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and I sliced some off with a cheese planer. A little olive oil and salt on the bread and there it was, my little sandwich miracle.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tasty Dumpling

Whenever either of us are in Chinatown we try to stock up on pork dumplings at Tasty Dumpling.

This is a picture from last October. Now there's a building being built in that empty lot to the right of the shop and scaffolding everywhere.

Any of the dumplings you get in Chinatown are super cheap. If you eat at Tasty Dumpling, it's 5 for $1. We got 100 frozen ones for $16 (2 packs of 50). That's right. One hundred dumplings for 16 big ones.

There is one other dumpling place that compares to Tasty Dumpling. It is called Dumpling House. But it drives me crazy that they sometimes run out of frozen dumplings. There is also usually a ridiculous line and they're more expensive. Tasty Dumpling does not suffer from these drawbacks; hence, my loyalties are with Tasty Dumpling.

Tasty Dumpling
54 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10013

May May Bakery

We passed by May May Gourmet Chinese Bakery in between dumpling places yesterday.

When we're in the area we usually stop by to pick up a few of their bamboo leaf-wrapped sticky rice things, what I just call Chinese tamales. There were buckets of them on the sidewalk outside their kitchen ready to be cooked.

They have them with a bunch of different fillings. I usually like any of the ones that have egg or sausage. They also have a lot of prepared dim sum foods that we've never tried. Next time we're in the area I'll plan on trying those out as well.

May May Gourmet Chinese Bakery
35 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013

Joe's Shanghai

Mabel and I went to Joe's Shanghai yesterday for some soup dumplings.

We waltzed in at 5, were seated right away, and got 1 order of crab and pork and 3 orders of pork soup dumplings. Mabel doesn't like the crab and pork as much as the pork alone. I just like the variety.

She noticed for the first time that they give you a little dish of black vinegar--which she likes--to go with the dumplings. I used it thinking that it was soy sauce and almost coughed up my food.

We ate too much. I think next time we'll get 3 orders of dumplings, especially since Mabel gets an order of rice on top of that. We walked out feeling like a couple of big dumplings.

Joe's Shanghai
9 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mike's going away dinner, September 19, 2007

We had Mike, Dave, Jason, Nicole, and Priscilla over for dinner last Wednesday to mark Mike's departure from the East Coast.

It wasn't quite cool enough to be doing all the cooking I did at the last minute. Slight seasonal misjudgment and timing error. Also, as I later discover, the blower above the range doesn't actually blow air outside. It blows it back into the apartment. Two of my friends tell me, "My eyes are burning." My goal for the next time we have people over is that no ones eyes burn.

I see the major disadvantage to an open kitchen. I am a strong proponent of the completely separate kitchen.

We had roasted red pepper and olive tapas, and Mabel put out crudite with ranch dip. Then the creme fraiche and basil pappardelle with Nicole's salad. Chickpeas next. Then the portobello with red wine sauce and garlic rice, fried Brussels sprouts, and steamed eggplant.

The portobello dish turned out pretty bad. I added too much tomato paste to the sauce so it didn't quite taste right. And the portobellos themselves were so underseasoned that they tasted a little like they had negative flavor. The serving pot was also too small, so things weren't mixed together very well. But I liked the braised pearl onions.

I think the chickpeas were the star, at least for me. I think we're going to try making that for ourselves routinely.

Actually, the most memorable food item for me was the wine that Dave brought. I guess it has been a long time since I last drank a red Burgundy. This is my favorite type of wine. It is completely different from American pinot. It just makes me happy and content in an inexplicable way.

For dessert, we had Delice de Bourgogne and lemon cake that Mabel made the day before. Mabel also brought out a bottle of dessert wine that she bought at a chocolate fair a year ago. She liked it and says it was light and sparkly rather than viscous.

The apartment cooled down about halfway through the meal, and the rest of the evening was very nice.

Domaine Jacky Renard "Cotes D'Auxerre" (Burgundy) 2005 o
Quady Electra, Orange Muscat 2004 o

Mike's going away dinner, preparations

Mike was in town for a very short while before heading out West, and I proposed having everyone over to see him off.

I'd promised that I would make a vegetarian dinner for him at some point and this was the last chance I could see for a while, so I gave it a go. Nicole helped by making a fresh salad and Dave brought the wine.

Preparing the dinner was sort of difficult to pull off midweek, so there was some extra planning involved. We had to schedule things out about 2 days in advance although things still sort of fell apart and got hectic at the last minute.

Also, our vegetarian cooking skills are in early development. This was the first intentionally vegetarian meal we'd cooked for more than 2 people. Mabel and I had a "discussion" about whether or not there should be beans. Overall, we learned a lot.

Anyway, for the past couple weeks I'd been thinking about coming up with a vegetarian version of Boeuf Bourguignon using browned shitake mushrooms to compensate for lack of meat juices in the sauce and using portobello mushrooms instead of the beef. I'm pretty comfortable making regular Boeuf Bourguignon, but I was worried about the portobello mushrooms. I don't really know how to cook them, and when I tried experimenting with them last week, it didn't work out so well. Well, I figured that I could use our friends as beta testers for my next attempt, and if I got lucky it might turn out fine.

On Monday, I go to the Upper West Side Fairway for the bulk of the groceries. At the apartment I experiment with the portobellos and learn that they give off tons of water. But that's about all I learn.

I try to roast 7 large red bell peppers in the oven, whole. Doesn't work, so I put them in a large brown bag to steam them. No go. So I roast them directly over a gas burner (I decide that using my blowtorch would have been too slow). But the skin still won't come off easily. So I put them in another brown paper bag to steam them some more. When I pick up the bag to move to the cutting board, the bottom, predictably, falls out and they're on the floor. After washing them off the skin still won't come off even though, as I learn later, getting the skin off isn't essential. So I cut them into pieces, lay them on a sheet pan and roast them that way. I come back and they are burnt. I decide that Mabel is infinitely better at this and I beg her to do this for me tomorrow.

While this goes on I make the red wine sauce.

For some reason I decide to pick this week to restart my breadmaking and try to actually develop my own sponge. So I bake a loaf of bread as well.

On Tuesday when I get back from lab, Mabel has already done some shopping on her own at Chelsea Market and is cooking the night's dinner and making dessert for Wednesday. She is roasting the red peppers and is doing a much better job than I did the previous night until she burns them too. Something there is that doesn't love a roasted pepper. We eat dinner and she goes to bed in a crummy mood.

I make the sauce for the creme fraiche pesto that Mabel made for me the previous week. I braise pearl onions and saute button mushrooms for the red wine and portobello dish. And I "grill" whole portobellos in a cast iron skillet. For some reason I do not salt the portobellos. This is a fatal error.

At 2 AM I am drying pasta.

I don't know what's wrong with me. I feel a normal person would just buy fresh pasta, but I have a compulsion to make fresh pasta, in particular, from scratch anytime I can.

On Wednesday, I leave lab a little early with Priscilla's help and stop by Fairway to pick up bottled roasted red peppers and ingredients for a chickpea dish.

I don't really get back to the apartment early enough to prep the Brussels sprouts and eggplant without rushing. I figure there's probably too many different kinds of food and want to get rid of the eggplant, but Mabel really wants it. I want to keep the Brussels sprouts because I figure Mike is never going to Momofuku Ssam Bar (they are hostile towards vegetarians). Mabel helps out a lot by making a Patricia Wells chickpea dish at the last minute. Nicole brings a great fresh salad. And Dave brings two bottles of red Burgundy. The only casualty is the control panel of our oven. It gets splattered by oil when I deep fry the Brussels sprouts.

Who would have thought that could happen? I thought the whole purpose of having that backsplash was so that you don't melt the wall. What's the point if you end up melting the oven computer instead?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paris Commune

Elliott and his parents were in town at the end of last week, so they invited the whole Williams crew to get together at Paris Commune Friday night.

I think Henry suggested the place. I don't know how he finds these places, but the atmosphere was just right for the gathering. And they were able to manage the group of 10 just fine.

Elliott's mom got a kick out of the bunnies on this wine bottle.

It was good. There was another wine we had later that tasted a lot like grapefruit. Two out of two is pretty good. My impression is that they keep a quality wine list.

The food was a mix. Mabel got the sole special. They said it came with beurre blanc, but the sauce only resembled beurre blanc in texture. It was sort of orange in color and tasted like a dessert sauce. Maybe they got the sauce bottles mixed up? It didn't really seem like a play on classic beurre blanc. Anyway, kind of weird. And they only gave her one tiny sole fillet. Kind of ridiculous.

My duck confit was okay, although it seemed like it was under a heat lamp for a while.

Josh got something interesting: ostrich. He let everyone have a taste and it was delicious. If I ever come back I'm going to get me some ostrich.

Mabel liked the atmosphere of the place. Even though it was Friday night, it wasn't too crowded. And there was a romantic feel to the place. But her favorite thing was that they had these paintings of burlesque girls on the walls.

Paris Commune
99 Bank Street (at Greenwich Street)
New York, NY 10014

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oko, part two

We all went to Oko after dinner. It's still not that crowded.

I talked to one of the people working there and he says that they've only been open for 3.5 months. Hopefully business will pick up and they stick around.

My previous suspicion that Oko's fro-yo is a bit richer than Pinkberry's was corroborated by Mabel, her brother, and the guy working the counter. It turns out that they use Greek yogurt. I'm not exactly sure what that would do, but I guess it makes for a richer product.

This time around I noticed how difficult it was to throw anything away. So much pressure not to commit an environmental faux pas.

There is a definite environmental theme going on here in contrast to the emphasis on Italian knick knacks present at Pinkberry. An Inconvenient Truth was playing on their TV. Awesome.

Previous Oko post

Update 10/1/07
Dave McDougall reports, "The secret is out!" Oko was packed the last time he walked by.

Al di La Vino

We saw King Lear at BAM with Nicolas and Muriel last Saturday. It was a really great production. I didn't like the audience, though. They laughed at awkward times. How is "Her voice was ever soft,/ gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman" funny considering that Lear is in extreme despair and holding the dead Cordelia in his arms? And they were so restless. Lots of loud coughing throughout, and the hipster guy next to me was leaning forward for the majority of the performance and kept stroking his scraggly beard in a fidgety, non-contemplative sort of way. I'm not sure he had any idea what was going on, and I guess he wanted me to know that while invading my field of view.

Anyway, even though his star power attracted people who are indifferent to Shakespeare, or plays in general, it was totally worth going to see Ian McKellan as Lear. His performance in the final act was even more affecting than we expected it to be. And Mabel was floored by the opening sequence with the loud organ music and Lear effectively consecrating the proceedings. We are going to remember this performance for a long time.

After the play, Mabel and I met up with her brother Ben. We went to Al di La.

Susie suggested this place a few weeks ago when Crystal was in town, and I had been wanting to give it a try ever since. I didn't know the name of it. All I knew was that it was a Northern Italian restaurant and on 5th Ave, but I thought, 'How hard could it be to find?'

After 20 minutes of walking I called Susie, and she led me to the place. We were looking to eat at Al di La Trattoria, but there were 50 people on the list in front of us. They offered us an hour wait to get a table at their annex, Al di La Vino, and we took it.

They use the same kitchen and presumably the menu was the same. We got a bottle of wine and some cheese while we were waiting. I think we got a table after 40 minutes.

We shared Beef Carpaccio and Squid salad to start. I really liked the squid. It was cooked just right. Mabel thought the salad was overdressed. It seemed like we might have gotten the waxy rind of the cheese sliced onto our carpaccio, but otherwise it was fine.

For the primi, Ben got Linguine with Clams, Mabel got Tagliatelle Ragu, and I got Sweet Corn Ravioli. My ravioli was really awesome.

For the segundi, Ben got Calf Liver. He had never tried it before, but was always curious and wanted to give it a try. It's great having a truly adventurous eater in the family. Mabel and I chickened out and split a Hanger Steak, also planning to share with Ben if the Calf Liver experiment went awry. We all tried some of the liver. It was good, but I could only eat a bite of it. There is no way I could finish a portion on my own. I guess I'm not a liver guy. I think everyone felt the same way.

The food and wine was decent, the service was polite and upbeat, it wasn't too loud, and all that enabled great conversation. A good time was had by all.

Al di La Vino
607 Carroll St (at 5th Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Whole Foods, Columbus Circle

We went to Whole Foods today to pick up groceries for dinner.

I don't really like Whole Foods. They are expensive, their produce isn't always fresh or good, and I'm really skeptical of their 365 brand. On this visit, there were fruit flies crawling all over the persimmons. I mean, don't they see, or care? They have dozens of employees on the floor.

I found that when you buy fish, sometimes it won't be scaled or cleaned, even if it's already cut as a fillet. So you really have to double check with them every time.

Their beef is way overpriced.

They don't take very good care of their cheese. I bought an English cheddar from them once and realized when I got home that it was all greasy. It wasn't stored at the right temperature and had been out for a long time. Every once in a while, I'll take a look at their Parmesan and it'll look in bad shape.

That said, there are a few things that I can count on them for, which is why I go there. They almost always have beautiful, large leeks, they stock bread from Sullivan Street Bakery, and they always have whole Bell and Evans chickens.

The strange thing with the Bell and Evans chickens, though, is that they don't always advertise them as Bell and Evans. Sometimes it's just labeled "air chilled" which is code for Bell and Evans.

And even though they don't always ask to clean the fish for you, their fish is fresh and decent.

The line on this visit was particularly long. It stretched about half the length of the store. I guess everyone's back from summer vacation.

But their line management is really admirable. I would guess that there were at least 70 people in that line and it only took 20 minutes to check out. That's still not a quick checkout, but sometimes I wait 20 minutes to check out at Kmart when there's only 5 people in line.

Whole Foods (Columbus Circle)
Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

Friday, September 14, 2007

Docks Oyster Bar Uptown

Mabel and I had dinner at Docks on the Upper West Side last Wednesday. The food was very good and we had a wonderful time.

We were there with Jason and Nicole for Nicole's birthday. Jason had heard good things about the place but neither of them had been there before. I didn't even know there was a seafood place on the Upper West Side. I know that's silly, but I don't know, it's true.

I got grilled red snapper. It reminded me of the broiled fish I used to eat as a kid at Menz when my family took our annual summer vacation to Wildwood.

Almost all of us got fried yams which were the best yam fries I've ever had and I've had yam fries from three different places. But really, they were very good. Who would have guessed?

Nicole got a lobster and impressively did not get any juice on her non-bibbed self. When I eat anything with an exoskeleton, I need a bib and I usually squirt the person next to me with claw juice.

Anyway, now we finally know of a good, well-priced seafood restaurant. Simple preparation, no nonsense, fresh and good seafood.

Docks Oyster Bar Uptown
2427 Broadway (btn 89th and 90th St)
New York, NY 10024

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mike's Bagels

I went to Mike's Bagels today for a sandwich and to pick up bagels for breakfast tomorrow.

I like this place. They make fresh bagels in the back, the kind you don't have to toast because they're so fresh and good on their own.

I like to think of the freshly made bagel as New York City's response to the Parisian baguette. Both have the soft and chewy inside. Both have that thin, harder shell, although baguettes win the shatteringly crisp prize.

Whether the analogy is apt or absurd is beside the point. Hmm, what is the point? I guess it's that we don't have great baguettes, but at least we have great bagels. And you can get said bagels at Mike's.

Mike's Bagels
4003 Broadway (btn 168th and 169th St)
New York, NY 10032

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Chickpea: awful falafel

At the end of the night on Monday, we went to Chickpea for falafel.

Mabel says that it was the worst falafel she has ever had. She didn't even have to think about it. I felt the same way. She thought that the white sauce could have redeemed it, but the white sauce wasn't any good either. And there didn't seem to be salt in anything.

Not that there wasn't any flavor. I thought that the falafel pieces themselves tasted like cardboard with a hint of lime.

What was the deal? Mabel heard of the place by reading a positive article in the New York Times earlier in the year.

It turns out that they changed their formula within the last month. Other confused diners noticed this immediately. Chickpea recently decided to start baking their falafel and go the health food route. The result is disastrous. I am sure they will reverse course soon.

While we were eating I was reminded of the best falafel either of us had ever had. It was at L’As du Fallafel on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais, March 28, 2006.

I mentioned it to Mabel which made her really depressed. We stopped eating and threw away our unfinished falfel. We couldn't finish our night with that falafel.

We shared a slice of pepperoni pizza at the Ray's nearby.

23 3rd Ave (btn St Marks Pl and 9th St)
New York, NY 10003

L'As du Fallafel
34, rue des Rosiers
Paris, France

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Angel's Share

After it got dark and Mabel started getting bitten by bugs at D.B.A., we decided to move to Angel's Share.

Azusa had recommended this place a few months ago. The first time I tried to go it was packed and we couldn't get a place to sit. It being Labor Day (and Monday), the place was less than half full. It is on the second floor through an unmarked door off a restaurant called Village Yokocho.

We decided to sit at a counter at the window overlooking the square outside.

They have original cocktails which are delicious.

Mabel got a seasonal watermelon cocktail that was pink. I got one of their regular cocktails which was blue. Mabel was impressed by the blueness. She had never seen a blue cocktail before.

Blue, blue is the grass about the river
And the willows have overfilled the close garden.
And within, the mistress, in the midmost of her youth,
White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door.
Slender, she puts forth a slender hand

from The Beautiful Toilet, Ezra Pound

The service is interesting. They pour drinks from the shaker tableside and place chopsticks and food in front of you with ceremony. It was fun.

We also ordered a plate of dumplings which was better than we expected.

This is a really nice place for two people to have a drink. We had a wonderful time.

Angel's Share
8 Stuyvesant St (near 9th St and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


There was still plenty of daylight after dinner at Ssam Bar, and we felt like a drink outside. So we went to the only place I know of with a backyard garden, D.B.A. Jason told me about this place a while ago.

But first, in honor of the tourist-filled holiday, we walked an extra block past D.B.A. to the Seinfeldian nexus of the universe, 1st and 1st.

I noticed the Nexus Lounge across the street.

I wonder if Nexus Lounge opened pre- or post-Seinfeld episode. Was this the writers' inspiration for the nexus of the universe or is it the other way around? It's probably the other way around, but I wonder if this was known as the nexus of the universe long before the episode or if this is an example of life imitating art. Hmm.

Anyway, I really like D.B.A. They have a very large selection of beers, tap and bottle, usually $4-6. They also have an extensive selection of liquor like dozens of different single malts and tequilas. That's a good draw on its own. But there's also a nice garden in the back.

It can sometimes get a little loud, sometimes a little too smokey (I'm surprised people my age still smoke), but usually it's pleasant. It's almost as if you're not in the city, though I wouldn't exactly call it an oasis. It's really just like a backyard city garden.

41 1st Ave (btn 2nd and 3rd St)
New York, NY 10003
Garden closes at 10pm.

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Mabel and I went to Momofuku Ssam Bar yesterday. This is one of our favorite restaurants in the world.

We went about 20 minutes before dinner service, but I don't think we had to. We learned that not that many people are in the city on Labor Day.

Mabel was a little disappointed that sea urchin was no longer on the menu. We decided to get it during this visit after chickening out on our previous two visits. We'll just have to hope it makes a reappearance.

Instead, we got Tello's Chawan Mushi. It more than made up for the sea urchin. I didn't know what Chawan Mushi was, but it turns out to be an egg custard. This one had a hint of maple syrup and was topped with salmon roe. It was awesome.

They replaced the Fried Brussels Sprouts with Fried Cauliflower using the same mint and fish sauce. The Fried Cauliflower was good. I don't really like cauliflower on its own like I do Brussels sprouts, but it was good to eat with this preparation.

We also ordered Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Tartine with Anchovy. For some reason when we ordered it we expected an eggplant and tomato version of tarte tatin, so we were surprised when we saw something that looked like bruschetta when it arrived. It was good nonetheless. We were puzzled until Patricia Wells set us straight. A tartine is an open-faced sandwich, and the one at Momofuku is an interesting take on a classic. Tarte tatin is basically an upside-down apple tart. Huge difference, hence our confusion. Ah how ignorant we are. Tartine, tatin. I guess when I write them side by side like that they look completely different. It's so easy to conflate words in a foreign language. Anyway, now we know for good.

We ended on a really good note. The Roasted Lamb Belly with Swiss Chard was amazing.

So good. So fatty. So good. Each slice was 20-100% fat. Delicious fat. With lamb flavor. Muttony goodness.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave (at E 13th St)
New York, NY 10003

Monday, September 3, 2007

Lafite wine cooler from The Jerk

This is a screen shot of Steve Martin's character from The Jerk getting a glass of wine from a Château Lafite Rothschild 1966 wine cooler.

Notice the wine glass dispenser on the upper left hand corner of the screen. I saw the movie yesterday using the streaming video feature on Netflix while I was in lab.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Kkaennip pesto

Alice, Ben Cannon's mom, suggested that I make pesto with the fresh kkaennip (perilla) I had leftover after making ssam and the tomato, mozzarella, and kkaennip dish. It was a great idea. The kkaennip works extremely well in pesto form.

I made the pesto itself a few weeks ago. The rest of the kkaennip, a minced clove of garlic, pine nuts, salt, and enough olive oil to bring it together in a food processor. I put it in a small tupperware and floated some olive oil on top then froze it until Friday night when I heated it up and tossed with some thin spaghetti.