Friday, December 19, 2008

Grand Sichuan 7th Ave

We have a Grand Sichuan in our neighborhood. The one in Chelsea is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants and I was psyched when I realized there's one in the Village.

(The picture is from their website.) We went for the first time last month. I remember it being really cold, and I wasn't exactly sure where it was. Mabel was just about to start complaining, we turned a corner, and there it was. It's within two blocks! About that visit Mabel stated, "It's yummy, it's cheap, and it's close. That was a highly successful venture."

I'd say that it is not quite as good as the Chelsea location, but it is very good nonetheless. I consider myself lucky.

We ordered take out from Grand Sichuan last night on SeamlessWeb. We got green beans and Chon Qing Spicy Chicken. The chicken dish had a ridiculous number of red peppers.

This is the pile of red peppers that we picked out of the dish by the end of the meal. I thought it was pretty cool. Mabel wasn't impressed. You really need chopsticks to eat this kind of food. The peppers are hard to grab with chopsticks anyway, so it's easier to eat this dish than it seemed at first. It would be pretty miserable eating it with a fork.

Anyway, it was great. One of my favorite things from Grand Sichuan, next to double cooked pork.

Grand Sichuan 7th Ave
15 7th Ave (near Leroy)
New York, NY 10014

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eleven Madison Park

I got a lot of writing done today! I would say that today has been one of my top three thesis writing days.

And Jen treated me to lunch at Eleven Madison Park as a birthday gift! What a day!

Her friend Brian, who suggested the restaurant, came with us. It was a really nice meal. I don't remember the last time I went to a traditionally nice restaurant with great service. I like it. And for lunch, it's a great deal. $28 for an appetizer and entree.

A cool perk at nice restaurants is that they have interesting gadgets. Here is a picture of a purse hook that they used for Jen's purse.

I have never even heard of these before, but they are so cool. This article says that purse hooks have been around since the 1920s.

Also, I like their silverware a lot.

The food was fantastic. I'd read a thing about the chef Daniel Humm in Art Culinare a few months ago so I filed him and the restaurant in the back of my head. I was looking forward to the meal. I ordered Poached Egg with Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan, and for my entree I got Boudin Blanc with Poached Seckel Pear and Black Trumpet Mushrooms.

The Poached egg dish was almost like a soup. The coolest thing about it was that they balanced a thin cracker on top of the egg so that when the dish was placed in front of me, the cracker wiggled on the plate. Clever. Anyway, it was ridiculously good. It somehow reminded me of New England clam chowder, but maybe it was just the heavy cream.

The Boudin Blanc was very good. Liked the sauce, liked the sausage. There was this weird quenelle of green something which was okay. Nobody's perfect. The pear was very red.

It was a fun meal. Hopefully I'll be back. While I was waiting for people to show up I read a little about their "cocktail program." Maybe we'll come here sometime for a drink.

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave (on Madison Square Park)
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-0905

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Momofuku bender

We eventually made our way down to the East Village. It was just past four o'clock, and the sun was starting to set. And we still hadn't had lunch.

Priscilla wanted to get a snack at Momofuku Milk Bar, the newest member of the nascent Momofuku empire.

Last time she was there, she noticed that the classic Momofuku pork buns came with an egg in it, but she didn't get a chance to try it then.

Anyway, no egg this time. They "ran out," which is ludicrous. It was as good as their pork buns usually are, though.

There is something off about Milk Bar. Priscilla tells me that the first time she went there she felt like the desserts were drugged, in a bad way. The food made her dizzy, and she had to leave the restaurant to get her bearings. She figured that it was just her until her friends said they were feeling the same way. They were out on the weekend, and it was relatively early, but they called it a night because they felt sick. Milk bar totally ruined their night.

Granted, it was in the opening few weeks, and I'm sure there were kinks to be fixed. But I'd say that drugging your customers goes beyond the usual problems restaurants have to deal with.

I'm not sure if this place is going to be any good on its own. I found out that they use it as a bar area for Ssam Bar when dinner rolls around, which is a great idea, but beyond that I'm not sure what the deal with this place is.

At least they have this cool poster.

For lunch, we went over to Momofuku Noodle Bar. I'd been wanting to come back since my first visit. While I've heard that they've improved their ramen, I did not want to try my luck again. We split an order of Smoked Chicken Wings and an order of the Trotter Terrine. The chicken wings were very good. I obviously loved their smokiness.

But the Trotter Terrine. The Trotter Terrine. The Trotter Terrine was ... I have called so many things awesome. Great. Fantastic. Delicious. And when I do, I mean it. But the Trotter Terrine goes beyond that. From now on, I will have to simply say that things are like the Trotter Terrine.

What surprised me was how buttery it was. And parts of it were held together with delicious pork jelly. It was concentrated, buttery pork with butter on top.

I enjoyed the dish too much to figure out what was actually in it. But on 11/24/2008 Bosmer F. from Yelp outlines how it's put together:
We were watching the food prep and saw them making something that looked interesting. We hadn't seen it on the printed menu. Asked a few questions and found out it was a handwritten special. It was called Trotter Terrine. They took a small piece of pumpernickel bread, buttered it, and put it on the grill. Then they sliced a generous portion of the terrine and heated it up for a minute or so. Then they took the bread off the grill, plated it, and schmeared it with something called burnt onion spread. Then they took the terrine and place it on top of the spread and poured some liquid that had come out during the warmth process over it. The dish was garnished with very thinly sliced, and very sour, pickles. Luscious! I almost didn't order it because of the amount of food we had already ordered and that we were planning on hitting the new Momofuku Bakery after lunch.

I tried to ask if I could get an order of it to go. I wanted Mabel to try it. But they said no! Something about plating and not being able to do it right. Oh no, the Momofuku empire is 0/2. The guy sitting next to us said that I should just order it, not touch the plate, and then get it doggie bagged. But I was feeling non-confrontational that day. I think I was also secretly afraid that I might get blacklisted and not be able to get the Trotter Terrine again.

Oh, one more thing. Did you know that there is a such thing as organic Schneider Weisse? I didn't. It goes by the name of Schneider's Wiesen Edel-Weisse. It just as good as regular Schneider Weisse.

And that ended our day of bike riding, or Priscilla's anyway. It was dark out, and she took the train back to Washington Heights. I rode back to the apartment for a shower and then back to the East Village to meet Andy T. for dinner at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

Of course I know how ridiculous that is. But Ssam Bar is probably still my favorite restaurant and I wanted him to try it out. Andy brought a friend. More dishes to share!

We got fried brussels sprouts (which were just a bit over-salty this time around), smoked country ham (which was much better than I expected), pork buns (I abstained for this round, though), beef tendon, bahn mi, hanger steak, and spicy pork sausage & rice cakes. I noticed that they seem to no longer serve Hitachino White Ale which is too bad. I love that beer.

And I still love Ssam Bar. No matter the problems that Milk or Noodle Bar might have, Ssam Bar has never let me down.

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 2nd Ave (enter on 13th St)
New York, NY 10003

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave (btn 10th and 11th St)
New York, NY 10003

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

Pumpkin cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens Bakery‎

Two Saturdays ago (12/6/08) Priscilla and I made our way partially around the island of Manhattan on bicycles. I was under the impression that you could use the New York City Greenway system to go all the way around Manhattan. But the East side is a mess. I guess I should have looked at a map before I made my way out.

Anyway, we were only lost for an hour. But somewhere in the middle of it, we stopped by Two Little Red Hens Bakery‎.

Priscilla really likes the pumpkin cupcakes here. We also got the hot chocolate. It wasn't too hot, which I liked. And I got whipped cream and marshmallows with it. I haven't had marshmallows in hot chocolate since I was a kid.

I'm not especially fond of pumpkin things, but I thought the pumpkin cupcake was excellent. Cupcakes only fall into one of two categories: great or bad. If it's just okay, or nothing special, then it's a bad cupcake. Anyway, I got one to go for Mabel, and it survived the rest of the bike ride.

Two Little Red Hens Bakery‎
1652 2nd Ave (near 86th St)
New York, NY 10028

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Smoked mozzarella from Joe's Dairy

I picked up a ball of smoked mozzarella at Joe's Dairy today. Mabel has been wanting to try it since we first went to Joe's last October.

The smoked mozzarella is so good to eat. It's a bit drier than the non-smoked, and it has a kind of skin around it. It tastes so good and simple. It's so satisfying. It tastes like it has been hanging in some person's chimney. And it somehow tastes like walking around outside in the winter except, of course, much warmer.
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
from Preludes, Eliot

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Peter Luger v. Wolfgang's Steakhouse

We went to Peter Luger last month (Nov 1) to celebrate Ben D's birthday. It was his first time there, and we stuck to the classic Peter Luger menu: bacon, hash browns, creamed spinach, and steak for four, rare (sometimes they overcook the steak, so I always get it rare). We also added tomatoes and onions in response to our waiter's strong powers of suggestion.

The tomatoes and onions were just thickly sliced tomatoes and onions. Pretty ridiculous. The waiter suggested eating them with the bacon and some steak sauce, and they were pretty good. Not a bad dish when you assemble it all like that.

At some point during our meal, I noticed the seasonal decoration in the dining room.

Do you see it? Here, I'll zoom in.

That's right. It's a tiny, solitary pumpkin on some random shelf. Someone has a good sense of humor.

Anyway, the meal was great. The steak was just as it should be, and it was a lot of fun. I think it's always more fun coming here with someone who has never been before. I'm convinced that the first meal at Peter Luger is always the best. Somehow the steak tastes better. I don't know why that would be, but that's how it is. It's what I've heard from friends, and it's what Mabel and I think ourselves. So it's good to have that at the table.

The meal was also a lot of fun because Mabel and I got there a bit early and had a stiff drink. It will be remembered as the meal where we discovered that getting a little drunk right before dinner is awesome.

Two more things about the meal. This place is famous for only taking cash (or the Peter Luger charge card, which doesn't count). But we were super low on cash because Mabel lost her wallet and we didn't have the ATM cards for our joint account. We barely made it.

Also, if you ever go to Peter Luger, look for their pocket protectors. If you know me, you know I'm a nerd for pocket protectors. They have these oversized ones with "Peter Luger" written on them. I asked if there was any way I could get a hold of one, but my waiter let me down. Maybe one day they'll offer them to the general public.


A week and a half after our meal at Peter Luger, we went to a resident recruitment thing at Wolfgang's Steakhouse. I first heard about Wolfgang's from this article in the Times around the time they opened up. It seems like they're doing pretty well. We went to their second location in Tribeca.

This wasn't a sit down dinner. It was drinks and hors d'oeuvres, kind of. They had crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, tuna, and canapes. And it was all good. At the end of the night, they even brought out a perfectly charred Porterhouse cut up in little pieces with toothpicks in each piece. They hors d'oeuvres-erized a Porterhouse. It was great. The taste was on par with Peter Luger, although it's difficult to control for context.

But the great innovation here, the memorable part of the meal, was the lamb chops. They served lamp chops as finger food. Just a whole lamb chop. But they expected you to pick it up by the bone and eat it. Awesome! It makes so much sense. You pick up a loin lamb chop by the bone and there's meat on either side. And it's just the right size. It's kind of weird but kind of awesome. It's kind of barbaric but also kind of perfect.

Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211-6131
(718) 387-7400

Wolfgang's Steakhouse Tribeca
409 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-0350

53rd and 6th chicken and rice cart

This is a backlogged post from November 30, 2007. That's right, over a year ago.

I had finally made it out to the illustrious 53rd St and 6th Ave Chicken and Rice cart. They're so famous, they have a website saying how famous they are,

I remember that I went there after seeing Nicolas Kristof speak at the New York Public Library about Darfur. Josh invited me, but Priscilla happened to have tickets too. And the three of us went to get chicken and rice afterwards.

I had only been here one time before, and I did it all wrong. I didn't put any white sauce on my chicken because they didn't give me any. But this time I put white sauce and hot sauce on it. I can still remember that I put too much hot sauce on. But it was so good. I like the hot sauce.

I haven't been back since. For me, it's not worth a special trip, although I know a few people who would strongly disagree.

53rd and 6th Chicken and Rice
53rd St and 6th Ave (South-west corner)
New York, NY

Hot peppers

I read all the easy-to-read good papers for my thesis a month ago, and now I'm reading all the crummy, poorly written papers I saved for myself. And I'm at an impasse. So I figure I might as well catch up on some backlogged posts.

I took this picture back in September.

These are hot peppers in my parents' garden. My mom strung a bunch of them together so that I could hang them up in my apartment to dry.

And these have been drying since Septmember until I just took the picture a few minutes ago. I finally used one of the hot peppers last night in a stir fry. I've been cutting up partially thawed pork chops from our pig really thin (it's easier to slice them thin when it's half frozen) and using that for stir fries so that we don't get sick of eating large pork chops all the time.

That reminds me, yesterday I went to the Mee Sum Coffee Shop for lunch. And it looks like I was there exactly a year ago. Their chicken soup is still good, although not quite as good as I remember it. But it's still cheap. I paid $3.75 with a cup of coffee.

On my way back home, I bought some vegetables from a random shop in Chinatown: a red bell pepper, a piece of ginger, and a bunch of baby spinach. It was only $2. I never want to go to Gristedes again. I never wanted to go to Gristedes before either, but this is just one more reason not to.

Anyway, those vegetables made it into the stir fry, along with the hot pepper.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No more regular cassoulet at Le Singe Vert

We had dinner with Crystal and Cristiana last night at Le Singe Vert. Cristiana is in town promoting her small poetry press, The Press Gang.

This restaurant is where I ate my first cassoulet. I just noticed that it was almost exactly one year ago. That's so crazy. Or maybe not. My point is that it's no longer a regular item on their menu. But the waitress said that it's sometimes a special. So I'll have to plan ahead next time. I've eaten cassoulet a few times over the past year, even once at Bouchon, but the one I had at Le Singe Vert a year ago is still the best.

They didn't have what I wanted last night, but there was a bonus. I got the hanger steak instead, and it came with a marrow bone! And it was a very nice one.

Mabel wants to add that the apple tart was really good. Very caramelly.

La Palapa

Mabel and I had an early dinner at La Palapa tonight.

Strangely, we've been trying to make an effort to eat out more, to try to save time on cooking and shopping. But I'm not completely convinced. I think I might have gotten too used to cooking on my own. I tend to feel a little ripped off after eating out at a place like this.

I mean, it's a mediocre Mexican place, and mediocre isn't a bad thing. It's just what it is, that is, mediocre. The prices are what restaurant prices are, but I just don't feel great about it. There are so many places like this. I don't know how they can all survive.

Also, this place has a bento box special. A Mexican bento box. Don't get me wrong. I think bento boxes are the cat's meow, and they sometimes pop up at asian fusion places. But at a Mexican place? I don't know. All I can think about is that creature from The Second Coming with a shape with lion body and the head of a man. What's going to happen next?

La Palapa
359 6th Ave (btn W 4th Street and Washington Pl)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-6870

Sunday, November 23, 2008

McDonald's West Village

I'm in the middle of writing my thesis, so I've been a little backlogged on posts (and cooking) lately.

At the beginning of the month Mabel lost her wallet and the ATM card we use for cash. So one night I had to go to McDonalds because they were the only cheap place I knew of that took credit cards.

This is the one across the street from the West 4th St basketball courts. I've been here a few times before, but this is the first time I noticed this sculptural mural above the food counter.

Anyway, I tried out the Angus burger which was not very good.

136 W 3rd St (near 6th Ave)
New York, NY‎ 10012

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dinner at Home

We had dinner at Home last Thursday.

Mabel had a pretty long day, and she lost her wallet, so dinner here was a nice distraction

I love this restaurant. It's pretty laid back, it feels warm, the food is simple and straightforward, and the ingredients are first rate. If I were to start a restaurant, it would look like Home Restaurant. I mean, it probably wouldn't, but I would want it to. They even play the music we listen to when we make dinner.

Their wine list is mostly New York. They have a few wines from Virginia, and a few from California. We got a bottle of non-vintage red wine from Shinn Estates. I was curious about the non-vintage part. You don't see that very much outside of jug wines. More wineries should go non-vintage. It's not as if most people can tell the difference between an inexpensive wine from 2004 and one from 2003 anyway. It went well with dinner.

Mabel got a Newport steak, which almost certainly comes from Florence. They don't fold their Newports over, though. They stretch them out. It came with a huge piece of savory bread pudding which I'd never seen or heard of before. It is the love child of Thanksgiving stuffing and mac and cheese.

I got duck with a bunch of sauteed mushrooms. I was happy to eat it.

We finished with more bread pudding, of the dessert variety. It came in a soup bowl. It was awesome.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lunch at Home

Mabel and I just came back from a very nice lunch at Home.

It's been under renovation for most of the summer and only re-opened recently. We pass by almost every day, and today we finally thought to give it a go.

They have a garden in the back that's adjacent to our building's backyard. The furniture's all new, some of the fencing is not even weathered grey yet. And they have outdoor heaters.

I got a salami sandwich which was good. It's how I would have wanted to make it myself. And they used a warmed soft ciabatta roll. Mabel got a fried oyster po' boy which was really awesome. It beats the Pearl Oyster Bar fried oyster roll, although I guess they're going for a different thing there. But still.

Anyway, the lunch was very simple, but you could tell the ingredients were impeccable. Nothing to dwell on, but it gave me a good feeling.

We will have to come back sometime soon for dinner. I imagine that this place is bound to get re-reviewed at some point. I haven't seen them with a full house yet, but that's not going to last for long.

Home Restaurant
20 Cornelia St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-9579

Friday, October 24, 2008

Joe's pizza with pepperoni

Yesterday while my bike was getting stolen, I went to Joe's Pizza and brought back lunch. Now I usually just get cheese, but I wanted a change, so I got pepperoni.

I got a large chunk of pepperoni on one of my slices. I guess things equal out in the end. I lost a bike that day. But I got extra pepperoni for free.

My bike's last day

Woe is me. My bike got stolen yesterday. It was in the backyard of my building. Someone stole it between 12:30 PM and 3:45 PM, right after I finished truing the wheels.

I wonder if it was someone in the building. Maybe they saw me working on it. The only people who can get to the backyard are people with keys to the building. I will never know.

I knew this day would come. I have been preparing myself, as this Bike Snob post advises. But it still stinks.

At least I had a nice final ride on it.

On Wednesday, I needed to get out after a morning of reading. So I biked up 8th Ave to Central Park. I walked my bike through the Mall because it was such a nice day. And I ate a hot dog there while listening to a saxophonist. Then I headed to the Met and looked at the Jeff Koons exhibit on the roof which is ending this weekend.

I rode down to Tiffany's to get my mom's watch fixed, then over to Broadway and through Times Square where I almost ran over a pedestrian in the bike lane. I almost passed Madison Square Park without going to Shake Shack, but then thought better of it and got myself a Shack Burger. There was no line! And the burger was more delicious than I remembered it. I want to say that Shake Shack is my favorite burger right now, but I've been saying that about every hamburger I've eaten lately.

Anyway, I noticed the treehouse art installation in the park. It was neat.

From there I rode down to the Union Square Greenmarket. I picked up another stem of Brussels sprouts except these were really fresh and nice (the other stem was a bit ratty). And then I went home.

At least they didn't get my milk crate. I took that off before working on my wheels. Oh well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saint's Alp Teahouse to go

We biked to Saint's Alp Teahouse after dinner to get some black tea milk tea to take home with us.

I walked in and the people up front ignored me for a few minutes. Rather than try to vie for their attention, I picked up a business card, called the number, walked out the door, watched someone pick up a phone in the back of the restaurant, and ordered our tea. It was done in less than 5 minutes. We saw someone bring it up front, and I went in and got it.

So, the in house service is still horrendous. But getting things to go is ridiculously quick.

Joe's Ginger

We just got back from getting soup dumplings at Joe's Ginger.

We tried going to Joe's Shanghai last night but the wait was about half an hour. That's not unreasonable, but I really didn't feel like waiting, so we went to Lei's Secret Restaurant instead.

I was telling Priscilla about it earlier today and she said that we should have gone to Joe's Ginger just down the street from Joe's Shanghai. This was something like the fifth time she has said this to me, but I keep forgetting about it. Well no more.

Priscilla's account of Ginger is that it's nicer, there's no wait, and the service is better. The prices are the same. The dumplings are just as awesome.

In a weird way Joe's Ginger is one of those places hidden in plain sight. It's in a weird way because it looks like a rip off of Joe's Shanghai, like Ray's, Original Ray's, and Famous Original Ray's, but it's totally not. It's like a double trick that's not meant to be a trick. It's hidden because people, myself included, think, hey that place is just trying to fool confused tourists into going there.

As we were locking up our bikes, I overheard a European tourist say to his friend that the line at Joe's Shanghai was really long. The friend said, what about Joe's Ginger? And the guy said, that's not the same thing. And I said, they're the same people.

They didn't follow us in. Maybe people like Joe's Shanghai for the frenetic environment and the energy of the place. I can understand that. But that's not what I'm after. I'm happy eating my soup dumplings now, and in peace.

Joe's Ginger
25 Pell St
New York, NY 10013

Sunday, October 19, 2008

First oysters of the season

I got two dozen oysters from Citarella today! It was the first time we had oysters since it has gotten cooler.

I got my favorite, Wellfleets, and my new favorite, Fisher Islands. The Wellfleets were better than the Fisher Islands this time around, so I guess my new old favorites are now Wellfleets.

I went to our new neighborhood Citarella (new to us). I was eyeing the rest of their seafood. It looks really good. I'd forgotten about fresh seafood, maybe I should get back into it. It looked like they had day boat sea scallops. The only other place I know that has those reliably is Balducci's. Anyway, I'll be going back sometime soon for some of those.

Citarella (Village)
424 Avenue of the Americas (at 9th St)
New York, NY 10011

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joe's Dairy

After a shopping trip today, we happened upon Joe's Dairy! While it was open!

Mabel first tried to buy some cheese here a few months ago on her way back from work. She thought it looked like an interesting shop, stood outside reading the Times article posted on the front window, and went in. The guy running the counter said, "We're closed!" and she had to retreat.

But today we got them while they were open.

They sold the olive oil we like, Frantoia, for $22.99 a liter. That's like 20% cheaper than Murray's and a dollar less than Citarella, although a little more expensive than Fairway and Fresh Direct. But it was worth paying a bit for the convenience. Anyway, we got two bottles. And we got a small ball of salted mozzarella cheese.

The cheese was very good. It tastes homemade and tastes fresh. It was kind of squeaky. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but that's what it was.

Mabel wants to get the smoked mozzarella next time.

We passed by one of the new Banksy murals on the way from Joe's.

And on our street, I saw a bike tied up with a cable lock that was almost cut through.

It was tied up next to a Rolls Royce limo.

Joe's Dairy
156 Sullivan St (near Houston)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 677-8780

Friday, October 17, 2008

Slow roasted pork shoulder

I roasted a 5 lbs piece of pork shoulder for 19 hours from Wednesday to Thursday using this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

It turned out very well. Jen and Soes helped us eat it.

I forgot to take a picture of it before eating most of it. We were able to cut into and serve it with a spoon.

Anyway, this was the first of three 5 lbs pieces of shoulder we got from our pig. I'm looking forward to making the others.

Brussels sprouts on the stem

I went to the Greenmarket last Wednesday and found several stands with brussels sprouts on the stem! I brought one bunch home.

At $3, the price isn't bad. It takes a little extra time to cut them off, but I'd rather do that than go picking through a bin of them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Smell from outside my window

I've been working at home on and off for the past few weeks, and I've been noticing the smell of delicious baked goods in the afternoon when I have my window open.

For a while I assumed that it was someone from the building, but no home cook bakes that much.

But I just realized where it must be coming from. It has got to be from Rocco's Pastry Shop on Bleecker St! I wish that I couldn't smell it, because it makes me want to eat cookies.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paul's Place

We went on a burger bender today.

After lab meeting, I was talking about burgers with a bunch of people in lab, and John said that all this burger talk was making him hungry. So either Priscilla or I said, let's get burgers! But we were the only ones willing to follow through. Anyway, I called Mabel and she called Hyman (they both had the holiday off), and we all headed to Burger Joint for lunch.

I love their fries. I got a shake. I was thinking that Burger Joint is my favorite place for a burger, when you factor in the fries. The only problem is that, like most other burger places, the meat seems to be underseasoned. Otherwise, it's great.

But for some odd reason, Mabel and I wanted more. I mean, we were full after lunch, but that just stoked our craving for burgers. So I took her to Paul's Place for dinner.

I like this place. I think I've been twice before, once around the time I first arrived in New York, and another time more recently. The most recent visit, I was with Ben C, we were waiting for a table, and for some reason I was trying to remember Macbeth's tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech. I was struggling through it until the guy waiting behind us started reciting it for me:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

I can never think of a quick rejoinder to that speech.

Anyway, Paul's is still as satisfying as I remembered it. Their burger is humongous.

The patty could use more salt, but I decided to salt it myself and it was even better. Good burger. And I like the vibe of the place. For some reason it reminded me of Philadelphia, in a good way.

Mabel says that Paul's burger is juicy but underseasoned. She still likes Burgers & Cupcakes best.

Paul's Place
131 2nd Ave (near St Marks Pl)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-3033

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Asparagus update 2

I haven't done the best job of keeping updates on the asparagus. But basically, between my last update in May and September, this has been the progress.

This picture was taken on September 6th.

My mom planted pepper plants in between the rows of asparagus. The asparagus are the bush-like plants with leaves like dill.

I took some pictures of unripe cherry tomatoes that day.

And here's a random picture of a mantis from June.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Purple cauliflower

I got this purple cauliflower last Saturday (Oct 4) at the Greenmarket.

I'd never seen purple cauliflower before. As I was buying it, a woman behind me asked the vendor if it tasted the same as regular cauliflower. He said yep. She asked if there was food coloring added. He said nope. Then she asked if it stayed purple after cooking, and he didn't really know how to answer. And then she asked me. And I said that there's only one way to find out.

Well, I can't really say if it tastes the same because when I prepared it, I steamed it. And I don't remember the last time I ate steamed cauliflower. I'm not the biggest fan (I bought it this time because I couldn't resist the purple) but this was really good. It might have just gotten me interested in cooking all kinds of cauliflower now.

Anyway, it definitely stays purple after cooking.

I also picked up a head of cabbage because it looked so attractive. I've been making a lot of cabbage soup lately.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Magnolia Bakery

We were riding our bikes back home from Socarrat and noticed that there was no line at Magnolia Bakery.

So we figured we might as well see what all the fuss was about.

It was ridiculously disorganized. There were signs saying where you should order and where you should pay, but the people working there didn't really seem to be taking orders. We asked one person where to take orders and she pointed to the counter. When we asked the counter person, she pointed to a table of cupcakes. I guess it's self serve? Fine with me. There were also something like 8 people working up front, but I couldn't figure out what half of them were doing.

Anyway, the price of the cupcakes seemed about right. We ate at a park across the corner from the bakery.

The cupcakes were tasty. I got just plain vanilla and Mabel got red velvet. The red velvet was pretty intensely red.

This bird preferred my vanilla cupcake.

I think it's evolutionarily programed to consider anything red to be poisonous.

It was really going at it.

I'm surprised that my phone had video.

Anyway, it's as satisfying as a cupcake should be which is pretty gosh darn satisfying. I liked how they did the frosting on top. We plan to drop in whenever there's no line.

Magnolia Bakery
404 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Socarrat Paella Bar

Mabel and I just got back from eating at Socarrat.

She's post-call and I'm staying in to read and write, so we figured that we should make the most of our time at lunch. This place just got a positive Bruni review, and lunch seemed to be a good way to avoid crowds.

It was really very good. We got some fried artichokes to start, which were good, and Paella Valenciana which had snails, rabbit, and bits of pork ribs. From what I've read, Paella Valenciana is one of the more traditional paellas. Although there's no seafood, the snails gave it a nice shellfish taste. Mabel says that the snail shells were the most beautiful snail shells she'd ever seen. I would have taken a picture, but I forgot to put the battery in the camera.

Anyway, the paella was great. It was on the saltier side which I like. There were a few lima beans in there and some peas on the half shell, if that makes sense. It looked nice.

I would say that one of the main draws is this Spanish guy who works there. He seems like someone who could be running a tapas bar anywhere in Spain. I think that he must be the guy that Bruni refers to, going around and helping people dish out their paella. He suggested to us to leave the edges of the pan, and the socarrat, untouched until we'd mixed and eaten the center of the pan. And only at the end of the meal, to scrape and eat the socarrat. I like how that works. It's like a dish that they would do for you at a fancy pants restaurant: paella two ways. The soft paella and then the crunchy paella. Except in the case of paella at Socarrat, that's the only way to do it.

Socarrat Paella Bar
259 W 19th St (btn 7th and 8th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 462-1000

PS- This obsession with socarrat reminds me of the Korean Noo Roong Jee which is the burnt rice left over after cooking rice in a stone pot.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ground coffee at The Grey Dog's Coffee

I just picked up a bag of coffee from The Grey Dog's Coffee, and I am sorely disappointed. It was ground! I guess I must be a coffee snob because I assumed that any serious coffee place would only sell whole beans, or grind to order. It's going to go stale in a day and it cost the same as the awesome bag of coffee I got from Cafe Grumpy. I should have known! It came in a burlap souvenir bag. But I was out of coffee this morning and desperate.

It was ground too fine for my usual dual-mug-and-tea-strainer-faux-French-press method, so I had to dig up some old coffee filters and a mixing bowl. Not a bad cup of coffee, but definitely not what I had in mind.

Update 10/13/08
I stopped by today. The sign above of the coffee beans indicates that they have both whole and ground coffee. I guess I just took the wrong one. But they don't mark the bags themselves. Anyway, Cafe Grumpy remains my coffee bean purveyor of choice.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fried rice

Mabel wanted me to take a picture of some fried rice I made last week. Since we don't have a microwave, this is one of our ways of dealing with cold, leftover rice.

I pretty much just put in any vegetables that I can into it. But I especially like putting in corn for sweetness, bean sprouts for texture, sauteed onions for onion-ness, and carrots because I just always put in carrots. Scallions are always nice on top if we have them. This is great for leftover meat. I put in some leftover lamb this time. And I put in an egg just for fun.

Westpfal scissors for sale

I got some pictures of the Westpfal scissors when I picked up my knives on Thursday.

The old sign is pretty beat up. They're putting it up for sale. I put in a bid of $40 but someone who owns a barber shop on Long Island had already offered $100.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Westpfal scissors

The giant scissors hanging in front of Henry Westpfal were down today. I had to circle the block because I couldn't find the shop. I even googled them on my phone because I thought I had the address wrong. They were working on a homemade one inside.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Labor Day weekend 2008

Last year we figured out that the city is deserted on Labor Day weekend. So it's a good time to eat out.

We started off Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend at the Greenmarket, which was less crazy than it usually is. We picked up some blackberry jam because our current supply was running out. We also bought some nectarines that were really good, and ripe.

We dropped off all our stuff and then ate lunch at Papatzul. Mabel was craving Mexican food, so I did a quick search at Serious Eats for their recommendations. Ed Levine really likes this place, so I figured we might too.

The place was completely empty, which was kind of a surprise. I mean, I expected things to be slow, but not that slow.

We liked this mask they had hanging up.

Anyway, the food was good. It was satisfying enough although the ceviche was a bit disappointing. I think this place would be nice place to eat out with friends.

On our way out, we passed this dog with white paws patiently waiting for its owner.

Mabel wanted to send a chocolates to a friend from Marie Belle, and it was just a few blocks from Papatzul. So we stopped by. I really like their hot chocolate. They do it european style where it is basically half chocolate and half water. By chocolate I mean a ground up chocolate bar. Comparing their hot chocolate to something like Swiss Miss is like comparing freshly squeezed orange juice to Orange drink. Not that there's anything wrong with Swiss Miss or Orange drink, but I'm just saying.

Anyway, we still had plenty of their hot chocolate at home, and we didn't feel like hanging out in their little cafe. We picked out a few pieces to send to Mabel's friend, and we headed home.

I got a flat tire on our way home! It was my first flat tire ever. It's not a great feeling. But I got it fixed at the Hub Station. I've since bought tougher tires.

We headed to Hudson River Park to hang out after getting my tire fixed.

Then we saw Elegy. Mabel thought it was too melodramatic. I thought it was pretty good, although it was strange that Penelope Cruz would have two darkroom scenes in two movies that were out at the same time. I mean, who even has a darkroom anymore?

After the movie got out, I thought it would be late enough to get a table at Blue Ribbon, but the wait was 1-2 hours. Geez, it's Labor Weekend. You'd think that all the cool kids would leave the city on a holiday weekend. We tried Blue Ribbon Bakery instead, which had a much shorter wait.

The food was really good. Their bone marrow was nice. I can't say it was awesome, but it was nice and more refined that I know how to make it. They sawed the bone length-wise so it was really easy to get the marrow out. And the marrow was pure white and smooth throughout. And it had a very mild flavor which I thought was nice but Mabel though was boring. They must have soaked that thing for a while, but still. I'm not sure how they got everything so perfect looking. The bread was more like potato bread, which i think is nicer for marrow. They served it with a red wine sauce.

We also split an order of grilled sardines which were good to eat.

Mabel got sweetbreads and I ordered the duck club. We switched halfway through. Mabel would go back for the duck club.

The thing that really sticks out in my memory, though, is their bacon bread. They give you a basket of assorted breads, and I was eating a piece that looked innocent enough, until I realized there were little chunks of bacon in them! What an awesome thing to do. Bacon bread.

The next day we got Dim Sum at Golden Unicorn with some friends. I like that place. We went to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for desert.

I'm not up on my Godzilla monsters, but that mascot looks a lot like Anguirus. I wonder what the story is behind that.

They have good ice cream. Lot's of different flavors, although they seemed to be out of a number of them when we were there. It's a little icier than I though it would be, but that's probably because I've been getting a little too used to ultra-premium ice cream and gelato. This place makes old school ice cream.

55 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013

Marie Belle
484 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013

Blue Ribbon Bakery
35 Downing St (at Bedford)
New York, NY 10014

Golden Unicorn Restaurant
18 E. Broadway
New York, NY 10002

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard Street
New York, NY 10013