Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cafe Habana To Go

It was the best of corn, it was the worst of corn ...

Mabel and I just got back from Cafe Habana To Go. The cafe was packed, and we thought it would be nice to sit outside on one of their benches.

About two weeks ago we made the trip over just for the corn, independently recommended by Jen, Soes, and Priscilla. It was awesome corn. Mabel says that it was probably the best corn she'd ever had. They spread some sort of creamy cheese over super sweet, juicy grilled corn and sprinkled it with crumbly cheese and a red spice. I'm not sure what that red spice was. Maybe paprika? And they gave you a wedge of lime to squeeze over it all. It was great.

We were expecting a similar experience tonight, but at least from a corn perspective we were disappointed. The corn was hard, dry, and tasteless. It was a completely different thing. It was definitely an off night, but it was surprising anyway. Mabel was stunned. She said it was the worst corn she'd ever had. How could something so good be so bad?

Anyway, as she was staring off in the distance contemplating what went wrong she noticed something.

The Jeep's license plate.

MMMBACON. I feel so honored to have been eating in the vicinity of such awesomeness.

Another weird thing about our meal. There was a guy with a golf club (he was behind the Range Rover in the picture) hitting baseball-sized trash across the corner. He was considerate enough to make sure no one was on the sidewalk around him while swinging, but the cars and pedestrians across the street weren't so lucky. Although no one really seemed to mind that much.

I ordered the Cuban sandwich which was good. The roast pork was excellent, special even. I prefer a little more pickle and roasted pepper action in my Cuban sandwiches, but the sandwich is worth getting for the roast pork alone. Mabel got chicken with mole. Everything was very nice and the price is great. I just wish the corn were more consistent.

Cafe Habana To Go
229 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Greenmarketmobile v. 2.0

Mabel likes calling my bike the Greenmarketmobile.

A few days ago I stopped by a neighborhood Gristedes and borrowed a milk crate to put on the back. There is a lot more capacity than v. 1.0.

We carried back basil, leeks, red stem chicory, purslane, kkaennip (I can't believe we found this), French breakfast radishes, strawberries, peaches, plums, nectarines, yellow cherry tomatoes, haricot vert, lots of yellow corn, and some stinky cheese from the Cato Corner stand (the same place that makes Hooligan!).

Borghese Cabernet Franc

Borghese Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite local wines.

It's from Long Island. We saved this particular bottle for about a year before opening it. It's good.

Borghese 2002 Reserve, Cabernet Franc ooo

Friday, August 15, 2008

Newport steaks

I was falling asleep in lab yesterday, so I left early enough to get to Florence Prime Meats before they closed.

I asked the butcher to suggest a relatively inexpensive cut of beef, and he suggested the Newport steak. It's from the sirloin, the tri-tip part I think, and it was only $11 for two steaks.

I tied them with some twine because it looked like the steaks might unfold in the cooking process. I pan fried them because I wanted to make a red wine sauce, and I finished them in the oven.

They were super good. A little chewy, but hey we're not paying filet mignon prices here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Poor Man's Cappuccino

During the week, Mabel and I usually drink our coffee black. But on the weekends we're more likely to use cream and sugar.

Lately, we've been using whipped cream in our coffee.

It gives the coffee a nice texture and you get a fine foam on top. I like to think of it as a poor man's cappuccino, or at least an at-home version of it. We whip our own cream in a mixer and leave it unsweetened. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

I like to sweeten with condensed milk even though the milk is somewhat redundant. Mabel likes to use superfine sugar.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Squash runners soup

We went to the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday. We got so much stuff that I had to strap some vegetables to my new bike bag.

We got lots of corn (I went back later in the day for even more), wild spinach, chioggia beets, dandelion greens, fairy tail eggplant (what I used to think were called Japanese eggplant), a mix of tomatoes, and something called squash runners.

I'd never heard of squash runners before, but I figured that I could just look it up when I got home (we got hooked up with internet that day) and try to make something with them.

If you google "squash runners" you get a bunch of squash websites, as in the racquet sport. The food sites that you get are not terribly helpful either. Somehow, I found this recipe from a new Italian blogger which I had Google translate for me. The translation was not perfect, but I think I got the gist of what was going on. It was the only recipe I could find. On the entire internet.

The dish is called pasta con i tenerumi, and it's a soup. I think tenerumi are zucchini runners, but I was going to take what I could get. I don't know the Italian name for squash runners.

Anyway, what I made turned out nicely.

I used the leaves and runners in the soup. I boiled some bottled water in a stockpot, added the squash leaves and runners, added some halved cherry tomatoes and other tomatoes (from the market), some roughly chopped garlic, salt, and let cook for about 10 minutes. Then I added maybe 0.2 lbs of broken spaghetti and cooked until the pasta was good to eat. I ladled out the soup and poured some olive oil on top. We had some old bread, so I toasted that up and it worked as a nice crouton.

The tomatoes added just the right amount of acidity to the soup. Mabel said that the runners were fun to eat. This is such a simple soup, but it was so well balanced and good. It embodies one of the many things I love about Italian food.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Boom Boom Chicken

Priscilla and I biked to Boom Boom Chicken in Fort Lee last Wednesday. Fried chicken in Fort Lee is starting to turn into a weekly thing.

Boom Boom Chicken used to be a Bon Chon Chicken. But the owners decided that they wanted to upgrade the sauce, and they broke off from the franchise. It reminds me of McDowell's from Coming to America.

We were the only ones eating in the store. I don't think they ever expect anyone to eat there for lunch on a Wednesday because they had the air conditioner off and it was not comfortable. But they turned in on for us after we ordered.

We got a mix of mild and hot wings. The wings were huge. I thought some of them might have been small drumsticks, and when I mentioned it to the owner she said that her purveyor delivered the wrong sized chicken wings. There was a delivery going on while we were eating, and I figure that might have been the replacement delivery. So the wings we got were probably not representative.

But they were really good. The mild soy garlic wings had a deep flavor. The spicy wings were not nearly as spicy as Bon Chon wings, but the flavor was still there. And the skin was just perfect, the Platonic ideal of fried chicken skin.

I don't want to say whether Boom Boom is better than Bon Chon or not. They are different, though definitely in the same fried chicken category. But right now I am thinking of Boom Boom, and I want to go back as soon as I can.

Boom Boom Chicken
553 Main Street
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

Pork chop

We've been eating the pork chops from our pig. They're very satisfying with just salt, pepper, oil, and some time under the broiler. I added some garam masala to this one. Mabel didn't really think it added much.

We ate the tenderloin side of this pork chop before I could take a picture. I felt a little like I was eating a Porterhouse steak. Pork is great.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Greenmarket day, August 2, 2008

We went to the Union Square Greenmarket last Saturday. Here's a picture of the booty.

From left, we got duck eggs, corn, puntarelle, heirloom tomato, onions, white eggplant, strawberries, and purple basil.

We still haven't eaten the duck eggs, but it was the first time we've ever bought them. We finally bought some fresh corn. It's so good right now. Mabel says that corn is her favorite food of the moment.

Who doesn't like heirloom tomatoes? But we mistakenly bought a $6 one! Wow. It wasn't really worth it. But Mabel protected that thing like, well, like an heirloom tomato. Someone bumped into her at the market and bruised it a little. In that guy's defense, though, heirloom tomatoes will bruise if you look at them the wrong way.

The onions just looked so perfect that I had to get them. Mabel was mesmerized by the white eggplant. The strawberries were excellent. Their flavor was so concentrated that they tasted like strawberry jam. And the purple basil. I thought that maybe it was amaranth so I was staring at it until the merchant spotted me and asked if I wanted to smell it and handed me a bundle. Well, why not? The purple basil would go perfectly with the yellow tomato for a salad. We picked up some fresh mozzarella on our way home.

I'd never heard of puntarelle, but The Silver Spoon had a recipe for it (citing The River Cafe) that I used as a guide. When I looked it up on the internet later on, I found that the recipe, Puntarelle alla Romana, is a fairly classic treatment. The sauce is a vinegary anchovy mix. We use marinated Alici anchovies that we buy from Murray's. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought the puntarelle, or even really what it was, but Mabel loved it. She had been craving some sort of chicory salad, and this green is pretty much as chicory-y as you're going to get. She deemed it intense.

Comparing it to other pictures of puntarelle from a google search, though, makes me think that the puntarelle we got at the greenmarket was an atypical one. Or one at a different point of growth than when people usually eat it. Or maybe it was mislabeled and I got something completely different. I have no idea. But it was wonderful and we'll be looking out for it again.

Liquid nitrogen ice cream

I always thought that it was just a matter of time before I made liquid nitrogen ice cream. The fact that our lab recently ordered way more liquid nitrogen than we'd ever use was the only excuse I needed to make it two Thursdays ago.

Priscilla looked up the recipe online. The most attractive recipe was half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla extract. We wanted to keep it simple.

She got all the ingredients and also lent two metal mixing bowls to the project. We didn't have any dewars, but a metal mixing bowl with an asbestos glove is a fine substitute.

Jeremiah helped stir.

The nitrogen generated a lot of bubbles that wouldn't pop. I knew there would be bubbles, but it was more annoying that I thought it would be.

We stirred in some fresh strawberries near the end. It was very good. It pretty much tasted like frozen strawberries and cream.

The ice cream was a bit icier than I thought it would be. I was expecting a much smoother final product. Some of that might be because we used half-and-half rather than straight cream, but I think that it also might be a matter of technique. We'll see if we can improve on that in the future.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bon Chon Chicken, Fort Lee edition

I decided to ride my bike 165 blocks up to lab last Tuesday partially on a whim, partially because I just brought it to the city, but mostly because I was lured by the prospect of awesome fried chicken for lunch.

On Monday, Priscilla suggested that sometime we should bike over to Fort Lee, NJ, from Washington Heights to get Bon Chon Chicken for lunch. She found out about one of the locations because it was across the street from an Enterprise car rental that she used recently. So I suggested we go the next day.

The ride from the Village to Washington Heights was not as easy as I expected. And I got lost by dead ending into the 119th St. tennis courts. But I made it.

I'd never gone over the GW bridge without an automobile. It's a nice trip over the bridge. The roads near the bridge on the Jersey side, however, were not nearly as pleasant.

But we made it.

When we walked in, the few people eating there looked at us like we were crazy. Like they've never seen someone bike to eat fried chicken in 88 degree weather.

Anyway, it was totally worth it. We got a large order of hot chicken wings, in my opinion the best way to get it. I was afraid that I might have made a mistake by ordering only the hot wings, but Priscilla had faith and ate through the pain until the endorphins kicked in.

The chicken is done just as well as at their Manhattan location, but without the loungey atmosphere. Actually, the Jersey location looks exactly how it should look, like a squeaky clean take out place. The Manhattan location is just plain bizarre.

We're planning on making future trips, when the weather is cooler.

Bon Chon Chicken
2467 Lemoine Ave
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

$20 bill cheese

Mabel found a $20 bill on the street last Tuesday!

She was on the way to work early in the morning, and it was on the sidewalk at the corner of 6th and Houston. No way!

She wanted to get something special with it. So I suggested that we buy cheese. She loved the idea. That is why we're married.

I told the cheesemonger at Murray's our story and that we decided to buy some cheese that we normally wouldn't given the cost. We ended up buying these cheeses.

Here are Murray's descriptions:
Cato Carner, Hooligan
Hooligan is a delightfully stinky washed rind cheese from Colchester Connecticut. Similar to an Alsatian Munster, these little babies are creamy, sweet, and show off the best of what raw Jersey milk is all about. Made by a mother and son dairy dynamic duo, with Liz milking the cows and Mark making the cheese.

Ossau-Iraty Vieille
Pressed, uncooked cheese made from raw sheep’s milk. It comes from the Pyrenees, between the Basque country and the Bearn lies the Ossau Valley. Small scale artisan production. It has a thick rind going from yellow/orange to gray. White or ivory paste, slightly grainy, firm but very smooth. Often best in the summer and autumn as the cheese produced from the spring and summer milk are more floral. Try with a full bodied red, with a bit of fruit and spice like a Madiran, or a sweet with like Jurancon.

The Ossau-Iraty Vieille is very much like the Pyrenees Brebis move in cheese. If someone asked me what is my favorite kind of cheese, I'd have to say sheep's milk cheeses from the Pyrenees. I just noticed that we served this cheese to friends 2 years ago.

The Hooligan cheese was pretty stinky, and finished strong. It was so strong that it was almost bitter, but it wasn't exactly bitter. It was as if one of my taste buds went off scale and registered as something I can't properly describe. It wasn't as strong as Stinking Bishop, but it was in the same neighborhood. Mabel loved it. I was a bit ambivalent. It was nice that I had my sheep's milk cheese to eat.

Except that the next day the sheep's milk cheese started smelling like the Hooligan. It was because it touched it. The Hooligan is contagious!

Tomme Crayeuse

This blog is starting to become our cheese log. Last Sunday, I picked up a wedge of Tomme Crayeuse. We now love this cheese. This is what Murray's has to say about it:
Crayeuse, meaning “Chalky,” is an integral characteristic of this raw cow’s milk cheese from Savoie. The cheese is set to age in a warm, moist cave which speeds ripening developing a thick, buttery paste. When moved to a cooler, drier cave, ripening shows, leaving an interior layer of dense, chalky paste. The flavor is complex: lactic, mushroomy, and earthy, with a stunning yellow-molded rind. The mold develops naturally as a result of cellulose in the cows’ diet. Aged for four to five months.

The rind is so good. The paste is good. Everything is awesome. It changes flavors in your mouth.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sticky Hoisin Pork Ribs

While we were in PA in June, Mabel made these fantastic ribs from our half pig.

They were absolutely delicious. She used a Bon Appetit recipe (from the RSVP section) that somehow didn't make it onto the epicurious.com website. Here it is:

Sticky Hoisin Pork Ribs

6 main course servings

1 cup hoisin sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup rice vinegar
6 Tbs soy sauce

3 quarts water
1 1/4 cups soy sauce
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup whole star anise
4 ounces fresh ginger, chopped, plus 1 Tbs minced peeled ginger
8 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup dry Sherry
5 lbs pork spareribs, cut between bones to separate ribs

2 tsps finely minced lemon peel

FOR SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.)

FOR RIBS: Stir water, soy sauce, salt, star anise, 4 oz chopped ginger, 4 green onions, and Sherry in large pot to combine. Brin mixture to boil. Add ribs, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until tender, about 1 1/2 hrs. Using tongs, transfer ribs to very large bowel. Discard cooking liquid.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Add sauce and 1 Tbs minced ginger ot ribs in bowl; toss to coat. Place ribs on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in single layer. Bake 10 minutes. Remove ribs from oven; stir to coat with sauce. Return to oven; bake until sauce thickens and coats ris, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer ribs to large platter. Garnish with 4 chopped green onions and minced lemon peel.

Goldbud Farms

Two Thursdays ago (7/24/08) we received the best fruit Mabel and I have ever eaten.

I ordered a mixed box of yellow peaches, plums, and yellow and white nectarines from Goldbud Farms.

The fruit is picked tree-ripe, or almost-tree-ripe, so we had to eat quickly. I timed the shipment so my parents could help us eat it when they visited on Saturday. And we gave a few away.

After you eat this fruit, you will understand why we have fruit. When you eat a typical acidic plum or crunchy peach from the supermarket, it is difficult to imagine how that first person who ever ate a plum or peach loving it so much that it compelled him or her to plant orchards of it and go to the trouble of keeping the birds away. Supermarkets can give us inferior fruit because most of us have never had good, inspiring fruit. We've been systematically dumbed down on fruit. What we usually eat is a shadow of true fruit.

Ironically, it was a supermarket peach more than 10 years ago that first started me on a quest to find the perfect peach. It was in Pennsylvania. I was in a Giant supermarket with my mom. And I saw a bunch of fruit boxes stacked on top of each other, and there was a sign next to them saying that they were tree-ripe white peaches. They were individually wrapped in paper. And I got 2 or 3 of them. When I got back home, they were the sweetest, most perfectly ripe peaches I'd ever eaten in my life. That day I learned the meaning of ripeness. And I wanted more. But whenever I went back to Giant, they didn't have them. It was a total fluke.

I've eaten local peaches, even tree-ripe local peaches, from farmers' markets in PA and NY. But none of them matched the perfect texture and sweetness of that first, mythical white peach.

Until, of course, I ate the peaches and other fruit from Goldbud Farms. I found out about Goldbud Farms in a post about peaches on Serious Eats. The cost was high enough to make me wait a year to take the plunge. But I figured that even if I ordered 2 cases a year, I'd still spend less than a typical fruit eater would in a year, because I don't regularly eat fruit.

We ate the last of the fruit on Sunday for breakfast. The peaches were almost done for, having started to collapse in on themselves.

We had them with some of Ben and Azusa's hand-picked San Francisco blackberry preserves.

Update 8/11/08
I just found a post-it with the names of the fruit varieties on it. We got Artie Gross white nectarines, Red Top yellow peaches, Black Amber plums, and Summer Grant yellow nectarines.

Move in cheese

No internet in the apartment has made it difficult to keep up with my posts, so I'm in the NYU library getting them all out now.

Two Sundays ago (7/20/08), I picked up our first cheese from Murray's after moving to the Village. It was called Pyrenees Brebis. This is what Murray's Cheese has to say about it:
Pressed, uncooked raw sheep's milk from the French Pyrenees, aged for approximately five months. A small artisan production yields this dense ivory paste, smooth with unctuous butterfat. The yellowy orange rind is covered with a spattering of grey mold. The flavor is herbaceous, mild and compulsively edible. It's a staff favorite and one that sells incredibly well here at Murray's

We've been to Murry's several times in the past, but this visit marked the beginning of a new era.