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.