Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tax Day 2010 and surprise match celebration

We got our taxes done yesterday and as is customary for tax day, we planned to eat out afterwards.

My Lenscrafters follow up appointment got canceled that morning because of flooding in the store, so Mabel took me to Shopsin's for the first time.

I thought it was great. We got an Orange Julius, the Poached Modern, and fried Brussels sprouts. I couldn't believe it took me 8 years to eat here. I love it. There was a long wait (for an hour after arriving at 9), but otherwise this is my kind of restaurant. The Orange Julius reminded Mabel of her California mall days. I used to think that David Chang brought fried Brussels sprouts to New York but given its presence on Shopsin's menu, I was probably wrong about that. But the star of the breakfast was the Poached Modern. It starts with toasted cheese bread which would be great just by itself, but then they cut it into pieces like they're croutons, toss them in a bowl, and add 3 poached eggs to it so you eat it with a fork. Brilliant!


We continued our love of the modern by going to MoMA for the fantastic Marina Abramovic retrospective. I have a new appreciation for performance art. Mabel was intrigued by the naked people door (we didn't end up going through it). We skimmed a few of the other galleries and came upon a painting I haven't seen before.

(Magritte, The Portrait, 1935)

I wonder if that's what vegetarians see whenever they are faced with a plate of meat.

We got a drink and a nice radish salad at the MoMA cafe before leaving.


I really like this cafe and wish that something like this place existed outside of the museum. You order at the counter and they give you a number that you place on your table. There's self-serve free water and the food is delicious.

It was such a nice day that we decided to walk down to Ssam Bar from the museum. We stopped by a few stores on the way and for some reason she was especially concerned about getting to Ssam Bar earlier than later. We ended up taking a cab part of the way and I didn't begin to suspect why until I saw Diana waiting outside of the restaurant. I wasn't quite sure it was her at first and then I thought what a coincidence. But it turned out that Mabel set up a dinner to celebrate the match and we were all going to have Bo Ssam.


It was all wonderful. Afterwards, we got dessert at Milk Bar and had some mojitos back at the apartment.

Cafe 2 MoMA
9 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 333-1299

10 Downing

This meal took place on 3/14/10.

Suzie gave us a Restaurant.com gift certificate for Christmas, and we decided to use it at 10 Downing last Sunday.

Mabel has been curious about this place since before it opened about 1.5 years ago. I think the buzz back then had a lot to do with this controversial chef guy Neroni. But he has since left, and now we're able to use a Restaurant.com certificate to eat there.

It was fun. We made an Open Table reservation 15 minutes beforehand and they seated us in a nice corner banquette. The menu was definitely different from when it was reviewed in the Times and service was a bit slow, but we didn't really go for the food and weren't in any hurry.

I got chicken which was flavorful, but the white meat was pretty dry. Mabel was craving a burger. She thought it was respectably average.


She really wanted a tomato on her burger, but they said that they had no tomato because it was out of season. It reminded me of the time Mabel asked for lettuce and tomato at Jack's Hot Dog Stand, and the reply was, "No ... but we have relish." But Jack's is a humble counter restaurant so it's kind of awesome. 10 Downing had mango on their dessert menu, so I'm not sure they can play the seasonality card.

What really made the burger was that the knife in it reminded Mabel of a Colbert Report sketch on how Karl Rove looked like a canned ham.



10 Downing
10 Downing St (at 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 255-0300

Jack's Hot Dog Stand‎
12 Eagle St
North Adams, MA 01247
(413) 664-9006

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hammer library food cart

This is the most reliable food cart in Washington Heights. They are open 24/7. I have gotten many late night dinners here.


These guys have been working here forever.



Food cart
Northwest corner of 168th St. and Fort Washington Ave
New York, NY 10032

Monday, March 15, 2010

Olive oil poached salmon

My parents sent me back to New York with some wild salmon that they bought at their Korean market in Philadelphia. It was really good quality and had a nice creamy texture to it in tartare form. I decided to treat it right by making olive oil poached salmon for dinner tonight. It was the first time I've poached fish in oil.


I kept the temperature between 170-190 degrees with my trusty new Polder electronic thermometer. I couldn't bring myself to use 100% olive oil, so I cut it with canola oil, about 50/50, which oddly made it taste a bit like Bertolli olive oil.

Interesting.

Anyway, I added garlic, shallot, dill, rosemary, and lemon zest and cooked until Mabel arrived, about 15 minutes. As a final, smoky coup de gras (as opposed to grace), I wrapped them in Surryano ham.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shake Shack and Neil's Coffee Shop

I got to spend most of last Friday hanging out with Diana.

We met up for an early lunch at Shake Shack. It was threatening rain, and the crowd of people was sparse. There were many, many squirrels however.


I don't like it when squirrels get too close. And I don't understand people who try hand feeding squirrels. It seems like the worst idea ever. But I have a feeling that these squirrels have been conditioned to be fed by people. The one above looks too fat for the end of winter. The one below got way too close.


It jumped right up on our table, at least 3 times, and I had to physically push it off each time. It was impossible to shoo away. It looked at my shoo-ing hand as if I was tossing it food.

Anyway, the rest of lunch was very nice. The heat lamps are great, and the burgers tasted even better than I remembered them (I think because they were on the rare side of medium-rare). After the squirrels got to be too much, we headed to the Met.

I have been wanting to see their newly-renovated American Wing for a while. It was a very nicely re-done atrium. Diana pointed out that it reminded her of a mall, but what's more American than a mall? We checked out the storage-like Luce Center, and I saw these cool pastry cutters.

This one is apparently a combination fork and meat tenderizer as well.




I like the square wave pattern that this one makes. I'm not sure why there are mini fists on the end but they're cool. And the fork again? What's that for? Why so many questions?


Madame X was just a few cases away. Just four years ago there were banners all over Boston with her image, and it was weird seeing the painting hidden away now. Since it was frameless, Diana hypothesized that they were maybe fixing the frame. Hmm.

Back in the new atrium they put out a good bunch of pottery. I liked this vase a lot (ca. 1922-28, Fulper Pottery Co., Flemington, NJ).


It's cool how the glaze crystallized like that.


In the jewelry section, I thought these earrings were really cool (ca. 1882-85, Tiffany & Co., New York City).


I figured that maybe crime was a problem in the 19th century and that these covers helped deter muggings. When I asked Mabel about it later, she seemed to think that they're just protective storage covers.

We tried going to the cafe at Maison du Chocolat afterwards, but the cafe was temporarily closed as it always is when I try to go there. It was difficult finding a good place to get a cup of coffee, and we walked around in the rain for a while until we came upon Neil's Coffee Shop.


The last time either of us had been here was several years ago with Jen after church when we similarly couldn't find any other place to go. I guess that makes Neil's Coffee Shop my go to place on the Upper East side.

Update 3/16/10
Turns out that the Met has a little blurb on the earrings.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
Madison Avenue and 23rd Street

Neil's Coffee Shop
961 Lexington Ave (at 70th St)
New York, NY 10021
(212) 628-7474‎

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cantoon Garden

This meal originally took place on 2/21/10.

I was craving Chinese food. A quick search on Chowhound led me to Cantoon Garden, which as pictured here, goes by South China Garden Chinese Restaurant (I have no idea when they changed their sign).


The winner of the night was Salted Baked Squid. David really liked this dish. I'm guessing the squid was dipped in batter and fried; it was well seasoned and had a nice, unexpected jalapeno kick to it.


The Crispy Fried Chicken (with garlic) was decent, but the one at Congee Village is much better.


And we got the Crab with E-fu Noodle, which looked cool but was just okay.


I'd like to come back. The Chowhounders seem to love this place and there are plenty of other dishes to try.

South China Garden Chinese Restaurant (aka Cantoon Garden)
22 Elizabeth St
(between Bayard St & Canal St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 964-2229

Shopsin's Breakfast Sandwich

This sandwich originally took place on 2/13/2010.

I like going to Shopsins, but it's often a pain to eat there. They are only open Tuesday through Saturday, and it gets crazy busy after 10 am (they open at 9 am, 9:30 am on Saturdays). One day I had a terrible craving for one of their sandwiches, but wasn't going to be able to make it out to Shopsins for weeks. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

The object of the craving was the Wiggly Pete, which is a sandwich composed of 3 poached eggs, pork sausage, jack cheese, scallions, and tomato on garlic bread. I basically recreated the sandwich, except that I fried the eggs (gently, so that the yolks were molten and not solid), and also added cilantro.




It wasn't Mr. Shopsins' sandwich, but I think it addressed the craving pretty well.

Sakagura

This meal originally took place on 10/2/2009.

Dave and I love Sakagura. It used to have more cache in the past than it does now because it was really hard to find, and once you found it, it would be filled with Japanese customers. Nowadays, it seems like everyone knows about it. But it's still worth a visit. We think of it as a more upscale version of Hagi with a great sake list and beautiful and delicious small dishes.

Sakagura is really hard to find because the entrance is via a nondescript office-type lobby.


You have to go down the stairs...


to get to the restaurant.


Once you get there, you have to order the Sakagura Special - an amazing chunk of pork belly in a savory broth. You are not going to want to share this dish because it is so good.


On our last visit, we got a number of other dishes including this beautiful tuna tartar.


We also got grilled Japanese eggplants served with three kinds of miso (egg yolk, spinach, sweet red), soft boiled egg topped with sea urchin and salmon roe in cold soup, and grilled rice balls brushed with miso paste. It was all extremely delicious.

Sakagura
211 East 43rd Street (Basement Level)
New York, NY 10017

Palma

This meal originally took place on 1/20/10.

Palma started running prix fixe specials during the weekdays last January. Dave and I are a big fan of tasting menus and Palma was offering one for $35/person.

We thought it was funny that sometimes it was Chef Raffael offering the special...


and sometimes it was Chef Ronka.


We got Chef Raffael's tasting menu with the wine pairing. We went when the whole tasting menu thing was kind of new at Palma, and it appeared that the waitstaff was not briefed about the wine pairing option. They were a friendly bunch, but we had to keep reminding them to keep up with the pairings; Dave and I got a kick out of the fact that they were probably just pouring us whatever they felt like pouring, as it didn't seem like they were really clued in about the food. Regardless, it all tasted pretty good. We can't remember the specific dishes, but we do remember that there was some solid cooking and that we had a good time.


Palma
28 Cornelia St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-2223

Ippudo

This meal originally took place on February 10, 2010.

Dave and I decided to go to Ippudo one very stormy night.


As you can see, I am wearing a new pair of polka dot galoshes. We had popped into Ibiza Kids (they are next door to Ippudo) and had bought them right before dinner.

We got to Ipuddo at 4:55 pm and asked the hostess for a table for two. She replied that they were opening in five minutes. I reflexively (and unnecessarily) asked if we could put our name down, to which she responded, "I said we are opening in five minutes." Okay, the hostess is a little testy. Not the best PR for a restaurant, but I let it go.

What really bothered me was our subsequent interaction with a waitress who came by as we were waiting by the hostess' podium. The waitress asked if we wanted to sit down on the benches while we waited. We told her, "No thanks, it's only going to be a few minutes." Her response was, "Oh, you're afraid you're going to lose your spot in line, aren't you?" We smiled politely and shook our heads because actually, no, we weren't afraid - we were at the front of the line. And even if some huge error was made and we were seated second or third or tenth - for God's sake, the entire restaurant was empty. Getting seated was not going to be an issue. Her response - "Oh yeah you are, you're afraid you're not going to get our really good ramen, aren't you? Yeah, you're afraid."

Perhaps I've been lucky - I have not yet run into outright arrogance in New York City so far, but to encounter it in a ramen house of all places is unbelievable. Ramen is food for the masses. It is cheap and hearty and humble fare. Ramen houses should be proud if they make great tasting ramen, but to be this obnoxious about the quality of your own ramen leaves me without words.

As I was eating the delicious and unctuous broth, I decided that I kind of hate Ippudo. We're sticking with Minca. Their ramen is just as good and you are treated a million times better.


Ippudo
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Twin Donut and the Keurig coffee machine

On my Allen ICU rotation last month I routinely got coffee and breakfast from Twin Donut.


It was open when the (depressing) hospital cafeteria wasn't and before the Keurig machine was brought out.

I had never seen a Twin Donut before that rotation, didn't even know of its existence, but apparently they have several shops in the area.

I found their logo somewhat creepy.


It took me a while to figure out, but I think it's because they remind me of the Shining twins.


One of the nice perks of the housestaff at the hospital was the fancy Keurig coffee machine.


I wouldn't have been able to stay up after lunch without it. They always kept it stocked with Green Mountain coffee pods. The coffee it made was just below average, between cart coffee and freshly brewed Maxwell House, but it was fresh and hot and very much appreciated.

Most of my classmates would call me crazy, but I'll miss my morning walk to the hospital.


Twin Donut
5099 Broadway (at 218th St)
New York, NY 10034
(212) 569-1005

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spaghetti alla carbonara

I made spaghetti alla carbonara for breakfast this morning.


I was planning to go on a relatively long bike ride this afternoon, so I thought it would be a good idea to load up on carbohydrates. Carbonara seems very much like a breakfast food, and I had all the ingredients on hand.

My favorite carbonara recipe is one I learned from Mario Batali. I saw him make it on his old show, Molto Mario, back when the Food Network still cared about food.

It is a cream-less recipe. You start rendering the pork fat in olive oil (I didn't have guanciale so I used some homemade lardons from the freezer) and boiling the water at about the same time and get the spaghetti to just under al dente. Then you put a splash of pasta water into the fat and bacon, put the pasta in the pan and cook a bit more. Turn off the heat. Add a bunch of parmesan, lots (lots) of freshly ground pepper, and an egg white. Stir. Transfer to a plate, put an egg yolk on top, and then finish by putting some more parmesan and pepper on top. I like to add a little bit of olive oil just at the end. Then eat!

I like the egg yolk on top because uncooked egg yolk makes an awesome sauce.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tanoreen

Crystal's friend, Rosalyn, organized an outing to Tanoreen last night. Mabel couldn't make it because of a departmental communication snafu.

When I walked into the restaurant to meet the others, a couple with a stroller were being turned away because they didn't have reservations. They must not have heard the unfortunate (for them) news of the recent positive NYT review. I felt a little twinge of guilt.

Crystal and Cristiana got mixed drinks which they thought were a bit oversweet, although that didn't stop them from ordering seconds. It looked like lamb was the featured food on the menu, so I tried ordering the lamb-stuffed cabbage leaves. That didn't turn out to be the best choice, because the waiter suggested I get the Lamb Fette (on the specials menu) instead. Sure, why not?

I'm glad I did. It was really delicious. I particularly liked how they incorporated some crunchiness into it.

Dessert was notable for the Knafeh which is this red, baked cheese thing with a shredded-wheat-like topping. The cheese was pleasantly chewy and there was a light scent of rosewater. It was wonderful.

Tanoreen
7523 3rd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11209

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Braised pork shank

I have a lot more time to cook now that the bulk of my rotations are over and residency interviews are done. So we're more quickly going through the half pig we split with Josh and Eve.

We have had 2 pork shanks in our freezer for months. Last Sunday I braised one of them.

Before:


After:


I did a straightforward braise. Onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, dried herbs de provence, fresh rosemary and thyme, bay leaf, crushed garlic cloves, cup of dry vermouth, and an old pint of frozen chicken stock from my mom. Then water so that there was a reasonable volume to work with. I didn't bother browning the meat, because I wanted a mellower broth. Two-and-a-half hours over low heat then threw away the spent vegetables. I used my handy Oxo fat separator to degrease, did several passes with a chinoise, reduced the broth about 1/3, and did a final pass through washed cheesecloth.

For vegetables, I boiled turnips, carrots, and baby yukon gold potatoes in very salty water and braised some leftover shallots in butter and vermouth.


Something seemed to be missing, though. I looked to the Silver Spoon for guidance and was inspired by the addition of shredded cabbage to their pork shank recipe. I decided to cook wedges of cabbage in the broth, then assembled the dish.


Mabel thought it was a bit understated. That was exactly what I was going for. I like pork shank. It tastes porky, but it's still mild. And I was happy to have a simple winter dish that didn't rely on bacon or smokiness or lots of fat for flavor (not that there's anything wrong with those flavors).

We skipped dessert because we figured that we'd have an extra drink at the Blue Note later that night. We saw the Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, and Paul Motian trio.


I enjoyed it. Mabel said that they were lulling her to sleep. That doesn't seem to be a bad way to end a Sunday evening.

Blue Note Jazz Club
131 West 3rd St (near 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 475-8592