Friday, October 31, 2008

Sushi in VT

I was up in Burlington, VT for a few days this week and I gotta say, its easier to find a Sushi joint than a French Bistro up there. Sushi is literally taking that little town by storm.
Not to mention, a huge Sake following is brewing as well.

If it weren't that darn cold in the winter, I'd recommend a road trip next month.
Clean crisp air, beautiful clear skies and the most stars you've ever seen in a night.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chi Town, My Town

Lemme tell you a lil bit bout some food to get when you’re in Chi Town. You can try other cities, but dis is where it’s at. We know da deep dish pies and hot dogs, but ya gots to get Italian beef sandwich &/or a combo. When I say combo, I don’t mean sandwich plus fries and a drink. A combo is Italian beef with an Italian sausage in the middle. Good eats, take it from me. You can have some cheese added, sautéed onions & peppers, and to spice it up some more, trow on some giardiniera. Don know what dat is? You see it at all da hot dog joints around town. It’s a condiment that’s got hot peppers, pimentos, cauliflower and other stuff to make you feel healthier. Whatever you do, LEAVE THE FRIGGIN KETCHUP ALONE. You can get the sandwich wet or dry. Wet is when da a jus “sauce” is poured onto da sandwich, and dry is when it’s on the side. My preference is dry, so I can dip da sandwich in myself. Don’t want my bread all soggy and stickin to my fingers. Gotta look good, so you do what ya gotta do, ya know? Now youse got yerself a beeyootiful sandwich. Take a bite… fuhgetabout it!

While youse is der, order up some fries. Get them drowned in cheese &/or perhaps chili. Again, leave the ketchup alone. Walk away from it. Trow it out da window. Won’t tell you a 3rd time.

And don’t forget da hot dogs. Dey’re small. Go ahead, order one or 2.

Hey, did I see you look at da ketchup? Wanna see red?

Several places to get good beefs. I recommend Mr. Beef and Al’s Beef. If you do Al’s, stick to da original on Taylor St. or Ontario. Da other clones are just not as good, but better than any other place outside Chi Town.

Tell em I sent ya

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am King!

Okay, my turn!

I like White Castle, but there are none around Washington, D.C., so when I returned to Chicago, I got my Castle on! Truth be told, we were brought to a new chain in Chi called El Pollo Loco, but since my plane landed so late, it was midnight when we arrived, and it was closed. What’s nearby and open? White Castle! It’s been years since I’ve been, so walking in and seeing and smelling the little burgers sizzling made me smile immediately. I didn’t go fancy or anything, just plain ol Sliders. Didn’t even get cheese on them (which I regretted). Whatever, they all went down by the shovel-full.

Trivia - Did you know the patties have the little holes in them so they cook quicker? It just so happened that there was a special on FoodTV just a few days before hitting The Castle.

Has anyone gone here and jam Beastie Boys in their head?

I like the way that they walk
And it's chill to hear them talk
And I can always make them smile
From WHITE CASTLE to the Nile

Monday, October 27, 2008

Inspiration leads to Consumption

Took a glimpse of Aramis's post this morning and I knew I wanted some White Castle for lunch.
My favorite is the Jalapeno Cheeseburgers.
They are like shishito peppers, one in every 8 to 10 burgers you get one significantly hotter than the rest.

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My Harold and Kumar Experience...

Usually I don't eat anything before my jiu-jitsu class, since I'm coming straight from work. Not the smartest idea, but you do what you have to do. So, after class the other night I was ravenous and needed some eats. A simple 15 minute trip to Wendy's ended up being a one f'n hour trip because every single road was closed that night. So infuriating, but at least Wendy's is usually my go to for fast food and I had a laser focus to get there. I used to love Wendy's for the variety you could get on the $1 menu.

Unfortunately, this time it sucked pretty bad. Not sure if my palate has changed or the formula changed. The bread on the sandwiches are so disugstingly buttered now...usually buttered bread is not so bad, but this is cloyingly sweet and just has this bad taste. I've noticed this at other fast food and chain restaurants as well (aka Chili's). Add the dried chicken with some gross buffalo wing sauce.

Ugh...but, a couple classes later, I decided to give fast food another try and White Castle kicked massive ars. The bread did it's job...soft and perfect to soak up the juices, but not overpowering the meat in flavor. The meat flavor comes through and is nice and soft, and the onions give it great flavor. Great stuff and I think I will declare this my new go to...I mean Harold and Kumar did ride a cheetah to get there, so it makes sense.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dumpling Challenge

I have been officially challenged to a Dumpling Duel. It's been years since my last challenge (during college) where I came out victorious. I am currently 2-0 in Dumpling challenges but tomorrow's challenger seems pretty confident he can take me down.
And to tell you the truth, I'm a little worried because it's been a busy week with a ton of distractions, and I really haven't had time to work on my recipe at all.
But that's no excuse... for I am Porthos, and I have a reputation to uphold as a Dude on dudesonfoods.

So it's currently 11:20pm... the night before the challenge. I'm writing this post as I work out the kinks to my recipe.

My mother taught me how to make dumplings when I was in grade school.
In fact, this was the very first dish my mother showed me how to make from beginning to end.
Although we never made the skin from scratch (that was always store bought) the inside filling was her pride and joy.
I guess dumplings are one of those things that vary from household to household.
Our family dumplings consist of pork, shrimp and Chinese chives.
Very basic in ingredients, but oh so satisfying.

I decided to jazz things up a bit by adding a little napa cabbage, and gelatinized soup stock, so when cooked, the heat would melt the solidified soup and become a pocket of juiciness in the folded skin.
I gotta credit those delicious Xiao Long Bao for the inspiration.
Although I've never attempted this, I think it can work in regular dumplings as well.

I made 2 batches tonight. One pan fried and one boiled.
The boiled one seems to harmonize better, so I am 90% sure I will present tomorrow's dumplings boiled.

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Diwali Festival at Tabla

courtesy Strongbuzz

Sunday: The 10-Year Anniversary Diwali Feast at Tabla 11 Madison Avenue (corner of 25th Street), 212-889-0667.
In honor of its tenth birthday, chef Floyd Cardoz is cooking a multi-course, family style dinner according the South Asian Holiday of Diwali. This much-loved holiday celebrates a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a successful harvest.

Cardoz’s menu will feature the traditional Diwali meal, with Goat served four ways, among other specialties. As is customary with the holiday, Tabla will hand out boxes of Indian sweets as parting gifts.
The evening will commence at 6 pm with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres followed by a family style dinner at 6:45 PM. The price per person is $89 plus tax and 20% service charge. Seating for children 12 years and under is $50. For reservations, please call 212.889.0667.

Here's one for the little guys

A federal judge has awarded $4.6 million in back pay and damages to 36 delivery workers at two Saigon Grill restaurants in Manhattan, finding blatant and systematic violations of minimum-wage and overtime laws.

click here for original post

Tim Sullivan does Sake

My buddy Tim Sullivan, along with 2 other Sake experts will hold a symposium later today.
Check it out if you can.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ruth's Chris Steak House

Ruth's Chris Steak House - Recommended
1000 Harbor Blvd, Weehawken, NJ
Phone: 201-863-5100

I am usually anti-steakhouse due to the happiness and quality per cost ratio (aka Craftsteak). I was actually anti-Ruth's Chris also after average experiences in the past, but our friends were going to Ruth's Chris as a last hurrah before moving to sunny San Diego. Surprisingly, the food was pretty decent and more importantly we all had a blast. Overall, I give the restaurant an 82/100.

My Menu
1) Louisiana Seafood Gumbo
2) Lettuce Wedge Salad *

3) Blackened Wild Salmon ---
4) Petite Filet **
5) Potato Au Gratin **
6) Creamed Spinach *
7) Warm Apple Crumb Tart *

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Dish Comments
1) Never been to N'Olins (aka New Orleans), so I'm not sure what a great Gumbo should taste like. What we had here was a broth with average flavor, nice rice, and overcooked shrimp. Definitely a pass.
2) Simple, but satisfying. Basically large iceburg lettuce leaves with a healthy topping of flavorful blue cheese and a mayo dressing. Crispy, savory, and very satisfying. Perfect salad for a steak house.
3) I like salmon and I'm always suckered into getting wild salmon. Unfortunately, I definitely was the sucker that night for ordering the salmon. Thought the salmon was juicy and cooked relatively well, it was terribly sour. Not sure if it was a marinade or what, but we couldn't finish it.
4) After the terrible steaks at Craftsteak, this was such a great contrast. Perfect temperature, very juicy and tender, and decent flavor for filet mignon. Amateur hour though as the steak had a slice in the middle...i'm assuming this was done to check the temperature. If I paid more for the meal, I would've been pissed, but since it was such a cheap meal I didn't mind at all.
5) Creamy, tender, potatoes topped with gooey sharp cheddar. This was definitely a great side and done well.
6) Again, funny contrast to Craftsteak. These are perfectly seasoned, flavorful, and the right temperature.
7) Apple tart was nice (nice flavor and good sweetness), but a tad dry. With the vanilla bean ice cream, it was a good combo though.

Overall Restaurant Experience (82/100)

  • Food 8.0/10 – Solid steak with very good sides. How steakhouses should be...take note Craftsteak. You don't need hardcore chefs at a steakhouse...just guys that know how to cook a steak properly and doing solid sides.
  • Service 8.5/10 – Attentive waiter, that made good recommendations and was very knowledgeable about wine. Food came out very quickly...or the great conversation we had made it seem quick.
  • Atmosphere 7.5/10 – Another stuffy steak joint, but not brimming with a-holes like Craftsteak. Standard fine dining restaurant white table clothes and dark room. Got there at 9pm on a Friday with no reservations and was seated in 20 minutes.
  • Price 10.0/10 – Phenomenal deal that they're still keeping. $89 total - 3 course meal, including 2 sides for 2 people. Menu options are limited (petite filet is the only steak available), but it's still worth it. Can't beat that for a solid steak experience.
Closing Comments
Although I've had poor experiences in the past, it was due to the high cost which equal high expecations. Take away the high cost, the expectations go away and I had a great experience. However, having the same cost, this probably is at the bottom of the high end steak experiences. My best experience in NYC is still Peter Luger's...solid steak and great atmosphere.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fosters... Australian for Bee-Ah

Not really...
Aramis and I were talking about this while munching on those yummy Kookaburra Wings...
I had mentioned I had heard that Fosters wasn't drunk much in Australia... and it was like the vinyl record screeched to a holt.
Aramis laughed and shrugged it off.. but I was pretty sure this "no way" factoid was correct.

As I went home that night to investigate... I confirmed that Fosters Lager, although originally an Australian bevie, wasn't the "Budweiser" of Australia. It's actually not even close to being #1. Their sister brands, Victoria Bitter, and Cascade Premium take the lion's share in Australia.
That blue can with the big "F" in the middle is pretty much an exported brand.
In Europe, it's completely owned by Heineken International. Last year, 82% of all Fosters(beer) sold in the world was consumed in the UK.
And here in the States, the boys at SABMiller brew and collect the checks for the US market.
Funny ain't it?

The amazement continues. As it turns out, the Fosters company is actually a big wine producer. Second largest in the world.
You may have heard of some of their wineries...
Etude, Beringer, Lindemans, Stag's Leap, Greg Norman Estates, plus at least 30 others.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Falling gas prices do not equal cheaper food...

As many of you have noticed around the country, gas prices have dropped a bunch. Like the stock market last week, we haven't seen sub $3 gas prices in a year or more. You would expect cheaper costs for the food companies would equal cheaper food costs, but not so according to this article from CNN. According to the article, once food prices increase, they virtually never go back down...good times...

Outback Steakhouse - Review

Outback Steakhouse - Recommended
539 River Rd, Edgewater, NJ 07020
Phone: 201-840-9600

After a rough week of work, Porthos and I needed to meet up but we were too lazy to travel into the city. So, as a joke we decided to "let's go outback tonight." Damn catchy song. Surprisingly, there's some tasty stuff there for the price. Overall, I give this restaurant experience a 77/100.

My Menu
1) Kookaburra Wings ***
Bloomin' Onion
3) French Onion Soup ---
4) Baby Back Ribs **

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Dish Comments
1) A serious what the f moment. We were expecting nothing from this place and these wings kicked massive ars. By no means, am I saying these are the best wings I've ever had, but the what the f was for being completely shocked by how good these wings were after expecting average food. Not the traditional floured and fried chicken wings, but these were lightly breaded and almost baked. Very juicy and very flavorful - we could have eaten 5 orders of these.
2) Outback's signature app. Basically a whole onion, opened up like a flower, breaded, and deep fried. Kinda like onion rings I guess. This was way too salty for me and pretty greasy - definitely pass on these.
3) Outback allows you to swap out sides for your entree, so I decided to swap in the french onion soup. Bad idea. This was a what the f moment in a bad way. The soup was almost like a paste...thick and way too salty. Definitely a pass...the chips that come with the ribs are pretty f'n fun to eat so stick with those.
4) Again, these are not the best ribs I've ever had, but they were still great. Very tender and very flavorful. Now, if we were served this at a real bbq joint, my opinion probably would be different. Porthos and I both noted the smokey flavor, without any smoke rings around the meat...definitely some liquid smoke probably going on here.

Overall Restaurant Experience (77/100)

  • Food 7.6/10 – Some hits and misses at this restaurant, but still pretty surprised that this place delivers. Porthos ordered the prime rib which was pretty flavorless, but very tender.
  • Service 9.5/10 – Our particular waitress was insanely knowledgeable and friendly. Whatever questions we had about the menu, she was 100% right with her enthusiastic suggestions. Food came out quick. Now, I'm assuming you're not getting this at all Outback's, but it was a healthy change of pace to a lot of the a-holes you get at some restaurants in the city. I wish all fine dining restaurants could learn from her attitude.
  • Atmosphere 7.0/10 – Standard chain restaurant design - it could have been Chili's, Applebee's, etc. Wooden booths and panels. We got there at 9pm on a Thursday and were seated in 15 minutes. Place consisted of all ages and groups - young and old couples, families, groups of guys, etc.
  • Price 8.0/10 – For the food above plus beers, it was around $40 a head including a generous tip. Decent value for what we ate, but the service definitely made it worthwhile. What was surprising was the cost of the steaks - some were around $30-40 which would be equivalent to steaks from a NY steak joint. Obviously the portions would be bigger, but the quality would be way less.
Closing Comments
Although I used to love Chili's as a youngin', I really haven't visited a huge chain restaurant in a long time. Now, I could definitely see myself "Going Outback Tonight" again for some wings, ribs, and beers with the fellas whenever too lazy to venture in the city.

Monday, October 20, 2008

At the Table With Anthony Bourdain

Just finished watching the show "At the Table With Anthony Bourdain" and although I like Bourdain's No Reservation show, this show really wasn't entertaining. It was probably unscripted, but that was a bad thing. No real focus or continuity - more Bourdain throwing random questions out to people that he's asked before during his No Reservation show. Plus, I really wasn't that interested in anyone comments either. Now granted, it probably would be a fun time if you were there and participating, but watching as an observer - it was kinda dull. For a better show in the same format, check out After Hours With Daniel.

Sour + Salt = Good?

Was eating a nuclear level sour apple and some Indian co-workers mentioned to add some salt to the apple to mellow the sourness. At first, I was relatively skeptical but I was figuring why the f not. A great what the f moment...the sourness of the apple becomes slightly sweet and pleasantly sour. Give it a try next time on your next sour green apple and you'll avoid the "bitter apple face"...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Diet Coke + Mentos

I know mom told us to never play with our food. But sometimes, boys just need to be boys.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review Updates and Extras

Matsugen - (-) My buddy and Sous Chef from a NY Times 3 Star restaurant texted me saying,
"Never going back. Food was not good and service was aweful..."

Tori Shin - (-) A co-worker of mine in the food biz said,
"Dude, you were right... I'm not going back..."

Lan - (+) Great as usual. Can't really say much else. The dishes from the menu are consistent and the service is always very warm and attentive. If there's a weakness to the place, it would probably be the bar. The blonde bartender could use a quick Bartending 101.

Momofuku Ssam - (+) Friend and Japanese culinary authority, James Beard nominated cookbook author Hiroko Shimbo called me the other day to tell me she had a wonderful time at Momofuku Ssam Bar.
She said, "...very well thought out. Lots of Korean accents, and cleverly created for the American audience."

(+) Positive Review
(-) Negative Review

Friday, October 17, 2008

Toro Toro Toro

Toro is the fattiest portion of the Tuna's belly. The fattiness of the meat helps insulate the large fish when it travels through the frigid ocean waters. Generally, the larger the fish, the more fat it holds.
Fat = Flavor
Flavor = Delicious

Every so often, in my line of work, the need to sacrifice one's body comes into play.
In the name of "science", in the name of "duty", in the name of... "god i love this job!"
October 15, 2008
9:00 am
...was one of those moments

We were instructed to taste test Blue Fin Toro. The sushi gourmand's most prized fish. The best of the best.
Our objective was to compare the Toro of the larger (over 500lbs fish) fish to the small (under 500lbs) ones, and predict how restaurants in the NYC market would react.
So although it's great to taste test, most of the meeting dealt with issues such as :
- Are restaurants able to afford this?
- Are restaurants able to properly store this?
- Are chefs knowledgeable enough to use this product?
- If so, how many chefs (accounts) can appreciate the product?
- Then how would the public react? Would they know and appreciate the difference?
- How does it compare to what is currently out there?
- How do we enter an unfamiliar market?

Anyways... enough with the boring stuff. Let me tell you how it tasted.
Large (>500#) - Richer flavor but a bit too fishy, and very very oily. The sinews are tougher and not very pleasant. If the chef is talented, they will take advantage of this stronger flavor and work around the sinews and remove them all together. A considerable amount of labor is needed but when done right, it can be very rewarding.
Small (<500#) - To me, the better of the two. Well balanced oil and flavor. Plus the sinews were considerably smaller and palatable. I am confident this product will be making it's way into the NYC restaurants in the near future.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Secret’s Out as Japanese Stock Gains Fans

My friend and extreme food enthusiast had his article picked up by the Times 2 days ago. Congrats Dude!
Published: October 14, 2008

YOU would think that chefs trained in French technique, in which slowly simmered stocks are the carefully concocted foundations of almost every dish, would find it laughable to rely on a quickly steeped broth of kelp and dried fish.

Photographs by Mark Ostow for The New York Times

Gabriel Bremer uses dashi in dishes like pan-roasted fluke with cockles, above.

But that Japanese broth, dashi, is finding a place in the kitchens of many Western chefs.

“It’s basically water, but fantastically perfumed water,” said Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin. He complements Kumamoto oysters with dashi gelée, finishes mushrooms with the stock, and brushes it on raw fish before layering on olive oil and citrus. “The dashi is invisible,” he said, “but it brings more depth.”

At Per Se, its chef de cuisine, Jonathan Benno, weds the stock to preparations of Japanese fish, like a grilled hamachi belly canapé with dashi poured tableside. Jean-Georges Vongerichten adds dashi to a light mayonnaise at Perry St., and at Jean Georges he accents caramelized sirloin, grilled foie gras and slow-cooked snapper with it. “I realized its umami flavor can go anywhere,” Mr. Vongerichten said.

Kelp and bonito are loaded with umami, the taste of mouthwatering savoriness.

Dashi, which simply means “stock” in Japanese, is prepared from many ingredients. But dashi made from kelp and bonito holds pride of place. For much of Japan’s history, eating meat was taboo. So instead of animal fats and butter, which flavor Western cooking, dashi evolved to infuse umami-rich taste.

Kelp, called kombu in Japan, grows for up to two years before being dried into cardboard-thick green-black ribbons. Japanese bonito (skipjack tuna) is filleted, boiled, smoked, covered in mold and sun-dried to the hardness of oak — a technique dating from the 1600s — then shaved into translucent flakes.

Combining them in dashi synergizes their rich umami compounds — glutamates in the kombu and inosinates in the bonito — creating an umami impact greater than the sum of its parts, explained Dr. Sue Kinnamon, a Colorado State University biomedical professor who studies the mechanisms of taste. It’s an effect not lost on Japanese chefs.

At Kyo Ya in the East Village, Chikara Sono prepares his dashi daily. It is a careful process of extraction and infusion. He chooses among two varieties of kombu and three kinds of bonito he keeps handy, adjusting proportions to vary taste. Mr. Sono gently heats kombu in water to tease out its essence, removing the kombu before the water boils. Then he adds bonito flakes to simmer gently or steep in the liquid, like tea. When the dashi reaches “koku” — a sublime density of flavor — it is ready to strain.

The result is a lively, satisfying savoriness, a clean taste and an alluring smoky fragrance.

But how does it compare with a classic French chicken or veal stock, also naturally rich in umami? Chefs familiar with both Japanese and Western cooking say it’s simpler. With only kombu and bonito, dashi yields a lighter, less complex flavor than a stock produced from bones, mirepoix and bouquet garni. So it magnifies rather than masks the taste of other ingredients.

“To us, it’s an element of flavor as opposed to an element of tradition,” said Café Boulud’s Gavin Kaysen. This approach is taking dashi in new directions.

For David Kinch, chef at Manresa, in Los Gatos, Calif., dashi is applied as a seasoning or it serves as a versatile blank slate, delicately infusing soups and vegetable dishes. “It imparts that savoriness in anything it touches,” he said, “even in small, negligible amounts.”

Laurent Gras of L2O in Chicago, who coaxes his dashi with the aid of a high-tech Gastrovac vacuum cooker, metamorphoses a chicken bouillon into intense chicken dashi bouillon. “You can take chicken and bring it to a meat level” of taste, he explained.

Dashi’s smoky nose is what appeals to Gabriel Bremer, the chef at Salts, in Cambridge, Mass. He suffuses a light cream sauce with dashi to subtly mimic the smokiness of bacon, applying the emulsion in a deconstructed New England fish chowder.

At Cyrus, in Healdsburg, Calif., Douglas Keane prepares a broth of dashi and citrus (sudachi) to serve as an “umami canapé,” balancing the savoriness with the acid. “Your palate actually wakes up and goes, man, that’s good,” he said.

Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta contrasts the stock’s lightness with rich French butter to glaze root vegetables, sharpening and coating the ingredients at the same time (recipe at

“It adds a new and exciting dimension to your cooking,” said David Myers of Sona in Los Angeles, an aficionado of Japan who has traveled there four times this year. For Japanese chefs, he explained, cooking with dashi is an art. “For us, it’s an exploration.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana - Review

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana - Highly Recommended
157 Wooster Street, New Haven, CT
Phone: 203-865-5762

NY'ers can usually lay claim to having some of the best hot dogs, best bagels, and best pizza in the US. Sadly, after checking out Frank Pepe's in New Haven, CT; I think Pepe's clam pie is the best non Sicilian slice I've had outside of Italy. Definitely lived up to the hype. Overall, I give the restaurant a 86/100.

My Menu
1) Clam Pie with White Sauce ***
Tomato Pie with Mozarella *

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Dish Comments
1) A serious what the f moment that made me consider moving to New Haven. Well...not really, but it was a hella good slice. The 'za had such a unique dough - insanely flavorful, uber thin and crispy, and slightly chewy throughout the entire pie. When you picked this bad boy up, it didn't sag like a NY slice. NY slices, while I love them, don't get that crispiness throughout the entire pie - it's chewy, but usually more wet. This slice was exactly like what we had in Rome. But, where it diverges is the toppings on this sucker. Topped simply with sweet, juicy, briney, earthy, clams, oregano, some type of grated cheese (maybe pecorino?), tons of garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. So f'n good and a great continuation of our New England seafood fest. I so f'n want a whole pie right now...
2) Same dough as the clam pie, so of course it kicks massive ars. But, the topping here reminded me more of the slices I had growing up in NJ - evenly covered shredded mozzarella and tomato sauce. I liked this pie, but I like the great NY tomato/mozz pies better (e.g. Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, Totonno's, etc.) where there's an even coverage of tomato sauce (Pepe's was a tad too sweet for me) and small pockets of mozarrella. Also, the bottom crust get's a better char/flavor in the NY pie's that are still allowed to have a coal oven which complements the tomato and mutz nicely. Any who, good stuff, but after eating the clam pie anything would be a letdown. This sucker is amazing straight from the fridge though.

Overall Restaurant Experience (86/100)

  • Food 9.0/10 – The best dough and the most like Italy. I basically ate the whole clam pie by wife had one and half slices :) Oddly enough, since the pies are super thin, the pies get cold very quickly...strange, but I didn't have that problem with the clam pie.
  • Service 7.0/10 – We waited in this foyer thing and I guess it worked like an honesty system. No sign-in sheets, the waiter just comes in and ask who's next. We waited for 5 minutes and this other couple that just walked in said we were. Before we could say anything, they were already seated. Uber irritating, but didn't want to cause a scene as there were plenty of families eating there. We were seated like 2 minutes afterwards, so not that bad. The service was slightly slow, but the waitress was nice.
  • Atmosphere 7.5/10 – Oddly enough, the place reminded me of a New England seafood restaurant/bar. Booths, white walls and a long bar. The cool thing is seeing that massive oven and a huge pizza paddle that they wield to get the pies in and out of the oven. Crowd consisted of lots of families. Got there at 12pm on a Sunday and there was no line. At 1pm, the line was 15-20 deep.
  • Price 9.0/10 – For the 2 small pies, it was $25 - a great deal considering how happy I was. We ended up having 4 slices as leftovers too, but if we forced ourselves we definitely could have finished them.
Closing Comments
This clam pie is my favorite non Sicilian slice joke. I've had the clam pie from Lombardi's a couple of years back and I don't remember having this same what the f moment with it. I will def try again to compare. If I could have a Pepe's Clam Pie and an LB Spumoni's Sicilian slice I would be uber happy...not sure which I would like better, but it would be a hella fun time trying to decide.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Abbot's Lobster in the Rough - Review

Abbot's Lobster in the Rough - Highly Recommended
117 Pearl Street, Noank, CT 06340
Phone: 860-536-7719

After the average chowder experience at the Mystic Seaport Chowderfest, we needed some classic New England seafood to pick us up. Hoves got a rec from his sister about this joint called Abbot's. Although very difficult to find (even the mighty Iphone failed us), this place is out of control good. Great seafood, no frills place with a view that can't be beat. Overall, I give the restaurant a 88/100.

My Menu
1) Shrimp
2) Clam Chowda ***
3) Mussels and Clams **
4) Lobster Salad Roll **
5)1 1/4 lb Steamed Lobster **

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Dish Comments
1) Not a great start here. Way overcooked, but drenched in loads of tartar sauce it was OK. You only get 3 small shrimp here, which kinda sucks.
2) Now this is the chowda that I was expecting. This is more of a Rhode Island Chowda with a clear broth that tastes amazing - great clam flavor with surprise, surprise...loads of clams. Never had this style chowda before, but it sure kicks massive ars. Since it's not buried in cream or tomato, you really taste the sweet clams.
3) Plain and simple. Steamed mussels and clams that are uber fresh. Dipped in the clam broth and clarified butter and you get something special. Some were a tad gritty, but for some reason I still loved them. It was probably the view that we had...
4) The perfect lobster roll. Unlike, the pulverized lobster meat we had at the Mystic Seaport - this roll had big chunks of juicy flavorful lobster in a perfectly sweet creamy dressing with a hint of celery. The buttered white bread folded over like a hot dog bun was stealing that idea whenever I make any seafood sandwiches.
5) We caught one of the last lobsta's of the season here (last one served Monday, October 13th) and oh mama it was wonderful. Perfectly cooked, sweet, juicy lobster dipped in clarified butter overlooking a beautiful bay. I forgot how much I loved steamed whole lobsta...haven't had one in years and I'm going to try to get some more before the year's over.

Overall Restaurant Experience (88/100)

  • Food 8.5/10 – Nicely cooked seafood with Italian sensibilities (aka simply prepared and eaten). Even with the slight grit in the clams, I was still very happy.
  • Service N/A – Basically, wait in line, place your order and pick a seat. When they call your number, you go pick it up. Simple and efficient.
  • Atmosphere 10.0/10 – Eating outside in picnic benches overlooking a beautiful bay - what could be better. You could say we were sittin on a dock by the bay...or maybe not. Slightly cold on an October night, but it didn't matter. Great place. Crowd consisted of families and elder couples. Got there at 5pm on a Saturday and there was no line. At 6pm, the line was 10-15 deep and the place closes at 7pm.
  • Price 10.0/10 – Got the New England Lobster Feast and it was a wonderful deal. Basically everything above (minus the lobster roll, but including chips and a great cole slaw) for $31. 100% worth it. Oh ya, the place is also BYOB which kicks ars...plenty o' people brought coolers with tasty beverages.
Closing Comments
If you're ever in the area, this is a must visit. Although Pearl Oyster Bar does some solid New England style seafood, eating outside by the water truly ups the seafood dining experience and is something no NYC restaurant can recreate. Sad that I haven't found a place like this in the NY/NJ area, but I'm sure there are some places out there...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mystic Seaport's Annual Chowderfest 2008

Stopped by Mystic, Connecticut to check out the Chowderfest held in the Historic Mystic Seaport. The event wasn't so much a Chowderfest, but a small gathering and a pretty average one at that too. This had the makings of something special, but the quality of the food was average (except the fresh clams) and there were only 3-4 chowder food stalls to choose from. All of our friends weren't very impressed with the chowder either - we probably tried all the chowders there. The good news was Mystic, Connecticut was a beautiful town to visit and there was good food to be had in town...more on that in tomorrow's post.

My Menu
1) New England Clam Chowder
2) Whale Rock Oyster *
3) Bluff Point Littleneck Clams **
4) Mini Lobster Roll
5) Corn Chowder *
6) Kettle Corn **
7) Lobster Mac and Cheese ---

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

1) Average chowda flavor (tasted cream only), with 2 puny clams in the whole chowda.
2) Solid oysters, nice and briney. Surprisingly tasty with a drop of sambal and lemon juice.
3) Great clams. Rich, juicy, and tasted like that sea.
4) Lobster was pulsed in a food processor or something, so you couldn't tell it was really lobster meat. Obviously, the texture was pretty bad and they could've snuck canned tunafish in there and you wouldn't know...
5) The best chowda there in my opine. Loads of corn and vegetables with a relatively thin broth. Great corn flavor, but pretty salty. Adding a bunch of common crackers solved that problem.
6) Forgot how much I love this stuff. The perfect balance of salt and sweet and a nice roasted flavor.
7) A complete what the f moment in a bad way. Gummy penne in a cheese paste (not sauce) with lobster that looked like canned tunafish. Not good times...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Soft Shell Crabs

I woke up particularly early this past Sunday knowing I had some soft shell crabs in the fridge I needed to fry up.
It was 7am and I felt particularly productive that morning, since Sundays don't usually start till 11 or 12 noon.
I put on the tellie and caught up on my politics. What a circus eh?
(I miss Tim... RIP)

So onto the crabs.
I knew I wanted to fry these bad boys, but needed to work on a coating so that they would fry up crisp and have a little flavor to them.
Wondra, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, a pinch of Sea Salt and a ton of Black Pepper.

That sure did it. I made a little pan sauce to accompany.
(reduction of chicken stock and a little butter)

These babies came out niiiiiice.
I should have whipped up a salad to plate with the crabs but I wasn't in the mood for that.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

sue his ass...

if not for sexual harassment, for his bad food. 

David Burke's people respond to the allegation that he groped a Hawaiin Tropic Zone employees, brought forward today in a $600 million lawsuit against the restaurant: "The allegations targeting Chef David Burke, a consulting chef for Hawaiian Tropic Zone, are without merit. Most significantly, Chef Burke is not a party defendant to the suit. His name appears gratuitously for reasons known only to plaintiffs' attorneys." [The Feed-Bag]

courtesy of

Eating Flushing

When in Flushing Queens, I can't think of many other things to do other than to eat.
There is the $8 haircut, or the $15 foot massage...
But for the most part, eating in Flushing pretty much defines the modus operandi.

The food court at the Flushing Mall is this lower level eating space. Not very appealing to the eye, but they dish out some nostalgic goodies.
As Aramis mentioned a few weeks ago, he had a nice bowl of shaved ice.
Think of this place as a quick fix to some hometown/homeland favorites.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nan Shian Dumpling House (Flushing)

Nan Shian Dumpling House
38-12 Prince St.
Flushing, NY

To all who appreciate, obsess, crave, or just simply need a good xiao long bao, here is one that represents. Nan Shian Dumpling House.
Their dumplings are perfectly steamed, with a rich soupy juice inside a well crafted thin dumpling skin.
I've gone 3 out of the past 4 weekends. I can't remember the last time I've gone to a restaurant with such enthusiasm.
I simply love it.

Things I look for when enjoying a Xiao Long Bao :
1. Skin - This is where you separate the men from the boys. To make the skin so thin... yet strong enough to hold the soupy juice from the filling and not let it break when you pick these things up with chopsticks is a culinary marvel. Remember, anyone can make a skin stronger by making it thicker and texturally harder. We want to go the other way and look for thin and springy.
2. Clear Soup - A good broth has a ton of flavor. And having that flavorful soup run clear is a sign of a skilled chef.
This shows that the master stock is made in house and should be the backbone of the restaurant's dishes.
Making the master stock for Chinese food can be just as laborious as making a French Consomme or even a Demi Glace.
3. The Filling, Flavor & Texture - After the first 2 check points, what a shame it would be to not have a plump, and slightly fluffy filling. The pork should be well ground and seasoned nicely.
(Remember, a ton of flavor will be coming from the soup inside. Which is simply gelatinized so that it's a solid, mixed into the seasoned ground pork and spooned into the folded skins)

Here are a list of dishes I've tried.
Xiao Long Bao *** (this alone is worth the travel)
Guo Tie * (fried dumplings)
You Tiao ** (a chinese churro if you will)
Dou Sha Guo Bing * (red bean crepe)
Tsong You Ban Mien *(scallion sauce noodles)
Dou Jiang (soy milk, sweet or savory)
Zong You Rou Bing ** (folded pancake with beef and hoisin sauce)
Jiou Tsai He Tzu * (chives, eggs and rice noodles in a dough pocket)
Sweet and Savory Glutenous Bean Curd *** (upper right hand corner of the 4 pics)

An important thing you need to know about Chinese restaurants here in the states is they are never consistent.
Over a period of months, cooks come and go and more often than not, the flavors go with them.
So when a restaurant is scoring big on the recommended list, you just gotta go before it's too late.