Friday, February 29, 2008

Kobe Club

I never thought Bruni would get a review right... or even remotely close...
But now after going to Kobe Club, the man was right on!
Chodorow's Kobe Club, located in midtown is quite possibly the worst steakhouse I've ever been to. Even if I only paid half the bill, it would still be the worst steakhouse I've ever been to.

If you know anything about the feud between Bruni and Chodorow... you are in luck, cause you're about to get the Dudesonfoods take on the Kobe Club.

My friend and I went a week ago because we've been hearing constant rumors of this American owned restaurant serving supposedly Wagyu Beef. Not that it's good or bad.. but that it exists.. and that nobody we know has been before. Seriously... do you know anyone who's eaten there?

Curiosity got the better of us, and so we took the plunge.

We ordered the following :

Hamachi Ceviche
- I would not recommend this to anyone... It was simply slices of poorly frozen Yellow Tail with a Fruit Salsa, Grapfruit Juice spritzed on top and stale toast.
French Fries - A large bowl of soggy french fries.

Edamame Whipped Potatoes
- Absolutely flavorless mashed potatoes garnished with Wasabi Beans. Which makes you wonder why the potatoes are even green in the first place, because they had no flavor.
American Kobe Beef Steak - Terrible. When you eat something this "nasty", you have to wonder what on earth is the chef is doing? High school kids in "home-ec" could do better blind-folded.
It's seriously insulting! a customer to pay money and get served this $@%#.

The only thing worth talking about was how they prepared the check...
It's a 5 inch Samurai's knife with the bill stabbed into a corked block. Cute.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No more foodie kitchens

Here's an interesting article about how the current housing market (or lack thereof) is causing people to think twice about doing an all out foodie kitchen. You know what I'm talking about - the granite counter tops, viking stove, sub zero fridge, and the necessary outdoor pizza oven. In the past, a big time kitchen renovation that cost $50,000 could get a 93% return on their investment when they sold the house. Today, the return is more like 73%. C'est la vie. I guess my dreams of a real big time kitchen may have to wait a decade or two.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A “WTF Moment”

My gracious host has owned popular restaurants in large cities throughout China. Watching him cook, you can see his great capability. When he eats, you see how open his mind is. Finally the question came about: is there anything you don’t like? After two days of thinking, his answer:


Wait a moment… pizza? Please tell me it’s a joke.

No, pizza.

You can’t be serious. Visions of the Hindenburg are going through my mind. “Oh, the humanity! I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen!!” As a pizza snob, this hurt my ears. Pizza? C’mon! How can pizza, one of my favorite dishes, be someone’s most hated? How bad could it be? I always said: pizza is like sex – it can never be bad, just better or worse.

Fast forward a couple days later. He is so sweet and bought me a pizza as a surprise. My fellow readers… now I understand. The last couple times I’ve been to China, I told them I felt sorry for them, because they don’t really see blue skies due to all the pollution. I was quite delighted to see that’s not the case so much any more. Now I feel deep sorrow for them on another level – their pizza. Aramis has spoken about his WTF moments. He uses it positively. This WTF moment was not.

When I am visiting abroad, I eat as the Romans do. But hey, I won’t turn down a pizza, especially if given to me as a gift. I opened the box of pizza to dig in, and…




I think people know how open-minded I am, especially when it comes to food. And it’s pizza, right? I am above just pepperoni and sausage. Pineapple and ham is not a big deal. I’ve had all sorts of toppings. But this!?! Let me tell you about my pizza –

The “normal” stuff were crust, cheese, shrooms, and ham. I would have been fine there. But nooooooo

“Abnormal” – no sauce. That’s right, there was no sauce. But that was the most non-abnormal. There was corn spread around. Okay, I can deal with that. Next, lemon wedges? Not sure. I bit into the pizza. No, they were hunks of potatoes! On top, the pizza was encircled with a white stripe like something from Cinnabon. It was mayonnaise. Next to the pizza were two containers. I thought they were jalapeño peppers. Nope, they were slices of sweet pickles. Ok, I experimented and put a couple pieces on my slices. It just gets worse, folks. Finally, the pizza had corn flakes sprinkled all across the top.

Friends, I just had bad sex.

When I arrived to the US, my friend picked me up at the airport. He asked me what I want to eat. That night, my thin crust with pepperoni, onions, and shrooms felt oh, so good.

What's an "Air-Chilled" Bird?

Many of you may have noticed some newer packaging by chicken companies with the words "Air Chilled" slapped right on top of the wrapper.
Well, that's a good thing. When you see the Air-Chilled mark, pick it up and drop the Tyson or Perdue chicken in your other hand. You'll thank me later.

Where credit is due : Giannone Chickens were one of the birds to use the Air-Chilled technology in their slaughtering methods.
It is my favorite Chicken in the NY market to date. I prefer these birds over Eberly's, Murray's, and even Label Rouge.
Giannone birds are tremendously flavorful, and have great meat structure. THE perfect bird for a roast.

When chicken are slaughtered, they are usually (95% of the time) thrown into an ice-water bath so that the body temperature can quickly drop under 40 degrees F.
Now when you consider cleanliness, how clean can the chicken be if they are all exposed to the same pool of water?
If one bird is contaminated with unwanted bacteria, etc... you can bet all other birds to follow are exposed to the same bacteria until the water is changed. Not the case with Air-Chilling.
Plus, depending on how long the birds are left in the water bath, water is absorbed into the meat.
What this means is you are paying extra for water instead of chicken.

By law, the US government allows 15% water absorption on retail chicken sold at your supermarkets.
Water makes the product more expensive (because it's heavier), with a higher chance of bacterial contamination, in addition to diluted flavors and structural damage to the protein itself.

If you are looking for a real chicken, something your parents or grandparents ate when they grew up, keep in mind the Air-Chilled mark.
If the farmer is investing in an Air Chilling facility, he definitely cares about his birds and most likely uses very minimal amounts of Hormones and Antibiotics in his feed, if non at all.

Good husbandry + Good slaughtering methods = Good products for you and your family.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brining and Baked Chicken Drumsticks

I've always been curious to see how much difference brining a chicken will make. Brining is the process of marinating something in a salt water solution. Supposedly, this makes the meat much juicier. Figured I would conduct a Dude's Test Kitchen test and do a side by side comparison of a brined baked chicken drumstick versus non-brined.

The result? Brining the chicken drumstick actually made minimal difference. Both chickens were extremely juicy, but the brined chicken was slightly plumper. Not noticeable and not worth the extra 1 hour to brine the meat. With that said, me thinks this may help when cooking a leaner piece like a chicken breast. That test will be conducted later...

Baked Chicken Drumsticks
These were shockingly awesome. Drumsticks were super crispy
and the meat was exploding with juiciness (not fat). Real great chicken flavor, not that generic cardboard chicken flavor that we're all used to. Used Bell and Evans chicken drumsticks, so I'm assuming that helped in the juiciness and flavor. Another test will be done comparing the Bell and Evans vs Tyson vs Perdue...


4 Chicken Drumsticks, skin on
1 Egg + tablespoon water beaten
1 cup all purpose flour
3 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsp Goya Adobo Seasoning
Kosher Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

1) Wash chicken and let it sit out to room temperature at least 15 minutes.
2) Set aside the flour, egg, and panko in three rectangular pans. Season the all purpose flour with salt and pepper liberally. Season the
egg with the Adobo.
3) Pre-heat oven and a baking tray to 350F.
4) Dip chicken in flour, shake off any excess, dip the chicken in the egg, and dip the chicken in the breadcrumbs. Make sure the drumstick is completely coated at each step. Very important to make sure you have complete coverage when you dip the breadcrumbs.
5) Add olive oil to the baking tray and place drumsticks on the tray. Drizzle olive oil over the drumsticks. The drumstick should sizzle as you place it on the hot tray.
6) Bake for 25 minutes. Then flip the drumsticks over, so the side touching the tray is facing up. The side that was down should get a nice brown crust.
7) Remove after 15 minutes and salt and pepper right away. Let it set for 10 minutes. Buono Appetito.

Side note - I used Adobo seasoning since I had it lying around and it worked out well. Any seasoning would work well - even salt and pepper alone. I left the skin on which definitely aided in the juiciness, but I think the results would still be good with the skin off. One caveat I have about the timings is I cooked this in my convection oven, which means it may take longer in a normal oven.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Via Emilia - Review

Via Emilia - Recommended for price
47 E 21st St, NY NY 10010
Btwn Broadway and Park Ave
Phone: 212-505-3072

Met up D'Artagnan and Maximus Thursday night. Tried to figure out where to go and we settled on the Flatiron district since Mrs Maximus was in the area. Flatiron is a phenomenal area for food and I've always had great food experiences all over this area. Found Via Emilia using NY Magazine as it was recommended by them. Food was decent, service was bad, and the price was outstanding. Either way, as usual it was a great night out with the dudes. Overall, I give the restaurant an 74/100.

My Menu

1) Gnocco Fritto - Recommended
2) Cotecchino Con Fagioli E Salsa Verde - Recommended
3) Potato Croquette (special) - Not Recommended
4) Caramelle Di Castelvetro - Recommended
5) Espresso Panna Cotta - Highly Unrecommended

Dish Comments
1) A pillow of fluffy, chewy potato dough that's hollow on the inside. Comes with a plate of proscuitto, sopressata, coppa and mortadella. The meats are OK, but the gnocco fritto is fun to eat.
2) 3 slices of a soft fatty sausage. Accompanying white beans and salsa verde are decent. Combined all together it's pretty good.
3) Some type of croquette filled with mashed potatoes. This was relatively bland, which is kinda ridiculous since most fried things taste pretty good.

4) Ravioli stuffed with spinach, ricotta, and pork. The pasta is accompanied by prosciutto, arugula, and olive oil. The pasta is cooked well and the flavors all together are good. Can't taste the pork filling though and it's slightly too oily.
5) Super dense panna cotta that has no espresso flavor. D'Artagnan mentioned the texture was like tofu...bleh

Overall Restaurant Experience (74/100)

  • Food 7.3/10 – Decent Italian food leaning more towards authentic Italian, rather than Italian-American. Nothing great, but it's decent.
  • Service 6.5/10 – Waiter was nice but very slow. Food came out on time though. By the time he brought up Maximus's Pelligrino we already had the check.
  • Atmosphere 7.5/10 – Walls that have streaks of color (kinda like an Andy Warhol painting) and plenty of room in between the dining tables. We sat in a big booth that could have fit 6 people. The crowd consisted of groups of girls and some couples. We got there at 7:30pm on Thursday and we were seated immediately.
  • Price 8.5/10 – It's rare to find places that are this cheap. Pasta prices are $12-16. Entrees are around $18-22. Food is decent enough and a great deal for the price.
Closing Comments
The food is decent, but it's so close to Bar Stuzzichini that I would probably never come back. Still great times with the dudes though.

En Brasserie - revisited

I've been here a few times in the past year. Each time, on more of a whim and technically a post-dinner bite to eat.
Many of my friends and customers love it, so I thought I'd bring my parents (who are visiting for a week) here for dinner last night.
The tasting menu was fantastic and I highly recommend it. Plenty of dishes and pleasant hospitality.
It was right under 100 bucks a head last night (with drinks, tax and tip).

Tasting Menu per 2 people :
Fried Tofu julienned with Kinpira
Poached Turned Yams (taro) with Savory Sauce
Mushrooms in a Sweat & Sour Broth
Sashimi Platter - Chu Toro, Kanpachi, Shima Aji *
Tempura - Shrimp, Honshimeji Mushrooms, Shiso Leaf, Yams *
Fried Cod and Crab Meatballs *
Yuba (Soy Bean Curd) Sashimi
Broiled Kyoto Style Wheat Cakes
Sauteed Cubes of Filet Mignon
Black Cod Miso **
Dashi infused Egg Omelette
Oysters in Miso Grilled over a Hoba Leaf *
Inaniwa Udon with Dipping Sauce
Salmon and Salmon Roe on top of Bed of Rice *
Ice Cream

Interesting sidenote...
Chef Jean Georges eats here once a week with his family.
He apparently loves the concept of the restaurant and the meticulous nature of a Japanese kitchen.
And when something is out of the ordinary or off, he calls the chef over and they go over it right there on the spot.
Pretty Cool!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Food Mega-Plex!

Valentine’s Day in Tianjin, China. It’s three of us, so one of us doesn’t have a date. He offers to take us out, and with the place he took us to, I felt as if I was his date. Upon site of this building, I knew I was a in for something different. It was at a high-rise place of high-end food. I never seen a place so large AND so full of people. Walking in the lobby made you feel like you were in an upscale hotel with marble wrapped around your feet to the ceiling. Walking across the bridge t\connecting one end to the other, there are waterfalls cascading from high above your head to the water below your feet. The other lobby presents a wine collection suitable for any connoisseur. The other end had a plate of hundreds of dishes prepared for your viewing if the pictures on the menu weren’t good enough. My camera was getting hungry, but the women at the front desk asked me to refrain from taking pictures. Fear not readers, but I snapped a few of the lobby, but more importantly, the food. About 97% of the time I was in China, I didn’t order the food and let everyone else do it. I will try to identify what is pictured, but forgive me if I don’t know what it is. Now then, please see the slideshow with its captions. This place is called something like Da Dao. Translation is Big Island. Suitable name, though one might expect a tropical theme. I like the name, because it is definitely big, and it was island-ish in the fact that it stood apart from other buildings and towered above them, too.

The type of food we had was huo guo, which translated to fire pot. Most people call it hot pot. There are different kinds. I think this was Cantonese style where it’s more upscale than the more traditional. It’s essentially a large pot filled with a flavored oil. The staff brings out different types of food for you to cook. So it is very interactive. You eat anything from seafood to vegetables to meats to tofu.

When the food is brought out to you, sometimes it’s laid out, and other times it comes piled on top in a bowl. The presentation on the layouts of this place was nicely done. The mushrooms, bok choy, shrimp balls, and other identifiables were suitable for pictures, but almost as soon as they hit the tabletop, into the cauldron of boiling opil it went.

The taste… well, since you cook it yourself, it depends partly on you. The other part is the quality of ingredients. I would like to believe that at a place like this, they were top notch. Our host owned restaurants and is like a chef, and if he picks this place, methinks it’s good food. Also, he did most of the cooking. Some vegetables had to cook for a long time, and some of the meat were in the oil no more than 15 seconds. Very enjoyable dinner and experience.

In addition to the hot pot, they knew I was craving sushi early on in the day, so they ordered a sashimi plate. I never seen it prepared this way, but after smelling and tasting it, I was an immediate fan. The presentation was quite exquisite with the entire fish filleted. Of course we couldn’t let the rest of the fish go to waste once the middle part was picked at and eaten so into to pot it went, and the fish was delicious cooked as it was raw.
I was introduced to a new drink. Corn is my favorite vegetable, but mind you, I would never think of drinking it. But that’s what being a foodie (hate that term!) is all about – open mind to food, tastes, and methods. A pitcher of a hot, yellow, steaming liquid arrived to the table. It was much too hot for me to know if it was good, so I waited a while. When it was cooled down for my tongue’s comfort level, I was delighted to the taste of it. It was corn juice. It had a similar texture to orange juice, including the pulp from the corn kernel skin. It came to the table about ¾ of the way through, but that was because it’s a difficult drink to make, so I was told, so you know it was made fresh. I liked the drink so much that I had two glasses going, so I could pour it back and forth in order to cool it down. I drank most of the pitcher. It was more expensive than normal drinks there, but it was worth it.
Dessert isn’t very popular in China, and I notice you order it at the same time you order your food, so while you’re eating your sashimi, next to you is a plate of sweetness. It’s difficult to resist inserting dessert in your mouth until after your meal. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if that’s the “order” in China, since they brink it altogether. But our desert consisted of dumplings, but these were filled with cream. It was definitely too sweet, but I indulged in three of them. The other one was little pastry cups filled with durian. Durian is also called “stinky fruit,” because of its stench. I’ve heard descriptions ranging from feet to rotten onions. It’s a large, spiky fruit when opened is somewhat like custard. Many people don’t like it, but I’m not one of them.

This was probably the most expensive meal I had in my visit at around $130 for the three of us. As you can imagine, that is very high in China.

I’d go back.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Da plane, boss!

Dudes have had a lot to say lately, so now it’s my turn. I can start to add articles from my trip to China the last 2 weeks for Chinese New Year/Spring Festival. But I decided to begin the chapter with, well, the beginning - and the ending. What I means is, I will share my experience with airplane food from my trip there and the flight back. People ask me what this flog is about. I tell them it’s about food, obviously, from M&Ms to mustard; it’s anything and everything food & dude-related.

After a lot of petitioning, Washington, D.C. finally received the first non-stop round-trip flights to Beijing. Thank God for United Airlines stepping up and doing this. In the 12-13 hour flight, meals essentially consist of 3 waves: first meal, light meal, then a final meal. There is the typical random pretzels, water, juice, alcohol (cash) offerings as well.

Above - snap of route from D.C. to BJ over North Pole

My feeling is the food on the way there is a lot better than the return flight to the U.S. My first meal consisted of a small salad that was normal but had too much green lettuce, chicken-noodle-veggies dish, which is what you’d expect on an airplane, roll/butter, and a brownie. Brownie surprised me, since it was actually pretty decent. I almost asked the stewardess for another meal just to get another brownie, but that would have been embarrassing. I washed it down, and almost everything else, with orange juice because I was getting over a flu.

Notice the kung fu on my TV screen. What a way to make my transition from the U.S. to China but by watching martial arts and eating noodles and a brownie. I have a lot more respect for kung fu, by the way. Always did, but after visiting the actual Shaolin Temple last week, I am floored.

The airlines have a decent research team. After my meal, I watched part of a horrible movie, read part of a book, fell asleep, woke up, and was hungry again several hours later. To my happy surprise, there was the staff, rolling out a snack of cup-o-noodles. They pass it out, then they return with kettles of hot water and add it to your cup. You cover it, let it sit for 4 minutes, and now you have your snack with an almond cookie on the side. Normal Ramen noodles, nothing special, but it definitely hit the spot. This was the same procedure, food, and timing on the return flight, too.

Now this was a wonderful surprise and is probably the best meal I’ve had on a plane. Of course, I’ve never traveled first class, but this is worthy of it. Come to think of it, if this was good, I wonder what first class had. But anyway, this is lasagna. Yummy lasagna. Of course, it’s relative, but man, it was quite tasty. There was a fruit cup/tray and Knott’s Berry Farm Raspberry Shortbread for dessert.

Seriously, doesn’t that picture of the lasagna put you in the mood for some right now?

On the return flight, the food was what you would think would be served on a plane. This time I had a salad, roll, chicken-pasta-veggies, and a pastry that was like a dense cornbread with a chocolate topping.


The snack was the same cup-o-noodles, so I was looking forward to a nice ending like the last lasagna dish. No… a peach roll, fruit tray, and yogurt. It actually was refreshing, but I was missing the lasagna.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuna Tuna Tuna

Do we bail at the first cry of danger...?
Or do we try to understand what's wrong and tackle problems systematically and logically?

Here is an interesting article posted on the Policy Innovations homepage, talking about the Tuna scare recently in New York City.
Kao (gently) calls-out writer at the Times for poorly informing people of the true problems we face. Important facts and issues clearly omitted in which people ought to know and read about.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

L&B Spumoni Gardens - Review

L&B Spumoni Gardens - Highly Recommended
2725 86th St, Brooklyn NY 11223
Phone: 718-449-1230

The great thing about NY is no matter where you are, there's always some awesome restaurant near by. In Brooklyn last night and someone in our group suggested L&B. I've always heard about this place, but never found a reason to go. Now, I know why people rave about this place. Overall, I give the restaurant an 86/100.

My Menu

I ordered a good amount of food, but they kept on giving out free plates since we waited a little bit. All items with ** represent dishes on the house.

1) **Spaghetti Meat Sauce - Recommended
2) Mozzarella In Corrozza - Recommended
3) Rice Balls with Parmesan - Recommended
4) Fried Calamari - Average
5) **Salad with Ricotta Salata and Green Apples - Recommended
6) **Baked Clams
– Highly Recommended
7) **Shrimp Cocktail - Average
8) Sicilian Pie - Highly Recommended (must have)
9) Rainbow Spumoni - Recommended

Dish Comments
1) Pasta is cooked very nicely and the sauce was very Italian American, which in this context is a good thing. Nice tomato gravy, though the ground meat could have been more tender.
2) Mozzarella in a "carriage." Basically, fried squares of mozzarella - not the sticks that most Americans are used to. These are fun here, but the ones I had in Capri were perfectly crispy with a super milky flavor and soft/gooey texture of mozzarella topped with fresh basil.
3) Basically risotto stuffed with meat, fried, topped with mozzarella and served with a tomato sauce. Completely different than the gems from Bar Stuzzichini, but these are still very fun
4) For some reason, I feel like I'm calamari'd out for the year even though the year has just begun. These are OK, but nothing special.
5) Crispy lettuce topped with olive oil, salt, pepper, thinly sliced green apple (nice touch), and a great salty ricotta salata. Nice refreshing light salad.
6) Simple and great. Crunchy breadcrumbs and tender flavorful clams. This isn't Escoffier, but it's freakin tasty.
7) Like the calamari, I feel like I've seen enough of shrimp cocktail. It just doesn't do it for me anymore.
8) A big what the F moment. I've had many a Sicilian slice back in my day - growing up in central NJ I think it was required to have at least one a week. L&B's version I can honestly say is the best I've ever had...even better than the square pizzas I've had in Rome. The dough is what sets this thing apart from all others. It almost has a croissant like quality to it - crunchy, but the center is so soft and airy. Topping the dough with cheese first, then tomato allows the thick crust to stay crunchy and airy. Sauce and cheese are decent, but the combination is ethereal.
9) Vanilla, Pistachio, and Chocolate combo. Spumoni I guess is Italian Ice cream with nuts (different than gelato) Vanilla and choclate were so intense in flavors. Texture was not perfect, but it was still really tasty.

Overall Restaurant Experience (86/100)

  • Food 8.6/10 – Great Italian American food. Seriously worth trecking out to Brooklyn for this pizza.
  • Service 9.0/10 – Waiter was very nice and very attentive. The chef came out and said hello and that's when the onslaught of food began. Again, I believe he thought we waited too long, so he just piled on free dishes one after another. I seriously felt like I was sitting in Goodfellas beating treated like I was a "friend of ours"
  • Atmosphere 7.5/10 – Typical Italian American restaurant right down to the checkered tablecloths. There is outdoor seating, but last night was rainy and cold. Crowd consisted of mostly families eating lots and lots of food. Got there at 8pm with no reservations showing up with 7 people. We were seated at 8:30.
  • Price 10/10 – Ok. This came out to $14 a head for 7 people. No, I'm not kidding...f'n unbelievable. For the price alone, it's worth it. The portions are huge family style, so be prepared to eat.
Closing Comments
Great company and great food - can't ask for much more. Again, this isn't fancy refined flavors by any means, but it's just really good and you really feel like you're like family. Happiness factor is very high here. I don't know where this sits in the grand scheme of things of NY Pizza supremacy, but right now I've had to say it's right up there with Grimaldi's (Brooklyn of course) and Lombardi's.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dudes on Holiday

So 1st quarter has each one of us taking trips globally and covering food. This time it was my turn and have just returned from China. I drove across the country and came back a different route, trying different food in the provinces I visited. I ate everything from high-end to street vendors, from home cooking to fast food. I also experienced food for such occasions as Chinese New Year/Spring Festival, my birthday, and Valentine's Day.

Xīn nián kuai le (Happy (Chinese) new year)!

Stay tuned...

Cohiba - Maduros 5

First and foremost, Happy President's Day!!!

I, like any Dude can appreciate a good smoke. Whether it's after a hearty meal, or a summer barbecue... to relax afterwards, kickback and light up a stogy spells "Dudeism" all the way.
And a good cigar definitely makes for a good smoke.

I consider myself to know enough about cigars to appreciate a well handcrafted roll.
From the beautiful wrapping, to how it feels in your hands as it warms up, the aroma it gives off and the complex flavors hidden in each draw. Having a nice stogy definitely tops off a successful event.

When I was overseas in Europe last month, I took a day trip into Switzerland and bought myself a few Cuban Cohibas.
I broke them out the other day with D'Artagnan and we smoked them on my balcony. "Man, are these good".
Cohiba Maduros 5
Everything you look for in a mild to heavy cigar.
Great flavor and aroma in each perfect draw.
If you are like me and love Romeo y Julietas and Monte Cristos, this is the champion cigar for you.

Elegantly earthy and nutty.
Coffee tones with a hint of woodsy/cedary finish.
Some nuttiness as well.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chinese Market Intensity

It's something out of the norm for us to see live chickens at the local market.
And I am willing to bet, if you know what a "food blog" is, you've never been to a live market.
The way it works is you pick a bird out of the cages and come back on 10 minutes. The butcher will slit it's throat, drain the blood, let it kick around till the body exhausts itself of reserved energy (that's where the saying' "chicken running around without it's head", comes from), defeather it and bag it up for you to take home and cook.
I can still remember the first time I saw this with my own eyes. I was 19, on summer vacation in Taiwan. I won't lie to you, I was scared.
But yesterday's bucket of live frogs in Flushing, Queens topped the cake. You simply take as many kermitty the frogs home with you and kill them yourself. Freshness matters I guess.
I'm not sure if urbanization has made us pu$$ies or not, but that was a bit too intense for this Jersey boy.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Gala Manor (Flushing)

It's hard finding good dimsum here in the states. Especially when you've had the real thing in Hong Kong.
Today was an exception.
Through the recommendation of my wife's friends, we were introduced to Gala Manor in Flushing Queens.

3702 Main St
Flushing, NY 11354

It's in the Chinatown portion of Flushing where there were a number of Taiwanese restaurants as well.
To our surprise, the food was excellent. Clearly their chef isn't cutting any corners and making a ton of things from scratch. It's instantaneously noticeable and most definitely pleasant.
I was so impressed bite after bite of all our dishes. To say the least, I am eagerly looking forward to going back.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

add-ons : 2-18-08
Here are some pics I took with a real camera. I can't say enough about this place...

- notice the firm and translucent skin on the Ha-Gao (top left)
- the perfectly steamed and collagen rich Fong-Tsau (top right)
- the tender and rich flavored Pai-Gwat (bottom left)
- and finally the perfect coarsely minced Sao-Mai (bottom right)

19 dishes later... the 4 of us waddled out the door completely satisfied.
The bill came under $60 for the 4 of us. You just can't beat that!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Creativity in Flushing

Chinatown in Flushing Queens

Not too many things surprises me when I visit a Chinatown. But I thought this was kind of creative.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lenny's #1

In many ways, the sandwich is the perfect food. It's maneuverable, wholesome, portable, and when done right, absolutely delicious. It's f'n manly!

The premium sandwich chain Lenny's made this Dude one happy S.O.B.
I've only heard good/great things about this place... which in our world, falls dangerously close to blue-balling oneself.
One of the worst feelings is to fall short of gastronomic expectations.

But rest assured... Lenny's delivers in a big way.
The #1 (rightfully named) is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had.
This may be my second all time favorite sandwich in Manhattan. Second to the Pastrami Sandwich at Katz's Deli of course.
The #1 : Pastrami, Corned Beef, Coleslaw, Swiss Cheese and Russian Dressing.
All this deliciousness on a Roll. Sliced in two and perfectly manageable.

I can't wait to get my hands on another one of these bad boys.

Totto's Tsukune

Meat on a stick...
Yah, it just makes sense.
Tsukune is one of many different types of meats on sticks served at Japanese Yakitori joints.
The picture below (top left) is a tsukune served at
Yakitori Totto (55th between Broadway and 8th ave)

(from top left clock wise : Tsukune, Kawa (skin), Fried Tofu, Pickled Wasabi)

The Dudes frequent this little eatery quite often these days.
Totto uses special Japanese charcoals that burn exceptionally hotter than your commodity Kingsford.
This results in a unique smoky char on each skewer which really compliments a good Japanese Lager and/or Sake.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines (for Dudes)

Love goes both ways.... so tell your Dude you love him by sending a care package to his office.
The ladies get Flowers and Chocolates... we prefer big juicy steaks.
Find a kick ass package for your special man this year at Debragga & Spitler.
Think of it as the 1-800-Flowers of Man-ville.

Eat up!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

England - Changing Consumers

When one thinks of great European food countries, France and Italy are probably at the top of the list. One usually does not think of England, but England has definitely been changing it's food scene recently. And with that change, consumers are demanding better food from the supermarkets. This article from CNN talks about how British government is asking for "eco-labels" measuring the environmental impact - basically labeling food that's grown locally, which emits less greenhouse gases. Funny, since my travels in Italy felt like all food sold was grown locally - which really just tastes better. In addition, Jamie Oliver is sparking a debate of the terrible conditions of the caged chickens with stunts like showing how caged chickens are killed on TV (electrocuted). Now that seems a little extreme to me for TV programming - maybe London has a writer's strike as well. However, hopefully this food culture of more local and organic foods in the supermarkets finds it's way to the states...

Btw - a post will be done on a national Tyson/Perdue chicken vs a local organic chicken to really see side by side how much better local organic chickens tastes...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cento Tomatoes

Got an email from a reader about canned tomatoes, so I'd like to share my recent taste of a great canned tomato. I'm always looking for better canned tomatoes (and olive oil), so after watching Colameco's episode on San Marzano tomatoes I figured why not give Cento a try. When buying San Marzano's, you need to watch out since there are tomatoes that are labeled San Marzano but grown in the US - kinda like Kobe beef. Whatever brand you buy, you need to make sure it's D.O.P certified. DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta and is basically the Italian government saying these are the real deal - kinda like a trademark for food (Parmiggiano-Reggiano has the same DOP stamp).

These Cento DOP Certified San Marzano's are the best I've bought in the US - way better than the Nina's Brand from Costco. Less acidic, slightly sweeter, and much fuller flavor. Definitely worth the extra cost - about $3 for a 28 oz can at the local Shop Rite. Watch out though, since even Cento has a San Marzano varietal that's non DOP. These maybe grown else where like other than the San Marzano region or maybe even in California.

I took these suckers on a test run and the results were outstanding when I made my pizza sauce.

Tomato Sauce

Using the Cento DOP San Marzano Tomatoes, this sauce comes out so sweet, natural, flavorful, and bursting with tomato flavor. It can be used for many things - on pizza, over pasta, topping for a sandwich, and even a dip for chicken fingers. Porthos was asking why I drain the tomato juice from the can. I watched Andrew Carmellini from A Voce do it this way (with fresh tomatoes), so I started following suit. The reason why I feel it's necessary to really drain these tomatoes is you get a good caramelization on the flesh which lends to a naturally sweeter, more robust sauce. I used to always use the juice, but I feel it dilutes the tomato flavor too much and prevents good caramelization from occuring.

1 28 oz can DOP San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes
3 Cloves Garlic Crushed, paper removed
1 tsp red pepper flake
1 Tbsp olive oil

1) Open the can and drain out all the juice. Poke a slight hole in each tomato and try to remove as much juice as possible without removing the flesh. Set tomatoes over a colander and catch the remaining juice.
2) After 30 minutes, set a pot over medium heat and add the tomatoes. Pinch of salt and pepper.
3) Once tomatoes start bubbling reduce the heat to low. Add crushed garlic and red pepper flake. You can reduce the red pepper flake if you want, but I like it slightly spicy. Crush the tomatoes down with a spoon, so it becomes pulpy.
4) After 30 minutes taste. Adjust seasonings as necessary. When the sauce cools down, it will become sweeter and the flavors will concentrate. This probably yields about 2 cups of sauce. Kind of pricey for only 2 cups of sauce, but I 100% think it's worth it. With the reserved tomato juice, you can make tomato soup. Buono Appetito!

Eastern Standard

I was up in Boston (on business, and a little pleasure) this weekend for the Boston Wine Expo.
"Work hard, play hard", pretty much sums up those 48 hours.

We had about 10 cases of sake to bring up to Boston so we decided to drive up at 6am. The purpose at the Expo was to showcase various Sakes my company imports to the United States and those that we sell in Boston. It's 6 hours of industry people and consumers asking you all sorts of questions about Sake. In the addition, factor in the set up and dismantling of the booth, pretty much you are on your feet all day.
Pouring and explaining all day, the various stylistic differences and characteristics of sake can run it's toll.
So naturally after an event like that, we would want to unwind with some food and booze.
We met up some locals we knew and the night progressed as such.

Eastern Standard (In Kenmore Square) was recommended by our contacts in Boston.
I'll tell you something... for the quality of food we ate, the service we got, and the price we paid, this is quite THE Place.
It had an American Brasserie feel to it (if that makes sense).
Think of Balthazar or Artisanal... but with dimmed lights and less French people. Very cool decor and a ton of hot girls in their 20s and 30s.
Obviously a ton of Bostonians too, but not the Fenway Park A-holes you think of when you think Boston.
I would definitely go back the next time I'm in Beantown.

Our meal (dishes everyone ordered)
Rawbar : Katama Oysters
Rawbar : Cherrystone Clams
Salad : Frisee aux Lardon
Salad : Roasted Beets and Greens
Hot Ap : Pan Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Onions
Entree : Bone-in Ribeye
Entree : Pan Seared Foie Gras with Stuffed Quail
Entree : Cassoulet (Rabbit Leg Confit)
Dessert : Apple Strudel
Dessert : Profiterole
Dessert : Dense Chocolate Cake
Dessert : Petit Fours
Libation : 2005 Movia Ribolla (Slovenia)
Libation : 2004 Grenache (Sicily)
Libation : 2004 Muscat (France)

The meal was fantastic. Tons of laughs and an abundance of food.
Highlights were the Katama Oysters, Cassoulet and the Sicilian Grenache Wine.
Katama Oysters - Probably the best raw oyster I have ever had.
Katama Bay Oysters are white in shell color with deep, fluted shells. The flavor is medium in salt content, and very sweet. The finish is soft, clean and even sweeter.

It was so good, I am thinking of taking another trip up to Boston for them in the next few weeks.

Cassoulet - Not the traditional Gascogne style cassoulet but non the less, very delicious.
They substituted a rabbit leg confit with the traditional duck leg confit.
The sausage was chopped up and incorporated into the tarbais beans and bread crumbs were sprinkled on top prior to reheating in the oven.
A very hearty and full of flavor dish. It paired perfectly with the Sicilian Grenache.

After dinner, we headed over to a local hotspot called The BeeHive. Had a few more thinks and mingled with the locals. We didn't get back to our hotel rooms until 4 in the morning but that's a different story reserved for another time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

1-9 Chinese Seafood Restaurant - Review

1-9 Chinese Seafood Restaurant - Highly Recommended
1021 US Highway 1, Avenel, NJ 07001
Phone: 732-602-8863

Following Devin's great post about authentic vs bastardized Chinese food, I went to a place that really does serve great Chinese food - imho it is authentic :) I've been to this place before and I suggested it for our family Chinese New Year's dinner. As usual, it kicked massive ars. Overall, I give the restaurant an 85/100.

My Menu

My mom did all the ordering, so I'm not 100% sure what these dishes are called. Here's my guess.

1) Fish Soup - Highly Recommended (must have)
2) Shrimp and Mayo - Average
3) Lobster - Highly Recommended
Salt, Pepper, and Chili Fish – Highly Recommended (must have)
5) Lamb Stew - Recommended
6) Snow Pea Tips - Recommended

7) Red Bean Soup - Recommended

Dish Comments
1) A clear, slightly sweet, and delicate soup. This was unbelievable and had the gentle essence of fish. The meat and bones of the fish used to make the soup is pan fried and served with tofu and some Chinese veggie. Nice compliment to the soup.
2) The standard fried shrimp and mayo combo that most Chinese restaurants serve. This wasn't quite up to expectation for me. Skin should have been crispier and the shrimp juicier. The sliced cantaloupe was a nice touch though.

3) Weird, but I was thinking I enjoyed this better than my lobster dish at The French Laundry. Basically a stir fry of lobster which just about every Chinese restaurant does. However, here they do it great - super tender and sweet lobster with such an unctuous flavor. Nothing delicate here, just pure impact.
4) Wonderful dish. Crispy fish that's slightly moist. The winner is the breading and the salty, pepper, and fresh chili combo. The salty, fresh chili thing is so addicting.
5) Relatively tender lamb, shitake, tofu skin and a bunch of spices (sugar cane is a great addition) makes this stew uber tasty. What appears to be romaine lettuce soaks up the stew perfectly. Would give this higher marks, but I've had this here before where the lamb was much more tender.
6) Snow pea tips cooked nicely. I've had this dish about 1000 times and the key is to get the sweetness of the veggie, while still maintaining the crunchiness. They got it right here.
7) Decent red bean soup. Not overpoweringly sweet, but sweet enough and had good red bean flavor.

Overall Restaurant Experience (85/100)

  • Food 8.6/10 – Very powerful tasting Chinese food. Nothing delicate here at all.
  • Service 8.0/10 – Waiter was very friendly and suggested some great dishes. The only complaint is the food got cold eventually since we ordered so many dishes and we only had 4 people. No fault of the restaurant, since most Chinese restaurants serve all the plates at once usually with more people eating.
  • Atmosphere 8.0/10 – Typical Chinese restaurant (except the lcd's on the wall) with the white table cloths and the red color on one side of the wall. The place is very large and tables are well spaced - not too cramped which is rare for a Chinese restaurant. Got there at 7pm on a Sunday night and it was basically empty, so we were seated right away. Be warned though, Saturdays (and Chinese holidays) this place is crazy packed. Crowd consisted of Chinese families.
  • Price 8.5/10 – My parents paid for the meal, but it looked like it would be reasonable...maybe $35 a head for that meal.
Closing Comments
Another great example of NW Jers representing with great authentic Chinese food. I think I had greater satisfaction coming out of Grand Shanghai, but that's probably because it was a new style of cuisine to me. 1-9 Chinese Seafood Restaurant definitely holds it down.