Friday, January 30, 2009

Peking Duck House - Review

Peking Duck House - Recommended
28 Mott St, New York 10013
At Pell St
Phone: (212) 227-1810

Porthos was craving some duck, so we metup some friends at the Peking Duck House in Chinatown. Great times hanging out, although the duck really wasn't that great there. Overall, I give the restaurant a 76/100

My Menu
1) Duck Soup **
2) Steamed Dumpling *
3) BBQ Beef App
4) Spring Roll
5) Peking Duck *
6) Fried Prawns w. Chili Sauce *
7) Crispy String Beans w. Minced Pork **
8) Fried Banana ---

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

Dish Comments
1) Great way to start the meal. Great broth that really screams of duck. No duck meat inside but topped with nice soft tofu and spinach.
2) Your average chinese pork dumpling. Not great, but it was still tasty - relatively juicy and flavorful.
3) Tasted like uber dry beef jerky with caked on chinese 5 spice. Definitely not worth eating.
4) Your average spring roll - oily, crispy and average veggie filling.
5) The main event - peking duck. To eat, you fill this tortilla looking thing (aka lotus pancakes), get some crispy duck, top with julienned scallions and cucumbers, and top with sweet hoison sauce. It was decent here, but I've had this a lot and I'm pretty sure there's gotta be better places in the tri-state area. I think I'd like juicier and more flavorful duck, which we didn't get here. Usually, they serve the skin and meat separately, but here they cut the meat up and leave the skin on - no big complaint from me.
6) Pretty fun dish - but not authentic. Basically a deep fried shrimp (still juicy) and topped with a sweet chili sauce. Pretty fun and I may have actually liked this more than the duck.
7) Another fun dish. Crispy string beans topped with flavorful minced pork.
8) Definitely a what the f in a bad way dish. Banana was floured up and deep fried, but not drained at all so you got a buttload of oil in the mouth. Not a fun dessert to eat.

Overall Restaurant Experience (76/100)

  • Food 7.5/10 – Duck is decent, but really not worth trekking out for. The other entrees actually seemed more fun to me.
  • Service 6.0/10 – Same as most Chinese restaurants, which means pretty shitty. Took a while to get someone to take our order. When our order was taken, the food took a while to get out.
  • Atmosphere 7.0/10 – Looks almost Japanese in decor with the lighting and walls. Very clean place for Chinatown, but nothing that special. Music is hilarious - like all love songs from the 80's and 90's. The crowd didn't have too many Chinese there - which is usually a bad sign for a Chinese restaurant. Place was mainly packed with large groups of 6+. We got there at 6:30pm on a Thursday and was seated at 7pm with no reservations...with some prodding and reminding on our part.
  • Price 9.0/10 – A pretty good bargain. 4 people - $26.50 a head for everything above (1 whole duck, soup, 3 apps, 2 entrees, and shitty banana). Definitely worth the price and everyone was relatively full afterwards.
Closing Comments
Not necessarily sure I would go back here, but if I was invited I would. Definitely need to find me a better joint for Peking duck.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Kanoyama - Recommended
175 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-5266

Right on the border of Highly Recommended and Recommended.
I will definitely go back again. I foresee in the near future.

Kanoyama is run by Chef Nobu. Not the same guy that owns Matsuhisa and the Nobu chains, but rather this pretty humble looking foods craftsman.
He loves what he does and does it day in and day out.
Nobu runs the place with his wife and they command and orchestrate a busy little eatery in the East Village.
While many restaurants are hurting for business these days, they are still rolling full steam ahead almost every day.

Kanoyama is known for their sushi, but the a la carte dishes from the kitchen are not to be missed either.

I'm a stickler for enjoying sushi at the counter, with the chef right in front of you. The interactions between the patron and the chef is such a critical element of enjoying great sushi.
But unfortunately, our group of 4 was a bit too big to fit at the counter so we dined at a table.

We were celebrating a co-worker's birthday and the guys at Kanoyama were above and beyond to accommodate and make our celebration that much more enjoyable.
Great service guys!

Here's a list of goodies we enjoyed that night.

- Uni & Ikura on Raw Oyster - The Ocean x3 **
- Age Tofu - Tremendous yet pleasant soy bean flavor **
- Rock Shrimp Tempura **
- Mirugai Sashimi (the Basil Ponzu sauce is a mistake)
- Sui Gyoza
- Hamachi Kama *
- Chu Toro **
- Shima Aji *
- Tai
- Tasmanian Trout
- Uni *
- Amaebi *
- Anago (shira yaki) ***
- Anago (tare) **
- Maguro Shiso Maki *

and to finish, they served Miso soup.
The Miso Soup was quite average. Was expecting a fish broth based miso soup, or heavy in clams, like what you would usually get at a traditional sushi joint.
This, sad to say, was just your average miso soup with wakame and tofu.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Habu Sake

I didn't know this drink existed but my neighbors came over the other day and through our conversations, they brought this to my attention and by chance had a bottle to show me.

Habu sake is apparently from Okinawa. It's actually a Rum (made from Okinawa's famous Pure Sugar Cane) but the kicker is there's a venomous snake in the bottle.
The Habu snake is extremely toxic and it's actually lowered into the bottle of rum while still alive and when it sufficates to death, it releases it's neuro toxins into the bottle.
People who have drunk the libation have been found on the floor of the bar in a fetal position for hours. A clear sign the poison is working.

I'll pass and stick to appreciating the bottle on the shelf where it belongs.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

National Treasure - the McRib Locator

Hoves passed along this hilarious, yet resourceful site locating all McD's that have the elusive McRib...

Here's an excerpt from wikipedia about the McRib.
"The McRib consists of a boneless pork patty, barbecue sauce, onions and pickles served on a 6 inch (15.2 cm) roll. The patty is precooked, frozen and later reheated.

The sandwich test-marketed very well in Nebraska and other Midwestern markets and was added to the restaurant's permanent menu throughout the United States in 1981.

Officials at McDonald's, in a 1985 stockholder meeting, mentioned that The McRib was pulled because the McRib could not sustain international sales, as there were many countries in which pork is not regularly eaten. Germany was cited as an example, but the U.S. and certain Asia Pacific countries were not. The strategy announced at that time would be that the McRib would be brought back periodically as a "specialty" sandwich since it definitely increased sales during a promotional period before receding.

On November 1, 2005, McDonald's put out a press release stating that the McRib would be permanently removed from the menu following a "McRib Farewell Tour." This appears to have been a deceptive kickoff to a viral/stealth marketing campaign;, a site registered to McDonald's, featured a petition to "Save the McRib," which was facetiously sponsored by the "Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America." So in a two-angled campaign, McDonald's was simultaneously conducting a McRib farewell tour and sponsoring a petition to "Save the McRib" to create buzz. On October 16, 2006, the "McRib Farewell Tour II" site appeared, confirming the campaign was a marketing ploy. The petition to "Save the McRib" still existed as well as the "BPFAA" site."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinese New Year 2009

The parents came over for Chinese New Year and I decided to whip up a fun healthy light meal. Not necessarily a Chinese meal, but it was hella tasty. Big flavors and not disgustingly stuffed afterwards. Below is what we had...

Ligurian Style Chilean Sea Bass
Got the book Urban Italian for Xmas (killer book btw) and I've wanted to make this recipe for a while. I've seen this on the show Reservations Required when Carmellini was still at A Voce. Lots of little steps, but everything comes together beautifully. Poaching the sea bass yields an incredibly juicy, flaky fish and the clam broth imparts a great briney flavor to the buttery fish. The combo of the rich pesto, buttery potatoes, green beans, and crunchy bread crumbs puts this dish over the top. Get you're favorite bread out and get ready for some dipping, since the broth is out of control flavorful...

Ingredients (all are guesses, since I never measure)
1 cup Pesto (basic with parmiggiano reggiano)
1 pound Chilean Sea Bass
1/2 pound Fingerling Potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound Green Beans, trimmed and halved
1 ciabatta bread (for dipping and bread crumbs)
20 clams thoroughly washed
2 cups white wine
2 cloves thinly sliced garlic
2 tsp dried red pepper flake
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup clam cuice
Sea Salt and pepper

1) Toss the potatoes in olive oil and salt/pepper. Put in a tray and roast in a 400F oven till creamy on the inside - I think 30 minutes, since these suckers are tiny. Check by using the knife method or just eat one and see. Remove and let it cool for 30 minutes. Cut into bite size pieces and set aside. A potato boiled is a potato spoiled - so roast or steam these suckers...the flavor is more intense that way.
2) Dice 1 cup of bread, toss with salt/pepper, olive oil and throw in the toaster oven in the toast setting. Should be crispy. Remove and set aside. Taste and re-season if necessary.
3) Get a pot of boiling salted water and blanch the green beans for 2-3 minutes (color should be bright green and still a bit crunchy). Remove and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
4) Put a pan over high heat. Add olive oil, garlic, clams, red pepper flake and wine. No idea on the time here, but cover and keep on shaking the pan. As each clam opens up remove immediately - they all open up at different times so pay attention. The left over broth needs to be used.
5) In a pyrex container with high walls, add the chilean sea bass and season both sides with salt and pepper. Add the clam broth (being careful to not any grit at the bottom) and the clam juice - almost submerging the fish. Cover and put in a 375F degree oven. I think you could simmer it over the stove top too, but I went with the Carmellini's method and used the oven. Should be done in about 10-15 minutes. Flip the fish midway through and check.
6) Remove the fish and slice into 4 portions. Add the pesto to the pyrex container with the potatoes and the green beans. Leave in until potatoes and green beans warm up...
7) To serve, add fish in the center of a warmed plate (you can microwave it for 30s-1min to warm it up). Add the clams, potatoes, green beans, croutons, and extra sauce. I brought the extra pesto clam broth to the table for people to dip the bread into. Any leftover potato, bean broth mixture can be tossed with some pasta for a second meal. Buono appetito!

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgozola
Another recipe from the book Urban Italian, but I tweaked it a bit adding sour apples, walnuts, and gorgonzola. Great refreshing salad with the agro dolce (sweet sour) thing. Sweet beets, cut by the red wine vinegar, with the creamy pungent gorgonzola, crisp sour apples, and crunchy walnuts gets you a combo of texture and flavors...

Ingredients (all are guesses, since I never measure)
1 granny smith apple
4 red beets, 4 yellow beats
2 shallots fine dice
High quality Gorgonzola (not the supermarket kind)
Red wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Mixed Salad (preferably including arugula and chicory)
Sea Salt and pepper

1) Scrub each beet thoroughly and trim the two ends (you can either discard the beet leaves or thoroughly clean them and use them in the salad). Wrap each beet in aluminum foil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Covering each beet in it's own foil roasts them more evenly. Throw in a 400F oven and cook for an hour.
2) Once the beets are cool to the touch. Remove the skin, and cut into bite size pieces in a bowl. Add shallots, good douse of balsamic vinegar, good douse of olive oil, and salt/pepper. Let marinate for at least an hour and taste. Re-season if necessary. Beets are like sponges (did not know that before), so it soaks up a lot of flavor.
3) Toss salad in a tiny amout of red wine vinegar, a little oil, and salt/pepper. Remember - the leaves should not be drowning in dressing, just slightly coated.
4) Slice up some apples into match sticks.
5) To serve, add the salad greens to the center of the plate, scatter a couple of beets around with the apples, add some crushed walnuts, and cut up some tiny pieces of gorgonzola around the plate. Be generous with the gorgonzola too, since that really makes this dish sing!

I didn't have time to do desserts, so I copped out and bought some. We had a mango panna cotta, brownie cheesecake, and pecan tart. Good times...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Total Recall

The list of establishments and products the FDA is listing is insanely long. 
Take a look at the site I've linked here and go down the list.  Better to know and avoid potential fatality. 

This list includes food products subject to recall in the United States since January 2009 related to peanut butter and peanut paste recalled by Peanut Corporation of America. This list will be updated as new information is received. This information is current as of the date indicated (as of Jan. 24, 2009 12:00pm). Once included, all food recalls will remain listed. If we learn that any information is not accurate, we will revise the list as soon as possible.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Worst Foods in America by Men's Health

According to Men's Health... people who love junk food should pretty much go kill themselves. 
The list is quite humorous, and even trivial at times...
Like how the heck can you jam over 2600 calories in a ice cream shake?

But my favorite goes to P.F. Chang's for their :

Worst Chinese Entrée of 2009

P.F. Chang's Tam's Noodles
1, 678 calories
93 g fat (17 g saturated fat)
You'd have to eat 42 Krispy Kreme Glazed Doughnut Holes to match the fat content in these noodles.

The 20 Worst Foods in America 2009

Avoid these 20 industrial-strength calorie bombs this year


Went to the Chinese grocery store in Flushing and saw a Pomelo - a fruit native to South-East Asia. Porthos talked about it before, so I figured why not give it a try. Basically, a huge grapefruit with less bitterness and a tad more sweetness. The fruit has a thick spongy rind and tough membranes. You basically break it apart and eat the flesh inside. Again, like a grapefruit, but with a much tougher membrane. Relatively tasty stuff, but not sure if I'd get it again...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

East Manor - Review

East Manor - Recommended
4645 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY‎ 11355
Phone: 718-888-8998

Met up the cousins in Flushing for some dim sum. I haven't had dim sum in a long time, so this place definitely hit the spot. Good variety, solid quality, and no worries about waiting in crazy lines to get in. I'll steal Bourdain's phrase and call it the "terror-dome" of dim sum - a huge sprawling space that maybe seats 200+. Overall, I give the restaurant a 77/100.

Overall Restaurant Experience (77/100)

  • Food 7.6/10 –We had my list of "dim sums greatest hits" - you know har gao, shumai, pai gwat, fung zhao - and everything was solid - tons of variety. Unfortunately, since the place is so huge, some of the food in the pushcarts get a tad cold. The best items were surprisingly the desserts...the dan tat was nice and creamy and there was this crispy bitter melon gelatinous ball filled with sesame paste - not bitter at all and the perfect amount of sweetness.
  • Service 7.5/10 –Tons of pushcarts, so no worries about waiting a long time for your next bite. Plus they have sections where you can order food directly...things like turnip cake, dumplings, scallion pancakes etc. on la pancha. And some stewed items as well - very convenient.
  • Atmosphere 7.5/10 – The "terror-dome" of dim sum joints. Got there at 11:30am on a Saturday - cousins already got a table, but there were plenty of seats. Huge place and I don't think you'd ever wait in line here. Plus, there's a parking lot which is a big plus and a huge Chinese grocery store nearby, so you can rock some dim sum and get your shopping done afterwords.
  • Price 9.0/10 – $15 per person including tip and I was 100% stuffed. Can't beat that. As usual, when visiting any small dish joint, come with a lot of people and your ROI will be much better. We had 11 peeps and were all pretty stuffed.
Closing Comments
Solid dim sum place and better than most places in Chinatown. I judge dim sum by my favorite dim sum dish - shumai - and this was decent. However, for dim sum in the tri state area, I think 1&9 Seafood Restaurant is #1 and Oriental Garden is #2 to me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fight Food: UFC 93

Our buddy Pat hosted the last UFC event (terrible fights, but still great times) and he surprised us with a kick ars Reuben sandwich. Flavorful, tender corned beef simmered for 4 hours, topped with crunchy sauerkraut, thinly sliced gooey swiss cheese, in between some rye bread, and finished off in a pan with some butter till nice and crusty. Great stuff and I highly recommend it. So good, a corned beef dinner sounds in order soon...

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market Ban Lifted

Last month at Tokyo's Famous Tsukiji Fish Market, some tourists were licking the fish, riding the forklifts and being a general distraction which prompted a ban to all tourists visiting the market. Good thing Jackass isn't still around, otherwise they'd up the ante shutting down the market to tourists permanently...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Avoid Peanut Butter Products

With the recent outbreak of salmonella, "the feds" are asking for people to avoid peanut butter products - which includes cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods that contain peanut butter. I love peanut butter, but maybe it's good opportunity to rock out the tahini or make some cashew butter ala Mr Alton Brown.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Answer to a Cold Cold Day

Was talking to Athos last night and couldn't shake the craving for one of these...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mr. Jones meets Mr. Times

Cocktails and Small Bites for Troubled
Mr. Jones

243 East 14th Street, (212) 253-7670,

Applause for Lesly Bernard. Failing to open Village Tart, Permanent Brunch and La Otra this fall as planned, Mr. Bernard, the Tillman’s impresario, has managed to open this East Village yakitori lounge. Its name smacks of Amy Winehouse. The pop innuendo is abetted by drinks from the Angel’s Share bar book and a funked-up Danish modern interior, with big, round, red banquettes. “In the city, most people don’t have room to entertain their friends, so I really want to offer people a comfortable place for that,” Mr. Bernard said.

Judging by the empty seats, folks are in no mood to party. Perhaps their hearts have been skewered like those in the chef Bryan Emperor’s hatsu in yakitori sauce. At $3, these tasty, if chewy, grilled chicken hearts are a seeming bargain. Still, you would have to gut the whole coop to make a meal.

Other grilled meats are more satisfying. The harami goma shichimi’s hefty hunks of wagyu, topped with an opium-thick black sesame paste, deliver on designer-beef indulgence ($7).

Despite their dominance on a menu of small bites, the yakitori aren’t the go-to items; too many taste of gas from the grill. Instead, trust in the Frialator.

Lollipoplike chicken wings — partly boned, fried in potato starch and topped with daikon to offset their earthiness — are a comfort-food balm ($9). Kobe meatballs ($12) are rich enough with molten foie gras centers; frying them is overkill. But the mizuna salad benefits from a sprinkling of crunchy jako fish ($8). Calamari tempura ($8) is the chicken wings’ even trashier, more addictive companion. Slathered in a fermented soybean-and-chili paste that is mellowed and sweetened with cream, it’s a glam-rock sop for the cocktails.

As for those cocktails, who can resist the old-fashioned? It hugs a single sphere of ice. A flock of citrus, peels curled like plumage, perches on its glass. It makes you laugh. Then it soothes you. What more to ask from a drink in troubled times.

*** I know for a fact Chef Bryan uses Binchotan for his grilled goods.
Clearly this writer doesn't know the difference between gas and the unique smokiness you get from a charcoal grilled.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steak Dinner at Uno's

Steaks - Not Recommended.
To the point of "Achtung! Stay Away!"

Known for their deep dish pizza, I chose to take the road less traveled and took a chance with their "10 oz top sirloin Angus".
What I failed to register in my mind was that this would be preportioned wet vac sealed slabs of beef in the back.

The grill station guy most likely tore open the plastic and threw the piece of beef directly from the fridge onto the grill and then proceeded to set a timer counting the minutes till it was "medium rare" ready.

This was no 28 day dry aged Niman Ranch NY Strip from Porterhouse.
It tasted more similar to the steak you would get on a American flight from JFK to Narita.

One last thing, I was asked to take care of the bill because there was a shift change, and my waitress was waiting for her $3 tip (15%). Plz. I have never been rushed to settle a bill anywhere. Quite the experience.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thai Chicken Curry Recipe - First Shot

Got an itching to make Thai curry from scratch and I decided it made since with the cold weather. Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines as I love the complex salty, spicy, sour, sweet balance thing going on. I really had no recipe to go off of, but this came from a combination of stuff I probably saw on TV and taste memory. Three things I learned from this experiment is you can always use more Thai chilis for your paste, short grain rice is terrible for curries since it gets mushy, and never use frozen asian veggies - they become mushy and generally suck pretty bad. Even with all these lessons learned, I was pretty happy with the dish.

5 thai chilis - red or green (jalapenos can be substituted, but thai chilis have a great citrus background and are more spicy)
2 tbsp shrimp paste
5 gloves garlic
1 small shallot rough chopped
2 stalks lemon grass
1 lime (kaffir lime leaf would be preferable, but I couldn't find any)
2 cans coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 bag frozen asian veggies (again these suck, but that's what I used - you could use real snowpeas, bean sprouts, carrots, straw mushrooms, water chestnuts)
1/2 red onion rough chopped
1 pound jidori chicken leg, cut into thing slices
1 bag cooked white rice (preferably a long grain like basmati)
Cilantro leaves for garnish

1) With a pestal and mortar, smash the chilis, shrimp paste, garlic, shallots, tender parts of the lemon grass into a paste. Make sure to bash this into a fine paste. You can also use a food processor as well. I tried tasting this and it was insanely salty and spicy...but the coconut milk mellows the whole thing out and actually could use more chilis imho. 4 chilis is like medium low heat. 5-6 would be medium heat I think. Anything above, it'll be hella hot.
2) Bring the coconut milk to a boil in a wok or large pot. Add the zest of one lime, sugar, and the non tender parts of the lemon grass...not the woody exterior though.
3) Once the coconut milk starts boiling, cut to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the lemon grass and zest. If you have the lime leaves, leave them in.
4) Add the chili paste and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 the lime juice, fish sauce, and taste. If you like it sweeter, add more sugar. Spicier, mash up some more chili's and dump em in. More sour, add more lime juice.
5) Add the chicken and let it simmer for 15 minutes. It could go even longer, since it's dark meat.
6) Set a stainless steel saute pan over high heat - like hades hot. Add the veggies and onion in. Don't touch or move. After 3-5 minutes stir around, you should get some color on the veg - it should still be crispy though. Add to the curry.
7) Simmer for another 3 minutes. Add rest of the lime juice and more fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately over the basmati rice and garnish with the cilantro.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Killing a Classic

I challenge you to find a worse recipe on youtube than this...
Seriously... This is no joke.
The video is pretty self-explanatory.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Michael Lomonaco

This man has got to be one of my favorite chefs in the city. Just so down to earth, great, great guy. With an abundance of talent. He is really one of the true fixtures of the Manhattan culinary experience. Perhaps more responsible for New American cuisine than any other in the city.
Here are just some of the places and affiliations he has been or is a part of.
- 21
- Windows on the World
- Guastavino's
- Porterhouse
- Share our Strength
- City Meals on Wheels
- City Harvest
- March of Dimes

Porterhouse is at the Time Warner building on Columbus Circle.
After Chef Jean Georges "failed" and folded up his V Steakhouse,the opportunity was given to Mike Lomonaco's and successfully relaunched a steakhouse in the same location. He threw away the gaudy furniture and decor and made it elegant and comfortable.

I've been to Porterhouse a number of times, and it's always a treat.
This past week, I had some guests from Japan visiting and they requested an American Steak...
I made a reservation and we dined like "Men".

We ordered a nice bottle of French wine, I got the NY Strip, 2 of my guests ordered the Chili Rub Ribeye, and the 4th ordered the Filet Mignon.
All four orders were RARE! Spartaaaaaaa!
All the meats were dry aged for at least 28 days at Debragga and Spitler.
Talk about nutty and slightly funky beef. Absolutely delicious.
This totally hit the spot and everyone was devouring their plate like that was the last piece of meat on earth.
In addition, we had 2 aps, and 2 sides, and desserts to share with the table.
The bill ran $105 a piece. All things considered, in Manhattan (ambiance, view, food, service), that's a very reasonable price.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tar-Jhay saves the day

It was the little lady's birthday Monday, it was 5pm, and I had not prepared anything.
I was on my way back from work and had to come up with something.

Terrible, I know, but for some reason, I thought we were going out to eat. And then the call around 4pm... " what are you making tonight?" came.
I usually have a stocked pantry with fresh meats and veggies in the fridge, but again, the saying "when it rains, it pours", couldn't have been more true.
Everything was up in the air and a last minute effort was my only option.
I swung by the Target next to my apartment and went straight to the foods department.
I picked up a bottle of sauce, and my favorite frozen Archer Farms dessert and bolted home to start my prep.

Aramis is the resident Italian maestro and I remembered his trick with wringing out unnecessary water from fresh tomatoes in order to get more flavor.
When I opened up the bottle of pre-made sauce, I noticed it was a little runny, so I emptied out half the jar into a pot and let the water naturally separate out to the perimeter and I removed it with a spoon. This led to a very flavorful pomodoro sauce I must say.

Besides the pasta, I needed a little app dish to go with some vino, so I busted up some parmegiano reggiano and sliced up some salame with olives and anchovies.

I whipped up everything in time as the boss stepped through the door. I greeted her with a bottle of Dainero from Tuscany.

The finished pasta dish is posted below. Over all, I'm pretty happy with my results, but that's not saying much. I think I cook at an Olive Garden level. I really need to take some cooking lessons from Aramis.

Appetizers : Salame, Parm Reggiano Cheese, Anchovies and Olives
Pasta : Spaghetti with Pomodoro Sauce, Grated Parm Reggiano, Olives and Anchovies to garnish, Drizzled with Olive Oil
Wine : Dainero of Tuscany. (This estate is owned by the Ferragamo family... as in Salvatore Ferragamo)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Food = Love

In my family, skill in the culinary arts skipped a generation. I could cook from a very early age, and my grandmother always cooked at family gatherings. My mom has never been a great cook, but she tries hard. We all still tease her about the Fish Veronique she tried to make in the 80's, known in my family as the "fish-and-grapes incident".

I remember my Grandma S cooking for a week leading up to the major holidays. Cookies, pies, cakes, vegetable sides, meats and bread, all lovingly cooked for the family to gather around. Grandma has slowed down now that she is 80-something years old, and, if she never cooked another thing, then she has earned a well-deserved break. My cooking icon now seems to prefer convenience over old-world preparation and has developed a taste for frozen pizzas. Coming from an old Italian lady, this is quite a shock!

Gone are the days of endless cooking and huge family spreads. The one item that has stayed, the food she seems to be able to muster enough energy to make, is her famous Cheesecake. It never fails when we visit, she will make a Cheesecake for my wife, and no one gets a piece until she has had a chance to dig in. This past week we visited, and Grandma make the cheesecake again. I took the opportunity to grab the recipe from her 50 year old index card -- enjoy the love!

Grandma S's Cheesecake:

Beat together:
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 pound cream cheese
1 pint sour cream
3 eggs
3 T flour
3 T corn starch
1 cup sugar
Dash salt
1 T vanilla or lemon (or both)

For Crust:

½ stick butter
1 package chocolate graham crackers
¼ cup sugar
½ cup walnuts or pecans

Melt butter and add to other ingredients, press into bottom of Springform pan.
Pour in cake mixture and bang on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350F for 75 minutes
** put in cold oven-do not preheat oven **

Fruit on top is straight from a can -- old school!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tim Tam Slam

Our buddy Athos brought this to my attention... He's done it before and says it's as good as everybody says it is.
Apparently you can do this with a Kit Kat and a hot beverage of your choice.
Natalie in the video prefers tea... but me thinks Hot Chocolate may be a pretty awesome substitute. described on Wiki...

On the Line

Received the spectacular book On the Line from Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert for Xmas. This book goes through the history of Le Bernardin as well as the ins and outs of the entire restaurant in incredible detail. Kinda like the chapter "Life of Bryan" from Kitchen Confidential, but in more detail and showcasing beautiful pictures and recipes - every single recipe is accompanied by a picture which is captured on a whole page...pretty rare for a cookbook.

It truly shows why Le Berardin is one of the best restaurants in NY - from the management skills used to the actual people (and their history) that make Le Bernardin what it is today. Highly recommended and without question the best restaurant book I've ever owned - better than French Laundry's book in my opine.

Interesting topics include:
  • Le Bernardin originally opened in France, then the Le Coze's (owners) expanded to Atlanta and Miami with plans for Charlotte and Vegas. When Ripert took over, they closed everything down except the NY branch.
  • Sous chefs are part of the creative process and present new dishes to Ripert and the chef de cuisine every day - odd I assume for most kitchens. They actually have a markerboard and a conference room to discuss new dishes. My favorite dish at Le Bernardin escloar poached in olive oil was created by a sous chef - recipe is in the book too.
  • Saucier uses the following items per day as a base 10 pounds shallots, 5 pounds garlic, 10 pounds ginger, 30 pounds butter
  • At least Ripert or Maguy (owner) have to be there for every dinner service
  • Ripert still tastes every single sauce before service, even though he's no longer running the pass
  • Sad, but the reason for the book's creation is Ripert wanted to document the restaurant since their lease runs out in 2010 and from Ripert's tone in the book, it seems they may not be able to re-up. He's mentioned if that's the case they will not move the restaurant to another location, so make Le Bernardin on your list of restaurants to visit for 2009...

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 Year in Review

Let's face it, 2008 was a pretty terrible year except for my marriage/honeymoon of course. But, I had some great food moments, so here's a fun look back on some of the good things from last year.

1) Best Restaurant 2008 - Ko
Although I'm getting sick of reading about the Tom Brady of food, Ko kicked massive ars. This place was an explosion of textures and flavors and a complete revelation of how fun and good food could be. Definitely worth going back again if you can get in.
Honorable Mention: Au Peid de Cochon, Fung Ya Xuen

2) Best Restaurant Dish 2008 - Foie Gras (Ko)
Again, it pains me to write more about David Chang, but this dish was just ridiculously good and perfectly encompassed what Ko was all about to me. Amazing textures with equally amazing flavors. I mean frozen shaved foie gras paired with riesling gelee and lychees - what the f is that and why does it taste so f'n good.
Honorable Mention: Clam Pie (Frank Pepe's), Shrimp Taco (Marisma Taco's), Camaron En Rajas Con Queso Gorditas (Kool Fish), Shrimp Burger (Dr. Taco), Stuffed Pied de Cochon with Foie Gras (Au Pied de Cochon), Sicilian Pie (L&B Spumoni Gardens), Lobster (Ko), Escolar (Le Bernardin)

3) Best Cheaper Restaurant 2008 - Marisma Tacos

I may not be any happier than eating a shrimp taco at Marisma Tacos. A tiny taco stand, away from the tourists in Puerto Vallarta eating with the locals on a beautiful sunny may not get any better than that.
Honorable Mention: No contest...this place kicked serious ars

3) Worst Restaurant 2008 - Craftsteak
What do you get when you combine bad service, insanely high prices, and subpar food? Why you get Craftsteak, the worst restaurant experience of 2008. Tom Colicchio should either remove his name from this place or spend less time on Top Chef and more time supervising his restaurants. I still can't believe there was steak caked on the knife they gave me...what the f!
Honorable Mention: WD-50 (food poisoning), Rhong Tiam (worst service ever)

4) Favorite Dude's Night Moment 2008 - Ramen Crawl
We've had some great times in 2008, but one of the most fun times was stomping around the East Village for our ramen crawl. Great times and more importantly we found out Ippudo rules for ramen in NYC.

5) Favorite Television Episode 2008 - No Reservations: Into the Fire
This episode with Bourdain working a full lunch/dinner service at Les Halles is still the best food program I've seen on TV. Loved watching Bourdain in the weeds and showing just how hard working the line is. Equally fun watching Eric Ripert the master of fancy fish, rocking the grill line for steaks and kicking it's ars.

6) Random Thought 2008: NY Times is confusing as hell
Way too many restaurants received 3 stars in 2008 and you really can't put a place like Momfuku Ssam Bar in the same category as Eleven Madison Park.

We've had some great food in 2008 - from Taiwan to Playa del Carmen, it's been a tasty year. In 2009, I'm looking forward to potential trips to Hong Kong and Malaysia for our international travels and hopefully a trip back to Le Bernardin or Daniel locally. Oh, and our two year anniversary of our humble food blog is coming up this March...maybe they'll let us use Buckingham Palace to celebrate :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Little. Local. Delicious

Pekarski's Sausage - Highly Recommended
Rte 116
South Deerfield, MA

I am drawn to places like Pekarski's Sausage. There is tremendous satisfaction to buying food and drink from the people that make it. I have never met an unfriendly person amongst this subset of special folks who pour their very life into the foods that we eat.

Walking into this western Massachusetts mecca for smoked meats and fresh sausage you are met with the friendly smiles of the family that runs the establishment. The counter up front is a simple, cash-only affair, but it is the bounty of tasty meats that begs your immediate attention.

Kielbasa, andouille, breakfast sausage, fresh sausage, smoked hocks and --the king of the smoked pork family-- slab bacon are all well represented. We ordered 2 pounds of bacon and a pound of Andouille to help round out our New Year's feast of lobsters, lentils, cheese, bread, shrimp, beer, Nihonshu and other things too numerous to mention; our friends are serious food people.

We are not only provided with our meaty delights but a story or two about life at Pekarski's. Not having a website, Pekarski's is occasionally picked up by various media outlets, which, we were told, usually results in a flurry of calls from places as far away as Florida. Before all you NYC'ers get excited about farm-fresh bacon and kielbasa: Pekarski's does not ship their excellent wares. If you want the taste of great local pork you have to go where the pigs live. This fact is of great comfort to me, knowing that this tiny store, 2 miles outside of South Deerfield center, will hopefully stay as it is and not become a footnote at the end of a dish in some sterile restaurant 300 miles… and a world away. Going out to restaurants is a feast for the stomach but getting out to where the food/ingredients are family-made is a salve for the soul.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Taqueria y Carniceria Sanchez - Review

Taqueria y Carniceria Sanchez - Highly Recommended
1190 Sunset Blvd NE. Suite A, Renton, WA 98056
Phone: 425-277-4600

I always have this uncanny ability to find random hole in the wall joints that kick massive ars. I've found the best Vietnamese Pho joint I've been to in the middle of nowhere Renton, WA. Now, I've struck gold again with this ridiculously amazing taqueria in Renton. Driving down Sunset Blvd, I noticed a tiny taqueria sign behind this gas station. I figured when I see the words "taqueria" and "carniceria" it's going to be a good place - no words like "fiesta" or "sombrero" here. A great place for tacos and it totally brought us back to our honeymoon in Mexico.

My Menu
1) Carnitas Taco *
2) Lengua Taco **
3) Tripa Taco **
4) Taco al
Pastor *
5) Quesadilla Carne **

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

Dish Comments
1) Crispy pork meat with good porky flavor.
2) A phenomenal taco. Lengua is cubed beef tongue. Incredibly tender and flavorful - almost like eating pork belly, but with more of a meaty mouth feel. So good I ordered a second helping.
3) Never had tripe like this before. This was thinly sliced and incredibly crispy and flavorful. Great stuff.
4) I've been looking for tacos al pastor all throughout my honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, but for some reason or another I could never find any. Here it was a nice juicy roast pork. Very tasty.
5) Not exactly sure what this was called. A quesadilla looking thing (two tortillas) with salty, gooey cheese / tender steak, onions, and supposedly avocado. This was heaven on a plate.

Overall Restaurant Experience

  • Food 8.5/10 –Great tacos that reminded me of Mexico. When I saw that the tacos were served with two corn tortillas and limas - smaller than limes and less tart - I knew I was in for an authentic treat.
  • Service N/A –You basically go up to the counter and order cafeteria style. Incredibly nice people there.
  • Atmosphere 8.5/10 – Total dive which I love - High concrete ceilings and the place was painted all yellow. First part of the place is a meat shop where you can buy your meats from the butcher. The back part are the burners where you can order your tacos. TV had some Mexican MTV which added to the ambiance. Only two other people were there for a Friday at 12:30pm and they spoke Spanish only...good sign.
  • Price 9.5/10 – $13 for everything including a sidral mundet: a great apple soda - which we loved in Puerto Vallarta. The tacos were so good I went up to order 3 times.
Closing Comments
Unfortunately, no pictures since this was spur of the moment and did not have a camera with me. Need to pick me up a 3mp camera phone, so I can always take solid pix on the go. Can't wait to try other Mexican joints around town as there seems to be a large Mexican population (and Vietnamese as well, hence the great pho joints).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's with White Castle and Moet

The wife flew into Newark on New Year's Eve around 9pm. Figured a great way to spend a late New Year's Eve was with some White Castle and Moet - a little ghetto and a little classy, kinda like me. The jalapeno cheese burger pairs great with the champagne btw.

Happy New Year