Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Island Grill Restaurant - Review

Island Grill Restaurant - Recommended
100 Atlantic Ave
Ocean City, NJ 08226
Phone: (609) 391-9616

I haven't seen the wife in a while so we decided to head down to Ocean City, NJ to get away. Whenever we head down to a beach area (Jersey Shore baby!), I always look forward to seafood in broiled or fried form. We ended up finding Island Grill Restaurant via Yelp! and it was exactly what I was looking for.

Our Menu
crab melt **
A play on the tuna melt except substituting jumbo lump crab instead of tuna. Pretty damn delicious with rye, swiss, tomato, and sweet lump crab making a fun combination. Fries are incredibly crisp and tender on the inside with good potato flavor.

clam strip platter *
The coating was nice and crisp with some great seasoning - pretty delicious. The only issue was the clams were a little dried out and slightly chewy. Unlike the phenomenal Flo's Clams in Rhode Island, these were clam strips which are a big no no in the Newport Area. Clam strips are generally very chewy while the belly is tender and delicious. Still pretty damn fun though and puts me in a great beach mood.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (8.0/10) – Pretty fun beach food and gets you in the beach vacation mind set. Looks like for dinner, they serve fish probably broiled or grilled and wild game as well.
  • Service (7.5/10) – Servers were very friendly albeit a bit slower.
  • Atmosphere (8.0/10) – Kitschy joint with random beach stuff hanging on the wall (e.g. life preservers, seashells, etc). Cheesy as hell, but I definitely dig it and again puts you in the beach vacation mindset. Also, they play some oldies which I definitely dig as well. Place had only 3-4 other groups at 12pm on a Sunday. Good times although a bit far away from the main boardwalk.
  • Price (8.0) - For the quality, much better bang for the buck than anything you'll get on the boardwalk.
Closing Comments
Real fun place and I would go back if I visited again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kimchi Jigae - My Interpretation

I've been craving some kimchi jigae, a phenomenal kimchi and pork stew, so I figured why not try making it. Now, I have to caveat I am not Korean, so this is just a kimchi and pork stew that is uber flavorful. This is definitely not the classic kimchi jigae for all you purists out there.

Most recipes I saw basically had you boil a whole mess load of ingredients in a pot with no sauteeing or searing. That didn't fly with me so I did a classic braise - sear, sautee, and gentle simmer. Also, I was thinking what would amp this broth up, so I added clams, mushrooms, and pork neck - the goodies in the neck bone would be more flavorful than the classic pork belly alone. And, I generally use shoulder or necks in my Italian style braises any way. Any who, this is by far the best version / interpretation of this dish I've ever had. Unfortunately, my droid did not save the pictures I took of this dish hence the replacement picture to the right :)

kimchi (8 cups worth)
6 green onion stalks cut in fourths (1 onion thinly sliced for garnish)
1 yellow onion sliced
6 cloves garlic minced
2.5 pounds pork neck (if not available, you can substitute pork shoulder)
12 little neck clams thoroughly cleaned (scrubbed, and soaked in water for a half an hour changing the water until it's clean 4+ times)
10 shitake mushrooms cleaned
1 package enoki mushrooms cleaned
1 box medium firm tofu cut into 1 inch dice
Canola Oil
Salt and White Pepper
4 tablespoons gojuchang (red pepper paste)
Water enough to cover the kimchi
Short grain white rice cooked according to your rice maker instructions

1) Remove impurities from the pork by boiling it hard for 5 minutes - just covering the meat with water. Saw Heston Blumenthal do this so I figured why not. My thinking was this would make the broth more clear and also help break down the meat. Toss out all the water and towel dry the meat and season with salt and pepper.

2) Sear the meat over medium high heat until golden brown on all sides using the oil. This adds the complexity of flavor. Remove the meat and set aside.

3) Sautee the onion, green onions, and garlic until softened (about 5 mins) in the same pan with new oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper, but go light since the kimchi is salty enough. Make sure to discard the old oil before cooking the veg, since it may have some off flavors.

4) Simmer time. Add the pork back into the pot and 3/4 of the kimchi and add enough water to come 2-3 inches of fully submerging everything. Bring to a boil over high heat and cut to low heat to simmer everything.

5) Add the mushrooms, 1/2 the gojuchang, and tofu after 30 minutes of cooking. I added the mushroom and tofu much later, so it still has some texture left. I had left over enoki mushrooms that I cooked in sake and finished with some miso off heat. This had big time flavors and probably added to the awesomeness of the broth. Not required of course. Also, this whole entire time, you should check the broth level. If it's pretty low, you can add more water. Don't worry, there's so much flavor here that even adding water won't dilute it that much. There should generally be equal parts broth and stuff (meat, veg, etc.).

6) Add the clams after 30 minutes of cooking. Check after 6 minutes to see when the clams open up. Also, check the meat - if it falls apart when you pull with a fork, the meat is done. If not, remove the opened clams and cook some more until it does (maybe 15 mins more).

7) Finish with the rest of the kimchi and gojuchang. I like adding this at the very end since it adds brightness and a pop to the dish at the very end. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve immediately with white rice. Top with fresh sliced scallions. If you want to be nice to your guests, you can remove the meat from the pork bone and clam shells but I think this should be a rustic dish so I left the shells and bones in. Key fact - it tastes even more intense the next day!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Michael White Article

Michael White, the head of the dude approved restos Convivio and Marea, was featured in a NY Times article that was a pretty good read. Looks like he has some massive jealousy issues with some of the other Italian chefs around town which makes him sound like a jackass. But, nevertheless his food is pretty damn delicious.

Funny excerpts:
"And he was caroming from one bold proclamation to the next: If his surname were Italian, the city’s food establishment would have rallied around him sooner! He spent twice the time in Italy that Mario Batali did, and never takes the liberties with Italian cuisine that Andrew Carmellini does at Locanda Verde! Neither of them has quite his combination of knowledge, authenticity and commitment! "


"Mr. White gravitates toward superlatives, in a manner more exuberant and exhortatory than grandiose. He measures himself against everyone and everything else in town, making especially frequent references to Mr. Batali and his restaurants.

He said, for instance, that the fanciest of them, Del Posto, deploys a few too many non-Italian tricks. He also said that because he isn’t Italian, he doesn’t take Italian cuisine for granted; he expressed pride at how much time he spends in his kitchens and how little on TV.

Mr. Batali, in an e-mail that mixed full words with abbreviations, wrote, “He definitely spent more time in Italy than I did, he married a real Italian and probably makes love like an Italian too, defo better than me.”

“Seriously,” he wrote, “I love and respect the guy.” He added that Mr. White “deserves more press than he gets and he can back it up on the plate too.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

EATALY about to Open

Welcome to Eataly, a 50,000 Sq. Ft. Italian Culinary Funhouse

[Krieger, 8/24/10]

Mario Batali recently described his imported food hall Eataly as a "temple," as a place where "food is more sacred than commerce." And while a preview of the place last night revealed there will be a heck of a lot of commerce in this place, he may be right. When it comes down to it, Eataly is nothing short of epic, a giant Slow Food mecca of all things Italy. At its core, it's a fancy Italian grocery store with individual retail departments offering the best of everything (pastry, bread, a butcher, a fishmonger, pasta, cured meats, cheese, hand-made mozzarella, etc.), some of which are directly connected to their own sit-down restaurants with waiter service.

And then! Gelato! A coffee bar! Panini! Pizza! A wine store! A bookstore! Housewares! A cooking school by Lidia Bastianich! A planned rooftop beer garden! All with bi-lingual signage everywhere explaining Eataly's philosophy. "It is not just a market, but a food experience," one sign reads. Everything for everyone! The only thing that's missing is pony rides. In Vegas there'd be a roller coaster involved.

Will it be a hit? >>

So is Eataly an insta-smash hit in the making? No price points or menus were revealed (which will be a huge factor), and certainly when the place is really humming, there's almost no way it won't approach clusterfuck levels, but the dedication to quality is astounding.

Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and other partners led last night's tour, stopping at each section to offer samples and explain specifics. Said Batali, "This isn't a giant food court. This isn't a selection of restaurants under one roof. This is a retail store where we peddle the greatest of Italian products.... You ask any Italian and all of the smart Americans where the best meal they ever had in the last ten years was, and it was never in a restaurant. It was always in the house. And with these products, and this ideology, we're hoping that's what we're going to bring to New Yorkers." Home cooking, peddled by a man with dozens of restaurants.

· Opening to the public Tuesday, August 31st at 4 PM
· 50,000 square feet
· A 300-seat, 6,000 sq ft rooftop partially-enclosed beer garden on the 15th floor, La Birreria, accessible from an in-store elevator, opening November. No preview as they haven't even started building it out yet.
· A cooking school ("La Scuola") under the tutelage of Dean Lidia Bastianich
· The front has a Lavazza coffee shop (that'll open at 7AM), gelateria, and paninoteca
· Two wood-fired pizza ovens imported from Italy
· A fresh pasta counter with two dozen varieties on offer
· An Italian bank ATM
· A bakery (overseen by Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery and the Los Angeles Mozza) will sell bread and focaccia at the retail counter and produce bread for the restaurants. Unnamed restaurants have already put in contracts. A dedicated oven (seen through glass doors next the the counter) is expected to run 24 hours a day.
· Butcher, fishmonger (run by David Pasternack), locally-sourced produce
· A huge amount of dry goods: canned tomatoes, tomato sauces, olive oils, vinegars, jams, honey, and a large variety of dried pasta and risotto rice
· A microbrewery is planned (not built yet), headed by Teo Musso of Birrificio Le Baladin, Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo in Rome, and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery, including, according to Joe Bastianich, "guest brewers every month that come from Italy to brew regionally- and seasonally-specific beers."

The restaurants:
· Pizzeria Rossopomodoro, with two guys from Naples who only arrived in that States the other day, already producing some knockout pizza
· Il Crudo
· Salumi e Formaggi
· La Pasta
· La Verdura, the vegetable bar/restaurant
· Il Pesce, run by David Pasternack
· Il Manzo, a white-tablecloth Italian steakhouse with 80 seats, the only restaurant that'll take reservations, headed by Michael Toscano, formerly of Babbo.

That's in addition to the other food stands:
· Paninoteca
· Pasticceria, headed by Luca Montersino
· Rosticceria, offering roast meats
· Il Laboratoria De La Mozzarella

General Question / Poll

We seldom get comments from everyone... but I'm curious to hear your thoughts folks. 

I want to hear your thoughts on Zagats, Yelp and Chowhound.
Purpose, ease of use, and accuracy. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Think Flintstone

It's the Flintstones folks.
The boys at Momofuku Ma Peche did it again and pretty much made me tear up Monday night as my guests and I devoured the "Beef 7 Ways" menu with hedonistic joy.

This was some serious eating ladies and gentlemen.
Juicy, yummy "Meat Eating" to be specific.

I know they don't care what I think, but I honestly feel sorry for those who choose to be vegetarians. It's rude and obnoxious to say NO to such delicious meat. There is no way my incisors, stereoscopic eyes, and opposable thumbs were handed out by the guy upstairs by accident.
Beef tongue, sirloin, shank, tail... even the sides (corn and fried rice sticks) were all out of this world delicious.

I honestly can't wait to gather another 10 friends and chow down at Ma Peche again. Anyone interested, drop me a line.

To the kitchen:
Thanks guys for another amazing meal. Sam and Tien, you guys are the BEST.
Yaba Daba Doooooooooooooooooo!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hot Chick Food Crawl?

Looks like Blake Lively from Gossip Girl is a big eater. We dudes salute the food rampage from a hottie like Blake.

From the NY Daily News

"Our sources tell us that the actress' culinary odyssey began in the key of seafood on Aug. 5 when she ate at power sushi restaurant Nobu in Tribeca and the more rustic Mary's Fish Camp in the West Village. Then, on Saturday, Aug. 7, she returned to the latter neighborhood to dine at Paris Commune, which is known for its brunch, and Blue Hill, which is revered for its fetishistic embrace of local, seasonal food.

On Aug. 10, Lively did a high-low, East-West thing that would work well as a "Gossip Girl" narrative device. She checked out the atmosphere-free Chirping Chicken, a favorite of upper West Siders who want good chicken and ribs without any pretense. That same day, she also headed crosstown to Madison Ave. art dealer hangout Sant Ambroeus, which is mostly about pretense - and good gelato.

Aug. 11, she visited only Rosa Mexicano on the upper West Side, but resumed her two-a-day eatery habit on the 12th, when she dined at the Moroccan influenced hipster hangout Café Gitane at the Jane Hotel, and the classic French Le Grainne Café on Ninth Ave. in Chelsea.

Perhaps her culinary excursions began to take a toll on the leggy Lively's waistline, because by midmonth, she began to pace herself. On Aug. 13, she ate at Laurent Tourondel's seafood-themed restaurant BLT Fish on W. 17th St. Aug. 15, she supped at Cookshop, another establishment that prides itself on its seasonal, local menu. And as best we can tell, her culinary quest ended on Aug. 18 at Café Joul, a French neighborhood bistro on First Ave. in midtown east."

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Redhead - Review

The Redhead - Highly Recommended
349 East 13th Street, New York 10003
Btn 2nd Ave and 1st Ave
Phone: (212) 533-6212

I've been wanting to check this place out for a while, so when Risotto mentioned this joint was nearby - I was all in. This place basically does southern food really well and is so in my strike zone. Great food although I had some issues with the atmosphere - still highly recommended though.

Our Menu
buttermilk fried chicken corn muffin, spinach & strawberry, almonds ***
I love me some fried chicken and the one they serve at The Redhead is WTF good. Perfectly crispy exterior that is completely fused with the skin. The first bite was a teeny bit salty, but when eating the skin with the meat it was perfectly seasoned. The meat was extremely juicy and had great chicken flavor. Even the breast meat was pretty moist and had a great texture. Add the perfectly dressed and seasoned salad that adds that brightness to this dish and you're in fried chicken heaven. Corn muffin was decent, but the free roll in the beginning was better.

broccoli, cheddar & crispy shallots **
I like broccoli a lot and it is generally the first vegetable I go to when I cook at home. They definitely do them right here - great flavor and texture on the broccoli and phenomenal with the crispy shallots. The cheddar was more like a thin cheddar soup rather than melted cheese on top.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (8.8/10) – Food was so my strike zone - comfort food, big flavors, and done very well.
  • Service (7.5/10) – It was pretty packed in there, so they actually missed our order of flat bread. Good idea since we are actually pretty stuffed from the chicken, broccoli, and the many beers we had at our beloved burp castle. The chicken came out insanely quick though - maybe within 10 minutes of ordering it.
  • Atmosphere (7.0/10) – A bar and a sea of people hit you as soon as you walk in. The next thing that hits you is the temperature of the place - not extremely hot, but definitely on the warmer side. The other thing you notice is the place is dark and all the tables are very close together, so much so that we had some people chat us up. The place is packed with couples, groups of girls, groups of dudes with the majority in their 30's or late 20's. The crowded bar is basically right next to all the tables, so I wouldn't be going with a date - but maybe some fellas that still want that bar feel. We didn't mind so much since we were just at a bar, so kind of a natural transition.
  • Price (9.0) - Entrees are under 20 and beers are 5 and under. 100% worth it.
Closing Comments
I love this style of food and the chicken is spectacular here. Definitely want to go back for the shrimp and grits next.


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