The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Today's Lunch

Hit the Pret again. Got two slim Prets - one BLT and the other with dolphin friendly tuna salad. Since I don't like bread, I combined them and made one big half sandwich. A tuna club of sorts. But now my tummy feels funny again. I had a glorious Arnold Palmer though!


Sunday Brunch

Moutarde (we tried to go to Stone Park, but there was like a two-hour wait or something) with 75% of IYWMB - Young Turk, the Balltrap, Reason to Believe, Sweet Little Rock and Roller and Hot Legs.

We were still feeling pretty excited/exciting from the previous day's victory against our best bocce friends/arch enemies, the Coffee Flats Terrors. Suffice it to say, we chatted about it for a bit. Then the conversation turned to something more serious - food. Or more specifically, the various foods we would be ordering.

SLR'n'R noted that it was sort of obnoxious to offer three poached egg options (the usual suspects - Florentine, Benedict and one with smoked salmon), but no options for people who just wanted eggs, you know, not poached. I also didn't like that there was only one omelette option, which I might add, was MEATLESS. Blech.

So I was vacillating between the Salade Nicoise and a burger with Gruyere and bacon. Hot Legs was having trouble deciding between the banana pancakes and, like me, the aforementioned burger. Since we both suffer from burger envy, I encouraged him to enter into a burger pact with me, that way neither of us could be jealous of the other's succulent burger. I said 'there will either be two burgers at this table, or NO burgers at this table'. Then Hot Legs was like 'listen, if I don't order a burger, what are you going to order?' and then I said, 'the Salade Nicoise'. And then do you know what happened? Hottie L ordered banana pancakes and I STILL ordered the burger! I unintentionally pulled the old bait and switch. Suddenly I felt as though I had no honor...

Anyway, I was adequately punished by the forces who oversee things like burger pacts, because the burger, like so many other things, TOTALLY worked me. I ended up barfing about an hour after brunch. Booooo.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Getting Grimaldi'd / Scared Stupid in the Slope

I should be over at Mary's right now carving a pumpkin, but I had a cat encounter last night that really did me in and figured being around a cat today would be bad news. So instead, I'm just hanging out at PSGHQ tending to a big red sauce and watching the Giants / Tampa Bay game.

Beth, I hope I'm not blog-blocking you by discussing the Grimaldi's dinner you mentioned in the previous post. By the way audience, how nice it to see our own China-Latina Chowhound back in action? Anyway, to celebrate our victory over the Coffee Flats Yankees, a few members of Team Rod headed over to Grimaldi's. To sum things up, we got Grimaldi'd and we got Girmaldi'd good. The first sign of trouble was when we were the next group to be seated and we got kicked out of the vestibule and had to wait in the blustery outside. The previous two groups were allowed to wait in the vestibule. Then the five of us got seated at a table that was barely larger than a two-top. It was more suitable for three diners, but whatever. Usually at Grimaldi's you're barely settled into your seat when the waiter comes around to get your order. We waited. And waited. And waited. I tried to get the attention of the waiter who was taking the order of the table next to us but he either didn't hear me or just ignored me. When it was finally time to order, I asked for "a large pepperoni and garlic" and "a large with sausage (pause) and then mushrooms on half." My words are currently being disputed by my husband who claims my choice of words had the potential for confusion. I stand by my account. I knew that ordering toppings on just a half is confusing so I made sure to be clear. Perhaps I should have said "sausage on the whole thing, mushrooms on half"? Maybe, but I still think "a large with sausage (pause) and then mushrooms on half" is pretty clear. So of course the pies come (it was close to 45 minutes after sitting down that we got our food) and it's mushrooms on half, but also sausage on just half! Our pepperoni pie was not exactly the warmest, nor did they remember to put much pepperoni on it. There were a couple slices where just one pepperoni had been dispersed. The rest of the slices had between 3-4. What a disappointment.

(what comes up when you google "bad pizza")

Now listen, I don't go to Grimaldi's for any other service than "what would you like to drink and do you know what you want?" But you can count on quick service, generous servings of toppings and a really great pie. We got none of these (ok, maybe "bad pizza" is unfair and inaccurate, but it was certainly not great) and it was a shame, because it was Sweet Little Rock N' Roller's first time! First times are supposed to be a magical, beautiful moment you write in your diary about. This wasn't one of those first times.

The moment when I knew things were really wrong, was when the pies were down to a single slice. I had consumed one small sausage slice and two bigger than average pepperoni slices, which may be a lot for most people, but under my Grimaldi's average. I didn't even want a portion of that final slice, which was cut in half to be shared.


A few hours later, Dan, Beth and I all were suffering from indigestion. Of course that didn't stop any of us for snacking like crazy at Skippy and Cortney's Halloween party later in the evening. Dan was enamored with Cortney's famous salsa, Beth the pigs in the blanket and me, the deviled eggs and queso. By the way, can you believe that someone ate the blanket portion of a pig in the blanket, but left the pig? Are you serious? Who does that? Luckily, Beth saved the naked pig from indignity.

Mad props to S & C for creating an amazing haunted house in their basement. It was really creepy and scary and will give me nightmares for the next couple weeks. I can't even get into the details because just thinking about it is making me look over my shoulder. I imagine their basement is pretty creepy to begin with without all the spooky accessories and in the daytime. There was some really skin-tingly frights.

(we memorized this waiting to have our order taken)


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lots of Excuses

Well, I temped all week and had plans every night, so no time to write. I've actually been house sitting for Nate and Heather since Saturday, where I do in fact have access to the interwebs, but like I just said, no time. I tried to write something last night, but then I had some weird network connection problems. Anyway, now I'm at Youthlarge's and finally documenting some of my eating from the last week.

So I temped last week on Madison between 35th and 36th, just up the road from my old job. Suffice it to say, there were lots of old favorites that I would not have minded hitting up, but did not want to run into certain former colleagues, so would not go south of 34th Street. I ended up becoming completely obsessed with Pret a Manger. I ate there three out of the four days I worked last week.

On Tuesday I had two 'slim prets', which are little half sandwiches on tasty, thinly sliced whole wheat bread. I got one with Bell & Evans chicken and bacon and one with salmon. In addition to being super tasty, I like that they use all well reputed organic brands, like the aforementioned B & E and Niman Ranch. On Wednesday I had ANOTHER chicken and bacon slim pret with a small chicken noodle soup. On Thursday I tried to mix it up and not eat Pret, which I regretted, further proving my point that change is both bad and unnecessary (JUST KIDDING - but kind of serious). On Friday, I was happy to find myself back at Pret. I was really in the mood for a Salade Nicoise and figured they would at least have something comparable, which they did. I ended up getting a salad of mixed greens, tuna, capers, tomatoes (which I tossed out), organic hard boiled egg and haricots verts. The only thing missing that I really wanted were quartered new potatoes. Regardless, the salad was delicious. I had it with a nice balsamic vinaigrette.

Maybe soon I will write about the other yummy things I ate this week, like dinner at Lil' Frankie's with Sus, or tonight's dinner at Grimaldi's! Which, by the way, was totally SUB PAR.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Korean Wildly

I have a piece in this week's Onion (Volume 42 Issue 42). I'd link to it but it's not online as it's local to the AV Club section of the New York edition.

Korean Wildly
Beyond the world of kimchi

There is no reason to be afraid of Korean food, even if Korea’s national dish—kimchi—happens to be cabbage fermented underground. Cuisine from the Hermit Kingdom offers up a great range of textures and flavors fit for carnivores and vegetarians alike. While it may never be as customary as Chinese, Japanese, or Thai, casting off Korean would be a mistake—especially if it meant missing out on the restaurants below.

Start at Shilla in Koreatown, where servers wearing wireless headsets lead you to one of the restaurant’s three floors. More than a dozen varieties of Korean barbecue include beef, pork belly, and spicy chicken, and the meats are cooked on gas grills built right into the tables. Pop a piece of kalbi, or short rib, onto a lettuce leaf and top it off with a shmear of spicy miso paste for an Asian wrap. Or choose from the many options listed under “table d’hote,” like yook gae jang, a fiery stew loaded with scallions, glass noodles, and lots and lots of shredded beef. Where Shilla stands out most is in its selection of banchan, complimentary small dishes served with all meals. Offerings like shredded daikon in a sweet vinegary sauce, steamed egg custard, and assorted kimchis are not only tasty, but also add up to real sustenance in the end.

Across the street is Kom Tang Soot Bull Kalbi, another multi-level restaurant where barbecue is the top priority. Instead of gas or electric grills, Kom Tang uses charcoal, which gives meats a smoky finish. You can grab the tongs and take charge of your meal, or defer to a server who will make sure you’re not messing things up. That small dish of garlic slices? Dump the contents on the grill to cook the bitterness right out of it for a great accompaniment for your kalbi. You’ll walk away smelling like a chimney starter, but it’s a fair trade.

Tucked into a much smaller space a few doors east is Mandoo Bar, which specializes in Korean dumplings, or mandoo—there’s even a windowed area through which you can observe first-hand the dexterity and swiftness of mandoo preparation. Variations come filled with kimchi, vegetables, and pork, and all can all be ordered steamed or fried. Choose the latter for browned skin that provides a nice crispy contrast to the fillings. Heartier appetites can supplement their meal with duk boki, a casserole of chewy rice cakes, fish cakes, vegetables, and noodles that cook on a portable burner.

Korean restaurants abound downtown in the East Village, but the hidden gem is SuRa, where the décor, service, and food all suffuse the air with serenity. The spinach-corn porridge is smooth and homey, and the busut jeon, shitake mushroom caps stuffed with tofu and onion, are absolutely addictive. If anybody else at your table expresses interest, get two orders—you won’t want to give up any of your share. SuRa also offers notable lunch specials, like a grilled pork box that comes with green tea health rice, seaweed soup, and the chef’s choice of sides.

Just north of Union Square Park is Express Manna Kitchen, a nice alternative to its fast-food and mega-deli neighbors. A popular choice here is the kalbi jim, short ribs braised in a sweet, soy-based sauce. It’s served with tender chunks of carrots and radish, and you also get rice, miso soup, and a trio of banchan, of which one is always a small dish of kimchi. “Rock ’N’ Rice” is their version of dolsot bibimbap, rice and vegetables (and meat if you wish) topped with a fried egg and kochujang (red chili paste), and served in a sizzling stone pot. The heat of the bowl transforms the rice at the bottom from sticky to crunchy—it’s the best part of the meal.

Express Manna Kitchen: 28 18th St b/w Broadway & Park Ave
Kom Tang Soot Bul Kalbi: 32 32nd St b/w 5th Ave & Broadway
Mandoo Bar: 2 32nd St b/w 5th Ave & Broadway
Shilla: 37 32nd St b/w 5th & 6th Aves
SuRa: 105 9th St b/w 3rd & 4th Aves


Friday, October 20, 2006

Today's Lunch: Rickshaw Dumplings

I'm in a funk today. One guess as to why. It caused me to be indecisive about lunch. I put it off until about 2:30 or so. But I also still have a cold, which means very few things seem appetizing to me at this point. I left the office and just started walking north on 5th Avenue. I figured inspiration would strike me at some point, and I would go no further north than Koreatown. I dialed up the CLC on the mobile to get some suggestions for her and she pulled through! She's been full of great suggestions of late.

This is how I wound up at Rickshaw Dumplings. I went with the basic pork and chive dumplings in a clear soup with Shanghai dumplings. The dumplings were good - you can get six or nine, I went with the former. They are plump, I mean packed to the gills with filling. I wish there was more broth and more chinese greens, too. The noodles left something to be desired, however, as I found them a little too doughy and mushy. I will however be back - maybe just sticking to dumplings straight up and pan seared, and definitely to get the watermelonade and chocolate black sesame mochi balls. Or maybe I will get them pan seared in the broth for some texture variations.

Hey, two people just walked by my office and told me it smells like fart! I am really sensitive about people thinking that my food smells. It goes back to when I was in elementary school and would occasionally bring Korean for lunch and people would scream bloody murder! Even recently, I remember having bibimbop at this one job I had about 10 years ago and people freaked out! Including you, Heidi!


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bart and Amy's Wedding

I'm very grateful to Bart and Amy for getting married on October 14 because otherwise I would have been home watching the Mets get spanked by Jeff Suppan. Instead I was enjoying ice cold Bud after ice cold Bud served in a wine glass. This might be my new favorite way to drink beer. The six or so ounces stay super cold while you drink it and there's no schwag to deal with.

Pre-ceremony, I had a lot of nibbles from the snack table, including crudite, babaganouj and cheese. The crudite included asparagus and radish, which was a nice touch you normally don't see. Normally, I'm not much of an eggplant fan, but I do enjoy a nice smokey babaganouj. Amie P. made combo bites with quartered figs and crumbly blue cheese on bread.

We didn't know much about the wedding eats, except someone heard from Bart that there be no chicken. That turned out to be true. Instead, we were served tender slices of roast pork and rare roast beef, the latter which came with a deliciously creamy horseradish sauce. Sides included green beans with crush almonds, a medley of roasted fall vegetables (beets, carrots, turnips, mushrooms), and roasted red potatoes. There was also a tasty penne in a cheesey sauce with zuchinni and sun-dried tomatoes. I placed a pat of butter on DMR's plate for his roll, only he ate it with a single bite, thinking it was cheese! I think JW Flood thought his butter pat was cheese, too. Silly boys. I got seconds and needed the rest of the night to fight it off. Thank goodness the Jackson Five was played, so I could get my dancing feet a-going.

I was too busy taking photos of the placecards to take a photo of my food. I think Amy has the nicest handwriting ever!!!

Well, here's a photo of the clean plate club. That's DMR listening to the game on his rinky dinky radio.


It's been so long...

Much to my chagrin, my new apartment is not actually cable and internet ready, though it purported to be, so I am currently interwebless in my home environment. Hence the rather gross lack of posts. Anyway, I've eaten tons of stuff since I last wrote. Pretty much the usual suspects though, so I won't even try to go retroactive here.

So, for lunch today I had Mongolian barbecue at some place called Variety Cafe (Broadway between Exchange Place and Morris Street). Variety Cafe is one those typically colossal NYC lunch places, catering to the panini loving desk jockey masses. You know, you walk in and there's a million different perimeter stations - pre-packaged sushi, custom salads, a carvery, soup, Italiano, regular deli style sandwiches and of course, PANINIS. In the middle of the joint are your standard hot and cold salad buffets. A lot of people say these things are Salmonella City, but I sort of like them. I walked to the back of the 'restaurant' and noticed that they also had a Mongolian BBQ station for $6.95 a pound. YES. I love Mongolian BBQ, not only because it is delicious, but because I love to pick my own ingredients. Here's what I threw into my bowl:

Some lo mein noodles (I think Youthlarge usually opts for Udon)
2 pieces of salmon
2 slices of chicken
2 slices of beef
2 slices of pork
1 tongful of shrimp
1 tongful of scallops
5-8 pieces of cut up asparagus
4-6 snow peas
6-9 slices of zucchini
1 small ladle of sesame oil
1 small ladle of black bean sauce

Then I handed it over to the Mongolian BBQ guy and he cooked it up for me and it was divine! So much proteiny goodness all in one dish. If you have this option by your office, I highly recommend hitting it up. Now, I'm sure there are some readers out there who might think the above combination is some pretty nasty shit, but me, I think it's delicious and I happen to have a very refined palate.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cornichons on Sandwiches

I've had a couple sandwiches in the past week that have contained (is that the right word) cornichons. Why has it take me 30 years to try this? Two Saturdays ago, prior to a bocce match (once again, our opponents failed to show up), DMR and I picked up a couple sandwiches at Tazza. I wish this place existed on our block. The menu features reasonably priced rusticy sandwiches, a half dozen or so salads and a variety of dolci. DMR went with turkey and cranberry on a baguette, while I opted for ham, swiss and cornichons. They were generous with the ham and cheese, and the mini pickles provided a tartness with each bite. The coffee wasn't so bad either!

A few days later, I found myself at 5th Avenue and Union Street after an appointment with Gentle Dental. I was headed to game one of the NLCS and considering my options for food to bring to the game. I passed by Bierkraft and was lured in by a sign on their southern door which offered a free bag of Zapps chips with a made-to-order sandwich. I wasn't even aware that Bierkraft made sandwiches, but I guess I hadn't been by in some time because the layout of the store had been rearranged as well. You can pick a meat and cheese, along with a variety of spreads and toppings. I went with some hot salami and a soft cheese called Torta Ambrose (the latter being the proprietoress' recommendation). The horseradish cream they spread on both halves of soft Portuguese roll was full of big shreds of the root which provided a nice bit of heat. Instead of lettuce, tomato or even roasted red peppers, I went with some cornichons, which were sliced into tiny discs by the dude behind the counter. The chips turned out to be a dud (Sour Cream and Creole Onion - too salty), but the sandwich hit the spot.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Last Night's Dinner: Gimme a SHEA!

Shea Stadium is at the absolute bottom of the list when it comes to ballpark food, well maybe only second to Yankee Stadium. In recent years, they've had a few non-traditional additions, but for the most part, everything is fried and kept warm under heating lamps. It's a shame, because it seems that all ballparks outside of New York are able to provide tasty, diverse and local options for the fans. The Mama's of Corona stands at Shea are finally a step in the right direction. Mama's is really Leo's Latticini, and old-school, family-run Italian food shop in Corona, Queens, right in the shadows of Shea. It's where the mozzerella is made in the back of the store a couple times a day and where asking for gravy on your chicken parm means red sauce.

Mama's opened up an outpost a few years ago, offering up a welcome alternative to the abundant battered and fried choices, not to mention the simply bad choices (like the pizza...ugh, bring back Pizza Hut, coal oven does not translate into an Aramark kitchen). There are two locations in Shea - a larger shop located in the field level (but not in that right field food court area, which means unless you have a field ticket you're outta luck) and a little stand in the mezzanine (near Section 9 or 11 is it?) Upstairs, your choices are but two - but they're two very good choices: italian sub or turkey. Both come with generous slices of mozzerella as well as two small containers, one filled with spicy marinated mushrooms, the other with roasted red peppers. You can also get a little bit of brown gravy with your turkey sub. Downstairs, you can even get an nice little antipasto plate with chunks of provolone and salami, slices of proscuitto, a smattering of olives, some of those marinated mushrooms flecked with chili flakes and a couple peperoncini.

Last night at Shea Stadium for game two of the division series between the Mets and Dogers, it was an italian sub night. That's a lie - I also had a hot dog and DMR also had a sausage with onions and peppers. The italian sub is perfect when shared with someone. I recommend bringing a bag of chips, preferably plain Utz, to accompany as well. The sandwich is built upon a crusty seeded roll. There are generous layers of pepper ham, salami and mozzerella whiter than Matt Damon's teeth. The mushrooms last night were the spiciest all season. The Mets win 4-1 to go up two games to none in the series. Delicious.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Bacon-O-Meter 10/2/06

I don't know how it happened, but I haven't posted a bacon-o-meter update in nearly 3 months. Granted, I have been taking a bit of a bacon break and not cooking it at home.

Number of strips: 2 loose strips, plus many on burgers, in potato salads, mixed green salads, cream puffs, etc... so I will give an educated guess of 6 strips
Comments: I think the only time I have loose strips of bacon in recent months was at the Great Jones. DMR ordered bacon cheese burgers twice in a span of 5 or 6 days and graciously gave me one of the strips. What a nice husband! There have definitely been additional bacon cheese burgers - like one from Bonnies with Canadian bacon and one from Stone Park, where they forgot the bacon and brought it in a seperate dish. For Jim Flood's birthday, Sarah Sarah Sweet Little Rock and Roller made her delicious potato salad which is rife with chunks of bacon and I ate a ton of that. On Saturday, MM made cream puffs with bacon. At first I tought he had used bacon drippings as the fat in the batter, but no, upon taking a bite, I learned there was a piece of bacon resting on the inside! And finally last night at Union Hall, I was a salad scavenger, eating some of Skippy's leftover salad, where there were lots of bacon bits hiding under the greens!
Total count from April 26, 2006: 63.75