The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just Checking In

Dear Gentle Reader,

I'm in the midst of moving from C-Town to Brooklyn, so not only have things been a little hectic, but I also have not been eating anything delicious, save for the Grimaldi's pizza I ate with my bocce team (along with some bocce bad guys/friends) on Sunday. I feel like in the past few days, I've eaten like 2,986,571,267,833 french fries (gross), hence the lack of documentation. Anyway, I'll be done moving by Thursday, so hopefully I'll be able to write again on Friday. I'm sure I'll treat myself to something amazing.



PS - My nasty roommate (the cause of my abrupt departure from my beloved C-Town) just walked by my little work station and now I think I may BARF! Good thing my dinner was gross, so I won't have to mind so much.

Asia Report #11 - Kuidore Freedom, I Love You, Yes I Do

Can't leave Osaka without a taste of takoyaki done right.
Filling the molds with batter.

Seven takoyakis on the canal.

I knew the molten batter on the inside was lurking, but I still had no self-control.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Last Night's Dinner: Grimaldi's

Before I continue with my seemingly never-ending Asia reports, I just wanted to say that last night's dinner post-bocce tournament with my teammates and friends at Grimaldi's was a great way to end the very long day. I was the pig of the table, consuming a half slice more than Slice and Balgavy. Even after 4.5 slices I could have eaten more and we were debating ordering another pie. My more reasonable half enticed the crowd into ganging up on me and reminding me of my less than iron stomach helped me realize I probably had enough. I had 2 slices with pepperoni and garlic, one with sausage, one with just pepperoni and half a cheeseless slice with pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage. All washed down with a rootbeer, which is my beverage of choice at Grimaldi's, only I wish they stocked Boylan's instead of Olde Brooklyn, which doesn't have the depth of Boylan's and always tastes a little too syrupy and flat to me. At the table I said that Grimaldi's was one of my five favorite things to eat of all time. I have to come up with a list of the other four.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today's Lunch

Walker's (Varick and North Moore) with Nate.

Feeling super gross about my living situation, so Nate suggested we get lunch to help cheer me up and/or vent. I've mentioned this before, but seriously, Walker's is one of my favorite places in New York City. It has a gorgeous oak bar and feels really warm and old timey. Plus, they've been churning out solid, reasonably priced fare for years, despite the neighborhood's obvious paradigm shift. They also happen to make one of the best burgers in the City, arguably rivaled only by the burger at Corner Bistro. Suddenly, I'm wondering what "Gettin' Hungry's" opinion is on this matter. Hmmm. Anyway, Nate and I both got burgers, medium rare, with cheddar and bacon. Instead of fries on the side, we got mashies. Yum. I noticed that he got two pickles and I got none, but I didn't mind. Thanks for lunch Nate!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Today's Breakfast

I've been sleeping horribly lately, so I didn't fall asleep last night until around 5:30a after watching a bootleg copy of the Da Vinci Code. Not to be a master of the obvious here, but it was really quite lousy. So you can imagine how not thrilled I was when my phone rang at 9:15a this morning. I looked and saw that it was my friend Ted, so I ignored it and went back to sleep. Then he called me AGAIN at 9:46a. I picked up the phone and asked him if he hated me. He said that he did not hate me, but wanted to get dim sum. I finally agreed to accompany him to Chatham, despite my exhaustion AND the fact that dim sum upsets my stomach roughly 97% of the time I eat it. We shared the bean curd skin one I always get and talk about, pork and shrimp shumai, shrimp and chive dumplings and an order of what I like to call 'fried perfection'. I first encountered 'perfection' in its non-fried form. It's a light, delicate dumpling made of pork, shrimp, cilantro and diced up water chestnuts. A few visits later, I spied what looked like 'perfection' go rolling by me on a cart, only it looked different, possibly even more perfect. IT WAS FRIED. Like its more health conscious cousin, the 'fried perfection' is delicious and bursting with flavor.

Anyway, about twenty minutes after our dim sum excursion, my tummy felt like there was a burning brick inside of it. I knew this would happen! So sad that dim sum upsets my stomach so, because I really do love the way it tastes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Asia Report #10 - Use Your Noodle Pt. 2

After our little field trip to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, how could we be in the mood for anything but those delicious noodles in broth. Luckily, a fantastic ramen joint was just a stone's throw away. The restaurant turned out to be Menou Momofukutei, a lovely serene space inside and out, staffed by super cool, young Japanese men and women. It was fairly empty but we still sat at the counter that faced the kitchen. There was no English menu, but we managed to place an order for 2 bowls of shoyu (soy sauce based broth) ramen.

We were presented with small glasses of iced tea while we waited for our ramen. Meanwnile, I looked through all the little bamboo bowls and containers filled with various condiments such including pickled plum and mustard greens, and chili oil. There was also a grinder full of multicolored peppercorns and one full of sesame seeds.

Our ramen was earthy and delicious. It was centered around two pieces of succulent pork and joined by a chicken meatball, a white square of fishcake, some brown wood ear-esque mushroms (that I didn't particulary care for), spinach stalks, pickled bamboo, green onion and burdock root. Additionally, there was a gorgeous half of a soft-boiled egg, its golden yolk just barely set. It wasn't just the bowl of noodles that made our meal, it was the atmosphere, the Coltrane on the stereo, the friendly waiter who kept refilling our iced tea glasses at the right moment (and eventually giving us a pitcher, which seems to be the norm there).

We should have been sated, but I am a pig and I hate not being able to read a menu. So when I saw some gyoza pass by, I had to order some. Little did I know, we would be served baby gyoza!

They were amazingly crispy on the edges and tender on the inside. I added some chili oil, cracked pepper and ground sesame seeds to the dipping sauce, as well as a dab of the ball of green stuff you can see in the top right corner. I'm not really sure what that was.

And then it was off to Koshien Stadium, home of the Hanshin Tigers and where Dan and I would have a completely unreal and unparalled baseball experience.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

The Weekend in Review


Eli and Matt Lief stopped by Chinatown: the Apartment. Since I wanted to get a snack at Dom's and Eli wanted to stop by our friend Sarah's bookstore, we decided to stroll up to Soho. I got two delicious meatballs and a San Benedetto lemon iced tea. The first meatball was amazing and just what I needed, but the second one put me over the top. Eli had a bite and agreed that it was seriously delicious. After wandering around the store for a bit, we decided to stroll over to Anyway Cafe (2nd and 2nd, East Ville) to meet up with Cooper, who left for Antarctica yesterday.

After several carafes of infused vodka, we (Adrienne, Sean Murphy and Donovan met up with us too) headed over to Awash (East 6th Street between 2nd and 1st) for some Ethiopian food. I went to the uptown location years ago and hated it, so was really bummed that Cooper was so hell-bent on eating there for his bon voyage dinner. Especially since the original plan was to eat at Dominick's on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which I was super excited about. Oh well. Anyway, the food was pretty tasty, but the portions were miniscule, which is why I don't like Ethiopian fare in the first place. You're supposed to get all filled up on injera, the spongy bread which also serves as your eating utensil. I don't like the way it tastes, so I always leave Ethiopian places feeling ravenous and ripped off. Friday night was no exception. I think that lobster salad and Ethiopian food are the two biggest food shams out there.


Matt and I decided to go to Joe's Shanghai for some lunchtime soup dumplings. As it turned out, Matt's brother Jake and Lindsay were already there, slurping up the soupy deliciousness that is the steamed tiny bun. Jake is a serious Joe's soup dumpling addict. He once told me that he ate something ridiculous, like a dozen orders of soup dumplings on the one year anniversary of September 11th. I think I ended up eating six dumplings or so, and then we also shared an order of salt and pepper shrimp (shells off) and Shanghai fried flat noodles (wonderful, almost smokey flavor). Naturally, everything was delectable.

Youthlarge and I went to Shea for the 20th Anniversary Reunion of the 1986 Mets Championship team. The F (I detest this train, it has no backbone) took forever, so we made it just in time for the pre-game ceremony. I felt the sport emotions coming on pretty much from the beginning, but when they announced Darryl Strawberry I totally lost it. If they had managed to break Doc out of jail for the event, I'm sure there would not have been a dry eye in the house. Anyway, by the time we could finally get food, I was STARVING. I got my requisite chicken fingers and french fries AND a Bubba burger, which had great seasoning by the way.


Brunch at Freemans (Freeman Alley, LES) with Sus. People are always raving about the hot artichoke dip, so we decided to share it as an app. The people were right to rave - it was delicious. For my main, I ordered the roast pork sandwich with pickled zucchini and garlic mayo on a nice toasted sourdough. The sandwich came with a choice of green or herbed potato salad. I opted for the latter, but regretted my decision. The artichoke dip really filled me up, so I didn't eat most of the bread from my sandwich, instead making yummy combo bites of pork, zuke and potato salad. To drink I had a black iced coffee and a French 75, which is basically gin, champagne and lemon juice. V. refreshing and reminiscent of a Tom Collins, one of my all-time favorite summer drinks. Years ago, there was a bartender at O'Connors who made pink Tom Collinses. I never did figure out what that was all about.

For dinner, Sus, Matt Lief, Tolas and I went to Lil' Frankie's, which you have probably deduced by now is one of my favorite East Village haunts. We started with a $25 antipasto plate and mussels. For dinner I ordered the Tagliata Toscana, since I was so jealous of Newell's on my last visit. It was succulent and perfectly medium rare. To drink we split a bottle of rose. No surprises there I'm sure.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Asia Report #9 - Use Your Noodle Pt. 1

I love Osaka! With the colors, the food, the store that's devoted to all things takoyaki, how could I not? Add to that an unrivaled fanaticism for their baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers. This might be the city of my dreams.

While our hotel room in Osaka was tiny, it was still very clean with all the amenities you'd want - flat screen tv with more than 3 cable channels, automatic toilet, hot water maker for tea and coffee, and the hotel itself offered a really fantastic continental breakfast, Japanese style. While Listmaker was snoring away (oh wait, that was in Seoul), I was an early bird not willing to forfeit my free breakfast for a few extra winks. Any complaints one might have about the room size is mitigated by the bounty that was offered. There were a couple different varities of onigiri - rice balls with center fillings ranging from bonito (okaka, I would later learn...who knew bonito isn't a Japanese word!) to salmon to sweet and sour pickled plum. Also provided were a couple of instant soups, including miso in paste form, which is so much more superior to the powdered form. Guests could also opt for a nice little salad with a yummy sesame soy dressing, rolls, American cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Corn Flakes in boxes with Japanese lettering and this delicious vanilla yogurt. To drink, coffee, juices and teas were offered. I'll take this any day over wan bagels and insipid pastries. This was a great way to start off my day.

Dan, using his noodle, discovered the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in one of the city guides the night before and we decided to take a visit. Momofuku Ando invented instant noodles. Only in Japan would they have a shrine to this sort of thing (good thing). Ando founded Nissin, the company that makes Cup O Noodles, you know the white styrofoam cup filled with little bits of dehydrated egg and vegetables that was a staple of your college years. We took a couple of trains out to an area in Osaka called Ikeda and while I was able to locate the museum on a map of the town in the station and orient ourselves in the proper direction, I couldn't pinpoint the street it was on. Most of the streets on the map were unmarked as were most of the streets in the town. We walked down one street and I could feel the museum, but no dice. We headed back to the train station and tried to get a cab to take us. Despite the cab driver not being able to speak English, I'm pretty sure he said something along the lines of, "It's right over there, you can walk, you don't need me to drive you!" We then headed into a bakery and a kind young lady gave us directions in her halting English. At least we knew which street to walk down.

Finally we found the museum! It was small and nothing was translated into English, but I loved the wall of ramen. Little did we know we were only a few days shy of qualifying to be their millionth visitor! Upstairs they had a ramen making workshop, which unfortunately you had to sign up in advance for. Oh well. Dan took some great shots, including this one of the cross section of a Cup O Noodle!

This is a portion of the great wall of ramen. The bullseye indicates the start of something big.

Our visit to the museum was brief, but totally put us in the mood for some ramen. On the way there, we had passed a great looking ramen joint and decided to eat there on the way back. More on the ramen and the rest of our day in Osaka in the next post!

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What I Ate Yesterday

Before I go into yesterday's eating, I just want to mention the delicious lunch I had on Tuesday to bid our friend Ilan so long, and safe trip back to Paris. We went to Cibao (Clinton and Rivington, Loisaida), which is one of my very favorite places for tasty and inexpensive Latin American fare. Ilan, Donovan and Sean Murphy all got Cuban sandwiches. This foot-long sandwich is perfect. Crispy on the outside and stuffed with juicy chunks of pernil, ham, pickles and Swiss cheese on the inside. Plus, they're practically giving them away at $3.50 a pop. I had been having some acid reflux issues ever since Nate and Heather's wedding, so I decided to go with the half baked chicken and um, french fries, instead of the succulent pork that I love so. Like everything else at Cibao, it was delicious, though I do wish that I had just gotten the Cubano. Next time.

Let's see. For lunch yesterday I had dim sum from Chatham again. I got an order of pork and shrimp shumai, delicious fried shrimp balls and my favorite, bean curd skin wrapped around pork and shrimp. Sadly, as dim sum so often does, it made my stomach feel really funny a couple of hours later.

Around 6:00p, Matt Lief stopped by and we decided to get a 'snack' at Great Neck, as we had some sort of tentative dinner plans at 8:00p. Since neither of us have any self-control, our light snack for two ended up being more like an ample meal for four. We each started with a bowl of wonton soup (each wonton was stuffed with delicious bites of shrimp), and then moved on to Three Jewels (roast pork, roast duck and soy sauce chicken), roast baby pig (this was seriously succulent, the best thing we ate) and roast duck and flowering chive spring rolls (greasy, but delicious). Our gigantic, fatty and rich 'snack' left me feeling sort of gross and weird. Hardly uncharted territory for me.

After some iced coffees, we headed over to Blue Ribbon (Sullivan between Spring and Prince, Soho) to meet up with one of Matt's friends from high school in London. Fortunately for us, no one appeared to be having dinner. Unless standing around the bar getting wasted can be categorized as 'dinner'. Some guy who claimed to be a Dept. of Homeland Security special agent bought us a round of drinks (Bombay and tonics). Then I noticed that they had Hendrick's, so for our next round of G&T's we decided to switch to that. Would you believe that a G&T mixed with Hendrick's at Blue Ribbon sets you back $13.50? Pretty steep, but you really can taste the difference. Matt ordered us half a dozen oysters (the Kamamoto were especially delicious). Then, because we're basically over the top, we ordered half a dozen more oysters and the fried chicken. The fried chicken was amazing and perfectly seasoned. It was so hot though that I think I actually burned the tips of my fingers while eating it. Hmmmm. Anyway, it was served with super rich and creamy mashies, smothered in wonderful chicken gravy, and collard greens, also smothered in something delicious, but I really couldn't tell you what.

During the course of the meal, Matt and I made a bet as to the type of meat a chicken wing is. I said it was a white and he said it was dark. I am certain that it is white and have never thought otherwise.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Today's Lunch: Eisenberg's

Voxtrot's "Raised by Wolves" is playing on the iTunes as I'm eating my lunch right now. It is a perfect eating at your desk song. I'm totally stressed out but I'm also totally happy right now. My ears are delighted and so is my stomach. I'm making my way through a chicken salad sandwich with bacon on toasted white, a side of french fries and an egg cream. The fries at first glance don't look too appetizing because they look overcooked. But beneath the golden brown outer layer of potato is a creamy and warm inner tuber layer. The edges are crisped to perfection. I also got 3 full sour dill halves with my sandwich and I am savoring them. I'm 1 2/3 of the way through the pickle supply with 1/4th of the sandwich and many many fries still left. A bunch of my coworkers have been helping me with the fries and there's still too many.

God bless this feast!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Asia Report #8 - Good Taste Osaka

After a glorious business class ride to Tokyo, Dan and I got our Japan Rail Passes validated at Narita and headed to Osaka. The trip was in two parts, the first being about an hour trip from the airport to Tokyo Station in the city. The second would be a 3 hour or so ride on a shinkansen, a super high speed train that would make me feel nauseous throughout the ride. Before getting on our bullet train, we hit one of the many food stands in the terminal to pick up a couple bento boxes for the ride. I would offer you photos, but this is when my camera was failing me. Dan got an unagi don box and I went with the pork katsu. Everything was laid out so meticulously in the box, even down to the little packets of Japanese black pepper and shoyu (for Dan) and the katsu sauce and mustard for me. We also shared an iced green tea from the food and beverage cart that would make its way up and down the aisle every so often.

Finally Osaka! We had to transfer a bunch of times and then walk with our luggage to where we were staying, the Comfort Hotel in the Shinsaibashi neighborhood. It was very easy to find once we were properly orientated. Once we were properly checked into our very tiny hotel room, we decided to get some food. We kept passing places that I knew would serve delicious food, but also places where I knew no one would speak English and ordering such deliciousness would be difficult. We also passed tons of young men that looked like Rod Stewart. Chemically treated teased hair on top, white oxfords and tight black pants below. The number of men dressed like this was comical. There was also a female version with the same bad orange hair accented by the copper glow of fake tans.

We eventually wound up in Dotonbori, this completely packed and insane area with a canal slashing through it. This place is so alive and everyone's m.o. is kuidaore, which loosely translates to "eat til you drop dead with a smile on your face and can't eat anymore." I want that on my gravestone.

Dotonbori used to be a red light district and has been this sort of entertainment district for like 400 years! By this time, I was growing weak with hunger. The crankies were starting up too. Finally, in the midst of a town known for okonomiyaki, we found okonomiyaki paradise, a place called Chibo Okonomiyaki. We were a bit hesitant at first because there were a lot of people waiting before us and we both had on our cranky pants. There was also an elevator, which confused us until we realized there was 5 floors of okonomiyaki paradise. That certainly helped shorten our waiting time. The elevator opened up and a waiter took us to the third floor, where we were seated by the grill. The menus we were handed were all in Japanese and I also began sweating because of the grill heat. Luckily they had an English language menu (although much smaller and without offering any of the deliciousness that the people next to us were eating). We wound up ordering a couple of beers (beeru), a mixed yakisoba and a mixed okonomiyaki. Included in the mix were big chunks of squid, shrimp, and pork (buta). I loved our front row seat to the cooking action. The camera lost all the action shots, but I managed to salvage one shot of the pancake.

The pan it was served on was so hot the sauce was sizzling. In fact if you look closely at the bottom right of the photo, you can see some of the bubbles. I also love the way the thin slices of bonito wave around due to the heat, like amber waves of grain, like as if they were alive! The sprinkle of jullienned nori was a great touch. Usually you just get a shake of pulverized nori on top.

I was insanely jealous of the couple sitting next to us. I'm convinced they knew how to speak a little English and just felt lazy when I tried talking to them. They had a plate of these fantastic looking dumplings. Translucent squares of rice paper wrappers with a nubbin of mystery filling. What could it be? Halfway through their meal, the dumplings were still on their plate and I promised myself that if they got up without finishing the dish, I would make up for the meatball caper and skewer up that gyoza. There was no way I was going to let it go to waste. Much to my chagrin, they totally rallied at the end and wound up finishing everything. Other tables were ordering up cheese or kimchi in their okonomiyaki. Why didn't I think of that?

Here's Dan, looking fetchingly gaijin in his Ted Drewes shirt posing in front of the famous Tzubora-ya restaurant, known for serving fugu (that's blowfish for all you other gaijin). And giving the victory/peace sign, of course.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nate and Heather's Wedding

Mazel tov! So anyway, today my partner in deliciousness emailed me to see if I was still alive. Her inquiry made me realize that I should probably make a post as I haven't done so since Fridayish. It's just that I've been recuperating from the wedding this whole time. Yep, it was a doozey.

The wedding was this last Saturday at the Tennis House in Prospect Park. The ceremony itself started at 7:00p, but there were hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and lawn games starting at 4:00p. Already I smelled trouble. I started off with a Stella, but then noticed that the bartender was making caipirinhas. Full blown trouble. So, while sipping down the evil temptresses that were the caipirinhas, I scarfed down lots of yummy hors d'oeuvres, namely shrimp skewers, chicken and pineapple skewers and some delicious little roast beef finger sandwiches. There were two other types of finger sandwiches, but I ignored them due to their lack of meat. I think one was cucumber (classic) and the other was some sort of roasted pepper spread. Not my cup of tea.

After the ceremony, which had an impromptu Queen Latifah show blaring in the background, dinner was served. While all of my friends were scrambling around looking for a large enough table to accommodate all of us, I decided to just help myself to some food. There was a nice selection of cold salady type things (pasta, potato, etc.), as well as barbecued chicken and grilled flank steak. I loaded my plate up with red bliss potato salad, haricots verts in a super nice blue cheese sauce, one chicken drumstick and as many pieces of flank steak as I could without being scowled at by fellow guests. All of my friends thought it was really just like me to saunter up to the table with a full plate of food, while they had been sitting at the table the entire time. Ha. Later, Ilan and Mike W. went back up to the buffet and returned with glorious heaping plates of chicken and beef, so we could all continue to gorge ourselves like some sort of weird carnivorous family.

After dinner, Papper and I played bocce against Zach and Antonia. Don't worry, we won, but it was really close. I made the winning shot! Then I danced a little to some surf music and watched Eli and Cooper play horseshoes. Just after midnight it was off to the Gate (on the way there, we happened upon a shopping cart, which I encouraged Ted to get in and then we pushed him the rest of the way), then to Zach's after last call. Around 5:00a I met a weird wedding guest and hung out with him until around 3:00p the next afternoon at Nate and Heather's. He was just so weird - I think I might love him.

So anyway, the next day (or later the same really long day if you're me) Nate had people over for a post-wedding bbq. There was steak, sausages, the most pork I had ever seen (v. nicely prepared by Ted) and some new potatoes. Oh, and corn. And lots of leftover Stella, Red Stripe and some amazing Hendrick's gin.

Suffice it to say, I am totally exhausted from the weekend's events.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Asia Report #7 - Korea Wrap-Up

I got an email from Dan this morning/last night. He said he ate crickets and spicy frogs in Laos! I want him to do a guest post on The PSG & CLC, but I bet it will be something like: "The crickets were crunchy. The frogs were spicy." I'm glad I wasn't there. I have no interest in eating bugs intentionally. Ever.

To wrap up Korea, I forgot to mention that before our rain-soaked eating adventure in Myeong-Dong, we had another rain-soaked day. We met up with Sueun, another sorta relative who had lived at my parents' house for about a year to study English and just a few months ago had gone back to Korea. The three of us wound up going to an area called Insadong, known for its traditional buildings, art galleries and artisan shops.

We walked up a narrow street and settled upon a restaurant called Woori Nara Manseh - which roughly translates to Hooray for Our Country! It's a line from the Korean national anthem. The restaurant had a lot of character, which was a nice change from the kind of sterility that plagues a lot of Korean restaurants. Dan and I sat on a bench that was also a swing. It was nice to sway a bit while eating. He and I both got the bulgogi, while Sueun got the vegetable bibimbop. Once again, there was a bounty of tasty banchan, including these just tender enough potato shoestrings slightly glazed in sesame oil, as well as a small bean paste jigae (not quite as good as the one we had in Suwon). Dan also had a Cass with his lunch and it was then he decided that Hite was his favorite Korean beer.

After lunch, the rain was coming down even harder, so we decided to hit Lotte World - an indoor amusement park. There, I ordered some not very good takoyaki and Dan burned his mouth by eating an entire not yet cooled down piece. I also got a wicked headache, which caused us to cancel our dinner plans.

Some random food related thoughts:
• Napkins in Korea are tiny and impossible to keep on your lap.
• I don't like Korean butter or margarine or whatever the substance they put on sandwiches, which I'd normally be very pro about, but has a terrible artificial taste, like Pam. Come to think of it, the takoyaki pans were sprayed with this ill-tasting stuff as well.
• You can eat and drink for very cheap in Korea as long as you stay away from the Westerny places.

Ok and one non food related thought:
• What is up with the communal toilet paper dispensers in this country, that is if they even provide TP at all! Most of the stalls don't have a dispenser. Instead you have to grab some on your way in. I find this maddening.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Asia Report #6 - Dan Gets Wasted On Hite Pt 2

With our bellies full of seafood pajun and Hite, we trudged through the rain to one of Myeong Dong's main crazy narrow streets packed to the gills with stores, restaurants and people for our next food stop. Here you have competing cosmetics stores trying to out shout each other via megaphone, American chains, Korean chains, food stalls ranging from mammomth grills heating up sausages and squid sticks to tiny griddles manned by crouching ladies cooking what looked like little pancakes sold for the American equivalent of a quarter or fifty cents. There are brightly lit signs everywhere and not just on street level. It's completely insane. There's nothing like it in the states, I'm sure. These types of dense mainly pedestrian malls are something I've only encountered overseas. Fulton Mall may be a close comparison, but even that is way more open and wider.

We decided on a restaurant that specializes in budae jigae. This is a hotpot-esque dish with humble origins. Duuring the Korean War food was in short supply, especially meat and so Koreans who were near army bases would go around and gather what they could from soldiers who were feeling generous. This included meats like SPAM, sausages and hot dogs, beans and instant ramen. The Koreans would then dump it all in pot and stew it up with kimchi for a way too infrequent hearty meal during wartime. The military is a big reason why SPAM is loved by Koreans and Hawaiians. I grew up eating it and I especially loved, just loved using the attached key to open up the can to unearth the spiced ham. The thwomp sound the loaf made when escaping its tin shell was another joy.

Amazingly, this may have been the first time I've ever had this dish! I've had plenty of other jigaes (stews) in my lifetime, but I don't recall ever tasting one that was specially tagged as budae. Our restaurant was named for a Korean folk tale called Hong Bu and Nol Bu, two brothers on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Think Goofus and Gallant, you know from Highlights magazine, the one you read in the dentist's office as a kid. I can't remember which brother represents the "good" and which the "bad" nor can I remember which brother the restaurant was named for (I can't find the business card), but I imagine we were named for the bad, gluttonous one because I totally felt like a pig.

Each table was set up with a gas burner upon which a large wok-like vessel was placed. We went with the house jigae, which consisted of a little of this, a little of that (cut up SPAM, sausages, leeks, scallions, kimchi, chili paste, mushrooms, rice cakes and some udon noodles) in a clear broth. In addition we all ordered some add-ons. Dan and I added jjol myun, a type of very chewy rice noodles to our pot, while Moka and Joonpil added sujebi, which is another traditional handmade Korean pasta. The rice cakes were apparently North Korean style (who knew? not me, so I have to take Moka's word for it) and looked like little white opaque peanuts, while the sujebi looked like your traditional flat disc cut on the bias. " We also ordered a couple of Hites. Halfway through I knew I was drunk, but I think Dan was unsure. I also picked out my SPAM. I just wanted into eating it when there was a bounty of noodles and ricecakes.

As the stew simmered away, the heat of the dish intensified. We addedextra broth to cut down on the spiciness, and washed down each bite with swigs of Hite but it still didn't help. Moka likened Dan to a true Korean for his ability to widthstand such spicy food. I think we were all sweating by meal's end. Man, I want some right now!

P.S. One of our side dishes looked like a bowl of marinated glass noodles, but upon tasting, they had a crunch similar to bean sprouts. They sort of looked like the long body of a bean sprout too come to think of it. So far Googling has come up empty. I think it's a sea vegetable, possibly with the "angel" in it's name.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

This Morning's Brekkie

I woke up pretty early this morning because they are doing construction in my apartment. I was feeling pretty ravenous, but was not in the mood for whitey food. Then I realized that I could get some dim sum to go! So I strolled over to Chatham Restaurant (Chatham Square, C-Town) and picked up one order of steamed shrimp dumplings and one order of 'bean curd', which is in fact savory pork wrapped in bean curd skin. DELICIOUS. In my opinion, this is the best, if not the only way to eat bean curd. Unfortunately, dim sum often makes my stomach feel funny, so I may regret my breakfast decision later. But for now, I couldn't be more pleased!

What I Ate Yesterday

Really boring eating day. For lunch, I ordered a spinach and bacon omelette from the diner. When ordering, I thought the woman said 'no cheese, right?', to which I responded 'yeah'. Well, apparently there was a miscommunication because my omelette ended up having AMERICAN cheese on it. This made me doubly annoyed in that I a) did not want cheese on my omelette at all and b) if I had wanted cheese, it most certainly would have been cheddar. I am not a big fan of American cheese, as it is usually just cheese food product and not actual cheese at all. Actual deli sliced American cheese can be pretty tasty, especially the white variety, but usually people substitute cheese food product slices, or singles, for American. Because of this, I avoid American cheese altogether. However, I will eat it on a backyard bbq burger if I have no other alternatives.

Late afternoon I went to Balducci's (8th Avenue and 14th Street) and bought some salad greens, new potatoes and about a quarter pound of shrimp salad. I ended up eating all of the shrimp salad as a snack around 6:00p. It was quite tasty and not too expensive either.

For dinner, Big Eli stopped by and we ended up getting take-out from Great Neck. We each got a beef with Chinese broccoli over rice (a great deal at $3.50) and split half a pound of roast pork. I gave some of my Chinese broccoli to Eli because I was getting tired of eating vegetables. I was hoping that he would give me some of his beef in return, but no dice!

Like I said, not a very exciting eating day.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Asia Report #5 - Dan Gets Wasted on Hite Pt. 1

But first, a quick note about 2 things I recently ate while back in the states. This morning I had a salami and one egg sandwich and it was brilliant. How can something so simple be so satisfying?

Secondly, did you know that it's Mr. Softee's 50th Anniversary this year? The other day I had something off the menu that I had never seen before - a merlin! It's a cone that gives you the best of sprinkles and dip worlds. The Softee man pulled some vanilla soft serve into my cake cone so that it was about one inch above the rim. He dipped that into rainbow sprinkles. An additional dome of ice cream was swirled on top and that portion was dipped into the chocolate syrup that turns hard and creates a wonderfully crackly shell. Brilliant!

So back to Asia, I should have written about this before Glutinous Rice Stick since that was our last day in Korea. Anyway, the weather for our last 3-4 days in Korea really stunk it up. Rain, rain and more rain. Buckets of rain. Sheets of rain. There's no chance in hell even the world's largest golf umbrella is going to keep you dry rain. As a result, the baseball game we were planning on attending kept getting rained out, which did not make a certain you know who very happy. He got a little punchy in fact and decided he was going to get drunk. His preferred method of entry into bacchanalia - Korea's own Hite beer (easily the best of the Korean beers we've had).

Joonpil and his older sister Moka, fresh from a trip to China, met us at our hotel in Myeong-Dong. Our first stop - "for appetizers" according to Moka - was a bin dae dduk joint called Jong No Bin Dae Dduk. Many restaurants in Korea seem to base their menu around one or two specialties. Like if you go to a kalbi joint, the menu is not going to have much else to offer (but why would you need anything else?). The knife noodles restaurant we went to in Suwon only offered a couple other dishes (mostly dumpling variations). So anyway, this one specialized in bin dae dduk, which is a savory pancake made with a mung bean batter.

My favorite way to enjoy this dish is as a kimchi bin dae dduk. It's very homey and reminds me of bazaars that were held in the old basement of the church my parents attend. Anytime you cook kimchi - whether it's stewed or fried (or placed atop a pizza), it elevates the flavor to great new heights. Ironically we didn't opt for a bindae dduk, instead opting for a seafood pajun. Our hosts insisted that Dan make the choice. I was dropping hints to order the kimchi bindae dduk too, but either people were ignoring me or my hints were not very good. I know Dan was probably doing the former!

A pajun is a flour batter based pancake (usually 10-12"s in diameter) with tons of scallions that is a favorite of many of my Korean food loving friends, like Margie Sullivan! Usually in a seafood pajun, the seafood is secondary and you don't get much of it, other than a few nibbles of octopus or a baby shrimp. This one was bursting with huge chunks of squid, as well as octopus and shrimp. The edges were crisped up a beautiful golden brown and providing a satisfying crunch. There is a danger with pajuns of having the middle be a little undercooked, but this wasn't the case and it was done throughout.

For our beverage, Dan and I ordered Hite. Only there was just one Hite left in the restaurant, so being the wonderful wife I am, I let Dan have the Hite and I drank the Cass beer. By the way, beers in Korea? Served in very big bottles. These things are a sturdy 22 oz. The idea is to share, but we're dumb Americans and we each ordered a bottle.

On the way out, we noticed the stone mill grinding up the mung beans for the bindae dduk batter! You can't see it in the photo, but to the left, by the window was the grilling surface were all the delicious pancakes were griddled up.

Up next: more Hite, more rain and hot pots, Korea Fighting style!


What I Ate Yesterday


Salade Nicoise from Dom's (Lafayette and Broome, NYC) AGAIN. I'm obsessed. Whenever I go to Dom's to pick up lunch, I also like to get a solitary meatball to snack on en route home. Well, I took a huge bite of my meatball while I was crossing Broome and it went down the wrong pipe! I nearly choked to death walking south on Lafayette, but I was saved by the San Benedetto Gassosa (basically the same thing as Sprite, but better because it's ITALIAN) I bought to accompany my salad. So, why do we even have a 'wrong' pipe? What's it for? And if we do in fact need it, couldn't it hang out somewhere further away from the 'right' pipe?


Lil' Frankie's (1st Avenue between 1st and 2nd, East Ville) with Newell, Sus and Big Eli. We tried to go to Pere Pinard on Ludlow, but they were having a problem with their gas stove and ovens, so the kitchen was only able to prepare cold items. We decided to just have a drink at the bar (I had a mojito) and then move on to a different restaurant. As you know, Youthlarge and I LOVE Lil' Frankie's, so I suggested we go there since none of my dining companions had tried it. They ended up loving it too!

We started with the Mozzarella di Bufala, which was served with tomatoes and fresh basil, and a $20 antipasto plate. The antipasto plates come in $15, $20 and $25 increments, so it is easy to tailor to your appetite and wallet size. You can also ask the chef to 'make it nice', which I guess means that he throws some extra bits of deliciousness onto your platter. This might be my favorite thing at Lil' Frankie's. I think I love it so because it is combo-bite Heaven, and anyone who has ever met me knows that I hold the combo-bite above all others. Anyway, here's what was on our cold antipasto plate: mortadella, coppa, prosciutto, some sort of air-dried cured beef, fontina, provolone, mozzarella, blanched broccoli and green beans, boiled new potatoes, beets, roasted peppers and grilled eggplant. What did I ever do to deserve such a happy day?! The only thing missing that I really would have liked was grilled zucchini.

For my entree, I was torn between the Tagliata Toscana (grilled, balsamic marinated skirt steak), chicken parm (always delicious, not usually offered at LF's) and fedellini vongole (capellini type pasta but even THINNER, served with garlicky clam sauce). I opted for the latter. Mine was delicious, but after sampling Newell's steak, I felt orderer's remorse. Big Eli ordered the sole, but didn't like it despite the fact that it was delicious. He kept reassuring the sole by telling it, 'really, it's not you, it's me'. CLASSIC guy move. Sus ordered the rigatoni polpettini (baby meatballs) after much indecision. Informing her that it's Youthlarge's favorite sealed the deal.

To drink I had two glasses of an Italian rose, or 'rosatta' as it were.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Asia Report #4: Glutinous Rice Stick; United Bento

Shit, I started this post on July 29 and now I have no idea what the hell United Bento is!!! Glutinous Rice Stick was another type of Dunkin Donut we tried in Korea. Oh, wait, now I remember! United Bento is the bento box meal we had on our flight from Seoul to Tokyo. Back to the GRS. What can I say but delicious. I love Dunkin Donuts in the States and I love Dunkin Donuts in Korea.

Back to United Bento. So as I mentioned on my Bibimbop, Dan and I got ugraded to business class on our flight to Narita from Incheon. This was totally glorious and my new goal in life is to only fly Business or better. You're totally spoiled. Even if it was only for about 2 hours, it was a brilliant 2 hours with our legs and feet propped up and our butts nestled in comfortable leather seats. A flight attendant came around with ear plugs, eye masks and toothbrush sets with mini tubes of Rembrandt toothpaste.

For our meal, we were given an option of a chicken ceasar salad or a Korean-style bento. Both Dan and I opted for the bento. Unfortunately the pictures vaporized from the camera, along with some other good shots. But off the top of my head, the bento box included rice with some peas and gari garnish. The main protein was a very spicy and super delicious bulgogi, accompanied by some sesame seasoned chopped baby bok choy. Other side dishes included some other marinated root vegetables and a glass noodle salad. Our dessert was a profiterole filled with a light chocolate creme. I had some club soda with lemon and green tea with my meal. I believe Dan had a Pespi as well as green tea.


Last Night's Dinner

So, last night was the big IYWMB doubleheader against Jonny Cakes and Boccelism. Since I was at Floyd and had not yet eaten, naturally I got some takeaway from the Chip Shop next door. Youthlarge and I both decided on the kids size chicken fingers and chips. Per usual, the chicken fingers were really tasty, but man, they totally worked me!

By the time I got back to Chinatown: the Apartment, my stomach was feeling seriously funny. I was planning on just chilling out, drinking lots of water and re-watching Syriana. But then I got a call from Newell, who was at his apartment around the corner hanging out with none other than BIG ELI (Scarecrow, I think I'll miss you most of all), just in from Cairo for Nate and Heather's wedding this Saturday. SWEET! So they came over to have some rum and tonics. Anyway, Big Eli started talking about Buzkashi, which is sort of like polo, but instead of hitting a ball around the field, you gallop about trying to plunge your hand into the stomach cavity of a dead, decapitated and de-hooved GOAT. So gross. Apparently, they play this in all of the 'stan' countries. Then, as if that weren't making me nauseas enough, Betten and Newell started talking about CARBONATED SOUR MILK. WTF? Between all of this talk of what's grosser than gross AND my Chip Shop attack, I totally had to excuse myself from the room to go b-a-r-f. EW.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Everything I Consumed Yesterday


Stone Park (5th Avenue and 3rd Street, Park Slope) with Jim. I had the short rib hash and eggs and two black iced coffees. The hash was phenomenal. The braised short ribs were so tender and delicious, perfectly complimented by diced up Yukon Gold potatoes. I ordered my eggs poached, which is really the only way to get them when eating hash.

After brunch we headed over to Floyd for some bocce practice. My game was just so-so, but man, Jim was in the ZONE. I was especially trying to drink in moderation because I had a wedding to go to at 7:30p and didn't want to arrive completely inebriated, but true to form, I got totally drunky. I started off with a Pink Lemonade Island Punch. This drink was lethal as it had a generous amount of vodka in it, but tasted like Ocean Spray's discontinued line of tropical juices, Mauna Lai, causing one to think that they are not in fact imbibing alcohol. Sensing danger, I switched to Hoegaarden. I ended up having four or five of those though, so I found my goal to not get drunk pre-wedding to be utterly elusive. Jim, sensible as he is, kept encouraging me to drink water. Since I was already fairly drunky by the time I got home, I decided to pop open the Portuguese rose I picked up the other day. I had two glasses while getting ready for the wedding.

The Wedding

Mazel tov to Liz and Noah! This was a great wedding with lots of tasty food and drinks. Great dancing too - I convinced the DJ to play White Lines! Actually, Liz and Noah had their first dance to Prince's "Kiss", which I thought was really cool. The only song that might have been cooler is "This Must Be the Place" by the Talking Heads. Anyway, as soon as I got off the elevator someone handed me a glass of Veuve Clicquot rose. YES! Then I switched to gin and tonics. I must have had at least five of those. Now, I don't know if it was the booze or what, but I didn't have a SINGLE passed hors d'oeuvre, which is incredibly odd for me. I'm the type of person who brings flip flops in my purse to help chase down roving waiters!

When I finally decided to eat, I went to the Asian station and had two yummy cod skewers, two little spring rolls and three dumplings. A short while later, I went to the Mexican station and got two amazing mini-taco shell bowl thingies. The first had a layer of guacamole topped with a delicious scoop of crab salad. The second was even more amazing. It had the same guac situation, but was filled with a scoop of succulent shredded duck! I also got a shot of chilled cucumber soup and a mojito from this station. The third station was Italian, but I never made it over there. Though I did steal one ravioli from my friend Ingrid's plate. Much later, I snuck back to Asia to get two more cod skewers and spring rolls. Towards the end of the evening, I switched over to Red Stripe. The first was poured into a glass. I was like, "can't I just have it in the bottle?" and the bartender said no. Sheesh. The second was served to me in the bottle. Go figure.

Nate's Bachelor Party

After the wedding, I decided to head downtown to Nate's bachelor party. I don't know what I was thinking because I knew I had to be up by 7:30a to make the 8:00a Fung Wah bus to Boston en route to Maine. Suffice it to say, I missed it completely and am in NYC instead of beautiful Little Cranberry Island. Boo. Anyway, as soon as I got to the bar, someone handed me a lychee martini. It was really strong and totally put me over the top. The good news is that I spilled most of it on the Chinesey Mandarinish silk shirt I was wearing. Just in case the martini didn't ruin it enough though, I also apparently was too stupid to work the little cloth buttons on it, so busted out of it Incredible Hulk style. I found the evidence this morning. Yikes.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Last Night's Dinner: Cozy Soup 'n' Burger

Last night, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, Lauren and I decided that we needed some sort of food. I hadn't eaten dinner yet and was pretty ravenous. We eventually ended up at Cozy's (Broadway at Astor Place). I hadn't been there in years (well, possibly year), but I used to go there all the time with my friend Abbey when I was at NYU. Once we cut our 9:00a ballet class (this class met FIVE days a week and was only worth ONE credit - what were we thinking?) because we thought getting breakfast there and discussing another class we were slacking off in would be a better use of our time. Looking back on it, I think we may have been wrong. Another time, Ab and I went there and we were WASTED, so I asked the people at the neighboring table if I could eat one or two of their onion rings. They said YES. Too bad Youthlarge and I weren't drunk the time we saw that dumb kid waste a meatball at the old diner on Union Square East! Oh well.

As I do roughly 94% of the time when dining at Cozy's, I ordered the Cozy turkey burger deluxe with a side of gravy for my fries. The 'Cozy Burger' is topped with fried onions, mushrooms and cheese and is quite delicious. Lauren, who is at the opposite end of the eating spectrum from me, ordered a mixed salad, a side of steamed broccoli and a scoop of cottage cheese. She encouraged me to eat some of her vegetables. I begrudgingly agreed to eat one broccoli florette, which I hid behind my turkey burger for most of the meal. It dawned on me that I could just dip the broccoli in some gravy to make it more palatable. Well, my scheme totally worked and I ended up eating three to five more pieces!

All of the french fries I ate ended up making my stomach feel funny, so I was going to have a nice, relaxing stroll home to try to settle it. However, my efforts were thwarted because Papper and his Canadian roommate were drinking at Swift's (East 4th between Lafayette and Bowery), which was on my way home, so I decided to stop in for a drink. Well, predictably, one drink turned into four, but the good news is that the Bushmills and sodas I was drinking totally settled my stomach. The quote of the night was when Paps' roommate, Rob, exclaimed, 'the Canadians saved your (our) asses in World War II'. That crazy Canuck nearly killed me! His remark caused me to lose the ability to breath due to hysterical fits of laughter. Once I regained my composure, I asked him 'which beach did the Canadians even land on at Normandy, Sword?'. He had no idea. Well, it was Juno.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Last Night's Dinner: Tuesday Night Tapas

Luz (Vanderbilt and Myrtle, Clinton Hill, though some think it's in Fort Greene. I disagree.) with Donovan, Dutch Robert, Zach Attack 2006, Nate and Heather. Donovan heard about their Tuesday night tapas special, which is three tapas and one glass of wine or sangria for $20, and invited all of us to try it out. I considered bailing on the plans due to the heat, but had to make it out to Brooklyn at some point regardless to check SHR and DMR's mail and water their plants (S - one of them is not looking so good), so forced myself to go.

On my way there, I ran into Heather on the C train at Jay Street - Borough Hall. She asked me what I was doing there and I told her about my dinner plans. She mentioned that she and Nate might be joining us, so I might see her later. Suffice it to say, I did! Upon arrival at the restaurant, I saw Donovan and Dutch Robert sitting at the bar since we had a fifteen minute or so wait. I was mad hot from my schlep from the Lafayette C stop (in hindsight, I should have gotten off at Clinton - Washington and taken the B69 down Vanderbilt), so suggested that we order a pitcher of rose sangria. I have never had a rose sangria before, but if you have read any of my prior entries from the last few weeks, you can probably deduce that I found it to be lovely and refreshing. Once the other three arrived, we still had about a ten minute wait.

Once seated, all of the Luz employees started acting really weird. I think it was because the hostess had us sit at a four-top, despite the fact that we were a party of six, with three of us on the banquette, two in the opposite chairs and one at the head of the table (me). As we were sitting, one waitress ran over and was like 'I don't think six people are really supposed to sit there'. Well, shit man, I don't think six people should sit at a table for four either, but that's what we were told to do. The confusion was cleared up and the waitress retreated. After a couple of minutes, our waiter stopped by and asked if we were ready to order, to which we responded that we would love to see some menus first. His response was KRIZZAY. He was like 'oh, the hostess just told me that you were over here and I had no idea what you needed'. Um, ok. There was also some debate about the sangria service, which I stayed out of entirely, as I was already feeling pretty weirded out. When our waiter returned with our menus, he seemed a bit less edgy. Phew. I blame the hostess. It sort of seemed like she forget to tell anybody anything about our table.

Anyway, I ordered the following:

Camarones al Ajillo (braised shrimp in garlic, chiles and parsley) – This is a classic. I've found that it is always tasty just by virtue of its ingredients. This time was no exception. The chiles were really nice and spicy.

Chorizo al Vino Tinto (sautéed chorizo with garlic, onions and thyme in Riojan wine) - Right now I have my right thumb at 8 o'clock, which from my perspective, looks like a partial thumb down, but very close to being neutral. The dish wasn't necessarily bad, but it just wasn't that good either. I am of the opinion that chorizo should always be GREAT.

Donovan and I shared the following:

Pinchos de Res (grilled beef tenderloin cubes served with red chimichurri and crispy yuca drizzled with mojo) - This may have been my favorite. The beef was very tender and succulent and the yuca had a very nice contrasting texture.

Braised ribs with a spicy mango sauce (for some reason I cannot find an official name or description for this) - Very delicious as well. For me, a close second to the beef tenderloin, though many in my party thought it was the best, hands down. The meat was literally falling off the bone and had been nicely seasoned with what tasted like West Indian spices.

Zach decided to go with the paella, which apparently was not very good.

I have mixed feelings about this place. Now that I know what to order, I'll definitely go back for the Tuesday night tapas special, as it is a very good deal. I don't know though, everything just seemed so hit or miss. Like, how could the ribs be so off the hook and then the chorizo so less than mediocre? Anyway, after we settled up, we headed over to Alibi (DeKalb and Vanderbilt, I think Clinton Hill, mentally at least if not geographically) for a quick beer. The bartender was absolutely smoldering. He looked like a dirty Clive Owen.