The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

$6 Bad Lunch, $6 Good Lunch

My lunch totally sucked yesterday. I went to the normally dependable Cafe Zaiya near my office and was excited to see there was one chicken oyako-don left. These seem to sell out quickly here and I generally eat lunch later than most. When I got back to my desk and opened the container, I couldn't find any chicken. After double checking the label confirmed it was a chicken oyako-don, I poked at the yellowish-grey mass and unearthed three tiny nuggets of poultry. The dish was overwhelmed with bamboo shoots and julienned strips of pink-edged fishcake. There's a very good chance I don't know what I'm talking about, but I've come to expect chicken oyako-don to be composed of onions, scallions and egg. Nothing more, nothing else. After a few bites of rice and chicken, I dumped the rest into the garbage. What a disappointment.

Today I decided to go out for lunch. I took the bus up 5th Avenue to Koreatown and settled on Woorijip, which is a sorta fast food place with lots of prepackaged items, as well as a small hot and cold buffet. In the back they have a little counter called something like the Noodle Hut. You place your order with the ahjuma and a few moments later you have a freshly prepared bowl of noodles or hotpot. I ordered sujebi, which is a type of Korean noodle. The chewy sujebis kind of look like a cross between a flattened piece of gnocchi and dduk, Korean rice cake. The sujebis are served in a very basic fish-based broth (dried anchovies most likely), which gets thickened by the noodles. There are lots of scallions along with thin slices of zucchini and carrot. A small dish of kimchi and ohdeng accompanied. Completely satisfying, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect lunch.

P.S. This totally made me have garlic breath for the rest of the day, hooray!

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Monday, July 30, 2007

It Crawled from the South Part VI: The drive to Austin from Memphis is very far...

But at least there's a bounty of good Tex-Mex to be had!

I barely made a dent in my fish enchiladas from Curra's after single-handedly consuming a vat (ok, a cup)of chile con queso which was so delicious. I would kill for some right now. The queso came with ground beef, pico de gallo and some guacamole. I wasn't sure what to do, so I dumped it all into the cheese and swirled it around. To drink I had a hibiscus margarita! Sorry for the crap picture.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Totonno's Virgin No More

Somehow I had gone through my entire life without eating Totonno's of Coney Island (also without ever seeing the movie Manhattan much to the horror and shock of DMR). I realize this is a crime, but I am pleased to announce that I finally did it! Ok, I've actually had Totonno's - but not from the famed ovens of Neptune Avenue, so I don't think that counts at all.

We were headed to Coney for the Siren Festival last Saturday. Before we went to check out the Black Lips and Detroit Cobras, we hit up Totonno's for a couple of pies.

We went with two large pies - one pepperoni and one sausage.

My first slice!

While I prefer the mini pepperonis found on pies at Lombardi's and Grimaldi's, I don't think I've had a pie with sauce as delicious as Totonno's. There was a little random dollop of sauce that had fallen ontothe pizza tray and I'm not afraid to say that I sopped it up with a piece crust.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

It Crawled from the South Part V: Fourth of July Memphis Style

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than with some Korean barbecue? But first, a trip to Hernando, MS, to visit the Velvet Cream with DMR and Amie P.

The Velvet Cream is a tiny little shack with a huge menu and no tables or seats. You step up to the counter and place your order and either eat in or on the car.

I got a cheeseburger with the works and tater tots with melted cheese. The burger was nothing special, but the tater tots were an awesome crunchy and gooey mess. I loved the way the cheese was evenly draped over the potato nugget treasures. Amie P. got a vanilla snow, which was a delicious shake meets slush combo and Dan got a strawberry Sprite. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I was very wary of this strawberry Sprite. I was afraid it'd be Sprite with a couple pumps of strawberry syrup. I was terribly mistaken. The SS turned out to be a Sprite with real strawberries muddled into it! Granted, they were frozen, but I was really impressed by this. Also impressive were the t-shirts worn by the workers. DMR went up to get a Girl Scout Samoa Shake and wound up meeting the owner. Turns out they were out of t-shirts, but more would be coming in the next day. He said to stop by and we'd get free shirts, only we couldn't because we'd be leaving town! How's that for bad luck! Velvet Cream, if you read this, can you send us some shirts??? Also, please send us a snow shake. Yum!

Then it was back to Memphis for some grilling! Here's Sam getting ready. Sam is 1/4 Korean and 100% good times. Rumor has it he was a little nervous about having a Korean (that'd be me) try his LA kalbi. Pish posh! It was good stuff.

Hot Tub threw in some wood chips with the coals which gave the meat a really nice smoky flavor.

Out from the smoke emerges yours truly two- fisting High Lifes!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It Crawled from the South Part IV: More Nashville

We had a bit of a late start to our first and only morning in Nashville so by the time we got our bearings, it was already time for lunch. Our pal Christian, who graciously allowed us to crash at his place, implored us to eat at Marche, just a few blocks from his East Nashville home. It's a huge, split level space that serves as a fancy food + takeaway shop and restaurant. The breakfast menu looked awesome, but we were a few minutes late and had to settle for lunch.

So with Mr. Otis Redding playing on the stereo, DMR and I perused the menu. I decided on a cup of ham and vegetable soup and a BLAT - bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado which came with a side of pickled red cabbage (delicious), along with an iced coffee to drink. Dan ordered a Caesar salad with chicken and a side of fruit. Ridiculously, this felt like the lightest, healthiest meal we had eaten all week! My soup was super yummy, tasting more like a light beef stew, with a nice assortment of fresh veggies and bits of smoked ham. I loved my sandwich, but not so much the bread because it was a little too greasy. I wound up picking out the contents and leaving half of the toasted slices on the plate. While we were eating another CD was loaded up into the stereo and at first I couldn't make out what was playing and thought it was the Rolling Stones, which made me happy. But Dan's ears picked up a Glaswegian accent and the music turned out to be Camera Obscura's latest, which tickled us both pink!

On the way out, we picked up a bag of homemade potato chips to bring back to Team Plumley HQ, where a fried chicken feast would be waiting for us! But before we headed back to Memphis, we stopped off at Hatch Show Print and the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. And we managed to get those elusive paletas! For some stupid reason, I got it into my head that I should go a slightly healthy route and went with a tangy and refreshing hibiscus bar, which I've really been into hibiscus this summer. Dan opted for chocolate wasabi. The chocolatiness was creamy and delicious, but we both thought the wasabi could have been stronger and more pronounced.

When we arrived back in Memphis, HTE and Sam aka T-Bone were out at the butcher picking up some meat for the next day's cookout. T-Bone had already stopped by and dropped off two greasy bags of spicy fried chicken from Gus's World Famous, where he has been known to pick up a shift here and there. A true renaissance man. We ripped into the bags once the butcher errand was completed.

It was some damn fine fried chicken and the table went silent as we stuffed our faces. The bag on the left contained wings and the bag on the right was filled with breasts. The obligatory stack of white bread is in the middle.

Rounding out our meal were some baked beans and potato salad. I should have gone for that second breast piece, but instead I got a second wing.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Dani’s Birthday Dinner at Bocca Lupo

Last Wednesday I was drooling on my keyboard all day thinking about the panko crusted eel I would be eating at Hibino later that night to celebrate my friend Dani’s birthday. But alas, Hibino just wasn’t in the cards for us. By the time we rolled up at 7:30, the cute little resto was already full, save for a couple of spots at the bar, which really only works for lone or couple’s dining. So we ended up walking down Henry a bit to Bocca Lupo. I always wondered about this place, so I was sort of glad Hibino was too full to accommodate us.

Bocca Lupo’s menu is very similar to ’inoteca’s (apparently it is most often compared to the original ‘ino, but I think it has more in common with the LES offshoot) – cured meats, a nice selection of cheeses (including La Tur, a delicious blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk), lots of tasty small plates and assorted types of tramezzini, bruschetta and panini.

I ordered a nice glass of Sangiovese (the wine here is served in stemless glasses, which I like), the roast pork loin with tonnato sauce and sausage, fennel and caramelized onion bruschetta. The roast pork was incredible and not at all what I expected, mainly because sometimes I do not actually pay attention to what I am reading. I pictured a hearty piece of pork loin served hot in a tomato-based sauce. But what I got was much more creative and delicious. The dish was a generous portion of thinly sliced cold pork loin, served with arugula and a tonnato sauce – yes, TUNA, not tomato! Suffice it to say, I thought it was very tasty and couldn’t have been more pleased about the bonus protein.

The sausage and fennel bruschetta was also quite good, but I think the star of the night was the birthday girl’s plate of veal and porcini meatballs. The flavor and consistency were perfect. I really feel that meatballs can turn out a little on the heavy side, but these were lighter than air! I will definitely get these on my next visit. I also want to try the baby lamb chops.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

It Crawled from the South Part III: Music City, USA Day One

After a few nights in Memphis, DMR and I headed to Nashville! After making the three hour drive, we met up with some work colleagues of mine for a lunch of meat and threes at Arnold's Country Kitchen. Once again I messed up and forgot to grab the camera from the bag but the wonderful Holly's Eats has a great entry on Arnold's with a ton of photos, including this exterior shot:

So basically Arnold's is a no frills cafeteria style eatery. Grab a tray, tell 'em what you want and don't hold up the line. The food was so tasty and the workers cheery and funny as hell. I think no matter how fast you place your order, they'll still be telling you to move faster. I loved being there. I loved having my food served to me by these sassy ladies. I loved the food. Dan and I both went a roast beef platter with potatoes, green beans and mac and cheese, along with a sweet tea to drink. The meat was accompanied by some of the most flavorful jus ever. It was peppery and rich and went well with all the sides. Along with your dish, you also get cornbread two-ways. One is a little baked muffin and the other is a flat corn cake which is apparently griddled like a pancake. For dessert, I tried some of JT's chess pie, which reminded me of derby pie minus the chocolate. A little too sweet for me.

Why do we not have meat and three joints in the East? Where are all the cafeteria style places around here? This is exactly how I like to and want to eat on a daily basis. I hope I get back there in my lifetime.

Afterwards, we hit Las Paletas for some Mexican popsicles, but they were closed!

That evening, Dan and I went to a Nashville Sounds game. As he mentions, the most exciting part of this stadium is their guitar shaped scoreboard. Second might be that they sell Chick-Fil-A sandwiches. I had a couple bites of Dan's and a soft Super Pretzel with nacho cheese dipping sauce.

The game was super snoozy boring and I even fell asleep for a bunch of pitches. It went into extra innings and we left to visit a honk-tonk downtown called Robert's. The band that was playing was pretty awful, but the Hi Life was nice and cold. We sat at the bar and ordered up some dinner. I went with a grilled cheese with onion rings and DMR a cheeseburger with fries. The onion rings were pretty good and it's tough to fuck up a grilled cheese. DMR thought the burger wasn't even mediocre. Man, it was a long day.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It Crawled from the South Part II: More Memphis

We hit the Beauty Shop for brunch the next morning. This is a converted beauty parlor in Team Plumley's old neighborhood, in a stretch of shops that includes Goner Records. Little Phoebe started off her day with some biscuits and the rest of us with some slices of grilled bread slathered with ricotta cheese and drizzled with honey and mint. Delicious.

I went with the country ham plate. I thought the menu said the apples were supposed to be roasted, but they weren't. I was a little underwhelmed by my dish. All the components attracted me to it, but it didn't feel cohesive. Also, there was a lot of saltiness on the plate, in retrospect, too much. Or maybe the dish could have benefited from a side of toast or a biscuit to counterbalance all that sodium chloride.

That evening, or maybe it was the one prior, Dan, Eric and T-Bone (aka Sam) headed over to the Big S for some quarts of High Life and good times. Now I've always wondered why these bottles are called quarts in these parts, when they look like 40 ouncers to me. Anyway, we didn't eat here (having dined on some marinated skirt steak that Eric grilled up) and I have no idea if they even still serve food, but the Big S is where the legendary J. C. Hardaway manned the pits until his death in 2002. Memphians say his was the best barbeque in the city, and maybe beyond. I'm sorry I never got a chance to try it.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Just saying hello and complaining

I’ve been super busy and totally behind on my food entries, but in the next couple of days want to post about dinner at Olea in Fort Greene and the delicious food I ate at a golf tourney in Mamaroneck (lots of lobster!). In the meantime, I just want to quickly mention that I ate at Joe’s Shanghai in Flushing for the first time and was extremely disappointed. The soup dumplings weren’t terribly soupy and as a result lacked that all important explosiveness when biting into one. Also, I felt like I kept finding little bones in everything… I'll elaborate when I make a proper post about this evening, which included snacks at Shea and Erik's birthday!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

It Crawled from the South Part I: Memphis

I was expecting a bag of peanuts, or worse yet, these nasty packets of soy stick mix that we kept getting served while traveling around Asia last summer, but Continental surprised me with a decent (read: edible) in-flight snack. Still, the tiny turkey sandwich (one slice of meat on a dinner roll) and bag of Fritos didn't do much to stave off our hunger. Soon after Hot Tub Eric picked Dan and me up at the Memphis airport, we found ourselves at Payne's Bar-B-Q. Payne's is no-frills with a large dining area and a little window where you place your order. I loved the smell of Payne's. You just can not get that in New York. HTE and DMR went with sandwiches - chopped hots all around. Having never been to Payne's, I should have followed the lead of the local, but I went with a rib plate with smoky beans and chartreuse cole slaw. I thought the ribs were good; Eric, never having strayed from a chopped hot tried some of my ribs and thought they were alright but nothing out of this world. They were tangy and spicy with a touch of sweet and the two sides were great. We almost pulled the trigger on a fried fruit pie and in retrospect I'm trying to figure out why we didn't.

I still had plane brains so no photos. I wish I had gotten a picture of the menu on the wall which offered "more" for $.25.

Photo of Payne's exterior by a Tripadvisor member from Atlanta, GA

Eric and Amie (Hot Tub's better half) had secured Miss Ebony for baby-sitting duties that evening, so for dinner we hit the Lamplighter to get some burgers and beers before heading off to the drive-in theater, something I'd never done before! The Lamplighter is the perfect local - cheap beer, good eats, good jukebox and a good bartender. If you've seen the video for Cat Power's "Lived in Bars," well, it was filmed in this tiny place. Miss Shirley is the bartender and also the cook. Her burgers are fantastic. Apparently Shirley hand shapes all the patties herself and griddles them up in a cast iron skillet. Whatever method she uses, it's a simple burger perfectly executed, one that evokes a feeling of home. Eric, Amie and I ordered cheeseburgers with everything, hold the onions. An order with everything includes ketchup, mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato in addition to the onion. Raw onions often give me headaches which is a reason I opted out of those. Dan went with a patty melt - his first ever! So many firsts! We also got two orders of fries for the table. Shirley's fries are dynamite - hand cut so you get a pile of mismatched skin-on potato sticks crisped to golden perfection. Pitchers of PBR are served with frosted mugs. I don't really need to say more.

Photo of Shirley and her burger from The Memphis Flyer.

As for the movie, we saw the latest Die Hard and it was pretty awful. Car neighbors with bad drive-in etiquette (pulling up to a group of folks sitting outside their cars and smoking them out with exhaust fumes cause you've just got to blast the a/c during the entire movie on a night where it wasn't even that hot or humid, forgetting to shut the trunk of your minivan so that it blocks the view of the movie watchers behind you), didn't help much. Amie and I did check out the snack bar, which was a mix of 1970s college cafeteria meets the Jetsons.

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Want a Frito?

As DMR and I were attending this Mets game in Houston last week, we missed this classic exchange between Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen. Thanks to Henry's mom for the replay:

(I think)? Middle of the 16th:
Keith: "Are you hungry?"
Gary: "No, I think that I'm just going to go home and go to sleep and eat breakfast after this game is over..."

(I think)? Middle of the 17th:
Keith: "Want a frito?"

Gary: "No thanks."

Then, Gary goes on to chastise Keith for munching fritos into the mic, and Keith's defense is that their producer does it all the time. Gary quite astutely points out that their producer is not on the air.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Introducing for the first time: DeCoursy's Sidecar

Before delving into the monumental caloric intake from the trip down South, a little post to tip our hat to DeCoursy's Sidecar (560 5th Ave between 15th and 16th).

We've been waiting for this bar/restaurant to open for a while now and it's finally time! Run by our friend Bart (ex-O'Connor's) and his brother Johnny (who I believe used to man the raw bar at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn), Sidecar is making us regret our move to Clinton Hill. Ok, not really, but it'd be great to still live within a 10 minute walk of this place.

Over the weekend the DeCoursy brothers opened the doors to friends and family for a little soft pre-launch. There may not be a classier joint around.

Exterior shot with their fantastic hanging signage.

I started with a few malpeques, which were served with this delicious cucumber mignonette that I wanted to slurp down like a shot of vinegary gazpacho. Don't mind the large ice cubes - I heard the ice crusher was down.

DMR and I then tackled a BLT soup - greens, tomato and bacon in a chicken based stock topped with crouton with a dollop of aioli. Incredibly, Johnny said he had only one order for it the previous night! WTF? I wish we had each ordered one!

DMR went with a burger and I was about to order the Vietnamese pork sandwich, but then my mouth opened and "fried chicken" came out. The meat was tender and juicy and the crust nicely seasoned and crunchy. I was a big fan of the "succotash" served on the side, and not just because of the pieces of bacon that were sauteed along with the vegetables. That's root mash as the other side.

I obviously liked my chicken. It was a hearty portion of drumstick, thigh and breast and I ate it all (with a little help from DMR on the thigh which I had saved for last).
The diet starts tomorrow!!!

Dessert was peach cobbler and despite my allergy to stone fruit, I dug in. I had to stop once my mouth started getting super itchy, but those few bites were totally worth it! I imagine desserts will be changed up regularly.

Although they are still awaiting their liquor license (very soon is the word), Sidecar is officially opening its doors tomorrow. Their house cocktails, which we'll write about once the bar starts rolling, will include old-timey standards like the Moscow Mule, Pimm's Cup and of course the Sidecar, as well as some new ones concocted by Bart. Until then, it's still certainly worth it to stop by for the food and to plug some quarters into one of the finest jukeboxes around (or an original Spy Hunter arcade game if that's your speed). The DeCoursys have poured a lot of love and soul into the place and the thoughtful little touches mean a lot to a nitpicker like me! I knew it was a good sign when we sat down at "Johnny's Bar" (aka the bar in front of the kitchen) to eat and there was a hook for my bag. Oh, and the bathrooms boast the XLERATOR, the greatest hand dryer ever known to man.

DeCoursy's Sidecar
560 5th Ave between 15th and 16th
Brooklyn, USA

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Greetings from Memphis

Just checking my email at the Team Plumley HQ, waiting for Hot Tub Eric and T-Bone to get back from the butcher so we can dig into some Gus' fried chicken that's hanging out in the fridge.

Some of what we've eaten so far: cheeseburger at the Lamplighter, hot rib plate at Payne's, country ham and eggs at the Beauty Shop and a meat and three plate at Arnold's (Nashville).

Stay tuned.

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