When I first heard that the magazine was closing, I mourned the loss of pretty pictures, thoughtful articles and spot-on recipes. Kevin Demaria's recent photoblog The Last Days of Gourmet reminded me that there was once a brick and mortar establishment that housed all of those fantastic brains I appreciated so much. You should take a look. It's stunning and sad and will make you realize that you just don't have enough gadgets in your kitchen. Thank you, Kevin. I can't wait to see what you get into next.
Looking at the above, I can't see much wrong. This is a Daisy May's Bowl of Texas Red. This thing is fabled as a fantastic winter-warmer-upper, in the classic "bowl of red style" that I grew up to love. That means, no beans, just straight up red chile sauce with chunks of pork, or in this case, beef.
The good: The meat is abundant and tender, big lovely chunks of beef. There are flecks of REAL red chile swimming in the thick, murky, sauce. Also, they give you shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped onions and a fairly decent tortilla.
The bad and the ugly: It tastes as if the cook behind it, slightly hungover from a party the night before, accidentally mistook sugar for salt and dumped in eight or ten handfulls. Then, recognizing his mistake, added an equal amount of salt to compensate. The result, I'm extremely sorry to say, was inedible. And now I'm out $8.00.
Has anyone else eaten this before? I want this to be a fluke so desperately. A good bowl of red is SO hard to find, but I couldn't trudge farther than four bites in.
While it's still live, check out this excellent slideshow of all things food and web on the Gourmet site: http://www.gourmet.com/food/2009/08/food-online-a-to-z#slide=1. There are some serious gems in here.
I think we should all pour a little out for our homies tonight, whatever special vintage you have on hand - in my case, PBR.
And most of all? I hate, HATE that TGI Friday's.
Ok. Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about some things I like. Something really special happened yesterday. On my misguided walk down Broadway from 54th to 47th, as I weaved in and out of clumps of clueless, slack-jawed visitors, I passed no less than 20 flyer hander-outers, tour bus guides and other people who try to get you to buy stuff off the street. The special part? None of them said a word to me. This means that my gait has finally become that of someone who doesn't need to be sold any crap in Times Square. This means that I have discovered the body-language phrase, "Leave me the hell alone." I feel like I've passed a test. I like this.
Here's something else I like:
After finally arriving and settling down inside Cafe Edison's dingy, Art Deco dining room, this matzoh ball soup came to me no more than 45 seconds after I ordered it. I know this looks like a bowl. To normal people this is a bowl. At Cafe Edison, this is a cup. Now, no one's matzoh ball soup will ever beat my Grandma Glenda's, but this is a pretty decent approximation. The actual matzoh ball has no business being both as enormous as it is and as fluffy and tender as it is at the same time. The chicken pieces are substantial, juicy and taste like they've been simmered for hours. I don't love noodles in my matzoh ball soup, but it's an offense I'm willing to forgive for $3.50.
Next came the sandwich:
I think it's clear that I have a pickle abuse problem, so right off the bat I'm pleased by this plate. The requisite midtown diner cole slaw, which I tend to ignore, actually got me to take another bite. And another. And another. The corned beef, while a little on the dry side, is homemade. Hear that? Home. Made. The rye bread is soft, with a little crunch on the crust.
Munching away on the kind of food that is increasingly more difficult to find in New York, I started to forget my initial panic attack as I neared the bright lights of Disney Square. I noticed the tables of elderly Jewish couples being served regular orders without menus (How do I know they were Jewish? I just know. How do you know when it's about to rain?). I even noticed, with decidedly less malice than usual, the one large table of six or seven very large out of town visitors. Having a particular shape and size only achieved by driving a car everywhere you go and not being able to go outside in the winter, they perused Broadway playbills, subway maps and bus tour programs. I found, at this moment, not disdain for these people, but pride, because if they managed to stumble just slightly off the beaten path into the Cafe Edison, they were at least doing one thing right.
228 W 47th St
New York, NY 10036
Many view their first year in New York as a test. For me, it's Spring Mid-Term season. Well, if you can call this Spring. I would call it 'Second Winter', but I'm a desert kid.
For those of you not perched on our spectacular little island (archipelago?), let me let you in on a little secret: it has rained for six days straight. I've been told not to complain about the weather in New York. I've been reminded by benevolent forces that what I'm noticing is that New York actually HAS weather, unlike the sometimes subtly dampened climate of my youth. So, I'm learning to actually use an umbrella. And to recognize hot pink Wellies as a legitimate fashion decision.
Despite all of these positive steps in the right direction, sometimes, when you work in Midtown and have to wear fancy clothes no matter what the weather outside is like, you need a little extra help staying positive. Here's where Papa Perrone comes in.
Folks, I give you... LUNCH.
I apologize for the quality of this photo (aren't blurry photos what food blogs are all about?), but I had to take it with my phone, quickly, before I shoved the rest of it down my gullet.
This hulking behemoth of a lunch plate, baked ziti with homemade meatballs, tops out at $8.50. In a neighborhood where you can hardly get a cup of soup for under $10, Papa Perrone is truly a hero. He parks his large, extremely well-equipped food truck right around the corner from my office, on 55th between Madison and Park.
Guys, take another look at this, I'm not kidding:
Some people turn their noses up at food from carts/trucks. Stupid people. Who hate their taste buds and love to waste money. Papa Perrone's truck has a longer line trailing from it every time I go, with good reason.
Don't get me wrong, I'll eat a sandwich from Pret on an off-day as well, but there's no way it could ever compare to lunch from this man, for a few reasons: This man is about taste, generosity, an un-flinching love of perfect marinara and a general air of good-naturedness every time I see him. Also, he will put anything on garlic bread.
Sometimes, when it's really miserable outside, it's so nice to know that there's someone out there who loves your stomach as much as it needs to be loved. That someone is Papa Perrone.
55th btw Madison & Park
With that in mind, my Sidekick and I have been eating at home with much more frequent regularity. This isn't really anything new as we both love to cook as much as we love to eat. It has, however, made us think more than we ever have about curbing our spending, especially on groceries. Lucky for us, I was raised in a house where budgeting was NEVER synonymous with eating things like Hamburger Helper. My parents lovingly instilled within me the ability and desire to use humble ingredients to delicious, fresh and noble ends.
So, we've started to think about each meal in terms of how we can stretch our hard-earned dollars. We've stopped letting basic ingredients like eggs, cheese, bread and milk sit around in our fridge to die a slow, lonely death.
Breakfast is an excellent place to start. I'm in a diner phase, which means I crave a hearty breakfast around 11:30 every weekend morning. My Sidekick and I pulled together this bagel sandwich with eggs, some speck and aged provolone from snacks the night before, and a fruit salad of bananas, Granny Smith apples, a tangerine, topped with a bit of mascarpone (left over from a pasta sauce a few nights before), drizzled with cinnamon and honey.
Toad in the Hole (or eggs in a basket, as I grew up with them) are one of my Sidekick's go-to breakfasts. I love this breakfast, but always feeling like it's missing one element.
It's obvious that I'm a grilled cheese fanatic. I would eat it every day if I had my choice. I've also hatched a theory that most of my favorite meals are just a variation on a grilled cheese sandwich. Bagels and cream cheese, quesadillas, cheeseburgers, pizza, all just different forms of the same unbelievably wonderful idea. Bread, cheese, other stuff, heat.
With that in mind, I've started tinkering with Grilled Cheese Toad in the Hole. The first one I made (above) looked awesome in the pan. But the hole was so much deeper than in a normal piece of toast, that the egg couldn't spread out to cook evenly.
In subsequent versions I've made my signature Drunk-In-College grilled cheese and cut a much larger hole in the finished product. I then return it to the pan, drop a little nubbin of butter in the cut-out, and pour in an egg (seasoned with a bit of sea salt and some chives, this really becomes something to be proud of). The heat of the pan is important, I've discovered. If it's too hot, your egg starts to freak out, and becomes a mix of big craters and crunchy brown edges. Keeping the heat lower means that the whites have more time to set, while you keep your yolk nice and runny for dipping purposes.
I'll continue to mess with this and report back.
Extending this buy-cheap-eat-famously philosophy to dinner, we've been eating a lot of root vegetables, especially beets. Beets are awesome for so many reasons. They make everything pretty, taste delicious, are so easy to cook a monkey could do it and top out at $2.50 a bunch. It took me a little while to win my Sidekick over to beets. Anyone forced to eat nothing but pickled pink disks from a can in their childhood will obviously have some reservations. Now, he's a beet fiend.
Our cheap and quick Valentine's Day dinner? Roasted beet and goat cheese risotto, with a salad of roasted shitake mushrooms, sticky-sweet cubes of rosemary roasted parsnip, watercress and a roasted garlic vinaigrette.
The next night, we had some leftover beets and beet greens. This led us to a garlic and mustard rubbed flank steak with creamy horseradish beets and sauteed greens.
With stuff this dirt cheap and pretty, who could ever eat tuna-noodle casserole again?
After being sufficiently ball-busted by my uncle (Mitch of Tasty Travails), my aunt (his Significant Eater) and my trusty Sidekick for not updating this mother, I've finally caved and will now fill you in on some delectable details. And you will, in turn, forgive me for my weeks of laziness/having a job.
Stomach Grumbles are GOOOO....
Let's start on some weekend day in the past. My Sidekick and I, mildly hung-over from the night before, dragged ourselves out of bed for our (semi) weekly bocce match at Floyd with our compatriots on If You Want My Bocce. The magical thing about Floyd is that it sits directly next to the second location of Brooklyn's Chip Shop.
I'm incredibly pleased to see that England's bad rap as having terrible food is quickly being beaten to death with a club. In fact, I credit the time I spent in England to really putting the nail in the coffin for my food obsession. If you've ever lived in a place where you have HP Sauce on every table, London Pride flowing from every tap and some of the greatest grocery stores in the universe, you'll understand.
I've come to think of this day as one where HP Sauce followed me nearly everywhere. Never a bad thing. What you see above is a Full English Breakfast. Or, as it is affectionately known at the Chip Shop when paired with a cup of coffee and a mimosa, The Hangover Special. And let me tell you, it really does have miraculous properties.
This breakfast led us to our first bocce win this season. Coincidence?
After plenty of beer in the middle of the afternoon (I heart Saturday), my sidekick and I made the decision to go see a certain crappy horror film in 3D, down near Prospect Park.
With a little time to kill, and grumbles in our stomachs (we're truly incorrigible, folks), we stumbled upon a Windsor Terrace gem from the DUB Pies folks (stands for Down Under Bakery), The Pie Shop. This is a tiny storefront cafe, with three two-top tables pushing max capacity. Their menu is written on a huge chalkboard wall, and consists nearly entirely of Australian/New Zealand style pies. Meat pies, fruit pies, veg pies. They also have a few soups on the menu, which are NOT to be missed.
My sidekick and I shared a steak and mushroom pie, and each got our own cups of the potato dill soup. If you go to Dub Pies and are lucky enough to have potato dill soup as an option, I urge you, I insist, ORDER A BOWL. A cup will never be enough of this perfectly seasoned, piping hot concoction. Although, should you ignore me and need a second cup after realizing your mistake, I'm sure that the phenomenally friendly staff would be happy to assist you. You'll be dead to me, however.
Clearly I'm biased, as soup is my favorite genre of food, but I can not think of enough praise for this stuff.
With a little extra time between HP Sauce's latest appearance in our lives and the movie we were about to expose our brains to, we decided to make one last stop on 7th Ave at Beer Table. This, another tiny storefront temple to booze and grub, is truly a place for people who love beer like some people love a fine wine. Their beer list is extremely intimidating, both intellectually and economically (the bottled beer list tops out at $110, no kidding), so my Sidekick and I stuck to a Long Island porter that was on special.
Paired with a bowl of fiery, citrusy picholines, a fresh baguette and tangy, piquant, house-made beer cheese, we were fortified against the cold, and just drunk enough to see a hilariously stupid movie in a theater full of screaming teenagers.
Also, apparently drunk enough to have documented my 3D glasses. Yikes!
129 Atlantic Ave
(between Clinton St & Henry St)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
DUB Pies: The Pie Shop
211 Prospect Park West
(corner of 16th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
427 B 7th Avenue
(Btwn 14th & 15th Sts)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
I know I owe three or four posts of epic structure and meaning.
But I can't give you that right now.
What I can give you is the coolest blog about coffee I've ever read. To be fair it's also about New York and all of the wonderful ticks and tocks that make this city so much fun to be a part of.
Pictures of Cristoph Neimann's Lego representations of things we all love and recognize have been surfacing everywhere I turn. Today I found out that his love/hate/need/despise relationship with coffee is something I totally identify with. Enjoy. I'm going to go make a cup immediately.