Friday, January 25, 2013

FORK NEW YORK IS ON HIATUS! 

After many years of great meals and posts... ForkNY would like to thank you for your visits! Check back from time to time as we begin to share new experiences across the country in 2013.... it will be exciting!

If you need info now, check out the restaurant index on the left.... and don't forget, if you want a copy of my cookbook "Andre's Louisiana Kitchen", you can order a copy from Tastebook... the link is on the right rail... or order the eBook for Kindle or Kindle on iPad right HERE.....

Hope to see you eating out soon!





Sunday, March 27, 2011

THE NEW YORK PIZZA WAR IS OVER

Roma Pizza Is Hands Down #1 Pie in New York




It’s finally over. And it took formally trained Italian pizza makers to end it.

The war I speak of is the New York City pizza war… now raging into a 6th year. Sure, you can argue that John’s, Lombardi’s, DiFara’s, Patsy’s, Grimaldi’s… well, all of the classics…. have been at war for decades. But it was when the onslaught of Neapolitan pizza joints flooded the city when the official “war” began. Deep dish? Not in this town.

Let’s look at some history.

Mario introduced OTTO years ago and won critical acclaim for out-of-the-ordinary single-plate pies…. that is, to the NY palate. His gamey, sometimes fishy, always chewy ingredients are an acquired taste for some, which left his shop on the outside looking in. Maybe it’s his cheese condiment and Italian wine selection that keeps the place packed… but it’s not for award-winning pizza.

Then came the neoliths.

I too was on the neo-craze when shops like Motorino and Kesté opened their doors… and they make a good product (if not “too” good, thank you extra charred crust). It seemed then that the days of a regular slice form Ray’s was a thing of the past and that other than the tourist trade; the regular slice was just about dead. Pretty soon…Donatella, Eataly, Olio… well, a lot of them moved in. There was smoldering crust from Brooklyn to the Bowery. I’d love to be in the wood-burning pizza oven business. But that said… as all of them make a quality pizza…. they can now bow to the king.

Pizza Roma.

For those of you like I who have spent a great deal of time of the streets of Rome, Italy, you know this pizza. It’s light and airy, with an unmistakable crunch. It’s rectangle in shape and it usually cut with a pair of scissors. It flies into a hot over for a quick reheat, then onto a napkin for fast consumption. This my friends, is roman style pizza…. and the pizza at Roma Pizza of Bleeker is the best pizza in New York City. Period. (Who would have guessed their other outlet would be in Barcelona?)

I had been waiting for months for this store to open and find it’s legs before I made my trek down to the West Village… but today was the day. I couldn’t wait any longer.

As I approached the store, I could see the unmistakable sign of a true roman pizzeria… the long counter of perfectly baked square pizzas… with an aroma that could knock you down.

It was so reminiscent of Rome, I had to rub my eyes. The thin sliced zucchini, margherita, crostino with prosciutto, soppressata, potato and rosemary… good lord, where to begin?

After a moment of composing myself, I pointed at the potato and rosemary and asked for a slice. At $3.50, what you really get is a giant piece, quickly warmed to a crunchy crisp and sliced in two.

When it arrived in the cozy backroom, it was resting on a piece of paper, over a wooden tray. Perfect.



The pizza? Well, hard to put into words. They allow the dough to rest 96 hours at Pizza Roma, which no doubt gives the crust an airy, delicate consistency. It’s almost pastry like when it arrives at the table, and the toppings are just the right temp.

There is a freshness to the cheese that is unmistakable… an attribute that other than crust, can really distinguish one pizza place from another. There is an unmistakable flavor when cheese is freshly grated… as to cheese that arrives in a bag. The freshness of the ingredients with the perfect buttery crust is what makes the Pizza Roma slice, the best pizza in the city.

This pizza can be enjoyed a few ways… by the slice, and by the pie.


If you plan to eat in or take out, Roma offers 2 sizes of “square” pies, that can be baked to order, with just about any ingredient they carry.

Additionally, there is a great boutique wine selection available, with a few other dishes (salads, lasagna, etc) that looked terrific.

Sure, making the statement about NYC’s best pizza is a big one… but I’ve done it. I’ll challenge anyone to find a better tasting, more satisfying slice.

I guess the question is, which slice will you declare the winner?





PIZZA ROMA
259 Bleecker St, New York 10014
(At Cornelia St

www.pizza-roma.it

Major Credit Cards

Hours:
Mon-Thu: 9am-11pm
Fri-Sun: 10am-12am

Serves:
Lunch, Dinner

Thursday, February 03, 2011

EATALY. OMG.

Like Italian Markets?? Prepare to be overwhelmed.




Not just overwhelmed..... blown away.

Eataly, the see it all, shop it all, eat it all Italian destination headed by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich isn’t just an ordinary Italian market…. it’s simply the greatest Italian market in America.

Back in the day, it was Balducci’s. I can remember trips to New York when my entire itinerary would be planned around trips to Balducci’s.... and I would always have the cab stop on my way to the airport to stuff a grocery bag full of goodies for the flight home.

But if Balducci’s was small and cozy… Eataly is Costco.

It’s so large, it takes nearly an hour just to get a feel for the place. Forget shopping. The space itself is so vast, you need time to get your bearings before you can really do some damage.

What makes it great?

Well, rule number one. Don’t open an Italian market unless the stuff is from Italy.

Not only are the items for sale (with the exception of a few sausages that Uncle Sam won’t allow in) from Italy…. cookies, pasta, tomatoes, sauces, truffles, chocolates, cheeses, etc…. many of the people in the store have made the trip over as well. And if you need cash?.... well the ATM machine is Italian, too.

How authentic? Take for instance, the pizza makers. Sitting at the bar watching chewy, thin crust pizzas fly into the wood burning oven is awesome…. but even better when you hear your pie maker practicing his English on the customers.

But what I love most about Eataly, is the ability to actually eat.

Most of the time, I wander into these places so hungry, I over shop. At Eataly, you can park at one of many destinations and nosh. This can save you big time at the cash register.

At La Piazza, the stand and snack enoteca, you can order artisan salumi and cheeses while leaning on tall marble tables. Paired with a glass of wine and you have the perfect snack to take the edge off.

At Il Pesce? A raw bar and fish house that serves daily seafood specials. Le Verdure focuses on local produce and fresh entrees.

La Pizza and Pasta makes arguably some of the finest pies in the city, and the pastas are rich and al dente, a true Mario signature. Both are terrific.



Of course, there is the desert hall, gelato bar, bakery, coffee house, butcher shop, wine store, produce market, house wares shop and culinary educational center…. but there’s not enough time or space to gush how terrific they all are.

The only negative here can be the crowds. This is a place you don’t want to pop into at noon on a Saturday. Weekdays are much better, and late lunches can reveal tables without a wait.

The other negative (to some) will be the prices. While somewhat inflated, the truth is that many of the items for sale here just can’t be purchased anywhere else. So as you see your bill climb, remember that a flight to Rome would cost you a tad bit more. By the time I got my groceries home, my mouth was watering so badly I just didn’t care anymore.

My advice. Go. Eat. Revel. Enjoy. New York is lucky to have such an amazing artisanal destination…. so grab your credit card and have a ball.

Carpé Diem!



Eataly
200 Fifth Avenue
(at 23rd Street)
New York, NY 10010
Phone Number: 212-229-2560

Friday, November 12, 2010

New York's Best Pork. Period.

Forget the BBQ Joints, This is a Korean Thing.





First an apology.

I am sorry for my extended absence!.... but low and behold, ForkNewYork is back, and better than ever.

…and to celebrate my return, I give you one of the most incredible meals (and dining experiences) in New York….. the Bo Ssäm at Momofufu Ssäm Bar.

If you are a New Yorker and food lover, the word Momofufu is respected and well known. This is the empire of extraordinary restaurants by Chef David Chang, who has single-handedly infused his own Korean inspired flavors into the NYC restaurant scene in spectacular fashion. Don’t believe me? Try scoring at seat at his 12-seat only Momofufu Ko.

All of his venues are terrific, but in my opinion, the meal of the year is in fact the Bo Ssam at the quirky and delightful Momofufu Ssäm Bar.

What is it? Are you ready?

Once you make the reservation for 6 or more, and are seated, it comes to the table…..

A massive (and I mean gigantic) slow cooked Neiman Ranch pork shoulder rubbed in brown sugar and kosher salt that literally melts when you touch it with your tongs (there is Korean taco making going on here). We had a party of 6 and couldn’t finish half of it. Tender, falling apart, juicy pork.

On the side? A dozen small raw oysters (some include this inside the taco…. me, not so much), 2 bowls of hot, sticky white rice, 2 bowls of beautifully prepared bibb lettuce, ssäm jiang (an addictive korean bbq sauce), spicy kimchi and ginger scallion sauce. Oh. My. God.



If you are thinking the table was jammed and this was a feast of epic proportions, you would be correct. Our only mistake was ordering the pork bun appetizer (incredibly delicious and legendary) beforehand… not fully appreciating how large the Bo Ssäm feat would be. Lesson learned.

There is something magical to Korean dishes that I have been trying to put my finger on for years, but somehow just can’t. I don’t know if it the freshness of the raw ingredients mixed with savory meats… or the infusion of fish and shellfish into non-traditional pairings….or is it the sweet and spicy way that the flavors come together as if they were naturally meant to be married? What ever the answer, I always love eating this food and can appreciate the simple yet complex nature of these flavors. Terrific.



As amazing as the Bo Ssäm meal was, there was room for a taste of dessert, which was also wonderful… (if not a bit overly ambitious by the kitchen). On my recommendation, skip desert at the table and walk around back to the Momofufu Milk Bar and indulge in Blueberry and Cream cookies and espresso. And get a corn cookie. And a slice of crack pie. (I kinda lost control)

And so my dear friends and blog followers, with a flash I return to my beloved ForkNewYork with a meal you must experience to appreciate… the Bo Ssäm at Momofufu Ssäm Bar. I can’t think of a better way of spending a Sunday afternoon with friends.

Did I mention that they cook you a big ass pork shoulder?





Momofufu Ssäm Bar
207 2nd ave. nyc 10003 | corner of 13th + second


ssäm bar hours of operation
lunch
every day / 11:30 am – 3:30 pm
dinner
sun – thurs / 5 pm – midnight
fri + sat / 5 pm – 2 am

Reservations:
http://www.momofuku.com/ssam-bar/

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Mission: FRIED CHICKEN

So, New York may be the greatest food city in the world... but believe it or not, it is lacking in a few areas.

1. Truly authentic Mexican food (including Baja Tacos, tamales, etc)
2. Authentic Louisiana fare.
3. FRIED CHICKEN

Yes, fried chicken. We do have a few spots in the city with decent chicken, but the truth is, even "Blue Ribbon", the king of NYC restaurant chicken, can't hold a candle to the southern stuff you can find in every grocery store and gas station south of Tennessee. Think Albertson's. Mrs. Winner's. Etc.......

So what do you do when you can't find the right piece of chicken?

You make it yourself. Below, find a recipe that I love from New Orleans food guru Tom Fitzmorris.

Here you go.


Tom's Confession: He never makes fried chicken the same way twice. It's a work in progress that's been going on for over ten years. This recipe is an amalgamation of the ideas that resulted in the most delicious chicken--so far.

The primary challenge in frying chicken is that the various pieces cook at different rates. This is why, I suspect, the Colonel used to cut his chicken differently than the standard breast-wing-thigh-drumstick configuration. I like that idea, if you're up to cutting your own chickens. What you do is pull the breastbone of the chicken out with the two tenders still attached. This removes about a third of the meat from each breast, making it more the size of the other pieces.

The problem is still not entirely solved. Breast meat cooks faster than leg meat of the same size. Consider that as you cook. One more thing. There is no question that the flavor of the chicken gets better after you've fried one chicken. Or that it starts deteriorating after you've fried about five chickens. So refresh the oil--strain it and add fresh--along the way.

Marinade:

1 quart buttermilk
2 Tbs. salt (I know this seems like a lot, but only a little of it will remain on the chicken)
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 Tbs. tarragon
1 Tbs. dill
1 Tbs. garlic-flavored Tabasco
2 whole chickens, cut up into breast tenderloin, two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, and two wings


Coating:

4 cups self-rising (yes!) flour
2 Tbs. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbs. granulated onion
2 cups vegetable oil


1. Combine the marinade ingredients, mixing until the salt is dissolved. Divide the chicken among gallon food storage bags. Add enough marinade to complete soak the chicken. Place the bags in the refrigerator eight hours to overnight.

2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess. Place the chicken pieces on a rack over a pan (the racks you use to cool cakes are perfect). Place the chicken out of the way but in the open air, and allow to warm up for about a half hour.

3. When ready to begin cooking, combine the coating ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a large, clean paper bag.

4. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot to 375 degrees.

5. Put three or four pieces of chicken into the bag with the seasonings. Shake to coat uniformly. (The bag method will also shake off excess coating.)

6. Using tongs, put four or five pieces of chicken into the hot oil and fry, without turning, for eight to ten minutes. Turn it over and fry on the other side, again for eight to ten minutes. The color you're looking for is a bit darker than the usual golden brown.

7. As you remove the chicken from the pot, drain it in a large sieve over a bowl. Shake it a couple of times and let it remain there for at least one minutes. If nobody grabs it immediately (the recommended way of eating fried chicken), keep it warm in a 150-degree oven until serving.

Serves four to eight.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Campagnola: Old School And Proud Of It

Get Your Sinatra On. Tonight.




I use to think I was some sort of Italian restaurant expert here in NYC. I mean, I love this food… cook this food… study this food. I eat out A LOT. I cook at home A LOT. I take suggestions, walk into places I shouldn’t… and my eyes well up when I find perfect pasta dishes.

But the fact is, there are just so many good Italian spots… (well known, and not so well known…) that is not humanly possible to stay on top of all of them. Additionally, many are famous for this or that… not everything.

A few weeks ago I was invited to a spot I had heard about…but had never visited…. Campagnola.

I had heard the following babble:

• this is a good old boys club
• wants to be Rao’s
• is crammed with Upper West Siders with expense accounts
• is crammed with Upper West Siders who don’t care about expense accounts
• can often serve spectacular food
• reeks of Sinatra and sweet tomatoes

Having this opinion, I was off to 74th and 1st Ave for what I was hoping would be a terrific experience.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Campagnola is old school and proud of it. This is a smallish, narrow space that will remind you of about 1000 similar NYC spaces…. tight.

As I entered, I noticed that tucked into the front right corner was a piano… resting across from a tiny narrow bar occupied by neighbor regulars. There was laughing and kissing going on at the door between the owners and his clientele… a good sign. It had all of the makings of a quintessential neighborhood gem.

After a few minutes of people watching… and with a group of 5 or 6, we made our way into the back of the space, squeezed around a 4 top and began to order… and I was glad we did.

Let me pause for a moment to interject one thing…. it takes real balls to charge $45. for veal parm, but this place does it, and gets away with it. You’ve been warned.

The wait staff at Campagnola has been around for many many years, and it shows. Although there is a menu, nearly anything can be ordered, in any combination… as long as you are OK with the creative billing that will come out on the backend. Lucky for me, I was a guest of very gracious hosts… who also had friends in high places at the restaurant. Very lucky for me ☺

There were a bevy of specials on this night, and honestly, I could have ordered just about any of them. From toothy handmade pastas to very fresh fish (on this night Dover Sole), it was all there. After hearing about all of the dishes, we made a few choices and the parade began.

First… perfectly fried Soft Shell Crabs… hot and crispy. Having eaten about 5000 of these in my lifetime, they were honestly about as good as you can get. Somebody in the back really knows what they are doing. Kudos.

Next were a platter of salumi, olives, artichokes and eggplant with cracker breads… perfectly seasoned and arranged, and inhaled by the hungry table in about 90 seconds. Fairly standard stuff, but still, well done.

The entrees began to arrive and I finally began to realize what all of the fuss was about.

The pastas are perfect. Cooked to perfection, and sauced perfectly.

The meats were also cooked to perfection. A grilled baby lamb chop. A steak with cognac and cream. And a veal Milanese… pounded and breaded, fried to perfection and topped with baby arugula.

The Dover Sole lightly crusted and pan sautéed in lemon and butter.

The meal had turned into a feast, and dishes kept coming. Fried zucchini. Chicken with artichokes and prosciutto. Orecchiette with sausage, broccoli, cream and shallots. God help me.

By the time dessert came into play, I was toast. This is the way to eat. And all of it was delicious.

The verdict?

Well, in the end, Campagnola turned out to be exactly what I thought it would be. Classic. Old school. Comfortably snobby. Cramped by cozy. Charming. Serious about cooking.

The best Italian food in New York? Some would argue yes, but I would say no. Certainly worth the trip… but this is traditional Italian eats in the style of Da Umberto… or Il Mulino… not Babbo or SD26. The prices are higher than average for this style of cooking in New York, but you get what you pay for in this city, and the food holds up. Even though it seems that each dish carries a $10 surcharge for enjoying the room… nobody seemed to mind. Kinda like splurging on a double porterhouse for 2 at your favorite NYC steakhouse.

So if you are thinking of going, call now. There is a reason it’s well known. People book reservations.

Next, if you don’t reside in the Upper West, get up there. There are quality restaurants and they need to see you (Felidia, etc… ).

And last, splurge. This isn’t just an Italian restaurant, this is a slice of classic New York. Get out there and enjoy these blessings. There is something special happening at Campagnola... and you should share in what is a special night out.




Campagnola
1382 First Ave., New York, NY 10021
nr. 74th St
212-861-1102

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Westside Market: NYC's Greatest Foodshop?

Prepared To Be Blown Away.... Westside Is The Real Deal




It’s almost embarrassing to write this blog post about Westside Market…. what I now consider to be the best gourmet food shop in Manhattan.

Why?

Well, I had heard about Westside some time ago… and ignored the hype. With stores like Fairway, Citerella, Balducci’s, Dean and Deluca, Murray’s and Faicco’s (all spectacular mind you)…. well, I just didn’t need yet another grocery store that just did the same old thing.

And then I went.

My first trip was really nearly by mistake. I was headed to Williams-Sonoma in Chelsea for a list of goodies when the 1 train dropped me at 14th Street. Needing to walk a quick 2 block to the store, I passed in front of Westside Market and thought… why not?

I wasn’t ready for what was waiting for me inside.

To call this place the Disneyland of prepared foods would be a gross understatement.

What Westside has done is really hard to put into words. It is the quintessential neighborhood market… but really much much more….it’s a tourist destination.

The main difference with this market compared to others is the quality and care put into each and every item they sell. They are simply no mediocre choices.

Hungry for hummus? Thinking of choosing from a few varieties? Try 50. Garlic hummus, lemon hummus, asparagus hummus, hot olive hummus… the list goes on. All freshly made. Wow.

Salads? 100 varieties. Tuna and caperberry. Salmon. Egg. Endless. Each flavor more appealing than the last.

They have a cheese counter with hundreds of choices… that rivals Murray’s Cheese Shop in the Village. A hot deli with fresh lasagna, roasted chickens and turkey, and 30 other fresh dishes.

A small but extraordinary coffee section with fresh roasted blends as well as the finest Illy and Lavazza brands in the world.

A sandwich counter that makes handmade artisan sandwiches to go. I watched a chef pull a fresh roasted turkey breast from the oven and begin to slice it for a customer on fresh bread. Shut up.

An affordable produce section that carries the finest organic and local produce in the city.

A special seafood counter with fresh fresh fish and gulf wild white shrimp (the only kind I will buy... and you for that matter).

And groceries? The Italian isle carried San Marzano tomato brands I had never seen (this is saying something)… specialty pastas, spreads and pesto to make you want to cry. Sea salts. European cookies. Teas. Quality frozen selections. Every special soda known to man.

As a food lover, my feeling is this.

If you are going to run a store of this quality, with a commitment to your products this great, I am going to give you my business. Period.

So here I am, now professing my love for Westside Market… what I consider the most exciting and well rounded food store in New York City… and one of my new favorite haunts. 3 locations in Manhattan to serve you.

Did I mention the Upper West Side store is open 24 hours?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Greatest Butcher in New York

If It Came From Pat LaFrieda... You Are Eating The Best




Pat LaFrieda is kinda a hero of mine.

Sure, some guys worship Mickey Mantle. Some guys worship Neil Armstrong. My guy grinds hamburger.

This is likely why I was so excited to step inside of Pat’s Magic Kingdom last night at the invitation of a friend who was on business.

At first meeting, Pat is exactly what I imagined him to be. Personable, genuine, authentic…. and passionate about his work. He is a third generation butcher who understands hard, hard work…. and is now reaping the benefits of those efforts as provider of Manhattan’s finest meat.

Let me repeat. This guy is the best meat purveyor in the greatest restaurant city in the world.

But make no mistake about it… the hard work for Pat is not over. It’s just beginning.

Walking through his brand-spanking new meat processing facility was an out-of-body experience for me, being a former restaurant owner and chef, as well as a general meat enthusiast. From his cold storage room (the size of a basketball gym) to his grinding room (that sounds dirty)… to his dry-aged steak room… Pat LaFrieda was beaming at the glorious cuts of meat that are the core of his empire. The strong smell of beef was a different kind of smell I had been use to visiting butcher shops in the past. This smell was rich and fresh. This was quality stuff.

Pat LaFrieda is quality… and will never compromise.

I won’t give you a step by step account of my evening, but I can tell you the highlight was watching his room of skillful butchers carve and craft every cut of beef imaginable, for the greatest restaurants in the city.

“These veal chops are headed to Babbo”, Pat remarked as he lifted the box already tagged Babbo. “These steaks, Quality Meats. These… to the New York Yankees”.

That’s when I began to tear up. Holy crap, this guy is sending steaks to Yankee Stadium.

The evening ended soon after as Pat needed to get back to work to begin to fill the 500+ orders that would soon depart the facility in trucks… to the likes of Marea, Minetta Tavern and Shake Shack. But not before I could make one joking remark that I still can’t believe came out of my mouth.

“No parting gifts, huh? Like a Black Label burger?”, I joked.

“You need some beef? I got you covered!”, he responded.

Within 60 seconds, from the back cooler, emerged a case of signature Pat LaFrieda burgers… headed for my arms

Very rarely am I caught speechless, but a case of LaFrieda meat has this effect on me.

I soon vanished into the night, burgers in tow… and thought to myself how lucky I was to see the master at work… doing his thing.

This wasn’t a visit to just any meat house… cutting simple cuts of beef.

It was Pat LaFrieda…. the greatest butcher in New York.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gumbo is On! It's Time For Jazz Fest

It's that time. New Orleans Jazz Fest. Damn I miss Louisiana.

In honor of my dear friends who are getting ready to make their way down to the Fairgrounds, I give you my one and only gumbo recipe.... which I promise will rival and/or defeat any bowl you'll have in the Big Easy! You can hang in your own, air conditioned home and enjoy the tastes of jazz fest.

Grab your ingredients, turn up your jazz and get to cooking.


Andre's Gumbo Like I Like It


4-5 Quarts Chicken Stock
4 pounds frozen okra (you can use fresh, but you'll never know the difference)
1 lrg can of diced tomatoes (drain off some of the juice)
1 regular can of diced tomatoes
2 large white onions, diced fine (yellow are OK, too)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 teaspoon chopped garlic, fine
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
3⁄4 cup all purpose flour
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoon of lea and perrin’s
2 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce
1 1⁄2 tablespoons of creole seasoning (Emerils or Tony’s)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
2-3 tablespoons Kitchen Bouquet
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped parsley, fine
4 pounds peeled medium shrimp
Chopped green onions

In a separate pot, heat 3 tbl vegetable oil, and sauté white onions. Add garlic, frozen okra and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, stir well, and cook over medium low heat until tender (at least an hour, if not longer). Okra should be very tender and want to break up. In a large stockpot, heat oil (¾ cup) and add flour to make roux. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure not to burn. Bring to desired color… peanut butter color is recommended for best flavor. Once desired color is reached, whisk in chicken stock, 4 qts first and save the rest if needed (chicken base dissolved in water can also be used , but NOT bullion). Add seasonings (wet and dry) and kitchen bouquet for desired color. Add okra mixture and bring to boil. Reduce to low simmer, and cook for 1 1⁄2 hours. Last half hour, add shrimp and parsley and simmer and very low temp, not to overcook shrimp. Serve in bowls, topped with a scoop of cooked long grain rice and top with sprinkle of green onion.
Gumbo is best if cooked day before. Make sure to cool completely before storing in fridge.

Andre’s Lagnaippe: Keep in mind, each and every pot of gumbo is different... but one thing will never change. It will taste better tomorrow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Hog Pit = Serious Fried Chicken

Get Over Your Hangups... Go For The Chicken



Make no mistake about it. I am a fried chicken eatin’ fool.

Maybe it was my southern upbringing. Trips to Popeye’s, Mrs. Winner’s, Church’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (it wasn’t KFC back then), Piccadilly and even Albertson’s the local grocery store (that still has amazing fried chicken), the legendary but closed Joe-D’s grocery for a fried chicken poboy…. or perhaps homemade chicken in our very own kitchen.

I love fried chicken.

Believe it or not, New York City is fried chicken challenged. Really. Sure, there are a few soul food places north of 116th that can fry some decent fried chicken, and you can read the rave reviews for the chicken at Blue Ribbon (and now Brooklyn Bowl)…. but truth be told, you have to look far and wide for really spectacular fried chicken.

Into the list of not darn good chicken, but damn good chicken…. I give you, The Hog Pit.

Now, before you shake your head and complain how the Meatpacking Hog Pit was better than the new Chelsea Hog Pit, save it. You are right. Blah, blah, blah.

But we are talking chicken here, and the details around the rest of it don’t change the way these fine folks fry chicken. The place isn’t pretty. The service is uneven at best. The neighborhood is dingy.

But the chicken.

I will admit I was a bit nervous ordering. I read the Yelp reviews, the complaining on MenuPages, etc…. but I was so desperate for good fried chicken that I made the call. The stuff from Soul Fixin’s down the street just isn’t doing it for me.

“Cash only?,” I remarked. “Cash only,” she said.

So on its way to my place were two fried chicken dinners… a half chicken (breast, thigh, wing and leg) each, with a cup full of honey on the side…. along with an order of fried okra and cheese grits. I ordered mac n’ cheese on the side as well (I’m not stupid).

First the chicken.

What a surprise. The crust, although a bit dark and thick…. was hot and crunchy… just how great chicken should be. I don’t know about you, but in Louisiana the skin part is as important as the inside part. Just sayin.

The skin had a salt and peppery flavor with a hint of garlic and onion… and was superb. When I tasted it, I knew the inside would be perfect, and I was right.

The meat (even the breast) was juicy, meaning the chicken was cooked at the right temp. Someone in that kitchen knows what they are doing.

But do you know the final TELL ALL test? It’s how that darn chicken tastes the next morning coming out of your fridge….and this chicken was terrific. Even more spice had emerged, juicy inside and the skin still crunchy. Wow.

The sides we maybe the biggest surprise.

The fried okra was hot and crispy and perfectly seasoned. If you lived farther than I do from The Hog Pit, this could be come a casualty as they package in airtight plastic containers (that usually leads to soggy fried food) but this was terrific and held it’s own.

The cheese grits didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t… they were just plain good. Processed cheese (I love you Velveeta) and butter stirred into a pot of hot grits. I ate every last grit in that bowl.

The mac n’ cheese was also very good… and not greasy. This is a dish that some places really struggle with, but the kitchen at the Hog Pit has it down. Good texture and flavor, and not overcooked into yellow mush.

The collard greens were also delicious, tender and bacon flavored just like I like them. Again, there is some skill at hand back at the Hog Pit… and it shows in side dishes that have the flavor of these.

I didn’t taste the other sides which include sweet potato fries, baked beans, green beans, etc… but I can tell you that if the okra and cheese grits were happening, I would guess the rest of the sides would also be terrific. Especially when hot.

So the verdict?

Well, by know you can guess that I like this place. Or at least the food…. Which has all of a 2 block walk to get to my house…. Great news for me!

There are other southern specialties on this menu like fried catfish and meatloaf which are intriguing… so I’ll be sure and report back.

Until then, I’ll be seeing you (or not) at The Hog Pit.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Strip House: Getting Better With Age

A Tried and True NYC Favorite Keeps It Simple


The New York steak scene is brutal.

There are so many good options… and I mean great options… that to stay afloat you have to be on your game every night. Look at CraftSteak… gone. And even some of the old NYC mainstays have trouble in a tight economy to fill their dining rooms at times. So where do you go for a low risk, can't miss night of USDA Prime?

Welcome to The Strip House.

Solid. Warm. Delicious. That’s what you get in this Village spot. There is nothing spectacular, nothing groundbreaking… just solid steaks and sides, in a single room steeped in steakhouse history.

When I visited The Strip House last week, it had been quite a while since my last visit, but nothing had really changed. The room was still boudoir red, the bar stocked with my brand of single malt scotch and the lounge chock full of after work pals swilling cocktails and complaining about their bosses. Just how I remembered it.

Our group of four was met with a surprise floorshow on this Thursday evening, as the Governor of New York was seated directly across from our cozy booth with “company” of his own. He was accompanied by two guests, one resembled an official bodyguard type, and the other…. well didn’t. Let’s just leave it at that.

Our waiter was energetic and a tad cocky, but pleasant none the less. He was quick to remind the table about the way things are done at The Strip House (steaks charred, sides shared, etc) and the table was happy to hear it. La-dee-da.

The salads (we tried several including the Bibb) were terrific and perfectly dressed. But the star of the apps was easy the Roasted Bacon…. which reminded me more of pork belly than bacon. It was melt in your mouth good… and the table consumed with smiles from ear to ear. This was more delicate that the mountain of Lugar’s bacon we have come to know and love… and I liked it all the same. Crazy good.

Of course steaks were the call on this night, and again The Strip House didn’t disappoint. From the NY Strip, to the bone-in Ribeye, they were cooked perfectly, and were full of flavor. If sauces are your thing, The Strip House serves several that are house-made, including a Béarnaise that was an instant hit with our group.

The sides are also very good, but perhaps not on par with Quality Meats or Keens. The best item on our table proved to be the Potatoes Romanoff… and the Creamed Corn with Pancetta was solid…. but for some reason I now yearn for Buttered Edamame and Corn Crème Brulee wherever I eat steak. This is a bad thing. Damn you Quality Meats.

Dessert?

We came to the restaurant knowing of the cake lore that awaited… but had to skip this course as we were headed across town to finish our meal outdoors to take advantage of the terrific night of weather we were having… but make no mistake about it…. the chocolate cake is legendary and worth the trip alone to many who rave about the 20+ layers of magic. Next time. Next time.

So let’s summarize.

Sexy, attractive room. Check.

Celebrity/Politician sighting. Check.

Comfortable table and neat, timely service. Check.

Damn good steak. Check.

Well that just about sums it up. The secret to the longevity of The Strip House? This is a restaurant that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It’s that simple. Do something well, and then do it again.

And those who appreciate a great meal will follow.

Even the Governor. And his friend.



+ sexy room is never as crowded as the younger, hipster steakhouses

+ steaks are top quality, wet aged, and charred to perfection

+ they serve goose-fat potatoes. Enough said.


- they sometimes charge for split plates

- the waiters can be a little to big for their britches, but are still harmless

- it’s so dark, you could bring your girlfriend and the Mrs. would never see you


The Strip House

13 E 12th St, New York 10003

(Btwn 5th Ave & University Pl)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Bryant Park Grill: A Midtown Disappointment

With This Location and These Prices... What The Hell?



It’s a sad day when I have to blog that one of New York’s most picturesque restaurants serves what may possibly be the worst food in the city.

One thing I am not, is a negative food blogger. I spend my time hunting down terrific places to eat… and then spread the news. I live to gush over restaurants. I love them. But when I encounter such a disaster as the Bryant Park Grill, I just can’t keep it to myself.

I’ve visited this restaurant several times over the past year, being under whelmed each visit. But at lunch this week, the low quality of their food fell below the bar, into the inedible category.

Lunch started with a salad for myself and lunch guest. My salad, an artichoke heart with tender greens salad, was a disappointment. Why? Mainly because the artichoke mixture had been mixed well before hand, and it tasted so. This wasn’t a “fresh” dish, but something thrown together out of a few refrigerated containers in the cooler, topped off with a few over ripe cherry tomatoes.

Then came the entrees.

I need to tell you now… avoid pasta dishes at Bryant Park Grill. My dish, the Strozzapreti Pasta (jumbo shrimp, broccoli florets, pomodoro sauce) was an overcooked bowl of mush. Again, the dish was thrown together – and when you uncovered the mushy pasta, fishy tasting shrimp, overcooked broccoli and jar-like tomato sauce… well I’d been much happier with a frozen Stouffer’s entrée popped in the microwave. Honest.

My friend also ordered pasta… the Wild Mushroom and Fontina Ravioli.. a dish with spinach, peas, blistered tomatoes (?) in a parmesan broth. What arrived were ravioli in a bowl of yellow soup… possibly the most unappetizing dish I have ever seen. To make matters worse, the waiter (who spoke such poor english he couldn’t really explain the menu what so ever) had told us the “blistered” tomatoes were cherry-like tomatoes… when in fact they were not. They were stewed… specifically what my colleague had asked to avoid.

What all of this screams is a kitchen and/or chef that doesn’t care. There is no respectable chef in this city (I would hope) that would ever send one of these dishes out of the kitchen… no matter how bad a day they were having. In this setting, for these prices… I expect much much more…. and so should you.

Thinking a good dessert would help ease the disaster of our main course, I ordered the “Bananas For Bananas”… a banana brioche pudding, salty peanut ice cream, peanut butter caramel bananas, fudge sauce with a dab of whip cream. The brioche was cold and was fresh from the cooler, the ice cream has a piece of peanut brittle that was nearly frozen and the rest was grocery store quality. This was a dish thrown together by a line cook or waiter. $9.50 down the drain. Again, what the hell.

I am guessing the safe bets at Bryant Park Grill would be lunch-type salads and sandwiches, which can be hard to ruin… although the deft approach of this kitchen would certainly give it a try.

Note to the management at Bryant Park Grill: have a sit down meeting with your chef (or kitchen manager, whoever) and actually sit down and eat this food. Look at your menu. Adapt a “fresh” approach to your park side location with more emphasis on local farmers who supply bright, robust flavors. Local bakers who can supply artisan breads and desserts. Rethink the entire approach to foods that are simple and fresh.

You have one of the best locations in Manhattan… create a menu to match.



+ the setting, indoors and out, is superb

+ easy to reach from anywhere in the city

+ easy to reserve a table ahead of time




- some of the food is inedible

- some of the wait staff can’t communicate at all due to language barriers

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Manhattan's Big Fish Is On A Bun

Filet-O-Fish Lovers, Welcome to Mecca


I’ve always had a thing for the fish sandwich.

Growing up in the south, the fish thing was big. Our everyday fish usually came in the form of catfish, and we ate it every way imaginable. Deep fried, pan fried, sautéed, blackened… well you get he picture. And because of the catfish farms located in the south, as well as other fish from the Gulf of Mexico… the fish was always fresh. Never fishy. Good fish never taste or smell like, well, fish.

That said, in some restaurants in the south, cod and whitefish are popular choices because of their mildness….although not as readily available as catfish, redfish or snapper….

…unless you’re eating a magical McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwich (did I just say that?).

I had a slight problem with these a few years back… kind of an addiction. I wasn’t really living anywhere near a place where I could order my beloved catfish poboy, so the only option I really had were fish sandwiches of the fast food variety (how sad is that) and McDonald’s and Burger King usually were the call. I’m not a pillar of health, but I am still surprised I didn’t have a heart attack by the time I was 25.

Well, times have changed, and the fish sandwich has grown up. Lucky for me, the best fish sandwich…. (note I said sandwich and not poboy) anywhere…. Is located right here in New York, at Hillstone.

Hillstone will look familiar to many of you, as the old Houston’s, even though it really still is Houston’s. The chain renamed a few of their top selling stores, added one or two goodies to the menu, and invented Hillstone…. named after a California vineyard. The good news is the food is still as solid as Houston’s…. a chain that really knows their stuff (and I am not a chain guy).

For the longest time, I was a rib guy at Houston’s… mainly because their BBQ ribs were amazing. Fall off the bone, lick your fingers amazing. But a few trips back, I was intrigued by their fish sandwich, and took the plunge. I couldn’t believe what was put on the table in front of me.

Think big, soft, buttery, toasted sesame brioche bun. Inserts a huge, flaky piece of fried whitefish, top it with an outstanding dill coleslaw and a few pickle slices… and well, that is the best damn fish sandwich in Manhattan. Period.

Don’t take my word on this one… you need to try this for yourself. Beware of Hillstone, they are always crowded, so I suggest a weekend late lunch or early dinner.

You’ll be tempted when you get there to bail on the fish sandwich and order a steak, or salad, or burger…. But don’ be swayed. Stay with the mission. You’ll thank me later.

Enjoy!


+ This is the quintessential fish sandwich, period.

+ Cool atmosphere and great fresh squeezed juice

+ Big appetites can start with spinach and artichoke dip


- The waitstaff can be to cool for school

- Likely a wait, this place is popular and a good value

- It’s dark, so if not your thing, stay away

Hillstone

www.hillstone.com

378 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
(212) 689-1090

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SD26: The Best Italian Food in New York?

Get Ready... Tony and Marisa Will Knock Your Socks Off


The City of New York never ceases to amaze me.

As a food blogger, I have convinced myself that I am somewhat of a “super foodie” when it comes to restaurants. I eat out a lot, talk to people about where they are going… and pretend to have the inside scoop on just about everything. Of course, I know only a fraction of what is happening in this monstrous food scene, but I try not to blow my cover. I am a New York food blogger, you know.

And then there are those nights when you get to go somewhere new, with new friends… and have an experience that is so delicious and authentic, you want to run home and start typing your blog entry on your cell phone in the cab. Glorious.

Last night was this night for me… as I was the invited guest to a dinner at SD26, Tony and Marisa May’s spectacular Italian hotspot on Madison Square Park. Yes, that Tony May… and yes, this is the next incarnation of San Domenica.

Although critics have panned their new space as being a tad eclectic for their fare, I found the room hip and well designed. This isn’t your quintessential NYC restaurant space… there is actually room to move around here… in the bar and in the dining room. A welcome change. Add a very cool wine by the glass cove inside the front window, and you have something unique and special.

As for the restaurant and their staff…. well they treat you as if you are a guest in their house. Even on a nasty, rainy Monday evening, Tony and Marisa were in the dining room, attending to everyone. And for a nasty, rainy Monday night… they had a great crowd.

Which leads me to the food.

Wow. The food.

Very hard to compare SD26 to the likes of Babbo, Lupa, Felidia, etc… because it’s just not the same. Those who have loved San Domenico for years on Central Park won’t be disappointed…. the classics remain. However, with the new space comes updated dishes as well as a few new preparations from Chef Odette Fada who so carefully prepares each dish with such steady, confident hands. The love of this cuisine shines through in brilliant fashion… and the message in all of it, channeled though Tony May is loud and clear. “We know what we are doing.”

And they do. The house specialty, “Uovo” soft egg yolk filled ravioli with truffled butter is an out of body experience. Filled with creamy ricotta and a perfect egg yolk, this dish was the perfect start to a tasting menu that was nothing short of incredible.

Next, another special ravioli made its way to our table, this time in a group of three. These delicate dumplings were filled with braised beef and topped with caramelized onions and lighted sautéed in brown butter. Now things were getting serious.

Main dishes were next up, and didn’t disappoint. As the table had dishes that included lamb chops, braised beef cheeks, venison loin and grilled tuna, I had the pan roasted whole Dover sole… and was blown away. I have always been a fan of sole as I love mild, white fish… but this preparation was so close to a classic Louisiana trout meuniere, I had to contain my enthusiasm. The fish had been pan roasted whole and filleted from the bone, and sauced with brown butter, parsley and lemon (this is fish perfection for me). One splash of veal demi glace and I swear I would have been transported to Baton Rouge where this dish reigns supreme.

Dessert soon followed and wowed the table. Decadent Tiramisu, a polenta with caramelized pears, a perfect pannacotta, a hazelnut bar that I had a dream about last night and an apple crostata..

The verdict? Well, I once thought that my friends at Da Umberto had the most authentic Italian restaurant in New York… but I now have to seriously rethink this. The kitchen at SD26 is talented. Their wares are homemade… and it shows. They cut no corners… and you can taste the difference. Truth be told, this is one of the best Italian restaurants in New York. Period.

So enjoy your trip to SD26….spring weather is almost here, and what could be better to top off a lovely midtown walk than a plate of handmade pasta in tomato sauce with a glass of Brunello?

You’re right. Nothing.



SD26

www.sd26ny.com
19 East 26th Street
New York, NY 10010-1404
(212) 265-5959

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Best Tourist Eats in NYC

So You're Coming For A Visit?.... I've Got A Place For You!


As many of you know, I am the ultimate foodie. Not just a “food lover”…. but someone who loves the culture, origin and history of all foods. As a nation, we are defined by food… mostly regionally… and those foods and the people who prepare them are the fabric of our communities.

Living in NYC is almost a food misnomer. Nearly every cuisine in the world is represented here in some way, at almost any hour. It’s like living in a Disneyland of food. I love it.

For those of you new to this blog, this blog entry of ForkNewYork is dedicated to tourists. Below is my very own selection of “can’t miss” spots that are so low risk (meaning your chance of having a bad meal are slim to none) that you could close your eyes and randomly select. Being from South Louisiana, I have a secret guide to New Orleans restaurants I have been email friends for years… but mainly for locals. This is a list that should feel universal in appeal.

The list includes restaurants you have certainly heard of, but may also include a few you haven’t. All of them will give you a little insight to why I love them and what to order.

So without further ado, here is ForkNewYork’s 2010 Tourist Gems of NYC!


STEAKS

Make no mistake about it, NYC is a steak and Italian food town. Other than a handful of ripoff Times Squareish steak places (Tad’s anyone?), you can locate and enjoy a spectacular piece of meat. Here are a few that will knock your socks off.

Peter Lugar’s in Brooklyn

Lugar’s tops my list, maybe not for the best steak (although their steals and sides are excellent), but for the history. Lugar’s is the Smithsonian of steak houses. This cash only spot in Brooklyn is a NYC institution, and millions of folks have celebrated everything imaginable here. Don’t Miss: Porterhouse for Two, Medium Rare. Warning: Do a little research before you go, the waiters frown upon using menus, and this place is cash only.

Quality Meats

Since they opened a few years ago, this spot has been a favorite of mine… and why not. The space is sexy, the food incredible and the attention to detail (tableside steak sauce preparation, individual pies for dessert) is top notch. The place is owned by Smith and Wollensky which means the meat is Prime, and throw in a charcuterie in the bar area with freshly sliced salami and prosciutto… well, you get the picture. Don’t Miss: Corn Crème Brulee. Warning: Go early or make a reservation. This is popular.

Keen’s

Just plain old school. Fantastic space (has aged well), simple delicious menu, and midtown locale. Besides top quality steaks and lobsters, Keen’s has been serving perhaps the most famous “Mutton Chop” in America since 1905. This is a can’t miss, fantastic authentic NYC steak experience. Don’t Miss: any Prime steak or the Mutton Chop. Warning: Popular with locals so call ahead.

ITALIAN

There are easily 1000 italian spots in the five boroughs alone. Everything from old school Sicilian, to hip Northern Italian, to upscale celebrity joints. Here are a few of my favorites that never dissapoint.

Babbo

Likely the most popular with locals and tourists, you’ll need to reserve a table a month before your trip…. but it’s worth it. Of all of Chef Mario Batali’s joints, this one still reigns supreme, and the food is consistently terrific. This is a tiny townhouse of a space, but if you can land a table upstairs or down, you’ll be considered lucky. All of the dishes are top notch, but for my money, one of the best values in NYC is here, ordering the “Pasta Tasting Menu”. This 5-course masterpiece is the best way to initially experience Mario’s magic. Don’t Miss: I think you know. Warning: Reservations are a must, or get in line at 4pm and snag one of 4 or 5 tables in the bar, which are first come.

Gennaro

This is one of those gems you see Tom Hanks bring his date to in just about any movie about NYC. Small, quaint, authentic, delicious. Gennero is routed in authenticity, and tasting their menu shows it. From handmade gnocchi to their braised lamb shank, it is a favorite of Upper West-siders who know their food. Don’t Miss: one of their homemade pasta dishes. Warning: Cash only my friends. Hit the ATM before you go…. although this isn’t a terribly expensive meal.

Felidia

If Mario is the King of Italian cooking, Lidia Bastianich is the Queen. This charming townhouse on the Upper East Side has been open since 1981 and still serves what is likely some of the best Italian food in America. With a menu that can lean toward rustic Italian fare, Felidia has become a special occasion spot (or for those on a company expense account) as the quality of the food can command the prices… recognizing this, the restaurant now features excellent Prix-Fixe options at lunch and dinner which can ease the wallet pain. Don’t Miss: Veal Osso-Buco here is an out of body experience. Warning: It ain’t cheap, but nothing on this level is.

CHINESE

It feels as if there are a million Chinese places in NYC. And all of them deliver to your house. But strange enough, a few really stick out as being truly special. Incredibly authentic and overall spectacular. If you are in NYC and are craving the real deal, you can’t miss with any of these….

Szechuan Gourmet

Quite possibly the best Chinese food in Manhattan, period. You’d never guess it from peeking through the window, but the freshness of the ingredients and the amazing dishes make it’s competitors look like rookies. This is where you can find the best noodles in NYC, and also order duck tongue, sliced conch, tea smoked duck and frog. Getting the picture? OK, so you don’t have to be so adventurous… you can order the sliced pork belly with leeks (think the best bacon you have ever put in your mouth), shredded pork with chives or wok-fried lobster and stay on the beaten path. Don’t Miss: the pork belly is really all that. Warning: they like it spicy here, so make sure you understand the heat level before you order. Special note: last time I was in this place, Sara Jessica and Matthew were inhaling some type of tofu dish that looked incredible….


Wu Liang Ye

I learned about this place soon after I moved to NYC, and have been bringing people there ever since. My first notion that this was authentic, was when I was seated and quickly realized I was the only person from this continent in the restaurant. Like Szechuan Gourmet, Wu features fantastic authentic dishes, but excels in dumplings…. mainly their famous pork dumplings in chili sauce, although I know people who fly across the country to eat their Dan Dan Noodles with minced pork chili vinaigrette. You can get the tea smoked duck here, terrific fish, scallops and shrimp everyway imaginable… but I stick to the basics here and am never disappointed. Don’t Miss: the Dan Dan noodles… are you kidding? Warning: the location by Rockefeller Plaza tends to be the better of the two in NYC, so choose wisely.

Mee Noodle

You’re in NYC. You’re starving. You’re nearly broke. Welcome to Mee Noodle.

My love affair with Mee dates back nearly 15 years… but their food remains solid. The menu alone may be worth the trip, as you can get anything and everything (especially in the noodle world) every-which-way you can imagine. But what really excels here are the soups and noodle dishes, which are fired about 10 feet behind the tiny dining room. Don’t Miss: “Little Bit Of Everything Noodle Soup”, noodles on sizzling platters and scallion pancakes. Warning: the menu is overwhelming…. Bring friends and share. ** super affordable!


EVERYTHING ELSE

If I don’t start to cut this off now, this blog entry will turn into a novella, so I’ll list a few more places that will make your trip uber-special,keep it brief, and pay no attention to genre…..

‘inoteca

The wine and small plate masterpiece is still thriving in the East Village and recently opened a new locale near Chelsea. The wines are supurb, the food fresh and amazing… and it feel like a true NYC original…. even though our friends in Barcelona have been eating this way for 500 years. If you don’t eat the truffled egg toast, you have wasted a trip.

Lupa

Mario’s village mainstay remains terrific and the food inventive and consistent. New hours keep the kitchen open all day.

Da Umberto

Owned by an amazing Italian family, this pricy but charming Chelsea tratorria can sometimes serve NY’s best Italian food.

Craft

You know it, you love it. The mushroom menu alone (crispy hen of the woods? Are you kidding me?) is worth the trip, but this restaurant never disappoints in any way, shape or form.

Minar

Where else can you eat an amazing Indian dinner for under 10 bucks? Fresh hot Naan bread, the best chicken tikka in NYC, and a selection of biriyani dishes that I crave constantly.

Maffei’s Pizza

It’s a dump. A dive. On a corner. And oh yea, they serve the best “grandma’s slice” on the planet. Think crunchy, buttery crust smothered in san marzano sauce and homemade mozzarella. See ya there.

Maoz

If falafel is your thing, well, it just doesn’t get any better. I use to frequent the Amsterdam store when traveling in Europe, and low and behold, here they are with two stores in NYC! Love love love it.

Minetta Tavern

You can’t get in, so disregard this. But if somehow you do, get the Minetta burger and the potatoes fried in duck fat. Good lord.

Chicken and Rice Cart at 53rd and 6th

Bizarre I would include a street cart, but when you are as famous as this place is, well you deserve inclusion. The chicken and rice dish here is unreal… a container of spicy rice, topped with curry-grilled boneless chicken, topped with a white-sauce that isn’t of this planet and a shot of the spicy stuff to wake you up. If you see a line that stretches around the block at 3am, that’s the place.... and uh, they have their own website.

Otto

I know, I know, I include a lot of Mario’s places… but when you have an Italian wine list like this, you must be on the list. The cheeses drizzled in truffle infused honey doesn’t hurt, either.

Bouley

This would be your “we’re celebrating our anniversary in NYC” dinner. Bouley recently moved locations, but happily has retained it’s magic. This is high quality stuff… and you pay for it.

Blue Ribbon Bakery

Where else can you get food this quality at 2am? Nowhere. Blue Ribbon stays on course for being the best option… almost anytime… with great food and a hip scene. But make no mistake about it… however impressed you are with the menu….it has always been about the fried chicken.


Well my fellow foodies, there you have it.... my don't miss tourist list of 2010. Well, of March 2010, anyway. Have fun out there and experience the best that NYC has to offer... and drop me a line to let me know what you thought!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Kesté the Best Pizza In New York?

Grab Your Bottle of Tums, This Is Gonna Get Fun


It’s undeniable. The NYC pizza wars have begun. Again.

And what a time it is. Gone is the local argument about “who has the best slice”….. about “who has the best sauce”….. about “where was the original Ray’s”.

Instead, the conversation has transformed itself into pizza styles, dough and oven temperatures. Trust me, this is good news for you and me.

Don’t fret, your neighborhood slice isn’t going anywhere. But what has evolved in the city is the birth of truly Italian pies, that only a short time ago could only be found on your romantic trip to Italia.

The new trend in NYC pizza has steered away from the 18” pepperoni slice to what most label as “Neapolitan” style pies. No, the Neapolitan pie isn’t new to NYC… but the hype is. Eating trends have shifted to plate sized pizza, and waiting in the wings are a handful of true Neapolitan pie makers who are now reaping the benefits. One of the best? Kesté.

To a pie maker from Naples, Neapolitan style pizza is the only style of pizza that they consider authentic. All others are imposters, or experimental. The Neapolitan pizza is limited to very pure ingredients, tomatoes grown in the Mt. Vesuvius region, and to a perfect blend of simple ingredients that create a dough that can be hand crafted and baked at uber-high temps. Make no mistake about it… this is where the Margherita Pizza was born, and served with red (sauce), white (cheese) and green (basil) ingredients to the Queen herself, who dubbed it her favorite food. Serious stuff.

What may really set these pizzas’ apart may lie on the bottom. As San Marzano sauce and homemade mozzarella go, there isn’t a huge variation. It’s all good. But in the crust, lies fame. And the crust at Kesté is fantastic.

Yes, the pies have fantastic combinations and killer ingredients…. homemade Italian sausage… mushrooms…. lardo…eggplant… it’s all there. But the hand crafted crust, baked between 700 and 800 degrees in a brick oven, produces a special “char” that gives the pizza a smoky, authentic flavor that is indigenous to the Napoli region. Creating crust like this is an art form.

Simply said, it’s the real deal… and delicious.

But is there better pizza out there?

Well, yes. I firmly believe that the best pizza in America is being made not in New York, but in Los Angeles at Pizzeria Mozza, who also specializes in Neapolitan pizza… and use a wood fired oven to cook their magic pies. The biggest difference to me is Mozza’s crust, that tastes almost like something you’d expect to come out of a pastry shop…. chewy, crunchy and almost buttery. It’s really that good.

But that’s an opinion… truth be told, overall LA has horrible pizza. New Yorkers are blessed with everything from John’s, to Patsy’s, to Di Fara, to Motorino… well, you name it. This is the best pizza city in America, bar none.

So get out there, and experiment yourself. And pay attention to the crust, will ya? The folks at Kesté are nailing it.


Kesté

271 Bleecker St., nr. Morton St.; 212-243-1500


+ authentic Neapolitan pizza, served by guys with thick Italian accents

+ fantastic ingredients and combinations

+ not crazy expensive and fairly fast service


- tight, itty bitty space

- just salad and pizza, that’s it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Balthazar: NYC to Paris In 1 Hour

Say What You Will, McNally's Gem Still Shines in Soho


When the weather reaches 45 degrees in January in New York, you take advantage of it.

For me, this usually means a restaurant trip of some kind, followed by a neighborhood jaunt and some gratuitous shopping. When I’m hungry for a nice simple steak, this means I’m on the hunt for steak frites at one of a jillion NYC bistros.

Last weekend was just that weekend for me… and to get some ideas, I looked to Eater.com’s list of “Top 38 Essential NY Restaurants” for inspiration. This is list that is under constant fire mind you… but what most NY foodies don’t read is the title…. “essential” doesn’t always mean “the best”. It simply means that NY wouldn’t be NY without them. Of course, if they weren’t doing something right, they wouldn’t be on this list…. but New Yorkers love to debate, and especially over who has the best what. Most of the time, they are right.

On that list of 38, and ranked highly I might add, is the essential, and quintessential Parisian bistro Balthazar.

Tucked away in Soho, Balthazar has the look and feel of a bistro that has been around for decades… when in fact McNally opened in 1997. This is actually a good thing, as Balthazar has something going for it that maybe no other bistro in NY has… it’s ability to transport you to Paris. There. I said it.

For some, this is a minus and not a plus…. but for any of you thinking of a trip to Paris in the near future – this is a replica of what a real Parisian bistro feels like. Nice size room, loud, incredibly cramped, fast impersonal service, solid food. The recipe for success. And only a five minute walk to Patagonia, where you can drop $200 on a sweater/coat thingy.

At the end of the day, what really makes Balthazar authentic… is the food. Not only does the menu replicate that of a Parisian bistro… it tastes like a Parisian bistro. Eggs, chicken, salads, soups, seafood, you name it – it’s there. Along side my steak frites.

On this day, we called ahead to make a reservation… lunch on a Saturday mind you…. and avoided an hour wait at 12:30. Not that the hour would have been hard to kill with the MOMA Design Store across the street, as well as Sur La Table. But on this day, we were hungry and were looking forward to a great lunch.

To get started, I ordered a hot bowl of bubbling goo, known at Balthazar at their French Onion Soup. I can usually tell how good a bistro will be by ordering this soup – and this bowl didn’t disappoint. The gruyere was mild and creamy, the soup rich and full of onions, and the homemade crouton spongy and delicious.

My companion ordered the Balthazar salad, a mix of greens, veggies and cheese tossed in a truffle vinaigrette. Two thumbs up.

For lunch, as you have now guessed, we ordered the Steak Frites… both medium… knowing that in a real French bistro, this would mean the steak would be medium rare at best. We were right, and they were perfect.

The steak frites lived up to their billing. The steak hearty and tender with great flavor, and the frites deep fried in duck fat. Yes, duck fat. Heaven. Béarnaise on the side completed the experience.

The deserts looked delicious, but at this point we were stuffed, and fairly annoyed at the French family sitting to our right, who’s manners had deteriorated beyond belief. Even the German couple to our left began starring them down. Ouch.

But on this day, the plusses certainly outweigh the minuses, and we are thrilled with our choice… and our mini-trip back to Paris. Balthazar has quenched both cravings in one day. And we got to shop for a new wisk, too.

BALTHAZAR

80 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 965-1414

www.balthazarny.com

+ authentic bistro

+ solid food, from morning to late at night

+ this is where the beautiful people eat

- it’s noisy, all the time

- I felt as if I was sitting in a toddler chair

- french tourists act like the own the place