Thursday, July 27, 2006

In Case You Missed It, Again!

Because You Just Can't Remember It All......

Working too hard? Head in the clouds? Wondering what’s happening in the NYC culinary scene?

Time to catch up.

Every Bite With A Krunch
As if we didn’t need yet another pizza joint, the folks at Krunch Pizza Bar have opened their slender outlet to raves on the East Side… and with thin and crispy pies packed with items like proscuitto, polpetti (meatballs), shrimp and homemade mozzarella… a cab ride over may not be such a bad idea (2nd Ave btw 51st and 52nd)

She’s Back! She’s Back!

My vision of loveliness, the dear old polish woman who runs First Avenue Pierogie and Deli has returned from her annual trip to Eastern Europe, and is again making some of the best pierogie in the city. Keep in mind these little gems are to go, but all you need is a skillet and a stick of butter to transport yourself to Warsaw for the afternoon. (1st Ave btw 7th and St. Marks)

Polish Oasis
Speaking of pierogie, if you can’t wait and need them asap, there may be no better (or cheaper) place to get your fix than Neptune, the campy polish diner on the lower east side. What many people don’t know is that Neptune has a lush, relaxing garden out back and is a wonderful refuge on just about any summer afternoon or evening. And more importantly, they pan fry their pierogie to crispy perfection… and don’t deep fry like the other pretenders in the neighborhood (Veselka). (1st Ave at 12th)

All The Rage

Yes, chicken is exciting stuff and word has it that the folks at Dirty Bird To Go are doing it right. With double-dipped free range, slow-roasted and tasty fingers (no doubt an idea spawned by the success of Cane’s Chicken Fingers, the Baton Rouge phenomenon now sweeping the nation), those lucky enough swing by have been happy happy. Throw in a side of dirty rice, mac n’ cheese and cornbread and things can get downright silly. (7th Ave near 14th)

Is the Secret Out?
It wasn’t long ago that taco lovers were whispering the praises of La Esquina, the cooler-than-all-get-out Mexican joint near Nolita… but now?
Well, let’s just say that the secret door (see photo) that leads to the underground dining room brimming with pulled pork tortas and chorizo and potato tacos may no longer be a secret, but none the less, the food is happening and the scene is just downright cool. Bring an out-of-towner and freak ‘em out. (Kenmare at Lafayette)

When Godiva Just Won’t Do

Without anyone knowing it, NYC has turned into a chocolate Mecca. Jaques Torres may be the king, and Godiva may be in every neighborhood… but the best may lie in an Upper West Side boutique… Scharffen Berger. The stuff is likely the finest grade made in the US, and is sworn by famous chefs everywhere. Bakers swoon, but now you too can drop by and see for yourself. The difference? Scharffen Berger imports their own cacao beans and roasts them in small batches… resulting in a process as delicate as wine making. It really is that good… although, the chocolate covered Cheerios that Torres makes are as good as anything you’ll ever put in your mouth. (Amsterdam at 83rd)

Bits and Pieces
The Farmers Market at Rockefeller Plaza continues through mid-August with an array of fresh fruits and veggies, homemade pies, pretzen, plants and wines. Impress your co-workers.. swing over and buy a piece of fruit..... Is Olympic Pita in Brooklyn the owner of the best shwarma plate in NYC?.... they have many convinced..... Panya Bakery is your best opportunity to try japanese breads, and they do them well.... the Upper West Side's PizzaBolla continues to dish out super thin crust pizza, without the grease.... speaking of UWS, has anyone gone to Loft?...


I was in Michigan a few weeks ago, feeding a large group. As I usually cook Louisiana specialties, I pulled a recipe from my vault, that I have adored forever.

As you know, New York has it's subs, Chicago has it's Italian Beef, Philly it's Cheesesteak... and Louisiana, it's PoBoys. One of my favorites, is a traditional New Orleans Roast Beef PoBoy. It is melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked beef, piled onto fresh french bread, and topped with thinly shredded cabbage and sour pickles... covered in gravy and beef debris. I just can't keep this to myself any longer. From the NOLA archives. Enjoy.

Roast Beef Po’ Boy with Debris Gravy Recipe

For the Roast:
1 Beef Chuck Roast (this one was 2 ½ pounds)
2 Garlic Cloves thinly sliced
Kosher Salt & Black Pepper
3 Tbsp Lard or Vegetable Oil
1 Small Onion, Diced
1 Small Carrot, Diced
1 Cup Beef Stock
1 Cup Chicken Stock
Water if necessary
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Hot Sauce
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Fresh Bay Leaf
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Cut small slits into the roast, about every 3 inches, try not to pierce all the way to the bottom. Stuff the sliced garlic into the slits.
Season the Roast very liberally on all sides with the Salt & Black Pepper, season with Cayenne to your taste, I don’t use much.
Heat the fat in a heavy bottomed Dutch Oven over high heat, when the oil starts to smoke, wait a few more seconds, then carefully add the Roast cut side down. Brown very well on all sides, without burning it. Remove to a plate.
Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of the fat in the pan, add the onions and carrots, cook until the onions just start to brown, place the roast back in the pan, then add the stocks. Finish, if necessary, with enough water to bring the cooking liquid 3/4 of the way up the roast. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer. Simmer covered for 3-4 hours or until the meat falls apart by staring at it.

For the Debris Gravy:
Carve the meat into very thin slices, it will be hard to do and will fall apart, that is good. All of the bits and pieces, that fall off are your Debris (pronounced DAY-bree.) Add all of the bits and chunks to you cooking liquid after skimming off the fat from the surface, keep the carved meat with a little liquid on a warm plate, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Bring the gravy to a full boil and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Po’ Boy:
New Orleans Style French Bread (Po’ Boys are generally about 9-10 inches long per sandwich. As you can see I made mine a bit smaller, shame on me.) Cut the bread 3/4 of the way through leaving a hinge (as seen in the background of the pic.) I find the hinge makes for slightly, easier eating.
Shredded Lettuce (or Cabbage a la Mothers)
Roast Beef (see above)
Debris Gravy

Slather the bread with a very generous portion of Mayonnaise on the inside of the upper and lower halves. Place about a cup of Shredded Lettuce on the bottom half. Cover the lettuce with a generous portion of the “sliced” Beef. Drown the beef with Debris Gravy.

Grab a stack of napkins, a cold beer and enjoy (and call Andre, as you need help eating all of this).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Quality Meats: The Miracle On 58th

The New Kid In Midtown Gets It Right... In A Big Way.

When it’s great, it’s great.

Quality Meats is not just great… it’s out of this world.

One of my pet peeves in this life is going to restaurants that get to the 1 yard line and don’t get into the end zone… you know, the details. One thing is great, another sub-par, another not so good. I think to myself “if they would just do a few things different.. what an experience this would be.”

Well, before Quality Meats opened it’s doors, someone sat down and figured it out. And they got it right.

Let’s start at the door.

Upon entering this funky, industrial space… you notice the uber-cool light bulbs hanging from the exposed ceiling. The darkish lounge area is highlighted by a small bar and a few seating areas. Cozy.

At first glance, most places this stylish are telling you that your food is going to be average. But as I turned my head I noticed something that would end that theory in its tracks. A prosciutto bar.

Oh yea. I’m not kidding. A 6-seat thing of beauty, with a guy slicing fresh ham, salame, coppa, bresaola and spicy sopressata. If the meats don’t quite do it for you, there are fresh cheeses, including a Manchego, a Humboldt Fog and a Cabrales. Homemade potato chips and cheese condiments complete the bar, as if it needed additional greatness.

I knew then we’d likely have a killer meal.

After a frosty Ketel One Martini, we were met in the lounge and escorted to our table.. and I must admit, I was shocked at the size of the space. What looked to be a one room, typically smallish steak house opened into a 2-story masterpiece… with a wine bottle-encased stairway in the middle of the space. This climb led to an upstairs dining room, well appointed and full of hungry meat eaters.

Our table was set perfectly, with a crisp, white lined tablecloth sporting the embroidered initials “QM”. Detail is everything.

We were quickly greeted by our server, and presented with wine and meal options. This was going to get tough, as the wine list and menu are jammed full of winners.

The dinner menu includes a small selection of regional oysters on the half shell, but I opted for the Lobster Cocktail… a half chicken lobster, cracked and served with several unique sauces. Truth be told, the lobster was so delicious, I skipped the sauces altogether.

Additional starters and appetizers include shellfish bouquets, steak tartare, crabcakes, amazing salads, corn chowder, scallops and soft shell crabs… but the standout was not to be topped.

Roasted bone marrow.

Now, if you haven’t indulged in this gem, let me convince you to do so. It is a taste and experience not to be missed… and Quality Meats does a great job. On the platter with the two roasted meat bones, are a gathering of crispy toast points and a small dish of pork tasso and herbs. Now I know why my dog Coltrane freaks out when I walk through the door with one of these from the butcher. If he could talk, he’s have me pop these bones in the oven and slice up some bread. This is good stuff.

About this time, a gentleman with a small, wheeled cart rolled along side the table, and began to make a tableside steak sauce. Yes, you read it correctly. Homemade, tableside steak sauce. Into the motar and pestle went a bevy of ingredients, including freshly sniped rosemary and thyme, garlic, tomato and orange puree, a raisin paste along with a few other items. Before we knew it, we were slathering the stuff on just about anything we could put our hands on. Detail is everything.

Shortly after the steaks arrived, and didn’t disappoint. I had a butterflied Filet Minon, cooked perfectly. This steak was tender and full of flavor… and I soon learned that I wouldn’t need a knife to cut it.

Alongside, we opted for 2 of 9 mouthwatering side dishes…. the Corn Crème Brulee, and Gnocchi and Cheese. Both were terrific and different, and not just for the sake of being so. Next time, we’ll choose from Buttered Edamame with Mint Salt, 3 different varities of potatoes, and market fresh onions, spinach, zucchini and asparagus.

Have I mentioned to you that I love this place?

For you fish mongers, Quality Meats carries a nice selection of fresh fish, including Tuna, Sole, Halibut and Salmon. We didn’t indulge, but I would guess that I would have been happy with just about any of these as well.

Not having room for dessert, I ordered anyway… a rhubarb crumble “pie of my own” with homemade vanilla ice cream. It was spectacular (all 4 bites), and next time I’ll make a greater effort to save room for this course, as the dessert menu looked to be carefully crafted. The pie list included a Key Lime, Banana Cream and Pecan Bourbon Chocolate Chunk… along with four delectable tarts. The special was a cantaloupe sherbert… highlighting a list of mouthwatering ice creams including Blueberry Pie and Coffee and Donuts. These are also sold by the quart.

As the night drew to a close, the leftovers were wrapped to take home. At Quality Meats, the take home goodies are not carted back to the table to sit on the floor, but rather delivered to the coat check room to be picked up as we exited for the evening. Detail is everything.

There may be flaws at this midtown newcomer, but if there are I couldn’t find them on my first visit. This experience is what dining out is meant to be… putting your faith and dollars in someone else’s hands and letting them do their thing. Deliver a perfect experience. It’s not cheap, but few things in this city worth raving about are. The only thing I’ll do for sure next time is call well in advance for reservations.

Quality Meats

57 W 58th St
New York 10019
Btwn 5th & 6th Ave

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cité : New York’s Best Deal?

This Is A Deal You Simply Won’t Believe…

New Yorkers love deals.

It’s true. Sure, they won’t overpay for a cup of coffee downstairs in the deli, but they will ride the subway into the next borough to save $1.00 on a chicken taco. You gotta love that. Moxie.

I too love to seek dining deals… and every once in a while, I hit the jackpot. Earlier this year I discovered a deal that I thought was too good to be true… and over the weekend I visited again to reaffirm my initial belief. This you won’t believe.

I was wrong. It’s true. It’s really true.

New York City’s best dining value lies on 51st between 6th and 7th at the restaurant “Cité”.

Now you can find Prix Fixe dinners all over town, and then some. They are all just about the same, give or take a terrine of foie gras, or a roasted beet salad. But name me one restaurant that includes your wine. Uh, all you can drink.

Let me repeat that. All you can drink.

Welcome to the wine dinner at Cité.

This gem of an offer used to be an “after 8pm bonus” the restaurant used to lure late diners, and get the word out about the joint. But after tremendous success and rampant word-of-mouth advertising, Cité has made this a nightly affair…. anytime you wish…. all summer long.

What makes this such a great deal is that you don’t order off of a “wine dinner” menu…. you order from the real thing… the same menu everyone is gazing at. You get to choose and appetizer, and entrée and a dessert.

At my table Saturday evening (reserve early and plan to stay late) one diner started with Pan Fried Crab Cakes… followed by Seared Tuna… and wrapped it up with Red Velvet Cake. Another guest started with Grilled Calamari, followed by a dry-aged Ribeye… and a Truffle Brownie Sundae.

Me?..... Homemade Potato Gnocchi in a citrus cream, the petite Ribeye Frités… and the Rice Pudding Crème Brulée. Uh, the petite Ribeye is 14 ounces… plenty of food for even a big appetite.

Of course, the menu also includes rack of lamb, beef short ribs, a Neiman Ranch pork chop, wild salmon, several choice pastas and fresh fish and scallop options. Worry not, you’re going to find something that strikes a chord.

But enough about the food. Let’s talk about the wine.

You get at minimum 4 wines during the evening. The night always starts with a very nice bottle (or bottles) of champagne.. and we enjoyed the Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut NV. The bubbly is usually followed by a nice white (with your appetizer). Our white was a nice pinot grigio, the Sartori Pinot Grigio 2004…and was light and delicious. This was followed by 2 reds… first, a vintage (Nickel & Nickel Rock Cairn 2000) that was complex and well structured. But before getting through half of this glass, the champion of the evening… a huge, brassy red (Chateauneuf du Pape Vieux Lazaret 2003) hit the table and quickly stole the show. This was not a cheap wine, and before we knew it, we had polished of a few bottles.

The beauty of the wine dinner, is that you can have as much of or as little of each wine offered. If you want champagne all evening, you get champagne all evening. If you want to speed up to the reds, no problem. And again, these are bottomless glasses. You simply drink all you can handle.

You would think that this deal would include sub-par wines… but on both of my visits, I found the wines to be excellent… along the lines of a bottle I would purchase for a special dinner in my own home, or to present as a thoughtful gift. They were well-balanced and well-selected. There is thought here, and it shows through the nightly selections as well as the well crafted menu.

The price? Hold on to your hat. $69.00 a person.

Yes, $69.00.

So, let’s do some math. Crab Cakes… $14.00…. Filet Minon… $41.00…. Crème Brulée… $9.00….. add tax, blah, blah, blah,…. I get $75 bucks. This means…. you make a reservation at Cité….you order a great dinner…. and drink all the wine you can, for free. Free.

Cité is not Balthazar, nor Cirque. But it is a charming, fun and substantial experience, with the best wine deal in town. Make a reservation, and bring friends. And cab fare… it’s going to be a long night.


120 W 51st St, New York 10020
Btwn 6th & 7th Ave

AmEx, MC, Visa, Disc, DC, JCB


Weekdays: 12pm-3pm
Daily: 5pm-11:30pm
Cite Grill Lunch
Daily: 11:30am-5pm
Cite Grill Dinner
Mon-Sat: 5pm-11:30pm

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

One Nice Slice

NY's Best Pizza Slice Is Giving The Others The Boot!

I love NY pizza.

I love the gourmet stuff, the simple stuff, the cheesy stuff, the greasy stuff… you name it. And believe you me, NYC is not resting on its pizza laurels. Over the past few years, the NYC slice has undergone a transformation, and it’s getting fun watching the creativity spill into the streets of Manhattan.

The first new trend in pizza??... local restaurants are now taking the stuff seriously. It wasn’t long ago when pizza was considered fluff on a menu at a nice Italian restaurant. Today, wood burning ovens are turning out thin, crispy roman style pies topped with everything from pork cheeks to arugula. Thank our friend Mario Batali for this…. some of the best restaurant pies in the city can be found at his hot spot, Otto.

The next trend is that of the regular slice. Sure, you can still find the slice, but next to it you’ll find a pizza topped with chicken and broccoli, eggplant, veal parm… and get this… pasta. Yes, a pizza topped with penne.

Also finding a home across the city is the square, thick and sweet “Mama’s Slice”… a San Marzano style square of pan style pizza, topped with delectable tomatoes and fresh cheese. This is really growing on me.

But through it all, I have found (as of today) what I think is simply the best slice of pizza in New York… and believe it or not, it’s not a traditional slice.

The boys at “Two Boots” Pizza in New York have done the impossible (Two Boots as in Italy and Louisiana being shaped like a boot). They have won the hearts and stomachs of New Yorkers with a special slice of pizza coming from a menu of unique toppings… and a super crunchy corn meal crust. If they only had a store on the Upper West Side.

“Two Boots” has a full menu of named pies, to help you find their best sellers. The Larry Tate (spinach, tomatoes, garlic and ricotta), The Devine (Tasso, Onions and Jalapeños), The Big Maybelle (Chicken, Pepperoni, Garlic on a white pie)… well you get the picture. But for my money, the best pizza in NYC at the moment, is The Newman.

The Newman… sopressata, sweet Italian sausage, ricotta and mozzarella. Killer. The slices are humongous, but the whole pie is the way to go. Simply put, you’ll want more.

What makes the pizza great is the finely ground Italian sausage… and fresh ricotta. When you ground sausage fine, you get to taste the real ingredients… the spices and pork. The crust on these pizzas are so well made and firm, that you can often hold the slice by the crust without it faltering an inch. Love that.

For those who like spicy, there is an interesting Bayou Beast pie that includes shrimp, crawfish and tasso. I love the idea of this, and like this pie… although I have found the shrimp to be less than fresh on occasion. That said, if the ingredients are fresh, this is also a good option (have water nearby).

Alas, you can build your own at “Two Boots”… and get your dream pie. They have killer ingredients, and midtown delivery is prompt.

So there you have it. Sure, I may change my mind (and believe me, I am a Bleeker Street Pizza loyalist)…. But today, my favorite slice is that unconventional “Newman” slice by our friends at Two Boots. Drop by and taste for yourself.

For more, go to and find a store in Manhattan.... and think of me when you crunch on that first bite!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

In Case You Missed It

Things Every NYC Foodie Should Know... and Then Some

this is an ongoing segment that will appear
at random during the run of this blog... enjoy!

Fancy Schmancy
Lincoln Plaza Theatres not only serves popcorn, but sells fresh salmon, gourmet sandwiches and Lindt Chocolate. So long Milk Duds. (Broadway btw 62 and 63)

Certain Hangover
Gabriella's, the mexican joint brought to you by the company that owns Artie's and Carmines, sells their shots of Patron Silver in hi-ball glasses with 3 limes... it's not one, but three shots.... uh, you're calling in sick tomorrow. (Columbus at 93rd)

Show Me The Money
Yes, The Rink Bar at Rockefeller Plaza is expensive, but you can avoid the ATM machine if you hit their happy hour on Fridays, when selected cocktails including their Margaritas are $6. (50th btw 5th and 6th)

Simplicity Strikes
Fairway Cafe, the delightful dining spot above the famed grocery store, will change its menu after July 5th, moving to a Prix Fixe deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $37 smackers. Of course, they'll continue serving their delicious steaks... which many consider to be the best on the Upper West Side. Their French Fries are legendary. (Broadway at 73)

How Cool Are You?
Vietnamese sandwiches may be the next "piadina" type craze to whoo New Yorkers.... but you can get ahead of the crowd by dropping $4 bones at Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches on your own "bahn mi". Yes, they are really that good. (E. 2 btw A and B)

Please Don't Tell
At $9.95, the Steak Tips bar appetizer may still be the best deal in NYC at the overpriced Del Friscos Steakhouse. Even though the drinks are pricy, the view of the room from the bar is delightful and the tender Filet Mignon and perfect mashed potatoes make you feel as if you are stealing a meal from "the man". (6th Ave at49)

Make A Run For The Border
Calle Ocho, the post-trendy UWS hang and dine, is serving 5 different summer sangrias... but possibly the city's best baha tacos served pu-pu platter style in the bar. The small, homemade corn tortillas are the bomb. (Columbus and 81)

Finally, Someone Is Thinking
If you can't get enough Kraft Mac n' Cheese out of the blue box, your cheesey dreams have come true. S'Mac has opened in the Lower East Side, with a menu of nothing but decadent versions of yes, Mac n' Cheese. By the way, if you don't like their Cheeseburger, brie, manchego, goat or cajun varieties, you can build-your-own..... (E. 12th near 1st)

Deals For the Taking
The new food site highlights restaurant deals across the city... so you can save the $21 bucks you are gonna need for that movie you need to flip for, too.

and Andre's Fast Bites......

Open since 1952, Poseidon Bakery (9th btw 44/45) crafts their authentic baklava and spinach pies with filo dough they make by hand.... Cosi, the NYC fast food outlet may have one of the better bowls of gumbo you can eat in Manhattan, and thats coming from a Louisiana kid.... Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery (Houston btw 1/2) has not 5 or 10, but over 20 varieties of Knish to try... of which you can wash down witha real egg cream or lime rickey..... Beard Papa has moved their cream puff business to the Upper West Side and is selling their crack-like goodies on Broadway..... Starbucks nows sells their iced coffee blends to go, so you can brew, ice and consume at home... speaking of coffee, McDonald's new premium coffees are a huge improvement over the hot, black sink water they were use to slinging....