New York Giveth and New York Taketh

13 10 2009

OK, long time no ROM blog. This is due, in part, to the fact that beloved Persimmon restaurant has gone down in flames and it’s got me down. Well, not literal flames but shortly after I posted, it became, I suppose, yet another victim of the economy. And if it’s not hipsters running back to their wealthy suburban parents then I’m not laughing. Oh Persimmon. I swear, sometimes New Yorkers know dick about food. Why is it that every Saturday I see a line like 30 deep at Clinton Street Bakery? THEY’RE JUST PANCAKES PEOPLE!  I walked in there once looking for a croissant when I lived on Clinton Street in back in 2001. ‘Oh, it’s a sit-down restaurant,’ I thought to myself, ‘why do they call it a bakery?’ Needless to say there were no croissants. Savages. Man, people love to come to New York to wait on lines & go to the next “it” place.

Look at the lemmings

Look at the lemmings

My point is not to shit on Clinton Street bakery. I’ve never eaten there. My point is some New Yorkers would wait on line to get punched in the face if they read it was the new hot shit in New York Times Magazine (because come ON, they’ve got their finger on the pulse). And then great places like Persimmon close down because no one goes there. On the same token, if Persimmon had been crawling with douche bags, beating each other down with their Louis Vuitton bags to get in, I would never have given it a chance. *SIGH* you can’t win.

On a happy note, my beloved bakery Panya that closed down bringing me close to tears is RE-OPENING! Oh, happy day. It looks like the they’re taking over the entire space that used to belong to Around the Clock.  Maybe that’s what the cryptic sign on the door said (well, cryptic to me since I can’t read Japanese). I should have called Dan Brown to decode it, it would have eased the pain.  Panya was the perfect neighborhood place. A lot of people knew about it, it had reasonable prices, the service was friendly and you didn’t have to wait in line with a bunch of jackasses. I hope that it doesn’t get overrun upon it’s re-opening. Although in the meantime I’ve been lucky that cafe Zaiya is close and I can get my red bean buns there in the meantime. Truth be told their spicy tuna bun is better than the one at Panya.

But seriously though? You can’t trust the system.


10 Min Din

31 07 2009

I was leaving the office when the sky decided to throw up on me. Amazingly, I was able to get a cab (sometimes a girl’s gotta live a little) and as the cabbie made his slow way throw the wall of rain I realized that we didn’t have much food at home for dinner. I had him stop at Russo’s, this little Italian food store near my apartment. Don’t be fooled by the ignorant reviewers: I’m sure it beats your suburban strip mall and while it’ll do in a pinch  it ain’t no second coming: it’s pricey! I feel like people give it extra props for being near the tragically overrated Venieros. Plus, while their fresh mozzarella is good, their so-called “fresh” pasta is actually frozen. Having said that, I do like having this place around for things like last-minute ravioli (as tonight) and perhaps some tomato paste in a tube (lasts forever!) which can be hard to find.

Useful but not the second coming of Christ

Useful but not the second coming of Christ

I got some sun-dried tomato & cheese ravioli (’bout 6 bucks) which comes with 12 ravioli but is so rich that it works for three small servings. I got half a pound of fresh moz which was like 3 or 4 bucks and inquired after the sun-dried tomatoes since I was fixin’ to make mini pizzas and realized that while I had flatbread at home I had no tomatoes nor any other veggies to cut through the rich mozzarella. They were $10 a pound. GOOD LORD! But then I figured a little would go a long way. I clocked in at a total of $12 and made my way home not wanting to slave too long in front of a hot stove in my tiny kitchen. I was scheming on tossing the ravioli in some pesto I had at home [pesto recipe: 2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup good olive oil, handful walnuts, salt, blended with an immersion blender, add Parmesan cheese when using so it has a longer life in the fridge]. It would have been nice with a salad but sometimes in life, we don’t have veggies and sometimes, during such moments, you find yourself in the middle of a monsoon. Also I was hoping that the pita-like bread I’d bought last week, and the basil from my CSA pickup two weeks ago wasn’t too far gone to use. Lucky me! I mean, the bread sell-by date was far gone but it looked OK, nothing a little toasting couldn’t fix. And I was astounded to see that my basil had held on. Storing Basil: My mom taught me a trick for preserving fresh herbs that really works: clip the bottoms like you would flowers, wrap the stems in a moist paper towel and then put them in bag in the fridge- leave a little room for air, if it’s in a ziplock, leave it open a bit. See photo:

chillin in my kitchen

chillin in my kitchen

So I got my water boiling and my oven preheating at 450 and got to work. Realizing this dinner was going to be vegetarian, and knowing that hubby feels a vegetarian dinner is an exotic form of torture, I defrosted some pork belly we had in the freezer (uncured bacon essentially) figuring I’d get creative with it. So I threw it in a pan & let it get crispy. In the meantime I put together the mini pizzas. It’s probably important to note that the bread I used was Greek flatbread-  basically pita without the pocket [mini pizza recipe: pocketless flatbread,  thick slices of fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes in oil (nice, fresh tomatos (cherry!) work even better), red pepper flakes, salt, handful fresh basil torn by hand, olive oil, put four slices of cheese per flatbread and four tomatoes per pita, a sprinkle of salt, a sprinkle of red pepper, cook at 450 for 10 min, sprinkle torn basil when removing hot pizza from oven. ] I don’t like regular pita for pizza. Not only is it too thick, they’re something about that supermarket pita flavor that just doesn’t work for pizza.
While the pizza was cooking, I dropped the ravioli in boiling salted water. Meanwhile, I put a tablespoon of pesto into a non-stick pan and when the ravioli floated to the top (it’s done) I used a slotted spoon to remove them & tossed them around in the pan, I added a handful of grated mozzarella and about four or so tablespoons of the water I cooked the pasta in & gently swirled it all around, careful not to tear the raviolis. It should not be soupy or too oily just saucy (like yours true!). And with that, my dinner was done. For hub’s piggy version, I poured the oil off of the pan with the crispy pork belly & added a heaping tablespoon of pesto. I did the same thing as I did for my ravioli, tossing the pesto, ravioli, some cheese, pasta water and pork belly together.
The ravioli con puerco was a little rich for my taste though hubz seemed to dig it. I’d recommend it for those who really dig on the pig & the cheese. The pizza came out good too! The pocketless pita made a nice & crispy crust with no indication that it was on it’s way out only minutes before and the basil added a nice freshness to the cheesy fiesta. Basil goes on really nice at the end where the cheese will cook it a tad but it’s still full of flavor.
Some of us are still figuring out our camera

Some of us are still figuring out our camera

The oven preheat & water boiling time may have added on a few minutes (as did the sink full of dishes I had to wash before I began) but this was a truly quick, not so messy & lotta tasty dinner. Sometimes you don’t need to be fancy to eat fancy.

ROM Outing- Sigiri

24 04 2009

In economic times like these a thrifty lady really must have a couple of good BYOB places up here sleeve. Sigiri is certainly one of these.

In our happy world of ROM we busy friends get together, catch up, shoot the breeze and get old fashioned drizzzunk. But we’re not without our inner strife. The choice of Sri Lankan cuisine turned out to be surprisingly controversial. A ROMer(who shall remain anonymous) and fancies him/herself a person of the world, connoisseur of foods and goods produced by the world’s great cultures put his/her lavender-suede shod foot down and refused to partake: something about unpalatable aromas I believe. A rift ensued. Happily, full-on civil war was avoided when the Sri hater had to leave town so a smaller than usual contingent headed to 1st & 6th to find out what Sri Lankan cuisine is all about.

Get some Kingfishers downstairs & bring 'em on up!

Get some Kingfishers downstairs & bring 'em on up!

Around the corner from what used to be called “Curry Row” (6th Street between 1st & 2nd Ave.) but is looking markedly less curry these days, Sigiri is a flight of stairs up from street level. Conveniently it is located above a deli that has an impressive array of international beers including microbrews and a badass selection of Indian beers which would pair excellently with some of the spicy and fried offerings available at Sigiri. Don’t expect a fancy interior. Small and narrow, except for a nice window table it’s pretty cramped. We’re talking about brushing-up-against-waitstaff-on-the-way-to-the-bathroom cramped.  Don’t go with anyone with whom unintentional footsie would be awkward.

Tip: bring stuff that bubbles. Sigiri is a great place for people who likes a spice. Among the B that we brought there was a prosecco and some beer, these cut through the oil and spice of the appetizer sampler nicely. This platter featured an array of fried things that were difficult to distinguish but were quite delicious. With a crispy outside and a nice heat to it, the fish spring role was my favorite. The Gothamba roti was an unmistakable hit as well. The outside was crepe-like and delightfully chewy, the inside featured a sturdy combo of spicy veggies, heavy on potatoes with or without beef. I liked the veggie one better. It’s substantial and ripe for sharing.

The service was lovely. While not super prompt, our party arrived piecemeal and it was not easy to see when we were ready to order. Our waitress, who had a touch of what sounded like a London accent, caused one diner to say, “Yo, she’s like MIA she’ll kick your ass!” although nothing about her demeanor indicated that she was considering such a thing. The entrees require a bit of navigation. Due to the relatively spicy nature of Sri Lankan food, Sigiri offers different levels of heat for many of their entrees. The curry chicken at “medium” level was just right with a kick that complemented the coconut milk in the sauce. Meanwhile, the “very spicy” prawn curry was all heat and salt with little room to distinguish the flavors. The Sri Lankan stew is a hearty mix of vegetables in coconut sauce. While it had a nice flavor it was heavy and the beef inside proved dry: it is not the kind of dish you want to let get cold since it tends to congeal. Meanwhile, the simply prepared Sri Lankan vegetable (it was lotus root that night) was well prepared with just the right amount of coconut and for $7 is one of the best dinner deals for veggies. The Kotthu Roti was a unique dish featuring a shreaded roti (the chewy crepe mentioned before) stir fried with vegetables and meat and served heaped in a ball. It comes with a spicy (or not) broth to spoon on top. After a coupla drinks it seemed like a good idea to ladle the coconut beef stew on top. It was.

Kotthu Roti, touted as a "Sri-Lankan side-street specialty" on the menu. Wonder what the main-street specialties are?

Kotthu Roti, touted as a "Sri-Lankan side-street specialty" on the menu. Wonder what the main-street specialties are?

Sigiri is small enough that it’s a great place for two old friends to catch up and eat and drink cheap. It’s also good to come with a big group and order everything on the menu so you can sample it all and not worry about cardiac arrest when the check comes . . .  unless it’s from the stew. It’s nice to be fancy once in a while. But it’s also nice rock out without breaking the bank.

Cooking with Dog

26 03 2009
Cook with me!

Cook with me!

This post is coming straight out of computer hell as my computer is chock loaded with trojans and other lovelies. I think someone is breaking into my office at night to download porn. In fact, the word trojan is vaguely porn-y no? In any case . . . I’ve been lapsing in the posting but partly because of the realization that I need to get my digital camera up & running again so I took it to the shop. More fun stuff to come . . .

I’m a big fan of youtube for learning how to do stuff. Ever since I discovered Maangchi, which I mentioned in a previous post, I realized that youtube user generated content is a great way to learn things because you can seek out exactly what you want and find out how to do it. Also, since these videos tend to be amateur, there is little to no editing so you get to view the process from beginning to end. It’s funny because while I’ve never found cooking shows particularly helpful (although I still love ’em . . . BRING BACK JAPANESE IRON CHEF!), youtube cooking videos have changed my whole repertoire. You can watch them as many times as you need to and there’s nothing like running out of the kitchen with sauce all over you hands to replay a step you’re not quite sure about. That is if you can handle flour on your keyboard. If someone had told me I’d be making kimchi 6 months ago, I’d never have believed it but man, I’ve been churning it out! My Korean friends were floored because they weren’t sure ol’ round eye could pull it off, but I have more than one surprise up my sleeve when it comes to da kitchen. Check out Maangchi’s kimchi video here The kakdugi is slammin btw:

In a similar vein and as some of you may know, the East Village has been recently invaded with a slew of ramen restaurants. The real, honest to goodness stuff they eat in Japan. Many of them are delicious, but most of them can get crowded. We’ve decided that the best as far as quality of noodles is Ippudo on 4th avenue. But try getting a seat there man: Asians of all types come from far and wide for this junk. As a result of the crowding the service is bad, the food takes a long time, you’re awkwardly close to strangers and you risk having your orders confused (ours were when we went). So while the goods are good, the dining experience is subpar.  Check them out on Menupages here since their wesbite is fancy & takes a while to load. There has been a bit of explosion in Ramen Setagayas as they’ve opened branches in addition to the OG one on 2nd ave btw. 8th & 9th. There’s one on St. Mark’s and now one on University Place. Guess students like all types of Ramen, not just the ones called “Top.” We were excited about the opening of a ramen place on 14th & 1st ave (I thought it was called Kombu but can’t find anything online about it) nice and close to home. It’s good! However, it reminded us of our fave place Minca on 5th btw. A & B but with out any of it’s charm: the weird art, cute waitresses and yelly Japanese cooks. If you go to Minca get the spicy basic. Man, yumtown. Some people may be wondering why I have  not mentioned Momofuko. This is because I’m a hater. There are just way too many yuppies packed inside and with all the great restaurants in NYC I am always loathe to wait on lines. Waiting on lines is for tourists . . . and suckas.

Having said all of this, I’d like to share with you my latest discovery and inspiration for this post. In cruising youtube in search of underage girls, I mean cooking videos, I thought it’d be interesting to see one on making real-deal ramen. I got a little more than I bargained for in Cooking with Dog

Luckily the dog is not literally involved in the cooking process in any sense of the word, although I worry for him as he’s seated kind of close to the burner. The recipes are excellent, a touch on the complicated side since it’s real deal J-cooking and you’d really need to have access to a good Asian food store (M2M baby, they got it all! Although for this level of J-ness, Sunrise Mart may be in order) but it’s good stuff. And bizarre. I only wonder how they were able to travel back in time to the 70s to shoot those videos.

Cheap N’ Fancy

12 02 2009

Times is rough so I’m always on the lookout for a good happy hour. Thing is, to satisfy one’s thirst for the finer things in life, one either must be creative or have a hawk-eye for bargains. The following are two places in the East Village that I’ve turned to when a gal needs something a little bit above average for her palate.

Terroir, 413 E. 12th btw. 1st & A

Yummy wine! Beware of the sharp-elbowed yuppies

Yummy wine! Beware of the sharp-elbowed yuppies

While the fancy meets hipster sensibility is enough to make a gal’s stomach turn, the happy hour from 5-6 is worth leaving the office early for. This place really can get packed but you are certain to get a seat at happy hour. With 6 wines for $6 each (pretty sure it used to be $5), this is not the cheapest place to wash one’s work woes away but since wine at a bar often mean either the open bottle of Shaw your bartender digs up at your local watering hole, or $12 for a miserly pour, this ain’t a bad option. And the wine is fantastic. Also, it’s worth mentioning that this place services up tasty & creative little drinkie side-dishes and their olives are great. Be warned, coming here later in the evening often means being packed against yuppies of the loud and pink-shirted variety- despite the Bohemian sensibilities, you will not find any among the patrons. Also, it’s quite easy to run a tab that’s bigger than you bargained for. Website here, not recommended for those prone to seizures.

Back Forty, 190 Ave. B & 12th St.

Rustic, charming but see that little table on the right? Unless you're rolling 10 deep that's where you're sitting

Rustic. Charming. But see that little table on the right? Unless you're rolling 10 deep that's where you're sitting

People gush about this place: “local food!” “Great prices!” Meh. While the food is good enough, I find it’s a bit overrated as it really isn’t a huge bargain, nor are the cramped tables terribly comfortable. But this is a nice place to sit at the bar. Here the happy hour runs from the more reasonable hours of 6-8PM, as opposed to Terroir’s stingy 60 minutes, and the entire drink menu, more or less, is half off. The menu features 5 or so great microbrews served cold; at $3 each, it’s not too shabby but don’t expect a full pint. They have their own Back 40 wine from Long Island: the red is just OK, I haven’t had the white. As for the creative and delicious cocktails. My my! They’re good. On a recent night we had “The Back 40” which may have just changed my life: bourbon with lemonade and a splash of maple syrup. I might have to kill someone it was so good. Crappy cocktails are a dime a dozen and it seems like you have to pay at least $10 to get a decent one, $12 for call brands. At $4 a piece, I might have discovered a new vice. Happy hour used to include half-priced oysters which, tragically, we missed out on. Bar eats here are good though. When ordering off the menu for dinner, the problem is that their dishes are on the small side making a bit of an awkward dinner for two (unless you really just want to eat  four or five vegetable dishes or a main with no side, otherwise you rack up a bill quickly), but it makes for perfect bar snacking. The onion rings, with a light and crispy yet dense batter were about as good as onion rings get. The ginger-glazed donuts were warm and almost obscenely delicious. Website here. Their sister restaurant Savoy in SoHo has a similar culinary aesthetic but is a bit more precious.

So hold on to your pennies. Living the good life doesn’t mean lining up at the blood bank. Eat well, drink well!


23 01 2009

Businesses are closing left and right in my hood. But with the economy as it is, c’est la vie. I mean seriously, did you really think a high-end lingerie store on Avenue B was viable? Your bad. When I saw Around the Clock on 3rd avenue with a sign out that said “last day” I was a little surprised. I haven’t been there in years but it’s a good place for college students to get their cheap grub on & I’ve never turned my nose up at a cheap restaurant with a full bar (although their bloody mary’s were lacking if I remember correctly). However, when I walked by Panya this morning and saw its shuttered doors, I had to muffle a cry.


Say it ain't so!

Say it ain't so!

This little Japanese bakery was the jam! It had unique reasonably priced goods most of which I had tried and loved. Fresh red bean buns with black sesame on top (chunky & smooth varieties). All kinds of croissants in both whole wheat and regular including chocolate, spinach and cheese, chocolate and banana, almond . . . ok, I’ll stop. But what about the green tea biscotti? Or the green tea tiramisu even? The seasonal favorites filled with pumpkin cream? This is just too much for me in the morning.

Then I came across this which confirmed my greatest fears.

Their coffee wasn’t great but it was cheap. And the BAKED GOODS! Man. If there’s one thing I hate it’s sub-par baked goods. You will never catch me munching on some week-old blueberry muffin at a catered meeting. There’s really nothing worse. And let me tell ya, if the coffee shop you’re going to doesn’t have a bakery, that’s probably what you’re eating. I used to work at one! We’d keep stuff out for weeks! Some are, of course, worse than others but it’s often surprising who the offenders are. Those cute little places with great coffee and friendly servers . . . just use your eyes, if it looks old it prob is. I went to a place I like for coffee, sat at the bar and noticed that fruit flies were swarming under the glass lid that had been put over a plate of brownies. Glad I never ate there. Word to the wise, you’re often better off going to a place like Au Bon Pan for baked goods since at least you know they were made that day. That’s why when a great, independent bakery like Panya goes down, it’s a real tragedy.

Panya, I will dump my latte on the office carpet in your memory.