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.


Easy Good Food

28 08 2009

A comment got me thinking about why it’s worth bothering to document the construction of mini pizzas. I guess it’s because there’s stuff like this in the world:

This lady’s whole show, “Semi-Homemade” on Food TV is about making easy food. Normally it involves her using a lot of store-bought frosting. This, however, looks like an infected scab. Really? A whole show for this? I mean, I guess it’s easy to open a bunch of cans and slap a loaf together and sure, the ingredients didn’t cost that much but what about what happens to the human body when you consume whatever that thing is? (I’m not even going to open up the “taste” can here) Americans get fat, sick and die because they eat dog shit like this. And many don’t have adequate health care to fall back on when diabetes or morbid obesity catches up with them. Yes, if you take fresh mozzarella to the face three meals a day you too will get fat, however it’s about moderation. Plus it hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for 16 months. I like Michael Pollan’s rule of thumb that if your grandparents would not have recognized it as food, it should not be eaten (he gives “Go-gurt” as an example). What Sandra Lee cooks up is something our grandparents would likely have identified as a blood clot.

I think a lot about how little nutrition and food preparation education I received in New York City public schools and think it’s no wonder that Americans have the health problems that we do. Fresh produce does not have to be pricey. Chinatown is a perfect example: spinach for 50 cents, green onions at three bunches for a dollar. I’d love to see a Food Network TV show about feeding a family with fresh ingredients on a budget but I suppose that does not have the audience draw of Iron Chef. Not to knock Iron Chef because having fun with cooking is cool too. Personally, I”ve recently discovered “Hell’s Kitchen” which I think is like the crack cocaine of cooking shows. But the important thing is that the foundations are there: for example to know what a scallop is before you see Gordon Ramsey call someone a “donkey” for overcooking it.

Zucchini Blossoms & Other Recent Obsessions

27 07 2009

I have been slacking on the posts big time. No excuse other than it’s summertime & I’ve been slacking on everything . . . except cooking! I realized that I need to overcome my fear of my new digital camera (THANKS JOHNNY!) and just start snapping. In fact, with the bi-weekly CSA pick-ups I’m so friggin busy washing vegetables  that I have little time for anything else! Although me & Johnny made a cooking video that will soon be posted if I can make a foray into the world of techNOlogy. In any case . . . BEHOLD THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOM!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I bought a box of these at the farmer’s market because they were so beautiful PLUS they had been on the menu at my new fave Korean restaurant (more on that later) listed as “ho bak kkot twi kim:” stuffed & fried zucchini blossoms, but we did not order them b/c some among us were suspicious of Korean food they’d never heard of.  I wasn’t totally sure what to do with these when I brought them home but I had plans to make “daegu jeon” which are Korean-style mini fish cutlets (I used flounder, they came out GREAT!). This involves dipping the fish in flour & egg. I figured, hell, let’s put a couple of the flowers in & fry ’em up that way to test them out. I did nothing but dip them first in flour & then in egg & fry them in canola oil. They came out pretty good! Crispy but with a little softness to them and with a subtle, delicate squash flavor. I was scheming on how I would prepare the rest of them.

I came across a recipe in this book someone gave on cuisine from Rome. It involved stuffing the flowers with fresh mozz & 1/2 an anchovy and breading them in a flour & water batter. I happened to have fresh mozz in the fridge but figured, ‘why not beer batter the suckers?’ since the bubbles actually make for a flakier, lighter batter (you can actually use seltzer too). Here goes the recipe I came up with:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup beer

pinch of salt

16 or so zucchini blossoms

1/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, grated

olive oil

Okie doke. So I sifted the flour through a strainer & added the salt. Then mixed in the beer to form a batter. It was relatively thick. Then, with help from the lovely Rebekah, stuffed the grated cheese into the flowers just up until where the petals separated, and gently twisted the petals together to close off the blossom.  I poured about a 1/2 inch of oil into a hot pan (most recipes recommend more but I don’t think it’s necessary) and tested the heat by sprinkling in a pinch of flour- when the flour sizzles, your ready to fry. Then I gently dipped the blossoms in batter- if any of the flowers were torn, I simply rubbed some batter over the tear to seal it up. It worked quite well. I fried them,  letting them get a little brown then flipped them, gave them a few more minutes and put them on a plate with a paper towel to drain. They required no more than 5 min in the pan. They looked like this when they were done.

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

Wow. These knocked us out. I can’t say enough about how tasty they were. It might be tasty to include something salty inside to contrast with the cheese, like in the Roman recipe. I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to add anchovies, but next time I make these I might include half an olive or a caper inside for a little extra “somethin’ something'” if you know what I mean. These would go great with a very cold beer, crisp beer: Sapporo would be good, Pacifico or Sol would work too. A (freezing) cold Budweiser or Bud Light wouldn’t be the worst think you could drink with these either (but I wouldn’t recmommend tapping the Rockies). I might consider stuffing these with a tiny bit of jalapeno for kick, in fact simply using pepper jack instead of mozz could take the recipe in a whole different direction. They can also be stuffed with ricotta or goat cheese. So much room for creativity with these pretty little flowers.

These bad boys will only be in season for a few more weeks so if you see these in your farmer’s market, snap ’em up while you can!

ROM Outing – Marlow & Sons

4 05 2009

April had us ROMers meeting in Williamsburg per Roman’s suggestion. The restaurant was Marlow & Sons and good things had been heard about this place. The weather was warm and wonderful and a few of us early arrivals decided to park it outside with some champ & oysters. Well, it was a sparkling white actually, a blanc de blanc . . . the cheapest one on the seasonal menu at that: we’re not quite ballin’ that hard. But it was lovely! Crisp, a little lemony- a perf pairing for our oysters. The service on the other hand, was dramatically lacking: at least when we were seated outside. It was after some pleading with lackadaisical hipsters that we were finally gifted with a request for our order. After fruitless waiting for additional glasses to be doled out to later arrivals, we got them ourselves from the outdoor wait station. One of them was lipstick smeared.

Several ROMers discuss the finer things in life

A couple of ROMers wonder if they will be served before one keels over dead

I like this photo since it capture the gaping basement doors that my chair was situated right in front of. Luckily I did not meet my maker that evening.

There were two kinds of oysters: from New York and Connecticut. The New York ones were bigger and a bit looser, though meaty, while the Connecticut ones were dense and creamier. They were both excellent. One of them were called hemlock which upon googling now and not being able to find I am convinced is some kind of hipster joke about bad seafood.

Upon moving indoors the service did a 180 to become surprisingly prompt. Our party was at the large table in the front room which is styled like an old-timey general store. It was nice to sit up front since the back room evoked claustrophobia when I made a bathroom run. I was a few drinks in and perhaps a bit bleary eyed but I remember a suffusion of neon colored shirts, kaffieh and ironic facial hair as I peeked around corners looking for the bathroom door.

Our party was loud, but so was everyone else. I only noticed one askance look at our table after a particularly offensive joke. I would venture that the excellent cocktail menu has something to do with the din. A sip of “A Few of My Favorite Things” showcased a surprisingly delicious flavor combination of liquorish, orange and Wild Turkey Rye. As for the food, the extremely seasonal food menu was ramps, ramps and more ramps that night. Funny because ROMer Joey & I had just been discussing this vegetable a week ago as in ‘wtf is it?’ (essentially a green onion with a kickier flavor). We went for the gold with a few ramp-y appetizers. I was caught out of left field by a bowl of soft scrambled eggs with ramps that was both delicate and fresh. While fellow ROMer Katie was not impressed, I was dazzled by the way mundane things can be divine when cooked just right. A platter of cured meats (salami, pepperoni, prosciutto) and cheeses were just a’ight. I mean, they were good and all but I live in New York and do not want for such things. If I want a delicious cheese I just visit my friends at East Village Cheese & go nuts. Good cold cuts are similarly not terribly hard to find. The chicken liver pâté was nice but not outstanding although I do remember being wowed by the crispy buttered toast it came with more than the actual pâté. As for main courses, it seems to me like they do a chicken, a beef, a fish and a pork entree on any given night in the style of the moment, give or take some other funny business. I had the pork which on that particular night was sausage wrapped in pork belly to form a flat little steak-shaped piece of pig with a fresh watercress and dill salad served on top. If it weren’t for the greens, the meat may have been on the dry side but the pairing was perfect: the greens, dressed with a bit of mustard vinaigrette cut through the dryness. It was just enough meat to fill me up but not too much to OD. I was, however, more impressed with the beer-braised beef that came served in a bowl on top of some very soft polenta with a texture not unlike the aforementioned scrambled eggs.

At this point we were stuffed with no room for desert. This is fortunate because with an $100 price tag, dinner was not exactly easy on the wallet. But if one is willing to forgo booze, or go easy on it, one could get in and out of there and pay substantially less.

Nightcap and dancing took place at Savalas on Bedford. The only reason I was able to remember the name is because I kept imagining Kojak’s shiny pate as I tried to explain the location to people on the phone. Decent DJ, good tap, high tolerance for drunken antics and, surprisingly, not crawling with hipsters.

At first blush, this bar might appear to lack the room to dance. A little imagination is all it takes

At first blush, this bar might appear to lack room to dance. However, a little imagination is all it takes

So yeah, check out Marlow! This one got a thumbs up from every ROMer in attendance! Go early if you can’t stand a crowd. Since they don’t take reservations it could be a challenge to get a big party seated.

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.

The K-Taco Truck Phenomenon Grows

25 02 2009
If you're drunk and in LA you may as well eat well!

If you're drunk and in LA you may as well eat well!

I’d actually already heard about this Korean taco truck because I’m obsessed with Korean food. I’m glad the NY Times picked up on this story but at the same time, I can’t help but totally disagree with the opinion they are pushing about K-cuisine:

Korean food has blipped on the radar of culinary trend watchers before, but it never seems to gain momentum. In part, Mr. Benson said: “It is because there is a misconception about Korean food. Japanese food is high protein, low in fat and is this very clean cuisine, where Korean food has reputation as being not healthy. So it has not taken off like it should, but I think it is going to.

Jennifer Steinhauer, the writer of this piece needs to get her mind right. Korean food is an up-and-coming cuisine. It is gaining momentum rather than being “so a few minutes ago” as she’s implying. K food is healthy and flavorful. I think its strength is the way that flavors are balanced: spicy and mild like kimchi and tofu or rich and crisp like meat and lettuce. I expect to see it taking off even more in the next few years.

I do love hearing about phenomena such as the taco truck. Living in New York we know the “melting pot” metaphor is a big lie. It’s more of a “stir fry” in that we pick up on each other’s flavors: we all got the same New York-y sauce going on, but most people stick in their carrot or pepper-like-ness. Also, “fusion” food is so terribly hit or miss as anyone who has had Shrimp Parmesan can attest. However, once in a while cultures come together and just knock it out of the park. What better place than LA for Korean & Mexican cuisine to come together & make sweet love?