Saturday, March 31, 2007

Yes, That's Right, Malted Milk Ball Ice Cream!

The City Grill
296 Columbus Avenue

New York, NY 10023

STEPH AND I spent the afternoon at The Morgan Library. For $1
2, it's one of those random New York museum experiences that reminds you simultaneously how old and young this city is. The Morgan name should sound familiar: J.P. Morgan has been offering financial services for those who can afford if since, well, a while ago. The library and museum in NYC houses all of the family's books, Gutenberg Bibles, Mozart manuscripts, and medieval art pieces. You know, the stuff any family has laying around after a few hundred years of financial industry dominance.

This reminds me how young this city is because five hundred years of history just doesn't cut it on the world scene. You walk into Morgan's white marble foyer, turn into his study
(complete with Renaissance-painted wood ceiling panels) and wonder just what is this is doing in New York? You're trying too hard, literally, if you need to import your ceiling from the Renaissance. Yet, it's beautiful and you'll admire it anyway.

Was there food involved in this?

Steph and I went back uptown afterwards and ended up having dinner sitting at The City Grill's
bar while watching Ohio State beat Georgetown en route to the national championship game. The enormous crab cake sandwich was fantastic; the game was better. The dessert, however, does deserve a few more sentences:

Why do you want this dessert? Keep reading to find out!

We ordered two desserts, actually. The first was a grilled pound cake listed among the daily specials with vanilla ice cream, sliced peaches and strawberries. A good idea, but the pound cake was obviously grilled on the same grill as everything else in the restaurant. This gave the pound cake an odd taste neither of us much liked--we split one of the two slices and abandoned the other.

Our second dessert was a simple brownie sundae ($6.50), but instead of vanilla ice cream it came with malted milk ball ice cream, which was, yes, as amazing as it sounds. Whipped cream and chocolate syrup were also involved, the brownie was excellent on its own, but I'll repeat--malted milk ball ice cream! Seriously, I'd pay full price next time just for that.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Do I have to say it again? Malted milk ball ice cream!

{The Menu - 03.31.07}

Noon | Coffee + oatmeal w/ bananas + almonds + coconut
Night | The City Grill, New York, NY

Friday, March 30, 2007

RECIPE! Spicy Mac

I DECLARED YESTERDAY after seeing a recipe for Spicy Mac at the Not Eating Out In NY blog that this mac would be made. Truth be told, it was! The kicker was that I had most all of the ingredients I needed already in my very own apartment, save only for cheddar cheese which is not exactly a specialty item. Ten minutes and $5 later, I was ready to go.

I'll assume since the recipe was posted
online its author doesn't much mind us sharing it here, but to be faithful I'll just give you a link to the Spicy Mac to-do list and let you click your way over there yourself. It's not a daunting set of instructions, but the creation of a bechamel sauce base for the future spicy, cheesy sauce is not something I frequently do. Strike that, it's not something I've ever done.

Looks good so far, right?

Reading up on bechamel sauce after the fact, I'm fairly certainly that I screwed it up. I think I would do well to keep the heat lower next time and make sure the flour and butter don't scald during the first step, but this quick method did, nonetheless, manage to make a delicious and spicy sauce for the for the mac n' cheese--the paprika in particular was a nice touch.

I did not give in and add the chorizo as instructed and opted instead for my own vegetarian substitution--thick chunks of plum tomatoes, which I added at the last minute before popping the tray into the oven. I also sprinkled in a handful of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese at this point and topped the whole thing with a few slices of sourdough bread crumbled in the food processor to add a bit of crunch when baking. Long, spiraling whole wheat pasta certainly added a heartier flavor.

Just 350-degrees and 20 minutes away!

I doubt that
anyone should be annoyed with so many alterations to the recipe. After all, mac n' cheese is a rather personal food, so I would expect anyone else to do the same. The spicy sauce, however, does make the dish something more than "everyday" and would be a great party dish since it serves so many.

I'll be attempting this one again in the future. My ultimate goal is to, first, come up with a version that does not use cow milk and
substitutes cheddar for something like sheep's-milk Manchego or a goat cheese (avoiding certain allergies), eventually inventing my way to a vegan version that doesn't taste suspiciously fake. Now, I'm not vegan and, yes, the very idea of creating a decent vegan mac n' cheese does seem like chasing a formula for alchemy, but I do like a challenge. Stay tuned!

{The Menu - 03.30.07}

Morning | Turkish bagel + Pear
Noon | Tempeh sandwhiches + piece o' chocolate + crakers
Night | Spicy Mac + banana pie

Here's a leftover slice of that banana pie that keeps getting mentioned--
it's amazing what instant pudding mix and a few bananas can do!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Today in Blogs: An Ode to Mac n' Cheese

UPON HEARING ABOUT this little venture, both Elissa and Jenny mentioned to me the existence of a blog of similar food nature--Not Eating Out In NY. I checked it out, was quite impressed, and decided that it would be the topic of a future post. Until I happened to glance at it this morning to find Cathy from Not Eating Out, in her infinite wisdom, had posted a recipe for spicy macaroni and cheese, whereupon it was decided that Not Eating Out would be the topic of today's post.

The only "mac n' cheese" in my apartment at present

I used feel about french toast the same way I presently feel about macaroni and cheese: I love it. I love the idea of it. I want to have, like, ten thousand of its babies. I don't know what happened to french toast in my mind, but I suspect that the sheer overabundance of it took some of the thrill out of my search. Unlike french toast, with is fairly ubiquitous at any diner or brunch spot in the city, macaroni and cheese is not the type of menu item that gets a lot of attention. I suspect it's just too annoying to make in a commercial kitchen, too hard to perfect, and perhaps just not cost effective enough to make it worth the while, but I balk at all these explanations. Honestly, I think people have just grown out of it.

In addition (and Not Eating Out makes a grand point of this in totaling the price of her creation at $6.57), no one wants to spend $10-plus on mac n' cheese. It's macaroni. And cheese. As any hungover college student knows, Easy Mac costs approximately $0.10 per gallon. If we go gourmet and, let's say, you put noodles and cheese in a pan and stick it in the oven, that same hungover college student will declare it a four-star meal and you still haven't spent more than $7. Yet, if you find mac n' cheese on any menu in this city, I defy you to pay less than $11 to have it brought to you.

Like french toast, you run a risk in searching for mac n' cheese that, when you find it, it might be as awe-inspiringly amazing as you had hoped, or as bland and clearly just-thawed-out as you feared. Which is why making your own seems the best solution--if you want it done right, do it yourself. I will admit I have not made mac n' cheese in a very, very long time, but this recipe stirs something inside me, something more than my secret vegetarian desire for chorizo. This mac... it will be made.

{The Menu - 03.29.07}

Morning | Coffee + Turkish bagel
Noon | Pb&j + pear + coffee
Night | Leftover chickpea noodle soup + bread + banana pie

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

{The Menu - 03.28.07}

Morning | Coffee + oatmeal + one waffle
Noon | Leftover pirogies + banana + spinach & mushroom quiche
Night | Thai Noodles w/ Tofu + Alavert

We ate all the noodles before I had a chance to digitally immortalize them,
so you get a picture of pre-leftover pirogies

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

RECIPE! Chickpea Noodle Soup

I originally stole this recipe from, which is just about the greatest food blog I've ever seen. I've added some of my own haphazard finds and left out others, which may or may not count towards "creating" a new recipe, but suffice it to say this one's pretty much up for whatever you're into:

1 cup dried chickpeas
4 cups water
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
pepper + coriander

32 oz. veggie stock
6 oz. noodles
olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Dried chickpeas tend to work best because they give a better flavor. My mother tried this with canned chickpeas and admitted the flavor was pretty bland. So, start with the dried ones if you don't mind planning ahead.

Soak the chickpeas in four cups water overnight, drain, and replace with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for an hour, or until tender. I added the shallot (since unlike onions they'll dissolve while cooking and Mint sure does hate her some onions), garlic, both finely chopped, and some ground pepper and coriander during this simmering stage since the water tends to get absorbed and reduce, helping flavor the chickpeas. Or so I imagine.

After an hour, or whenever the water has been absorbed, I added a 32 oz. carton of veggie stock (plus 1 extra cup of water to help the volume--a step you can repeat throughout cooking to keep enough liquid in the mix) and brought back to a boil. I also threw in some carrots because, well, I had them. Reduce heat slightly, and you'll let that simmer for another half-hour or so.

At this point, throw in some noodles. Whatever you like. I used some colored, flat ones last time, which looked interesting, but this time I'm going with some broken
rombi. And whenever the pasta is cooked (thickening everything up quite nicely) and you've seasoned to taste, like, you're done. It's soup, so you can imagine that this would be good to serve hot. I throw some fresh-grated Parmesan cheese on top with a splash of olive oil. Serves four to six.

{The Menu - 03.27.07}

Morning | Coffee + waffles + maple syrup + Smart Bacon
Noon | Cheese + crackers + rice puff bar thing
Night | Chickpea Noodle Soup + pierogies + banana pie

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mike Eats Greenpoint, Volume 4: Pete's Candy Store

Pete's Candy Store
709 Lorimer Street

Brooklyn, NY 11211

(718) 302-3770

PETE'S CANDY STORE simply must be considered one of the best bars in Brooklyn, and any "best of" list overlooking it isn't worth the paper it's printed on. On a most basic level, Pete's qualifies with a beautiful bar, a stylish back room set up for bands, and an outdoor garden. It's small, which keeps things intimate. It's relaxed. It's classy. It's stage is booked with worthy artists and musicians every single night of the week, not to mention trivi
a nights, bingo nights, Scrabble night, stand-up nights, and The World-Famous Pete's Spelling Bee with BobbyBlue and Jenisfamous (accept no substitutes.)

It's a Spelling Bee!

It's worth mentioning here, in a blog about food, because Pete's does indeed serve sandwiches (if not candy)--your choice of five or six hot, pressed sandwiches ($7) ranging from pastrami and swiss with sauerkraut to tomato, basil and mozzarella, served up with a pickle. Mmmmm, pickles.

Anyway, it's hard to live anywhere up north in Brooklyn without making a pilgrimage sooner or later. It's hard to not get sucked in with so much going on. I do suggest going on a weeknight, though, when you don't have to fight the crowds that flock in on the weekend. Just check out the website to see what you're getting yourself into. And if that picture of Matty smiling into the camera isn't enough to get you onto the L train, well, then you're dead inside.

{The Menu - 03.26.07}

Morning | French toast bites (below)
Noon | Bagel + cream cheese + coffee
Night | Pete's Candy Store, Brooklyn, NY & Sapporo Haru, Brooklyn, NY

I promise a French toast recipe soon...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

{The Menu - 03.25.07}

Morning | Brooklyn Label, Brooklyn, NY
Noon | Blue chips + salsa
Night | Annie's mac n' cheese

Saturday, March 24, 2007

{The Menu - 03.24.07}

Morning | Coffee + toast + banana
Night | Couscous + carrots + snap peas + rice puff bar thing

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mint and the Exploding Ketchup

93 N. 6th Street
(b/t Berry & Wythe Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY 11211

(718) 218-7272

FIRST OF ALL it should be noted that Anytime is not really available at any time. During the week, Anytime is only open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. (or to 4 a.m. on Thurs-Sat), and on Saturday and Sunday it's open at 11 a.m., but closes from 4-6 p.m., and then on Sunday closes at 2 a.m. Confused? Try this method: save the number in your phone. Call when you want food. If no one answers, it's closed.

[06/07: A recent peek at Anytime's website lists these restaurant hours: Sun-Thurs, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.; and delivery is apparently available Mon-Sun, 4 p.m. to 5 a.m. Good luck with that.]

I came home late last night after a shoot. Mint had taken the luxury of ordering us dinner, which was fantastic. A plain hamburger for her, a veggie burger for me (which, yes, makes two in two days for me, if you were keeping score at home), and perfect opportunities to use that Brooklyn Label ketchup we talked about a few posts back.

The bottle threatens.

So, imagine if you can the two of us sitting on a couch. I'm sitting to Mint's right, both of us with burgers on our laps, me enjoying my side order of mac n' cheese and Mint grabbing onto the bottle of ketchup... twisting the cap, and...


I'm not sure which I noticed first--the blur of red that flashed everywhere in front of me or the sensation of ketchup splattering against my entire body. I kept my head down for a second. I guess I figured shrapnel was likely to come next. When I did lift my head, Mint was starting at me with unblinking eyes at which point we proceeded from stunned silence to laughter.

I have to figure that if someone had been shot in the face and spun around in a circle on my couch, it would have to look fairly similar to what we were now seeing save, of course, for the absence of someone who had been just shot in the face. Ketchup was everywhere. On our shirts, jeans, faces, hair; on the couch, the walls, the floors, the television, pillows and blankets. I've seen Law & Order episodes with cleaner victims than the two of us.

And so I ask Brooklyn Label: what the hell do you put in your ketchup?

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Yes, just hold the ketchup over the sink and cover it with a towel.

{The Menu - 03.23.07}

Morning | Coffee + cereal + pear
Noon | Grilled eggplant & zucchini sandwich
Night | Anytime, Brooklyn, NY

Thursday, March 22, 2007

RECIPE! "Spinach Not-Quite Gnocchi"

MAKING THIS RECIPE, I was well aware that the finished product was not going to be gnocchi in the classic Italian sense. First of all, there's no potato involved. Secondly, it involves baking the "pasta," which ain't quite right. Here's what you do:

14 oz. fresh spinach
3 cups milk
1 /1/4 cups semolina flour

1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Grated nutmeg
Salt, black bepper

2 eggs

Blanch the spinach, drain, and chop coarsely (read: drop the spinach in boiling water for 15-30 seconds and then quickly douse it under cold water, drain, chop.) Heat the milk in large saucepan; when it's about to boil, pour in the semolina in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Keep on heat for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in half the butter, most of the cheese, some nutmeg, and season to taste. Cool for 5 minutes. Beat and stir in the eggs.

Spread mixture on baking sheet to 1/2" thick. Cool, then chill until solid. Stamp out shapes using small, round cookie cutter (a shot glass works as well) and roll into balls or whatever small shapes you like. Grease a baking sheet, position "gnocchi" and brush with remaining butter and cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes or until golden brown.
The result is hardly the dense, doughy, filling pasta that any reasonable person would understand to be gnocchi. But make no mistake--this recipe is delicious. Just be prepared for small spinach puff pastry things. In fact, this recipe would be twice as delicious served as an appetizer, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and served with fresh tomato sauce to dip the little buggers into. Mmmmmm...

{The Menu - 03.22.07}

Morning | Red bean bun
Noon | Veggie burger + fries
Night | Spinach "gnocchi" + tomato sauce + crackers + cheese

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Four-Stars & Takeout (Reservations Required)

Q2 Thai
788 Ninth Avenue
(b/t 52nd St. & 53rd. St.)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 262-2236

Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st Street
(b/t Sixth & Seventh Aves.)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515

I'M SORTA CHEATING on this one. I didn't so much actually eat at Le Bernardin as I did eat take-out Q2 Thai physically at Le Bernardin. I mean, we were inside the place for sure. I'm not, like, saying we were on the street outside eating take-out at Le Bernardin. We were totally upstairs, just, not so much eating off its menu.

Again, this is one of those on-a-shoot perks where you get to film the world-renowned chef of a four-star restaurant that's consistently regarded as New York's finest and so you may at some point or another actually touch the food he makes. It's like shaking the hand of someone famous and never washing it. Except, that would be gross cause we're talking about food.

Anyway, the food was alright. The Thai food, I mean. I had noodles in green curry with tofu and veggies. It was fine, spicy, whatever. Did I mention that we ate it at Le Bernardin? The kicker is that our little side door was locked when I returned from picking up the take-out, so Jeanie Cha and I had to walk up and through the restaurant with our plastic bags in hand. Hilarious.

But I've saved the best for last. As we were striking our improvised set of food beauty shots, the kitchen brought out a tray of milk chocolate pot de creme--an egg shell filled with sweet chocolate and caramel foam with maple syrup maldon sea salt. If I wanted to be really annoying, I would tell you that this dessert is only available on the $180 per person Chef's Tasting menu.

Needless to say it was incredible.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He's got $700 to blow on the best food he'll ever eat.

{The Menu - 03.21.07}

Morning | Coffee + pear + bagel w/ cream cheese
Noon | Q2, New York, NY & Le
Bernadain, New York, NY
Night | Amy's mac n' cheese + banana

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

{The Menu - 03.20.07}

Morning | Coffee + egg sandwich + tater tots
Noon | Leftover noodles + pear
Night | French fries + tomato & mozzarella sandwich

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Cannot Make Brownies to Save My Life

THIS IS TRUE. I have attempted many times, from box or scratch, to make brownies and I cannot think of one instance in which I have succeeded. This is the recipe I most recently screwed up:

1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp corn oil
4 oz. vegan chocolate chips
Egg replacer for 2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Combine peanut butter with 2 tbsp corn oil until smooth, set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees and lightly oil 8-inch square baking pan, set aside. Combine 1/4 cup corn oil and vegan chocolate chips, stirring occasionally till melted. Remove from heat, set aside. Mix egg replacer, sugar and vanilla in large bowl, blend well. Stir in chocolate mixture, blend well. Stir in flour and baking powder, mix well. Spoon batter into pan and swirl in peanut butter mixture. Bake until top springs back, 20-25 min. Cool before cutting into squares.

Now, I understand, you're thinking--are you vegan? I am not vegan, but I attempted to adapt this recipe using real eggs, white chocolate, and I'm fairly sure I also used the wrong-sized pan. In the end, I'm sure it's wholly my fault that these brownies didn't turn out. But they were close. Close enough I'm encourage me to try again. Stay tuned.

{The Menu - 03.19.07}

Morning | Oatmeal + coffee
Noon | Bagel + cream cheese + failed brownies
Night | Pasta + fake meatball parmesan sanwich + broccoli

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Birthday + Birthday = Broke

Churrascaria Plataforma
316 W. 49th Street

New York, NY 10019
(212) 245-0505

Sammy's Noodles
453 Sixth Avenue
(b/t 10th St. & 11th St.)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 924-6688

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FIRST, to both Brian and Faryl. After the debauchery of the previous evening, the last thing I needed was to get up and head back out for more food and drink, but when you've got good friends getting older you have little choice in the matter.

First stop was Churrascaria Plataforma--"The Steak House Even Vegetarians Would Love!" I'll be the judge of that, thank you. The "would" in that claim seems exceedingly passive. Why not "will," or perhaps "can?" The marketing people might have tried harder here. Anyway, I don't make a habit out of hanging around in Brazilian steak houses, but I might start. I did enjoy Plataforma.

Used in an eating challenge between Brian and his friends (the "ladies" as he frequently referred to them), the idea of a green and red, two-sided coaster to signal "hey, more meat here!" or "please, stop giving me meat!" is pure genius. Brian never flipped his to red, so the parade of skewered meats coming forth from the kitchen (which included everything from garlic steak to chicken hearts) never ceased stopping by to shave off a few ounces onto his plate. And Brian likes a clean plate, so his mission was pretty clear (see photo above.)

He weighed in 201 pounds this morning but was unable to stop by the gym post-meal, so we'll never truly know the measure of hurt he did to his body. But he seemed pleased with himself. That's what matters in life, yes? And I was pleased with the huge salad bar which was by no means limited to salads. Truth be told, vegetarians would like Plataforma. (NOTE: For a good time, check out Plataforma's website
, complete with a modest descripton of its servers, or, as the website gushes, "the Bruce Lees of meats."

Next up, Sammy's Noodle Shop is one of those ubiquitous store-front Chinese joints in NYC that I would never have thought to stop in had I not been told to. But this birthday was Faryl's, an old friend of Mint's, and she told us to.

The menu is exhausting, but we were told to stick with the lo mein. It turned out to be a great choice. The noodles were fat and appropriately greasy, some of the best I've had. The bean curd fried with General Tso's legendary sauce was also amazing, firm and cooked completely.

The fortune cookies, however, were the highlight for me. Mine read, nonsensically, "Birds are entangled by your feet and men by their tongue." Big prizes for anyone who can explain that one.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Plataforma was fun, but probably not a future choice; Sammy's, if I'm in the area, sure.

{The Menu - 03.18.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Plataforma, New York, NY
Night | Sammy's Noodles, New York, NY

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mid-March Madness

Patsy's Pizzeria
61 W. 74th Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 579-3000

Dive Bar 75
101 W 75th Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 362-7518

366 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023
(212) 719-0150

AFTER WORKING ALL morning on St. Paddy's Day, I was happy to head home early. I was pretty tired after three days of shooting with a documentary crew (which is at least more fun than a film or television crew), and after spending the entire morning taping inside a mosque, St. Paddy's Day seemed to lose some of its lustre. Today was, however, the third day of March Madness, we were finished early, and with 16 games on television part of me did want to sit, drink, eat and be with friends while watching the games.

Standing on the subway platform waiting for the E train to take me back towards Brooklyn, I literally turned around and walked to the opposite side where the cross-town E train was arriving--I would head east instead, and up to Dive 75. There, I could sit, drink, eat and, since Steph was working, have a friend to keep me company while watching the games. Perfect!

Now in the best of all possible moods, I arrived just in time for the last half of the Ohio State game. I quickly lost my appetite upon realizing OSU was losing by ten with a few minutes remaining, but shock and horror turned to disbelief as they rallied (and won in overtime), my appetite returned, and in this way Steph and I came to order some pizza.

Patsy's is arguably New York's greatest slice of pizza. There are personal favorites in every corner of the city, but it is generally agreed upon that either Patsy's (with a few locations scattered about Manhattan) or Grimaldi's (in Brooklyn, tucked away in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge) is the absolute tops.

We ordered a small white pizza with garlic and an order of fried zucchini and eggplant (which Patsy's will deliver until early evening, but check their website for locations, hours, etc. and remember that it's cash only.) We ate everything. And while I don't usually write about bars, technically Dive 75 does leave copious amounts of candy sitting about in martini glasses, which counts as food. They also let you have food delivered to the bar, which facilitates eating.

Aaron joined me for drinks later on, while Steph finished her shift and headed home for a bit. We proceeded to get ever-drunker, called Steph, and decided to all meet Mint and Natasha for dinner around the corner at Jacques-imo's.

Jacques-imo's is New Orleans food at its self-proclaimed most authentic, though I question that slightly. The food was good, but inconsistent. The fried green tomatoes were a bit stale, but the calamari was soft and damn good. My shrimp creole was way overcooked, but Mint's fried chicken was huge, audibly crunchy, and looked amazing. Aaron was wasted.

Our waitress clearly got a kick out of us, and decided to bring us key lime pie and a round of green shots to celebrate, then sat down and enjoyed them with us. Aaron was still wasted. Of course, I then spilled an entire drink on myself. So, you be the judge. All things considered, it was better than taking the E train home.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Patsy's, yes; Dive, weekly: Jacques-imo's, maybe, but only if our favorite waitress is working.

{The Menu - 03.17.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Patsy's Pizzeria, New York, NY + Dive 75, New York, NY
Night | Jacques-imo's, New York, NY

Friday, March 16, 2007

{The Menu - 03.16.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Deli salad + coffee
Night | Egg sandwich + pear

Thursday, March 15, 2007

{The Menu - 03.15.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Pear
Night | Pasta + tomato sauce + bread + broccoli

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mike Visits the DMV, Remembers Pain

UPDATE: Two weeks later, it's official!

I LAST LEFT you with the grim prospect I faced yesterday: a 4 a.m. call time for a shoot that turned out just as miserable as I was warned it would be.

It was indeed 4 a.m. when we met in Long Island City, loaded our van with equipment, and then promptly drove it all to Brooklyn's nether-regions, a.k.a. Red Hook. The location, a bar called Moonshine, was still emptying from last night/this morning's alcoholic hold-overs, but standing outside it with a smile on her face was the craft services girl offering me a cup of hot coffee. Life was okay.

We stood in the cold huddled around our coffees for a moment before unloading our van. We had no way of knowing, then, that this was the beginning of a sixteen hour day. We might have stood there a little longer.

Lunch, unlike the day before, was provided (of course, this was an all-out, thirty-strong crew compared to the five of us on Monday), and at the end of the day everyone had warmed up to Moonshine enough to want to stick around for drinks after wrapping. I opted for home and sleep.

Anyhow, in case you're wondering what today's trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles has to do with food, it doesn't have anything to do with food. It was just one of those moments where, after three separate forty-five minute waits in three separate lines, I was reminded exactly why the DMV is the butt of all jokes about government bureaucracy. Ineptitude and humanity at is most hilarious.

And then I came home and ate an egg sandwich and strawberry sorbet for dinner. Awesome.

{The Menu - 03.14.07}

Morning | Coffee + banana
Noon | Brooklyn Department of Motor Vehicles
Night | Egg sandwich + strawberry sorbet

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

{The Menu - 03.13.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel
Noon | Veggie lasagnia + bread + salad + cherry cobbler thing
Night | Tater tots + sleep

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mike Eats Greenpoint, Volume 3: Brooklyn Label

Brooklyn Label
180 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 389-2806

THE GREATEST PERK of working as a freelancer in the production industry is free meals. Generally, on a shoot day, you get to wake up and have coffee and a bagel provided for you. Lunch is either bought for you or it's delivered hot. If you're union and you work overtime, you'll even get dinner! Free meals, even when working for them, are pure joy.

So, with freelance gigs lined up with different companies for the next couple weeks, I was assuming breakfast and lunch were going to be all sewn up for a while. Let's just say we didn't get off to a screaming good start.

Today's small shoot with a small crew featured not only zero break for breakfast (I did steal some bites of a bagel and coffee from the cast table), but the director rushed to get done by 3 p.m. and the producer thereupon released us without offering any lunch, stomachs grumbling and blood starting to boil.

To add to the frustration, tomorrow call time is 4 a.m., which is an ungodly hour of the morning to be headed to work. And I've already been warned that it'll be a long day. Which leaves time today for a meal and an early, early bedtime.

Mint and I wandered up Manhattan Avenue looking for something new and exciting, and happily settled for the been-established and still exciting Brooklyn Label. Of course, having had no breakfast or lunch, I skipped dinner and went for breakfast. The curry tofu with potatoes, provolone cheese and broccoli was fantastic, and the hashbrowns again perfect with the homemade ketchup, and this time we bought a bottle (worth it, even for $8) to bring home.

Whereupon I immediately went to sleep (read: took a nap) for tomorrow's shoot. Let's hope someone remembers to bring bagels. At 4 a.m., I'm gonna need 'em.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: The second trip to Brooklyn Label was as good as the first. I see no reason to stop now.

{The Menu - 03.12.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Bagel
Night | Brooklyn Label, Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mike Eats Greenpoint, Volume 2: Sapporo Haru

Sapporo Haru
622 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 389-9697

IF ANYONE ACCUSES me of exaggerating or puffing up what I eat because I'm posting it here, I will refer them to today's Menu. If you'll scroll down, there you'll notice that prior to dinner, I had eaten (yes, mom, I'm sorry) tater tots. And that's it. My excuse? I had a headache?

Honestly, there just wasn't anything else in the fridge. I've been gone for almost two weeks! Mint was cat-sitting! And that's the way it is.

Which means that by dinnertime I was, yes, very hungry. And I don't normally advocate eating raw fish on a wholly empty stomach, but I really do love Sapporo
Haru quite a bit. Part of my love for it is the wonderful (read: slightly crazy) waitress who makes dining there a surreal experience. That, and the green tea that tastes slightly of toasted rice. That, and the miso soup is some of the best I've had anywhere.

But we settled for rolls and tofu
teriyaki tonight (both which come with the aforementioned miso soup). And had it delivered because we were lazy. Which, you'll notice from the Menu, was pretty much my day.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Yes, we'll stop in and come back with a better story.

{The Menu - 03.11.07}

Noon | Tater tots
Night | Sapporo Haru, Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Break, Part X: Back in Brooklyn

La Traviata
139 Montegue Street
(b/t Clinton & Henry)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 858-5592

THE BEST PART of waking up in a Comfort Inn is making your own Belgian waffles in the lobby. I think. Anyway, I got a kick out of it--I've never had the pleasure. It was certainly a plus to be able to drag them back to the hotel room with a couple cups of coffee and sit on the balcony looking out over the ocean. Not a bad send-off.

The flight back was unremarkable, same for the taxi (yet apparently I've decided to remark on them... curious), and I spent most of the afternoon unpacking all the goodies I happily lugged back: a new flask (from my mother), a huge Eduardo Chillida art book, and lots of glasses (also from my mother) that remarkably survived the flights crew's best efforts to destroy them in my luggage. Those, and several other things.

Unpacked, I headed down to Brooklyn Heights to meet Mint for dinner. The snow and ice was an unpleasant reminder of reality after a few days at my brother's place in sunny North Carolina, and so was slipping on the stairs outside Mint's store and nearly destroying my arm. Welcome home.

We went, as we always seem to do, to La Traviata. It's absolutely nothing special, and I certainly wouldn't recommend you make a trip out to Brooklyn Heights just to hit it up, but if you're in the neighborhood it's not a bad option. Reasonably priced, well-prepared Italian food with service that tends to be, well, not. I guess the plus to this is that you won't be rushed.

I've had lots of stuff over a few visits and found that the pastas tossed with seafood tend to be the best bet for your money, only slightly-more expensive than their pasta-only options and twice as good. The salmon and peas in vodka sauce and the linguine with shrimp, calamari, and mussels with plum tomato sauce are two of my favorites.

It's nothing you'll run home raving about, but if you order a few glasses of wine and sit back to watch the waitresses struggling to keep up with their tables, you'll have a fine time indeed.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He's in Brooklyn Heights.

{The Menu - 03.10.07}

Morning | Self-serve Belgian waffle + coffee
Noon | Kashi Vive (aka. cereal)
Night | La Traviata, Brooklyn, NY

Friday, March 9, 2007

Spring Break, Part IX: The Beginning of the End

Divine Fish House
3993 Hwy 17 Buisness
Murell's Inlet, SC 29576
(843) 651-5800

AFTER AN EVENING of way too much wine, several of my brother's friends, and an ill-fated pink flamingo pinata stuffed with two-year old Halloween candy and small rubber fishes, I manged to roll myself out of bed and pack up two weeks worth of clothes and birthday gifts. I arrived with a suitcase and I'm leaving with two.

I was clueless until yesterday that South Carolina wa
s going to part of this multi-state swing, but it turns out Myrtle Beach is closer to Wilmington in the state next door than Raleigh. Plus, it was cheaper flight. Which bring this "Spring Break" state tour-total to eight (special prize if you guess 'em all correctly.)

We didn't spent too much time in Myrtle Beach, but we did arrive with our sights set on dinner. Slightly terrified of the giant crab statues and pirate ships that scream "CALABASH SEAFOOD" at you from every single building alongside Rt. 17, we flipped through a dining guide and selected the Divine Fish House a few miles away in Murell's Inlet.

It was dark outside when we arrived, which meant no gazing out over the water from a
window seat. We ordered fried green tomatoes to start. They were surprisingly good, stuffed with goat cheese and a spicy red pepper sauce. For dinner, I had grouper baked on banana leaves with thin, crunchy potatoes and doused in, unfortunately, the exact same red pepper sauce.

If giant statues had first scared us away from the main drag in Myrtle Beach, it was giant statues that sucked us back into it, not for food but for the godfather of all sports--mini golf! We wisely chose a dinosaur-themed venue and it's "difficult" Ice Age course. While it took my mother some fifteen strokes to get through the first hole, it should be mentioned she did score the only hole-in-one on the evening. And, yes, there was a roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I think my mom and my brother still owe me $5

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Honestly, which do you think sounds better: baked fish or giant dinosaurs? I agree.

{The Menu - 03.09.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Pasta salad
Night | Divine Fish House, Myrtle Beach, SC

Thursday, March 8, 2007

{The Menu - 03.08.07}

Morning | Coffee +bagel
Noon | Cheese + crackers + melon
Night | Cheese lasagna + much wine

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Spring Break, Part VIII: Begin the Grand Finale

Hell's Kitchen
118 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 763-4133

Circa 1922
8 N. Front Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 762-1922

THE PROBLEM WITH being "on vacation" is the part where you start eating every meal like you can afford to eat every meal like you're on vacation. Arrived with my mother in Wilmington to stay at my brother's place for a few days, we immediately began this with lunch at Hell's Kitchen. Of course, Adam, my brother, works at Hell's Kitchen, which makes it a easy choice.

I've eaten at Hell's now a handful of times, and not once have I been disappointed. Not only is the food excellent as bar fare, it would be excellent by any standard at any other restaurant. It's that good. And the kitchen is vegetarian friendly (which is not always the case at bars) in that they can actually tell you what's in the food (which is not always the case at a bars).

My ma and I had the grilled tuna sandwich and black bean burger, respectively, both with the sweet potato fries that are a signature item at Hell's (NOTE: ask them to go light on the brown sugar if you don't want yours to be too sweet.) And while the menu is solid, the kitchen is good enough that you would do as well just to try the daily specials, whatever they happen to be.

For dinner, we dropped in on Circa for tapas and wine--a "happy hour" special of sorts that offers any item on the tapas menu for $3.

Now, I'm perpetually annoyed by restaurants that have taken to calling appetizers "tapas" simply because they are small portions of food. The "tapas spirit" is a poor excuse to use a singular Spanish culture as a way to sell more appetizers, and there are only three things on the "tapas tradicional" menu at Circa that you would ever find at a bar Spain: Serrano ham, olives, and cheese.

That said, Circa is one of the more enjoyable restaurants I've ever been in. The places looks incredible, the food is great, and while the "tapas" menu is laughable, the bruchettas and grilled shrimp are excellent deals for $3 each.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Yes on both counts.

{The Menu - 03.07.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Hell's Kitchen, Wilmington, NC
Night | Circa, Wilmingon, NC

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Spring Break, Part VII: On The Road Again

Le Chatelaine
1550 W. Lane Avenue
Columbus, OH 43221
(614) 488-1911

A LONG DAY. After visiting Sara, Chris, and nine-month-old Jonathan last evening, and stopping by see Stella and Mandy one last time, today Mint flies back to Brooklyn and my mom and I are driving ten hours south to Wilmington, NC. Yes, that's a long drive.

For lunch, my uncle John invited us to meet him at Le Chatelaine, a french bistro just west of the city on Lane Avenue. I had never been to or heard of the place, so we had no idea what to expect. For anyone visiting Le Chatelaine for the first time, I can see why that might make for a confusing experience.

The bread and pastry counter that dominates the entrance is certainly inviting, but the cafeteria-style food counter would certainly throw a few for a loop. Don't be put off, though--the bread, the food, everything at Le Chatelaine is incredible. The entire restaurant was literally built arond its bread oven, which should give you an idea how seriously they take their food here.

With no pretense of fanfare, just file through and order what you like. The tomato basil soup was fantastic, and all of our sandwiches, on house-baked baguettes, were delicious and made with fresh-cut veggies and meats. Le Chatelaine serves up authentic, hommade French meals just as you find them in France.

From there, Mint and I met my mom back at my aunt and uncle's house, where we packed up and drove to the airport, dropped Mint off, and headed south on Rt. 33. We took I-77 through West Virginia to I-74 and, several hours later, finally turned east onto I-40 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It was about 3 a.m. when I-40 dumped us out into Wilmington. And for the record: my mom got a speeding ticket.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Yes, even if it's only for the bread and sweet stuff.

{The Menu - 03.06.07}

Morning | Coffee + Timbits
Noon | Le Chateulaine, Columbus, OH
Night | "Eggsestential" Chicken Salad + rice cakes + iced tea

Monday, March 5, 2007

Spring Break, Part VI: Skully's Music vs. Diner

Skully's Music Diner
1151 N. High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43201
(614) 291-8856

SKULLY'S MUSIC DINER is one of those places that wasn't around until after I left Columbus some seven years ago. Sitting on High Street between downtown and the campus of Ohio State University, I've passed it by on several visits but never stopped in. I knew it was a club by night, but, discovering they also served breakfast after noon, we figured we'd give it a try this morning.

This brings up a pretty good rule that is appropriately mentioned right now: eating food at any music venue should be done with great caution. Alcoholic, grumbling, dirty road-bound rockers and food preparation really don't mix (though, The Cake Shop on New York's Lower East Side, however, immediately strikes me as an exception to this rule.) Fortunately, or not, we were hungry enough to not care.

We immediately ruined our breakfast plans by ordering fried mac n' cheese bites as an appetizer. They were, of course, disgusting, but amazing in their orange, gooey grossness. Had we been hungover, they would have been the stuff of legends. They were followed by a rather bland breakfast burrito for me and an order of steak and eggs for Mint that showed up looking remarkably classy--a huge cut of good-looking beef with two over-easy eggs (the dish comes with an absolutely unnecessary three, and she wisely requested one less.)

In the end, we would have had a more all-around satisfactory meal at any hole-in-the-wall diner, but then again Mint certainly isn't complaining about her steak and eggs. So, I'll leave this one up to someone else.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Porbably not, unless Mint tells him to.

{The Menu - 03.05.07}

Morning | Coffee + toast
Noon | Skully's Music Diner, Columbus, OH
Night | Nachos + bagel + cream cheese + Timbits

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Spring Break, Part V: Onward! Columbus!

Katzinger's Deli
475 S. 3rd Street
Columbus, Ohio
(614) 228-3354

I LEFT WARREN early enough to make the three hour drive to Columbus before Mint's flight arrived. After two days on the road and four days with my ma, it was time for my five or sixth city and phase two of my "Spring Break" trip: babies.

Specifically, friends' babies. We met up, first, with Mandy and almost five-month-old Stella at Katzinger's Deli in Columbus. Which is sort of an odd place to see your friend's baby for the first time, but we were all really hungry and Kyle, father of said baby, was still at work. That, and Mark, another friend, works at said deli.

How I managed to grow up in Columbus and never visit Katzinger's sort of surprises me. Yes, it's just a deli, but it's pretty flipping fantastic. I mean, just click on that link and read the menu. And Mark recommended some sandwich that wasn't even on it (you order by number, and numbers do come and go from the menu), which turned out to be piles of melted goat cheese with fresh spinach and olive spread. Mint's matzoh ball soup was reportedly great, and Mandy's sandwich was, as is often the case, enough for two meals.

Next, as if that wasn't enough for one day, we headed for dinner at my aunt and uncle's house (whose kids, Evan and Ellie, I have known since they were babies, if that counts towards my theme), where both Gloria and John are better cooks than I'll ever hope to be. My uncle's recipe for homemade gnocchi (NOTE: which is included in a later post) left us both wondering why we ever bother ordering the stuff when we're out to eat. Along with the fresh bread and Explorateur cheese Mark sold us from Katzinger's--more than enough for one day.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: And hopefully soon.

{The Menu - 03.04.07}

Morning | Coffee + cereal
Noon | Katzinger's Deli, Columbus, OH
Night | Gnocchi + ziti + bread + cheese

Saturday, March 3, 2007

{The Menu - 03.03.07}

Morning | Coffee + coconut French toast
Noon | "Eggsestential" Chicken Salad
Night | Chickpea veggie soup + bread + wine

Friday, March 2, 2007

Spring Break, Part IV: Italian, Again?

Winslow's Cafe,
at The Butler Institute of American Art
524 Wick Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44502
(330) 746-8600

1201 Youngstown-Warren Road
Niles, OH 44446
(330) 652-5895

I UNDERSTAND YOUNGSTOWN might not be at the top of
everyone's travel list. I know that Warren and Niles certainly aren't, unless you've got family there, in which case, why have we not met, or, are we related?

That said, chances are you've passed though Pittsburgh or Cleveland or will sometime in your future. If you do, and you've got a car, and you've got a day to spare, perhaps you'll make the trip. At least that's your
justification for reading this.

Winslow's Cafe at The Butler Institute of American Art is nowhere near as pretentious as it sounds, I promise. You do not need a
monocle, a cane, and a fur coat to enter, though, that would be hilarious. Winslow's, simply, is a food counter of sorts that serves the museum, albeit deliciously. It's quick, it's cheap, and it has an awesome black bean burger with soft chipolte cheese that goes well with their sweet, spicy corn relish.

The museum itself is pretty great too. My mom, who teaches Physical Therapy at YSU, and I always wind up passing through both Winslow's and the museum each trip I make home, probably because both are so thoroughly enjoyable. The Butler, for a small museum, has a sprawling collection of American art worth seeing.

For dinner,
Alberini's actually sits in nearby Niles, about halfway between Youngstown and Warren on the appropriately named Youngstown-Warren Road. To say that Alberini's is the best Italian restaurant in the area is an understatement. To then note that the area is full of first and second generation Italian immigrants makes the prior statement a high compliment.

For me, I will admit, the family connection is strong--my grandfather sold Richard
Alberini the land to build his restaurant decades ago. Since then, it has thrived; the two good friends remained so for many years. Richard passed away recently, though, and our dinner was my grandfather's first visit to the restaurant without his friend roaming its dining rooms.

To sum it up, the menu at
Alberini's is Italian food at its most perfect. Everything you should expect--the sauces, the recipes, and gnocchi handmade and cooked like should be. In fact, it may be the only place I've ever eaten Italian food in this country that tastes like it does in Italy. High compliment, certainly. Of course, I'm entirely biased. But, if you make the drive and don't agree... well, the ghost of Richard will ruin your meatballs for eternity. I promise.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: I always seem to, yes.

{The Menu - 03.02.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel + nut roll
Noon | Winslow's at the Butler Art Museum, Youngstown, OH
Night | Alberini's, Warren, OH

Thursday, March 1, 2007

{The Menu - 03.01.07}

Morning | Coffee + nut roll
Noon | Tacos + Coke
Night | Baked tilapia + fried sweet potatoes + veggies + wine