Monday, April 30, 2007

{The Menu - 04.30.07}

Noon | Ashbox, Brooklyn, NY
Night | Cheese lasagna + edamame dumplings

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mike Eats Greenpoint, Volume 6: Paloma

60 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222

A HANDFUL OF newcomers are etching a whole new culinary face on the Greenpoint scene. Of note, Lamb & Jaffy, Brooklyn Label, and the excellent Queen's Hideaway are just a few, but leading the pack is Paloma. This haven of "urban American cuisine" is a blank canvas for its patrons, equal parts classy, communal, and striving for the creative.

Paloma's allure is its food, though it's simple menu seems unlikely to draw crowds down to the Greenpoint waterfront. Indeed, word of mouth does the trick and the crowds do come. They swing open Paloma's large wooden gate to find a sleek and sparsely-decorated interior, turntables assembled even before the first tables, and ultimately some of the most accessible food on this side of the East River. Imagine the comfort of Williamsburg's Relish relieved of its diner kitsch.

Coriander Pesto Seared Tuna Salad

The prices are manageable, the dishes extraordinary. The menu changes seasonally (expect a Summer menu soon), with both inventive highlights like Coriander Pesto Seared Tuna Salad and Parmesan Crusted Tilapia (both $14) and classics like Roasted Chicken with Potato Pancake ($12) or juicy Strip Steak and Fries ($19). My personal favorite, however, remains the Hominy Stew with Roasted Spaghetti Squash ($11), cooked so perfectly tender the tiny bits of hominy and squash might be confused for pasta.

The wine menu is decent, with five or six selections each of red and white wines, but the cocktails are worth a trip alone. House-infused vodkas lend a special flavor to almost all of them, standouts being the Vanilla Old Fashioned (made with a vanilla-infused 12-year bourbon), Pomegranate Gin Fizz, and Mac's Cosmo (featuring lime-infused 42 Below vodka). These are elegant cocktails that taste as good as they sound, and don't sound ridiculous when you order them.

Be sure the try the Chamomile Tres Leches (when it's not sold out), a thick, sweet pound cake soaked in a light chamomile-infused cream. One of the best desserts I've ever had.

It would be great to see more acts performing live, but with old Spanish flicks and Westerns playing on Paloma's great white wall, there's always something to keep you entertained aside from the food.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: As soon as he hears about a Summer menu.

The Mystery Snack

IT'S A MYSTERY. I attempted to get my uncle to tell me what was in the little plastic bag, but he wouldn't budge, offering only, "I think you'll like it." That's decent logic, I'll admit, but then again I always think my mom will like pine nuts. Fortunately for the both of us, she frequently reminds me that she's violently allergic to them.

Myself, having no food allergies or broad distastes to speak of, and certainly not being one to turn down free snacks, I accepted the little plastic bag of dried goods on my way out the door of my aunt and uncle's house. When I later found myself alone and hungry on my Amtrak ride to New Haven, I rummaged through my bag and pulled out the mystery snack.

Mostly, I was bored. I definitely wasn't hungry. I had a huge brunch followed, on account of early afternoon train and plane departure times, by a huge
lasagna lunch with my family in Connecticut just a few hours ago. This back-to-back meal "event" is explained by the simple fact that earlier in the weekend my aunts Eileen and Kathy had made two lasagnas, and as of Sunday afternoon no lasagna had been consumed. Have lasagna, will eat, I always say. Have two lasagnas, one will travel back to Brooklyn with me in my suitcase. True story. I really say that.

Since I couldn't eat a frozen lasagna on the train, I decided to pass the time with this bag of something. My first guess had been some type of crunchy, cinnamon baked business, but I should have known better. That would have been too
predictable. The "Willimantic Co-op" sticker on the bag suggested something altogether odder. Still, I was expecting crunchy when I popped the first piece in my mouth. Imagine my surprise to find: chewy!

What is it?

Dried apples, maybe apricots. Cinnamon. Those were both pretty clearly involved, and I'll admit I was pretty disappointed. Here I'd been hoping for
bizarrity in a little plastic bag and ended up with boring old dried ap--woah! Spicy! Cayenne pepper! Well, I'll be damned! As the slow burn hit me, my mystery snack finally lived up to its hype and the flavor whisked me away to... no, I was still on Amtrak. Sigh. But if my uncle will own up to his purchase, perhaps I can tell you where to find this spicy, mystery deliciousness.

{The Menu - 04.29.07}

Morning | Waffles + coffee + strawberries w/ chocolate + banana bread
Noon | Cheese lasagna + salad + garlic bread + Mystery Snack
Night | Paloma, Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, April 28, 2007

{The Menu - 04.28.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel w/ cream cheese + banana bread
Noon | Cheese sandwich + toast w/ bruschetta
Night | Brick Oven Pizza, Vernon Rockville, CT + wine

Friday, April 27, 2007

Going to the Country, Gonna Eat a Lot of Mexican Food

Eat Records
124 Meserole Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Official Myspace Page

Grand Central Terminal
New York, NY 10017
Official Website

Chuck's & Margaritas
1498 Stafford Road
Mansfield, CT 06268
Official Website

MY COUSIN ADAM is getting confirmed tomorrow (think: Catholic version of a Bar Mitzvah, only without the big party or super-long ceremony), so I'm headed up to Connecticut for the weekend. That means errands in the morning, a train in the afternoon, and Connecticut by nightfall. Of course, today's sustenance will follow in exactly the same path.

First thing this morning, finding our shelves finally void of the Turkish coffee we discussed a few days ago, I stopped into Eat Records while running errands to grab a cup. I've passed the tiny, hole-in-the-wall record shop/coffee shop/cafe/music venue guided by indie scene beacon Todd P many a time, but I've always kept walking as my caffeine loyalties lie with Cafe Grumpy and Ashbox. Used vinyl loyalties? I have none.

What Eat Records would look like full, at night

The coffee was decent (costing a buck and some change), the records looked old and/or new, and there were a few well- and/or poorly-dressed kids hanging around. Pretty much what I expected. Not much space to sit and use a laptop, though there were certainly a few tables available to occupy for such a purpose, so I can imagine the place gets filled up pretty easily on a weekend or whenever Todd P is selling tix for some impossible to find Greenpoint gig. So, Grumpy and Ashbox--fear not, this morning's infidelity means nothing. It was just a cup of coffee. I will return to you both soon. Kisses.

Suitcase packed (yes, loaf of banana bread included), I set off for Grand Central in hopes of arriving in time to find a bite to eat before running to my 4:09 train to New Haven. Deciding against dragging my suitcase through the always-packed Grand Central Market, I descended instead to the Dining Concourse and found the falafal-tastic Eat-A-Pita. For $6 (GCT is convenient, but not cheap) I had a delicious pita stuffed with falafal and much hummus. Not too shabby; a standout among other options.

The burrito barn beckons...

From New Haven, my uncle Frank and I drove up and through Hartford, arriving to meet my aunts Kathy and Eileen, uncle Tom, and cousins Paul and Adam outside Ashford, CT at the triple-level Mexican super-barn, a.k.a. Margaritas. I'll say this much: if you're in eastern
Connecticut and looking for a gigantic Mexican steakhouse, look no further.

In the past I've enjoyed enchiladas the size of my head. This time, I gave the fish tacos a try. I'll go back to enchiladas next time, or perhaps the plates of sizzling fajitas that my cousins always enjoy, or perhaps the nachos my uncle ordered that showed up the size of a sombrero. All are more satisfactory options. Regardless, don't bother going on a full stomach, don't forget the margaritas, and be sure to get a table in the top-tier hay loft. Because if you haven't eaten Mexican food in the rafters of a barn in the Connecticut woods, you haven't lived.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Coffee, nah; pita, yah; margaritas, you betcha.

{The Menu - 04.27.07}

Morning | Eat Records, Brooklyn, NY
Noon | Eat-a-Pita, New York, NY
Night | Margaritas, Mansfield, CT

Thursday, April 26, 2007

{The Menu - 04.26.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel w/ cream cheese
Noon | Au Bon Pain, Central Valley, NY
Night | Edamame dumplings + orange cordial

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

RECIPE! Banana Bread

OLD BANANAS ARE good for something. That is, other than looking disgusting and filling your kitchen with the sweet, rotting scent of their collective demise. Old bananas are indeed good for something else: banana bread.

Surprisingly easy to make (assuming you have a electric hand mixer and a number of mixing bowls), this dense and delicious breakfast favorite requires:

1/2 c. soft margarine
1 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 1/3 c. mashed ripe bananas

(3-4 medium-sized)
1 tsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. In another bowl, mix together mashed bananas, milk, and vanilla. In yet another bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Alternating, add mixtures to large bowl. Stir in nuts (optional). Turn into greased 9x5x3 inch pan and bake in 350-degree oven for one hour plus ten minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn out of pan and cool completely.

Hello Kitty loves banana bread

I wish I had better advice for how to tell when your bread is done, but I suppose you can tell from the pictures what it ought to look like. Mine were actually a little overdone on the bottoms, but I had notched the temp up to 375 on account of doubling the recipe (which, by the way, requires an awfully large bowl). One note: do make sure you're using a properly-sized pan. If it's too shallow you run the risk of over-baking.

Did we really plan to eat two loaves of the stuff? No. The second loaf will be carried in a suitcase to Connecticut. That story, coming soon.

{The Menu - 04.25.07}

Morning | Turkish coffee + cereal + banana
Noon | Leftover gnocchi
Night | Banana Bread + pasta + broccoli

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mike Eats Greenpoint, Volume 5: Rachel's Corner

ONE OF GREENPOINT'S greatest establishments is neither a bar nor a restaurant, though it does suspiciously advertise pizza on its awning which is a product I have never actually known it to sell. Curious. Rachel's Corner, located at the corner of Nassau Avenue and Eckford Street, is a 24-hour corner store well-stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, necessary Polish goods, breads, cheeses, pickles, and healthy things as such you can never seem to find them at 3:00 a.m.

That said, this post could probably also be called "How to Not Make Turkish Coffee." But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Some time ago, Mint and I wandered into Rachel's in search of assorted breakfast foods. We asked the man behind the cashier counter for a bag of the coffee that was perched behind him. He happily obliged, then added (here it comes):

"Have you ever tried Turkish coffee?"

Of course, we had not. He informed us it was slightly sweeter than regular coffee but very delicious. As Mint and I will apparently do anything a kind man behind the counter of a grocery store tells us to do late at night, we agreed to try some. Our now-friend's face beamed. We imagined it was partly his Turkish pride showing through, but also perhaps his shock at having convinced the two of us to buy Turkish coffee simply by mentioning it, cursing inside, and probably wishing he had told us to by the $20 corked bottle of Belgian beer in the back cooler.

We took home our can of finely-ground Royal türk kahvesi, and gave it a shot the next morning. Indeed, it was sweeter than regular coffee but very delicious. Our friend was absolutely right. No masters of Turkish culinary customs, the instructions as printed on the label:

"Turkish coffee is traditionally prepared in a cezve, a small long-handled pot. Place on a low source of heat with one heaped teaspoon of coffee per cupfull of water and add sugar to taste. Heat slowly, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves. When the coffee begins to froth, remove it from the heat. Pour a little of the froth into each cup and return it to the source of heat. Allow the coffee to rise once more, without it reaching boiling-point and serve it in the cup. Be careful not to stir after serving as this will disturb the sediment, leaving a gritty taste.

Having no cezve in our home, we use what we imagine is an appropriate substitute--a saucepan. Well, actually, I'm sure this is absolutely the wrong thing to do, but it suffices to make a decent cup, comparing relatively well to the few cups I've had while dining out.

Saucepan: right or wrong, it's too late now

Add very little sugar at first until you know how sweet the coffee will turn out, and if you do add sugar you should do so during the heating stage as the last sentence of the instructions really is the most important, "Do not stir after serving." Finely-ground as they are, all of the grinds do not dissolve but do settle to the bottom of your cup. Let them rest. Drink happy.

{The Menu - 04.24.07}

Morning | Turkish coffee + oatmeal + banana
Noon | Leftover Sapporo Haru + bagel
Night | Egg sandwich + Annie's mac n' cheese

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hungry for Art

AARON WAS KIND enough this afternoon to offer me and Steph a quick tour of the Met's awesome new Greek and Roman galleries. It's quite the space. The main gallery is impressive enough on its own, letting you meander in and about an assortment of ancient works, but so are the galleries surrounding it. They're the perfect excuse for the Met to show off its expansive archives. In fact, my favorite room might have been the least conspicuous one--a side gallery full of glass-enclosed collections of pottery, glass, miniature terracotta figures, and other such assorted ancient goods. It's wonderful to be overwhelmed by art, be it the stuff in the main gallery that's just physically larger than you or a collection so expansive, sprawling, and revealing you fear you could never take it all in.

A room with a view

And there was lunch involved: Pintailes, a pizza joint, which was nothing spectacular, but certainly worth the walk up alongside the park. I can imagine--whether you're visiting the Met, the Guggenheim, or the Cooper-Hewitt--five minutes makes all the difference if you're looking to ditch the crowds for a bit and score some lunch.

You'll find creative thin-crust creations at Pintailes, but you're better off grabbing it to go and searching for a seat in the park nearby--seating is limited on premises. We grabbed a couple slices each (plus a bottle of water or pop, $5.50-$6.50) and chowed down on a bench outside.

Fast-forward six hours and five comics later. Mint and I finished up another fine set of Monday Night Comedy at Pete's Candy Store and set off in search of our favorite Monday night feast: Sapporo Haru. Again, after promising a while back tales of server insanity we've failed to deliver, opting instead for our sushi delivered or, as we did tonight, take-out. So, I'll leave you with more pics of Met grandeur and send you to bed without pictures of dinner (find more over at Aaron S. Hitchcock Presents):

{The Menu - 04.23.07}

Morning | Turkish coffee +banana
Noon | Pintailes, New York, NY
Night | Sapporo Haru, Brooklyn, NY + "Heroes"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

{The Menu - 04.22.04}

Morning | Turkish coffee + pancakes + banana
Noon | Sesame bagel roll + cream cheese w/ tomato + iced coffee
Night | Gnocchi + tomato sauce + zucchini + "meatballs" + bread

Nothing finer than Sunday afternoon in the park with a bagel

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia: Everyone Wins at the Biergarten

Nevada Smiths
74 Third Avenue

New York, NY
Official website

Loreley Biergarten
7 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002

Rice to Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY

WHERE TO BEGIN... how about with Ruud van Nistelrooy's opening goal for Real Madrid in the 17th minute of yesterday's match against Valencia?

At that point I was sitting by myself in Nevada Smiths, the black hole of football fervor many New Yorkers know from the curious crowd that gathers outside on Third Avenue attempting to peer through its blackened windows. No, it's not a strip club. But when the place gets "full up" for a game the unlucky are relegated to the sidewalk outside. There they strain to peek in like some sixteen-year-old kid with bad acne and a bad fake ID promising the bouncer his "friends are just inside." Not that it's happened to me.

Anyway, Nevada's shades were drawn yesterday but there was hardly a wait when Real's striker put Madrid ahead with a volley turned so quickly to goal the television cameras lost it before it hit the back of the net. It was at precisely this moment that Aaron called. He can attest to this fact because I answered by screaming, "Goooooooool!" into the phone.

Sir Aaron, Miss Natasha, and Philly friends Peyton and Elissa joined for the second half of the game, which featured David Beckham's return to action in a moment of dramatic revival even Jesus must have envied. The camera tilted slowly up following Gago's exit to reveal Madrid's unannounced substitute, (
angels sing) Beckham! The madridistas cheered, the Valencia crowd mocked them with chants of "M-L-S!" and Beckham responded minutes later by calmly curling a free kick into the Valencia box where Sergio Ramos put the game away for Real.

Did I mention Nevada Smiths serves meat pies (beef, chicken, or curry vegetable) for $3 each? Oh, well, I didn't have one--just whiskey, thanks--but this is a food blog after all, and man cannot live on the glow of David Beckham alone. It bears mentioning.

From Spain to Germany in fifteen blocks

After the game, our crew wandered down to the Lower East Side in search of a place Natasha had just chosen to host her birthday gathering in a few weeks: Loreley. Seemed a good plan to check it out. We were joined by Steph, ordered drinks from the bar, and then told the wait for six to sit in the biergaten out back was "nearly impossible." That's all? We'll wait.

Perhaps forty minutes later I w
ent to tell our kind hostess that we would be leaving. Her response: you're table is ready. Oh, is that true? We'll sit.

The menu at Loreley is about what you would expect from a beirgarten--beer, meat, and potato pancakes--without any of the awe-inspiring open space that make beirgatens... well, gartens, and not just the backyard of some bar on the Lower East Side. Don't get me wrong, the owners of Loreley have done a really wonderful job of opening up every last inch of space they can squeeze out of their Rivington & Bowery digs, but in the end its just a taste of the beer garden life you're seeking, not the authentic experience (for that, we recommend the Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens.)

After waiting in here for an hour... will most certainly need to spend some time out here

It's a good life, though, that's for sure. We ordered rounds of draught Kolsch by the tray ($22 for 1.6 liters, or $30 for 2 liters poured into .2 liter glasses, 8 to 10 glasses respectively), Natasha ordered a 1 liter stein of the stuff, and we all proceeded to fill our end of the communal table with burgers ($12), fries ($6), plates of potato pancakes with smoked salmon ($14), and cold cuts with cheese and bread ($12). After eating and drinking our fill, our tab had only run to $150 for six of us. Not a small number, but for that much food and drink on a Friday night on the LES, no one was complaining.


Upon leaving Loreley we were aimless and about to head our separate ways, but not without one final stop. With our friends from Philly having had their interests piqued by word of multi-flavored rice pudding a few blocks away, we headed into Soho and the world of Rice to Riches.

"It looks like Japan happened here."

Both Steph and Elissa chose Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road while I kept things a little more classic with the Coconut Coma, both ridiculously decadent choices. I had heard this stuff was expensive, but $5 for a "solo" serving that could easily have fed two people didn't seem outrageous, the quality was top-notch, and the atmosphere was as indulgent as the flavors. No complaints here. I even have a space-age takeout container with the leftovers in my fridge. Now, when the aliens come I know to take them for rice pudding.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: There's a Champions League final; Natasha's birthday; and I'm showing extraterrestrial friends from Mars, Japan, and/or Philly around NYC.

Photos courtesy Marca (top) and Gothamist (bottom)

{The Menu - 04.21.07}

Morning | Turkish coffee + toast w/ peanut butter
Noon | Jameson's + iced coffee
Night | Potato pancakes + smoked samoln + sour cream + french fries + Kolsch + Coconut Coma rice pudding

Friday, April 20, 2007

Made with Love and 0 Trans-Fats

162 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009

"Ray's Candy Store"
Avenue A, b/t St. Mark's & 7th St.
New York, Ny 10009

THE BEST SURPRISE of any night is Belgian fries. It's not something you plan; it's something that just happens. Like flipping through the pages of an old book and finding a long lost $20 bill, or the casual suggestion from a friend, "hey, let's do karaoke!" Belgian fries sneak up behind you on the hiking trail of life and rush out with a great big, happy bear hug you never saw coming. Only, this particular bear hug comes with 20 different flavors of sauce.

We'll get the deep-fried highlight reel soon enough, but we can't let even Belgian fries overshadow a trip, first, to the exceptional Orologio.

Not as grainy in real life

I try to stay away from "good" Italian food in NYC mostly because it's a fine line one walks in attempting to get such a thing. No one really wants four-star pasta. The beauty about good pasta is that it's homemade, it's comfort food, filling, simple, and perfectly unpretentious. Why would anyone pay $25 for a bowl of spaghetti? Why should one need to? Steaks and fish aside, Italian food is the great good-food equalizer--not everyone can do it, but anyone can in theory. You just need to find a place that really gets it right.

Orologio gets its right and the prices are quite reasonable ($9-15), for dishes as simple as house-made pasta al pomodoro to spaghetti tossed with seafood. My black and white tagliolini came in its own rich, spicy tomato sauce and was perfectly cooked, thick and soft, as was my friend's penne with chicken and artichokes. The only time we thought to complain our server offered before we could even ask, "our house bread is still baking and will be finished soon." Ah, well, perfect then.

This is the second or this time I've visited Orologio, and I've yet to find something to not like about it. It's convenient, delicious, and affordable. Am I missing something?

After some drinking and nostalgia with randomly-met old friends at an odd bar (appropriately enough) named Revival, Mint and I were headed back to Brooklyn when the question was asked:

"Can we get Belgian fries?!"

Um, yes! Yes, we can! And so we wandered back over to Avenue A, hung a right, and kept walking until the brick red letters of "BELGIAN FRIES" were legible on the storefront awning before us. There's no official establishment name printed anywhere outside to speak of, but the consensus is that the store is called Ray's, affectionately known as Ray's Candy Store to East Village locals. Of course, we know it as, the "Can we get Belgian fries?" place.

Now, you know that any establishment with no name selling Belgian fries and egg creams across the street from Thompkins Square Park simply must be an establishment boasting an fine-to-outstanding reputation. You would be correct--at 1:00 a.m there was a line out the door consisting of one rather drunk couple and two guys attempting to by fries in exchange for a $10 Metrocard. You can probably guess who left with fries.

Mint kindly asked for a small ("don't be fooled they're HUGE!") order of fries and opted for ranch dressing, ketchup, and a splash of vinegar, all unceremoniously pumped onto our fries by none other than Ray himself. It was an honor, a pleasure, and a privilege. I then asked for a chocolate milkshake, which was promptly made from milk (kept cold on ice in a red plastic bucket) and mixed with what I can only imagine was chocolate frozen yogurt.

Ray's Belgian fries are just as world-famous as his pizza

Ray is also the leading cause of heart disease and obesity among Mint and I

We paid (with proper legal tender) and headed out into the night with our hot eats and cool treats in search of a cab to take us home. We found one. It had a touch-screen television screen in the backseat. With GPS and Zagat reviews. I swear we weren't that drunk--we're not making this up. I have both pictures and leftover Belgian fries in my fridge to prove it.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: And you should too.

{The Menu - 04.20.07}

Morning | Turkish coffee + toast
Noon | Peanut butter, jelly & banana sandwich + Jelly Bellys
Night | Orologio, New York, NY + Belgian Fries

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Have We Discussed Brooklyn Label?

AT THIS POINT, pledging my undying love for Brooklyn Label comes as no surprise. We've discussed their brunch, their unbelievably delicious (and dangerous) ketchup, and even dropped a mention of their rich hot cocoa. How about lunch? With Roxie moving back up to the 'Point this week and specifically requesting a new venue for eats, how could I resit a trip to the Label? I couldn't, that's how.

Roxie also plans on snagging a few of my basil plants when I thin them out,
which, as you can see, are currently only wee l'il sprouts

On this trip I finally managed to resist the pull of the breakfast menu, opting instead for a tempeh reuben sandwich. (Ironic, right, one day after declaring tempeh sandwiches unworthy of elaboration? Go figure.) The vegan/vegetarian friendly reuben rivals even that of Hana Foods, a whole, thick slice of tempeh grilled and joined on toasted bread with sauerkraut, sweet dressing, and the tangy touch of Label's house ketchup.

Roxie chose The Egg sandwich, a veritable three-egg spinach omelet between slices of Balthazar bread. Throw in an order of onion rings, tomato-basil bisque, and two orders of hot chili-spiced Mayan cocoa and you'll understand why I needed no dinner. I love Brooklyn Label, that's why. In fact, I'm certain I could eat my every breakfast, brunch and lunch there and never get tired of it. As for dinner, methinks a trip to Paloma is in order...

{The Menu - 04.19.07}

Morning | Turkish coffee
Noon | Brooklyn Label, Brooklyn, NY
Night | Jameson's + peanut butter & banana sandwich

We're out of regular coffee and we have no cezve,
so this is Turkish coffee as made in a saucepan

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

101 Posts and Eating Strong

CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU, the loyal reader, for making your way to MikeEatsFood! Post no. 101. It's certainly a milestone, I'll grant myself that. I suppose I should have celebrated yesterday at no. 100, if it hadn't been The Menu, but you can't win 'em all. Or, I can't win 'em all.

Today's call time wasn't all that early--8:00 a.m.--but after driving a cube truck around lower Manhattan (and into a couple standing objects) for three hours, I'd missed my chance at grabbing a morning meal. My own fault, really, and I paid the price: a screaming headache to remind me that caffeine is, yes, necessary for life functions.

And at the end of the day that's the moral of the story and all this celebratory post is going to cover (since tempeh sandwiches are not exactly alluring topics for elaboration.) Which is fitting--101 entries and I'm celebrating by eating everyday food and posting about self-serving bullshit that only serves to further the unnecessary propose of this blog, as Jeanie so dutifully noted yesterday.

Congratulations to me!

{The Menu - 04.18.06}

Noon | Coffee + bagel w/ cream cheese + banana + slice of cold pizza
Night | Tempeh sandwich + toast w/ peanut butter

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mike Eats Pizza! In Brooklyn! (Finally!)

IT SEEMS ODD that a blog about consuming food written by a blogger based in Brooklyn is only now, after almost three months of blogging, getting around to the one food for which Kings County is world-famous: pizza! Though I suppose stranger things have happened.

First, as you may have noticed from the now-broken chain of un-commented upon daily Menu posts below, I've been rather absent as of late. This was partly due to unispiring cuisine, but also on account of some early, early call times after which I returned home exhausted. Yesterday, for example, began at 5 a.m. The quantity of coffee I drank would have been more efficiently administered intravenously.

Last week's trip to Migita Sushi: as memorable to us as
axing eight federal prosecutors was to our Attorney General

I offer this not as an irrelevant tangent. It helps explain why I was lazy enough to order a pizza last night. I say "lazy" not because I consider pizza an inferior, couch-potato food, but because Greenpoint is a historically Polish neighborhood and pizza is not a prized Polish tradition. So, if you're going to channel fat and grease into your body via pizza, you might as well get a top-notch pie.

Now, while Williamsburg has some quite authentic Italian options, Greenpoint is lacking. What Greenpoint has is Baldo's (way over on Nassau--and suspect to boot), Nassau Pizzeria (further up, but I'll grant them the reputation of having a decent slice), and L.A's (on Manhattan Avenue just south of Gree
npoint Avenue itself.) Of the trio, L.A. is your best bet. For $10 (takeout only) on Monday and Tuesday, a large regular pie ain't a bad way to go if you're trying to keep it cheep and you don't feel like trying too hard.

L.A.'s pizza isn't quite as good as it's predictable menu of Italian fare, and it's hardly fine dining, but when it comes to quick, enjoyable Italian food in Greenpoint, you'd do well to look no further. If it's fine dining you want--head over to La Piazzetta on Graham.

Some people will eat pizza regardless of the time, place, or impending heart failure. I don't normally consider myself part of that group. But after eating a few slices last night I was reminded of how even an average slice in Brooklyn is better than twenty slices anywhere else. Except, perhaps, Patsy Grimaldi's. Viva la pizza!

{The Menu - 04.17.06}

Morning | Coffee + mini bagel w/ cream cheese + coffee + fruit + coffee + danish
Noon | Banana + coffee + pear + peanut butter sandwich
Night | L.A. Pizzeria, Brooklyn, NY

At least the mini bagels came with a view

Monday, April 16, 2007

{The Menu - 04.16.07}

Morning | Coffee + danish + mini bagel w/ cream cheese
Noon | Salad + stuffed tomato + cookies + banana + Life Water
Night | Pierogies + carrots

Sunday, April 15, 2007

{The Menu - 04.15.07}

Noon | Coffee + homefries + tempeh + eggs
Night | *erb Thai, Brooklyn, NY

Homefries Secret no. 1: get maple syrup involved

Saturday, April 14, 2007

{The Menu - 04.14.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Leftover eggplant + pear + taxes
Night | Migita Sushi, Brooklyn, NY

Friday, April 13, 2007

{The Menu - 04.13.05}

Morning | Coffee + oatmeal
Noon | Jelly Belly + carrots
Night | Eggplant Parmesan + pasta + bread

Thursday, April 12, 2007

{The Menu - 04.12.07}

Morning | Coffee + oatmeal
Noon | Leftover Counter + dark chocolate M&Ms
Night | Pasta + tomato sauce + mozzarella + zucchini

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

{The Menu - 04.11.07}

Morning | Coffee + sweet raisin bread roll
Noon | Tomato mozzarella sandwich + dark chocolate M&Ms + 2 Peeps
Night | Leftover pommes frites + asparagus + seitan meatloaf + orange

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dinner And A Movie: Counter & "Hot Fuzz"

105 First Avenue

New York, NY 10003
(212) 982-5870

FIRST OF ALL, "Hot Fuzz" is the best movie I've seen since "Children Of Men," which was only a few months ago, I know, but I've seen a lot of great movies lately so let's not get too picky. From the master-creators of "Shaun Of
The Dead," this cop movie send-up features one of the single funniest moments I have ever seen committed to film: an old woman getting flying-kicked in the face.

Now, Mom, before you yell at me, this woman is trying to shoot the film's hero with a shotgun and she's also responsible for the deaths of several other innocent people. She has it coming. Fast. And jumping through the air into her face. It's hilarious! And she's okay afterwards, she just goes to jail. I'm not ruining anything, I promise. I'm sorry, did you say, "decaffeinated?"

Aaron S. Hitchcock has a great take on this film also. You would all do well to read it and then buy up all of his artwork. It's good artwork and will appreciate in value at approximately 6% annually. Not a bad rate, I'd say.

After the film, Mint and I attempted to go to the Organic Grill since she was in the mood for vegan food (not a mood one is frequently "in" if one is not vegan, I assure you), but the two women working at the Grill informed us they were closed... twenty minutes before the sign on the door said they were so they could get home early. Which brings us to this very important announcement:

The Official Mike Eats Food! Boycott of Organic Grill is now at Day 1!

With two whole exclamation points, Organic Grill now joins the ranks of other such boycott-worthy establishments including the Pinnacle Deli on Third Avenue (for charging $0.10 to toast a bagel), Wasabi on Manhattan Avenue (for not being Sapporo Haru), and MacDonald's everywhere (for ruining modern civilization). Congratulations, jerks! I even started a Citysearch account to tell everyone how much you suck!

And so we ended up at Counter.

Looks fancy, costs fancy

Mint had the meatloaf special (made with house-made seitan) with an order of Counter's enormous hand-cut pommes frites (note: you know you're paying to much for french fries when you have to italicize them in print), and I enjoyed the hearty, pesto-tastic soup au pistou and the East Side Burger made from light mushroom pate and seitan.

Everything was delicious and the wine selection was fantastic, but my main concern with Counter is that vegan food isn't necessarily its greatest as haute cuisine. I mean, this is the food of hippies and neo-socialists, folks with no money and no jobs. Seventeen bucks for an entree isn't exactly keeping to the budget, let alone the spirit of saving the world through food. That doesn't mean creating accomplished seitan doesn't require a four-star chef (double negative!). So, the anti-establishment needs an well-established one to do things properly? That's the kind of oxymoron that makes Counter's take on vegan cuisine ultimately confusing.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: I probably wouldn't, but the East Village is running short on organic options... eh, Organic Grill? I anxiously await your apology.

Photos from Rouge Pictures and Counter/Organic Wine Journal

{The Menu - 04.10.07}

Morning | Coffee + doughnut + toast w/ butter
Noon | Sour Jelly Belly + dark chocolate M&M's + 2 Peeps
Night | Popcorn + ice cream + Icee + Counter, New York, NY

Monday, April 9, 2007

Why the Hell Am I Back in Poughkeepsie?

AFTER A DELICIOUS brunch yesterday, I was wandering over to Elissa and Kevin's place to watch a movie when I got a phone call just as we were stepping into Brooklyn Label to grab some hot cocoa. I tell you this because it explains how the hell I ended up back in Poughkeepsie, though it only starts to explain why I ate a bag of pretzels and a couple Nutri-Grain bars for dinner last night.

As I'm sure you all remember, a few days ago we discussed a lobotomy reenactment. Well, that was happening today on the second floor of the Church Building in Poughkeepsie and, as you may or may not know, the equipment needed to stage a lobotomy reenactment is very, very heavy. Thus, the brute force and sheer strength that my muscles provide* was needed upstate, and yesterday's phone call was to request just this service. In a flash, I was packed and headed to Park Slope to meet the director and set off up I-87. We arrived late. The only option for food was the hotel lobby where I found pretzels and cereal bars, ate them, and went to sleep dreaming of tomorrow and the promise of better food.

Dr. Walter J. Freeman examines his handiwork

In my previous Poughkeepsie post, I did declare my intention to dine at the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe if was ever up this way again. The Apple Pie Bakery Cafe, however, lied to us about being open on the Monday after Easter, and so the Market on Main came to the plate and hit us a home run with its wide array of Boar's Head meats and proudly-brewed Starbucks coffee. I'll have the espresso blend, please!

Since the lobotomy ran a little late the Market also provided me a sandwich for the road home--a sandwich, Vitamin Water and one of Noni's world-famous chocolate biscotti. It's not Famous Amos, but it'll do.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: I'm not going to tempt the gods.

* When used in conjunction with two or three other strong individuals.

{The Menu - 04.09.07}

Morning | French toast + homefries + coffee
Noon | Market On Main, Poughkeepsie, NY + Snapple + coffee
Night | Market On Main, Poughkeepsie, NY + Vitamin Water + chocolate biscotti

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Brunch: Jenny's French Toast

FIRST, HAPPY EASTER! Phyllis is hoping for an audition with the good folks Cadbury despite the fact that, yes, the eggs have gotten smaller.

After a few drinks last evening with Kevin, Elissa, Jenny, Phil, and Mint at Paloma, it was suggested that a brunch be held this afternoon. This, remarkably, came to pass (not all of our ideas shaped while drinking are so fortunate.) Elissa and Kevin arrived with two bottle each of orange juice and "inexpensive" champagne, while Jenny brought sweet raisin bread rolls, an orange, half-and-half, powdered sugar, and a sizable about of doubt in the resources of my kitchen.

Jenny did also offer my slightly wounded ego a delicious recipe for French toast, to which we added only flour:

6 large eggs
6 tbsp flour
1 & 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk

1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp honey
(plus 4 tsp sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
challah bread
powdered sugar (for garnish)
berries (for garnish)

This is French toast, so mix up everything save for the bread, butter and powdered sugar (if you don't want the extra 4 tsp of sugar, omit it.) Jenny was afraid her only slicing the rolls in half was too thick, but everything turned out fine. We fried the dipped bread over medium heat in a pan with butter until the slices were browned and then stuck them in the oven to keep warm. These slices were huge enough that one was more than plenty for each of us.

This recipe is sweeter and soaks up more than my recipe proposed in the French Toast Bites post, but the orange zest is a very happy addition. In the future, I would add more vanilla soy milk to my original recipe, substitute honey for some sugar, and add the orange zest suggested here. But only add the orange zest if you have berries or fruit as topping, otherwise the orange can be a bit much.

{The Menu - 04.08.07}

Morning | Easter Mass
Noon | Jenny's French Toast + berries + doughnuts + coffee + oj w/ bubbly
Night | Starbucks + Bag of Herr's pretzels + 2 Nutri-Grain bars (apple cinnamon & strawberry)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

RECIPE! Passover-Friendly Gnocchi

THIS RECIPE IS easily (and better-suited to be) made sans-Passover modification. Like most other gnocchi, it's better the day-after when the flavor of the tomato sauce has had a chance to soak in. That's also when I had planned to take a picture of the result. Unfortunately, forks flew too fast to be stopped.

This simple recipe calls for very little other than prep time:

2 large baking potatoes (about 12 oz. each)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour (Passover substitute: matzoh meal)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

If you have these, gnocchi could be yours!

Soften the potatoes (microwave or bake in skins until tender and scoop out, or peel and boil till soft), and while the potato is still warm use a fork to mash well. Stir in egg, salt, pepper, and sift flour over mixture, stirring until just blended. Scoop out a large spoonful of dough and roll into a rope. Cut at intervals, rolling each with a fork to form grooves in the dough. Set aside as you repeat the process. When finished, drop all into pot of salted, boiling water and boil until all have risen to the surface, perhaps 3 minutes. Immediately remove. For the love of Italian grandmothers everywhere, please do not overcook.

This is another excellent blank slate recipe. Try out different sauces. Try adding different flavors to the pasta--cheese, sweet potatoes, spinach. Try baking after boiling. Mess around with it. The Italian grandmothers ask only that you do not overcook--you're aiming for a soft, doughy, rich, filling pasta, which is why it's sometimes best to just cover with tomato sauce, chill, and wait for tomorrow.

NOTE: my grandfather, actually, has an interesting technique for shaping the pasta, which my mother (who originally passed along this recipe) promises to explain in detail at some point. As the story goes, years ago, he would shape the gnocchi with two hands as fast as his mother could cut them. Naturally, this needs to be attempted.

{The Menu - 04.07.07}

Morning | Coffee + matzoh + peanut butter
Noon | Mini knishes + Tofutti chocolate pudding pops
Night | Gnocchi + mozzarella + tomatoes + zucchini + sunflower seed bread

Friday, April 6, 2007

Poughkeepsie: A Tale of Abandoned Hospitals and Culinary Institutes

Apple Pie Bakery Cafe
at the Culinary Institute of America
1946 College Drive (Rt. 9)
Hyde Park, NY 12538
(845) 471-6608

AS WAS REFERENCED in a post last month, one of the greatest work-related phone calls I have ever received was a request to secure a mosque in New York City as a location for a weekend shoot on less than 36 hours notice. I do like a challenge. The second greatest phone call (and fighting for that top spot) was the one that ultimately delivered me into Poughkeepsie today to root around an abandoned century-old mental hospital here in search of items to be used in staging a room for a reenactment of a 1950's lobotomy. Awesome!

Hello? Does anyone want to get lunch?

As a kicker, just next door to Po'keepsie is Hyde Park, home to both FDR and the Culinary Institute of America. Thus, lunch was provided by the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe, one of six restaurants operated by the Culinary Institute, and one of six reasons aside from FDR to bother driving through Poughkeepsie. Poking around the aforementioned hospital might be a reason to stop in the town proper, but do say hello to Steve the property manager for me as he chases you off the grounds.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: The next time I'm in Poughkeepsie? Whenever the hell that is, yeah, sure...

{The Menu - 04.06.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel w/ cream cheese
Noon | Apple Pie Cafe, Poughkeepsie, NY
Night | Matzoh Pizza + wine

Matzoh + tomato sauce + mozzarella cheese = Passover-tastic!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

{The Menu - 04.05.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Miro Cafe, New York, NY + parking ticket
Night | Matzoh + peanut butter + potato knishes + pear

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Mini Knishes & Cold-Kicking Noodles

Je'Bon Noodle House
15 St. Mark's Place
New York, NY
(212) 388-1313

THE WEBSITE CLAIMS that Je'Bon is "The Jewel of St. Mark's Place!" I questioned that at first but then remembered that most establishments on St. Mark's are certainly not attempting for "jewel" status, so perhaps we'll grant Je'Bon its self-appointed title. Couldn't hurt.

Our story, however, begins before Je'Bon. It begins a few days ago when I promised a week's worth of Passover recipes. Today's recipe is a simple one, even simpler than yesterday's latkes, and improves on said latkes by mashing the mixture-bound potatoes instead of grating them and baking the result instead of frying it. This simple alteration yields the vendor cart staple: knishes. By making the knishes "mini" we enable the throwing of a few into your pocket to enjoy on-the-go, though I would recommend wrapping them up in tin foil or a paper towel before putting them in your pocket. One word: linty.

3 cups mashed potatoes (appx. 2 large Russets)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp margarine
3/8 cup matzoh meal
1 egg yolk beaten w/ 1 tbsp water
oil + salt + pepper + rosemary

I peeled my potatoes and softened 'em up by boiling them a little while--until a fork can be stuck in fairly easily. At this point I removed them from the boiling water and let them cool off a bit before mashing them. Combine mashed potatoes with eggs, margarine, matzoh meal, and add seasonings to taste. Form into small, flat patties, arrange on well-greased baking sheet, and brush with egg yolk mixture. Bake in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until browned.

This is a good recipe for experimentation. For example, try doubling it and using a few sweet potatoes, or you could use all red potatoes for a different flavor. Other seasonings would work well; adding sauteed onions would kick it up a bit. You can make different sizes or, as I did, try stuffing a few of them with grated cheddar cheese. Good for breakfast and lunch, hot or cold! Nutritional value of zero-to-negative!

It was making these little buggers that made me late for my actual dinner date with a quite sick Mint. Given her cold and the absolutely miserable weather, choosing Je'Bon for hot noodles and soup was a wise choice.

You really can't go wrong with noodles

Now, as a rule, I try to avoid eating on St. Mark's Place (the cheep and deliciously authentic Kenka is a notable exception to this rule if you don't mind waiting outside for a table on any night of the week.) In some ways, St. Mark's, a locale noted for its grimy punk aesthetic, has actually fared better than other neighborhoods (i.e. Little Italy) in holding true to its roots while fending off the forces of gentrification, and in other ways it has lost all grip on its sanity; wig and sock shops do not a punk community make, though Kim's Video and Mint's beloved St. Mark's Comics do well to hold down the fort. Translate to food: this same struggle, between restaurants like the venerable and miserable Dojo and the ever-present Chipolte, makes dining on this block too damn difficult to endure.

Je'Bon surprised me. It's interior gave off the impression, like so many other recent additions to the block, it was trying too hard--a large space with brick walls and sleek light blocks, disco pumping from its raters, and a nearly-empty dining room perched above a completely-empty dining room. But the food is worth the space.

I had the steamed vegetable dumplings to start, which were fresh, crunchy inside, and came (excruciatingly) hot and sticky. Mint's udon noodles and chicken breast in steaming broth ($8) helped kick her cold, and my satay seafood ($11) was a sizzling cast iron pan full of thin noodles with huge shrimp and lots of squid and fish paste in a delicious, not-too-oily sauce. Both good choices for a rainy, rainy day.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: There's a wait at Kenka.

{The Menu - 04.04.07}

Morning | Coffee + pear
Noon | Mini Knishes + matzoh + peanut butter
Night | Je'bon, New York, NY