Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tomato Sauce, v. 3.0

I CANNOT PRAISE this recipe enough. If the price, questionable nutritional value and bland taste of bottled tomato sauce is getting you down, then you really need to consider this recipe for red sauce as passed down through the Giacchino family. I'm revisiting this point because one thing was made clear to me today: the importance of basil.

First, however, I want to remind people how cheap and easy this all is. Can of
Sclafani crushed tomatoes: $1.99; fresh basil: $2.50 per bunch; and one measly, single carrot: $0.25. This is what I'm assuming most people would need to purchase on the way home, where I suspect olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and perhaps an onion are already waiting (onion optional). Now, $4.75 is what one might expect to pay for a decent pre-made bottle of basic red sauce, so this is not bad. Buy a couple extra cans of tomatoes, make a large batch, freeze a few containers, and you can see how this quickly becomes quite economical.

Garlic, basil, and onion--partners in tomato sauce deliciousness

And once you've procured your ingredients, the actual cooking part is stupid-easy. Anyone who can wield a knife is capable of slicing garlic, an onion, shaving a carrot, and roughly chopping a few leaves of basil. Just keep the heat low, lightly fry your garlic, onion, and a bit of basil in the olive oil, then dump in the rest. Let sit for an hour. Stir occassionaly. This is not daunting.

Combine, stir, and let simmer

Most importantly, and this is the reason I've dredged up the topic once again, you really do need fresh basil. This point is
inescapable. We discussed the results using dried basil in my second experience with this recipe, and while the sauce was certainly edible it was lacking that sweet, savory flavor that makes fresh tomato sauce really yummy. If the price of basil turns you off, then buying a bunch and making a large batch, as mentioned above, is really the thing to do.

Keep it cheap by growing your own basil

You can use this nicely as a base for other ingredients, too, like cheeses or meats. Ours was simply poured over penne and served up with some sauteed zucchini. Aaron, who stopped by for some eats, was rather amazed that it was so easily homemade. Indeed it was.

{The Menu - 05.31.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel stick
Noon | Pear + banana + Jelly Belly + raisin bread roll
Night | Pasta w/ Giacchino's Red Sauce + zucchini + bread + wine

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

{The Menu - 05.30.07}

Morning | Coffee + muffin
Noon | Coffee + bagel w/ cream cheese
Night | Leftover *erb + Jelly Belly Tropical Mix + ice cream

Makes a great side dish!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

{The Menu - 05.29.07}

Morning | Blue Iris Cafe, Warren, OH
Noon | Doughnut
Night | Spinach pastry + *erb, Brooklyn, NY

Monday, May 28, 2007

{The Menu - 05.28.05}

Morning | Coffee + doughnut
Noon | Leftovers + root beer + doughnut
Night | Veggie burgers + smashed potatoes + wine + pear-raspberry pie + ice cream

Happy Memorial Day

Sunday, May 27, 2007

BRUNCH!: Mary's Diner

Mary's Diner
666 Main Street (Rt. 20)
Geneva, OH 44041
(440) 466-6393

THIS MUST BE, without question, one of the finest trips I've ever made home, considering only food consumed, and excluding, of course, my grandmother and her homemade meatballs (may they both rest in peace). It's been a good trip for eating, and this fine Sunday afternoon we added Mary's Diner in Geneva to our growing list of good eats.

For a recent renovation, Mary's pulls of the period-appointed look better than most. The floor is checkered, ceiling as shiny as the exterior, coffee hot, service warm, and neon glowing all around. The food is cheap, too. My grandfather and I both ordered the banana nut pancakes ($3.99) and my ma chose an omelet ($5.99). I also ordered a side of mac n' cheese (um, because it was on the menu), which prompted our waitress to rightfully remark, "That's an odd combination." I agreed with her and promised to keep them separate on my plate.

Mixing these two is not necessarily a taste sensation

The mac n' cheese turned up glowing all sorts of orange. On seeing this I immediately suspected American cheese was involved, and on tasting this was confirmed. A bit abrasive, I'll admit, for mac n' cheese, but still enjoyable. The pancakes, on the contrary, were entirely supurb. Rather than mixing the banana-nut combo into the batter, a warm compote of crushed peanuts and walnuts was mixed with maple syrup, topped with bananas, and delivered on the side to be poured over our pancakes.

Incredible. The abundance of peanuts gave a saltier, more savory flavor to the pancakes than the more commonly used (and sweeter) pecan-walnut pairing, and in mixing them with warm syrup inspired me to repeat this simple improvement at home. As long as you keep your pancakes apart from your mac n' cheese, you can't go wrong.

Please do try this at home

I should also mention here the dessert my mom and I assembled last night and finally stuck in the oven this afternoon: a pear-raspeberry tart that turns out more like a pie and is remarkably simple to assemble from scratch. Recipe forthcoming. For now, enjoy the pictures:

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Why not; he'll prolly make the tart some coming weekend, too.

{The Menu - 05.27.07}

Morning | Coffee + doughnuts
Noon | Mary's Diner, Geneva, OH
Night | Apple quiche + stuffed shells + garlic bread + wine + Pear & Raspberry Tart Pie

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Madsen Donuts, Since 1938

Madsen Donuts
5426 Lake Road East
Geneva-On-The-Lake, OH 44041
(440) 466-5884

MY DOUGHNUT LOVE runs deep and at Madsen is where it begins. I have few fonder childhood memories than waking up over July 4th weekend, wandering downstairs and out to the front porch to find family members gathered about boxes of doughnuts. Thinking about it now, there may have been twice the number of doughnuts sitting on the table than family sitting around it. Given the size of my family, that's a rather remarkable accomplishment.

There's always room for doughnuts

We've discussed my love for doughnuts before, specifically regarding a variety found here in Greenpoint. Nothing, however, competes with the creme sticks found at Madsen--the unbelievably chocolaty frosting, the light marshmallow filling, the spongy fried dough--for which hungry Madsen's customers line up daily, stretching out the screen door of the 70-year-old establishment. The jelly-filled, sugar-covered sticks are my personal favorite, with a jelly filling that tastes like jam rather than fake fruit; the almost-crispy cinnamon sticks get snapped up just as quick. And, all day, tray after tray, Madsen sets out a stready stream of freshly-made doughnuts to replenish those bought as quickly as patrons can carry them away. It's positively ritualistic.

Which is why here, in Geneva-On-The-Lake, doughnuts are served with every meal, and sometimes in-between. Eat up.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He probably already did.

{The Menu - 05.26.07}

Morning | Coffee + Madsen's Donuts, Geneva-On-The-Lake, OH
Noon | Cheese sandwich + chips + salsa + creme stick
Night | Apple quiche + spinach w/ sun-dried tomato-stuffed pastry + veggies + bread + butterscotch malt

Two of my ma's summer dinner creations

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Italian Re-Birth of a Dairy Queen

6540 Lake Road West
Geneva-On-The-Lake, OH
(440) 964-5766

AS FAMILY LEGEND goes, my grandfather first came up (and kept coming) to Geneva-On-The-Lake when the little Lake Erie town was in its resort-town heyday. That was during the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1950s he bought the now-century-old lakeside house he still owns and the family, to this day, still frequents. He bought the house the same year my mother, the middle of seven children, was born, and with this small army waiting in the wings he decided to make another purchase: a Dairy Queen franchise.

The kids all had college tuition to earn and, besides, they needed something to keep them busy in the summer. So, this was the trade off--make ice cream now, go to college later. The stories from those Dairy Queen days are nearly endless in my family. Business was brisk through the 60s, died off with the town's waning, aging popularity during the 70s, and by the 80s the former hot spot was mostly abandoned save for a few buckets of marshmallow topping.

The 'old Dairy Queen' was re-imagined as an Italian restaurant in the mid-90s by my uncle, but the food never won over any of the locals. It was sold to another Italian man in 2001, Alessandro , a native Italian, who promised to try the same Italian trick. The town said it would never stick. They weren't expecting the food to be so damn good.

How good is the food at Alessandro's? Really, really good.

For the first time in 40 years the parking lot off Lake Road is packed just as it used to be, with lines of waiting customers spilling out the doors. The town may be run down a bit more than it used to be, like the old Dairy Queen's exterior, but the new life inside owes a debt to the fantastic food coming out of the kitchen (that folks in this town will line up to pay $12-plus for a plate of pasta should tell you just how good it is).

Alessandro's, in truth, is part of an slow but sudden revival in this once-thriving resort haven, by many accounts Ohio's very first. While fun, games, and dancing have all been parts of its heritage (my grandfather boasts of getting Cab Calloway's autograph after a 1930s dance), fine food has never been a fine point in any of the stories I've been told. Doughnut shops, ice cream parlors, a few pizza establishments--these are the vendors of Geneva-On-The-Lake's past. Alessandro's is one for its future.

My linguine with zucchini and seafood was infinitely better than a similar dish I ate at New York landmark Patsy's just earlier this week; that pasta, zucchini, shrimp, and crab can all be cooked in one dish and not one wind up overcooked is remarkable to me. My mother's mushroom ravioli were light and rich, with tiny cherry tomatoes brightening up the dish, and my grandfather's meat lasanga, by all reports, wonderful. The antipasti platter of mushroom and tomato bruschetta (garlicky without overpowering) with tomato, mozzarella and basil on fresh focaccia was simple yet exciting.

It's a far cry from the days of toppings fights and "Rose and Tony's pepperonis" pizza, but it's new life in a place with seriously great heritage, Dilly Bars and all.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Most certainly.

{The Menu - 05.25.07}

Morning | Cinnamon Toast Crunch + coffee
Noon | Peanut butter granola bar + pinapple + bread + cookies
Night | Alessandro's, Geneva-On-The-Lake, OH

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Back in 'The Heart of it All'

Coyoacan Mexican Grill
137 Lincoln Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44507

SOMEWHERE, I HAVE a construction paper poster of "fun Ohio facts" as assembled once upon a time by my friend Jane from photos and captions found in a 1970s informational brochure about my home state. It's a stunning portrait of Midwestern life well worth the money Jane spent on glue and postage. I'll dig it up and post it here the next time I'm headed to Ohio, even if it's a bit scathing (it was assembled, it should be noted, by someone from a state--Massachusetts--that never fails to pass the "what's the first thing you think of if I say..." test with a resounding "pilgrim"). But I digress.

I'm in Ohio. I flew in this morning with my DayQuil-muted cold and two suitcases of dirty laundry. Still fairly tired, I'll try to keep this on point: food. While this morning's airport coffee was actually quite good, and this evening's post-graduation gathering in honor of my cousin Joey certainly worth remarking upon, it's this afternoon's lunch at Coyoacan on which we'll focus.

We heard about next door neighbor University Pizza on my last Ohio trip, and while I did eat at Coyoacan on that same stint, I couldn't remember the name of the place to mention it. Bad omen? Maybe. Coyoacan is confusing. First, the layout is stupid. The glass-walled order/food assembly area and cashier's counter could not possibly be more awkwardly arranged; the cashier's spot comes first as you walk in, but you actually bypass it and order unceremoniously over a glass wall around the corner, retrace your steps towards the entrance to pay, then walk back past the wall and waiting customers to get to the dining room. Secondly, the food is made as mind-numbingly slow as it is painfully overwrought to order (the menu is listed on the wall behind the cashier... around the corner from where you actually order). But that's not the confusing part.

The confusing part is that the food is really good. You wouldn't suspect it from the seemingly mundane piles of beans and toppings, or from the perpetually confused way in which the staff goes about preparing your order. It's no four-star cuisine, but the soft flour tacos are appropriately chewy, the toppings and guacamole countering by being surprisingly fresh and crunchy, and when the salty beans and sweet cheese mix it up with the spicy salsas, you're quite happy you came. It's a quick lunch, if you don't mind spending 20 minutes figuring out how to order.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He's got a hankering for Tex-Mex in Youngstown. And time. And patience.

{The Menu - 05.24.07}

Morning | Coffee + banana + DayQuil
Noon | Coyocan, Youngstown, OH
Night | Cheese + crackers + spinach bread + grapes

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

{The Menu - 05.23.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Chocolate rice crisp bar + pierogies + pasta fagioli soup
Night | Jameson's + soup + Motrin

Jameson's taken at Flatiron rooftop bar, Empire State Building looming above

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Patsy's: A Tale of Pizza and Pasta

Patsy's Pizzeria
318 W. 23rd St.
New York, NY 10011
(646) 486-7400

LANCIERI OPENED a soon-to-be legendary pizza parlor in East Harlem in the early 1930s. This much is accepted as New York pizza gospel. What happened in the years to come can only be described as chaos. The short of it is that Patsy's pizza pedigree remains intact to this day despite a family feud over its debated ancestral discipleship. The Grimaldi clan would have you bypass Lancieri's importance en route to its Brooklyn digs, while Patsy's very name itself has been enshrined as Manhattan's marquee pizza moniker.

Personally, I prefer
Grimaldi's. Aside from the simple fact that walking over the Brooklyn Bridge to order up a pie at the always-packed Grimaldi's is the quintessential New York experience, the pizza is just better. That's it. But we'll leave this conversation go until I have a chance this summer to visit L&B's. Then we'll have an opportunity to make a proper assessment of NYC's pizza titans.

Mint and I didn't order pizza anyways. Not tonight. We ordered pasta (what can I say--I had pizza last night). It's odd, yes, to visit Patsy's and skip the pie, but I've had pasta from its kitchen before (albeit uptown, not in Chelsea) and it was perfectly fantastic.

Pasta cooked al dente, seafood cooked ad absurdum

Not tonight though. I ordered the
linguine fra diavolo with seafood. The sauce was rich and spicy, but the seafood was overcooked, remarkably to entirely different degrees; the mussels were just slightly overdone, ditto for the tiny scallops, the calamari was quite tougher, and the shrimps were the worst of the rubbery bunch. Not a great review, I know, and I do like Patsy's. Mint's simple spaghetti looked infinitely more interesting. Luck of the draw? Perhaps.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: One does not normally go to Patsy's if one is not seeking pizza. Lesson learned.

{The Menu - 05.22.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Coffee + Tomato w/ mozzarella salad + soy crisps
Night | Patsy's Pizzeria, New York, NY

Monday, May 21, 2007

Amish Market: Best Pizza In Midtown? Bet the Buggy On It

Amish Market West
731 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
(212) 245-2360

FOR TWO YEARS I practically lived off the Amish Market. It's that good. And if I didn't eat there absolutely every day, I certainly bought my coffee there every morning without fail. How can you pass up a place that makes "coffee with milk" using steamed milk without you having to ask or pay extra for it? I'm sorry, you didn't know the Amish made excellent coffee? They also make delicious sushi, salads, fresh-sliced sandwiches, and--get ready for this--the best pizza in Midtown.

That said, I've never eaten at Amish Market West, or any of its other locations around the city, only at the 45th St. location stuck between Second Avenue and Third Avenue, where its a beeline from the AETN offices to the Amish's front door. I was nevertheless quick to recommend it when a coworker asked for a not-terrible suggestion for a late-night working meal. My suggestion, specifically: brick oven pizza.

Why assume one store is as good as another? At Amish Market East, there's a guy who works the brick oven counter, serving up pies and hot sandwiches, hundreds of them daily, and chumming it up with the endless stream of customers--he seemingly knows everyone by name. He is as authentically Italian a pizza pie-making guy as you are likely to meet in this city. On his reputation alone I staked my confidence of suggesting Amish Market West, even with it being a different store entirely.

Was the pizza as good as over East? Decidedly not. I doubt my pizza guy would have let the crust stay so soft; there were no crispy, burnt-black spots on the underside of our Western crust to keep the slices stiff. The mushrooms and mozzarella were certainly up to par, as fresh you'll find anywhere. Working late, the best part was not having to pick up the bill.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He'll walk over to E. 45th.

Photo courtesy Bob's Walk, photographing every block of every street in NYC since 1988.

{The Menu - 05.21.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Salad + roll + pasta salad + asparagus
Night | Amish Market West, New York, NY

Sunday, May 20, 2007

{The Menu - 05.20.07}

Morning | Coffee + Motrin
Noon | Leftover Indian food + candy + Motrin
Night | Tempeh sandwich + juice + Motrin

Saturday, May 19, 2007

101.1, and I'm Not Talking About Jack FM

WHO REMEMBERS YESTERDAY'S reference to a "cold I've been fighting off all week"? Strike that. It's a fever.

I was supposed to go into work today. Not happening. Instead, my fever (and somehow oddly intact work ethic) earns me the right to... work from home. Which isn't bad--getting paid to take DayQuil is a job that many overlook but remains both fiscally responsible and very light on commute. In truth, I did sit at the computer and attempt to be of some service to the Country Living cause. It was mindless, but it was something to do.

Not helping are the people next door who have decided today is a very good day to renew their commitment to techno (I would specify that said techno was being reaffirmed at a very loud volume, but I find "loud techno" to be redundant). Maybe it's me, or maybe it's just Greenpoint, I dunno, but for the love of Paul Oakenfold, couldn't they pick something with rhythm? When I was living down on S. 4th in Williamsburg, the music there was loud too but, bless their Latino hearts, at least that shit had some soul. This straight eighth-notes crap is pointless.

I'm cranky. I'm hot. I'm cold.

{The Menu - 05.19.07}

Morning | Coffee + oatmeal w/ dried cranberries + banana
Noon | Crispy Rice Bar + DayQuill + carrot-pinapple juice + tangerine juice + DayQuill
Night | Fried egg w/ cheese on pumpernickel toast + juices + NyQuill

Friday, May 18, 2007

Working Late, Eating Spicy

Bombay Masala
148 W. 49th St.
New York, NY 10019
(212) 302-8150

WORKING LATE, AGAIN. One of the perks of this Country Living gig, however, is that when such late nights occur, we are all provided dinner. Always a good perk, always appreciated.

I convinced a coworker this evening that she wanted to try Indian food. (This, after I was convinced by a coworker that something spicy would help kick the unwanted cold I've been fighting off all week.) In persuasion, I offered that I'd become enamored with Indian food in Spain, of all places, while dating a girl who was vegan--cheap, filling, remarkably easy to come across, Indian food was a nice vegan/vegitarian/meat-tastic option for everyone--and the richly spiced cuisine had quickly became a "soul food" favorite of mine.

We found on a few Indian options and chose, quite randomly, Bombay Masala. As an aside, SeamlessWeb is a really weird name for an website offering the ability to order food delivered from nearby restaurants. I'm sure there were plenty of marketing geniuses in the room when they came up with it, so I'm sure they also know that and are still available in case they change their minds, though the latter may not be the market they're looking to snag.

Bombay Masala was good enough. I had requested my aloo gobi to be spicy, but not "maximum spicy," and the happy medium between those two was, to my amazement, met. My coworker ordered chicken masala and was admittedly concerned when her food arrived glowing red and submurged in quite a bit of oil and sauce. Upon tasting it, she was surprised and quite satisfied. Another convert success story.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He has a chance to sit down and eat at the restaurant proper. Food is usually better when it's not delivered, with rare exception.

{The Menu - 05.18.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Spinach salad + roll + green beans + pasta w/ olives
Night | Bombay Masala, New York, NY

Thursday, May 17, 2007

{The Menu - 05.17.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Coffee + brownie + dried cranberries + veggie dumplings
Night | *erb, Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

{The Menu - 05.16.07}

Morning | Coffee + Krispy Kreme
Noon | Leftover eggplant Parmesan hero + brownie
Night | Burritoville, New York, NY + brownie + chocolate "twig"
& Hooters, New York, NY

One of the perks of Country Living is all the free stuff that shows up in the office.
Like this delicious chocolate orange-flavored twig! Why, you ask? Shut up--it's delicious.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

{The Menu - 05.15.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Spinach salad + tofu + roll + tomatillos + brownie
Night | Luigi's, New York, NY + veggie dumpling + scallion pancake slice

Monday, May 14, 2007

{The Menu - 05.14.07}

Morning | Coffee + plain bagel
Noon | Spinach salad + roll + green beans + quinoa w/ nuts
Night | Better Burger, New York, NY

That's right: twice in five days

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Blender is Not the Same Thing as a Food Processor

THERE HAVE BEEN no kitchen disasters as of late, at least not since the infamous Exploding Brooklyn Label Ketchup incident of March aught-seven. So, I was due, really. But this story, like most all good stories, requires a little history.

In a recent Menu posting I offered a glimpse from the window of the thirty-second floor of 300 Eighth Avenue, a.k.a. The Hearst Tower. This is where for the past two weeks I have been working to help re-launch (on May 23) the
Country Living website. That's correct: Country Living. The gig is a little bit of copy writing, an awful lot of data entry, and one hell of a view. I love it.

While assembling a collection of recipes from the
CL October 2006 issue, I came across one for White Spiced Coffee. As I enjoy spices, milk, and coffee, I didn't see how I could lose. So, this morning, I smashed one cup of coffee beans with the bottom of a heavy pan and put them in a sauce pan with three to four cups soy milk (you can use whatever kind you like) and brought this combo to a simmer. I promptly turned off the heat and let the milk and coffee beans steep for fifteen minutes.

So far, so good

At this point, the recipe calls for straining the crushed beans from the milk and transferring the warm, coffee-infused liquid to a blender. I strained the beans from the milk and then transferred the warm, coffee-infused liquid to a food processor. In retrospect, I assure you, there is a difference. Nevertheless, at this point none the wiser, I added a couple sticks of cinnamon, a few pods of cardamom, and some honey to the milk, closed the lid tight (ha!) and pushed "blend."

Alright, that seems reasonable

Now, Mint and I do not keep extra rolls of paper towels stored in our apartment. It's just not a product we use so frequently that a stockpile set in reserve is something we worry about. We normally purchase them with a specific need in mind like, say, the windows need cleaning, Phyllis' cage needs cleaning, basically--something needs a cleaning, but for some unknown reason I purchased yesterday a roll of paper towels, cleaning purpose unknown. Omen? You be the judge:


All was not lost, loyal reader. I had divided the milk into two batches of milk to-be-blended, so with my arms and shirt (and a noticeably large part of the kitchen) dripping with milk and honey, I simply poured the half-blended, half-unblended milk mixtures back into a saucepan to reheat. I re-added a few pods of cardamom and sticks of cinnamon to impart whatever spice they could during the reheating.


Remarkably, this turned out pretty okay (see top). You would normally strain your White Spiced Coffee after the blender finishes its job, before reheating, but I was forced to reheat and strain before pouring into a mug. Even with its limited time spent in my food processor, however, a good portion of the soy milk had churned up light and frothy--I imagine with proper blending time allotted this entire drink would be light and frothy. Worth a second chance, certainly. Of course, only after I buy a blender.

{The Menu - 05.13.07}

Morning | White Spiced Coffee
Noon | Coffee + bagel & egg sandwich
Night | Soba noodles w/ fried tofu + zucchini

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dinner And A Movie: Fresh Co. Tortilla & "28 Weeks Later"

Peter Pan Bakery
727 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222

I DON'T HAVE enough time to discuss the reasons why I love Peter Pan Bakery, so let's leave it at this: if you are in Greenpoint, you should consider getting a doughnut here. If you do and are not entirely satisfied, contact me via this blog, responding in a post with picture, comment, and mailing address for your check, and I will refund your money. And don't buy a dozen doughnuts and tell me you didn't like one--what happened to the other eleven?--because I'm not giving you that much money. Maybe there should be a picture of you eating the doughnut involved too, just to make sure. Or, well, okay--I'm suspending the Mike Eats Food! Peter Pan Doughnut Challenge Money-Back Guarantee until I can set a few more ground rules. You should still try the doughnuts though. Incredible.

Now, some of you might be thinking, "gee, Mike, didn't your Menu for today state that you ate at two other places? Why aren't their addresses at the top of this post?" Well, thanks for your question, loyal reader. Here's the answer:

I don't know the address of Pad Thai. I'm not even sure "Pad Thai" is the place's real name. I was working this afternoon and ordered some take-out delivered to the office. My bad. As for Fresh Co. Tortilla, there are like 8 billion various Fresh Co., Fresca, Fresco, Fresh-e-Fresh, et. al., tex-mex joints in this city. It's like the Chinese-people-making-Mexican-food version of Ray's Pizza. In fact, on a scale of Tasti-D-Lite to Starbucks, Fresch Co. Tortilla rates about a Crown Fried Chicken.

For the purists, I'll go ahead and describe the meal anyway:

Upon entering, the sidewalk storefront's neon glow cast a soft backlight to the three tables along the restaurant's dining area. We snapped up a great table (right next to the trash can) and dropped off our stuff before sauntering back to the order counter and open kitchen. The menu was written out neatly in identical plastic letters on the big, black menu board overhead, but we quickly settled on old favorites--quesadillas! Perfect for a quick snack before the theater.

My black bean and jack cheese quesadilla was two soft tortilla shells perfectly pressed between two hot, well-greased surfaces. The cheese was melted and hot; the black beans were mushy, almost purple in color. Mint's chicken and jack cheese quesadilla looked just as hot, just as pressed between two hot, well-greased surfaces. Along with three plastic container-sealed sides of salsa, a paper bag of fresh-fried tortilla chips, and two cans of Coke-a-Cola, the meal was just enough for the two of us and only set us back a respectable $9.09.

Then we saw "zombies" do unnatural things to people in 28 Weeks Later. Kat's description of the movie was pretty much spot on. I believe she used both the words "empty" and "sour." I could not agree more with those two words as used to describe my reaction to this movie as well. That's not supposed to be a bad review. Also, I had to squint to dull the gore of what I was seeing exactly twice; I laughed once; and the people behind me who continually felt compelled to recap out loud what had happened, speculating as to what they missed by coming in late, further discussing what plot developments they might expect as the movie progressed, and who generally just offered any advice they had to the characters on the screen during any dip in the volume substantial enough to carry on the aforementioned conversations owe me $10.50.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Always good to end on a positive note--yes, I love doughnuts.

{The Menu - 05.12.07}

Morning | Peter Pan Bakery, Brooklyn, NY
Noon | Pad Thai, New York, NY
Night | Fresh Co. Tortilla, Brooklyn, NY

Friday, May 11, 2007

{The Menu - 05.11.07}

Morning | Coffee + plain bagel
Noon | Spinach salad + kashi w/ walnuts + spring roll + bread
Night | Jameson's + chocolate

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Better Burger Wins, Barcelona Loses

Better Burger
587 Ninth Avenue

New York, NY 10036

THERE'S SOMETHING COMFORTING about Better Burger. I've only eaten from the chain twice now, but both times to the same conclusion--comfort food. As a vegetarian, I know that I can't speak to their red meat menu, but the veggie version is soft, full of flavor, and the toppings--especially the pickles, I think--remind me of fast food that doesn't suck. I think it's the flavor you get when cheap toppings collide. Pickles, onion, tomato--BOOM! That's a hamburger. That's Better Burger. It's take-out. Everyone wins.

But the real story today is the beginnings of one you'll prolly hear me talk more about over the next month: Spanish football. I've started with the addition of Phil Ball's excellent column posted in the Mike Eats Links! section. I'll change that weekly. It'll keep everyone up-to-date. The long and short of the story, however, is that Real Madrid (with soon to be American-bound David Beckham back in stride) have caught up with Barcelona in the race for the La Liga title after dispatching Sevilla last weekend. Only five games left in the season. Good stuff.

This week, after Barcelona had thrashed Getafe 5-2 a week ago in King's Cup (think: every team in Spain, major and minor leagues, all playing in one tournament for a single trophy), Getafe gets revenge by demoralizing Barcelona 0-4 in the second of their two games, and knocks Barca out of the Cup by winning 5-6 over the two games. Amazing! A huge psychological blow to the Catalans headed back into their Liga matches this weekend.

Lio Messi's goal was simply stunning,
but not good enough for Barcelona to ultimately advance

What does this have to do with food? Absolutely nothing. Hala Real!

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: He's working late near Hell's Kitchen.

{The Menu - 05.10.07}

Morning | Coffee + 2 bites of a terrible pear
Noon | Spinach salad + baked tofu + potato salad + quinoa salad + conch fritter
Night | Better Burger, New York, NY

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

{The Menu - 05.09.07}

Morning | Coffee + plain bagel
Noon | Salad + baked tofu + roll + pasta salad + broccoli rabe
Night | Leftover spaghetti w/ red sauce + zucchini + tomatoes + onion bread
Just as good left-over

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Reflecting over Red Sauce

I'VE BEEN WORKING full-time for the last week, which is the first time I've done that in some time. It's worth noting here because it's also the first time I've done so since starting this here blog back in February. It's made the "daily" presence here harder to keep up with, that's for sure (as I write and back-post this five days after the fact), but it's all part of the learning curve, I suppose. On with the game:

Retuning home in need of a good, hearty meal, my mind immediately went to pasta. I swung by The Garden (certainly the topic of a future Mike Eats Greenpoint!) and picked up some veggies for the side... and a can of Sclafani crushed tomatoes. That can only mean one thing: Giacchino's World-Famous Recipe Red Sauce!

Even without the fresh basil (my little guys are growing strong but not near ready for harvest) this turned out okay. A little more bitter bite on account of the dried basil and oregano, but that's okay when I'm tossing in extra shallots and both black and red pepper--spicy is good. To go with this, I also sauteed zucchini in a little butter with a chopped tomato thrown in just long enough for it to heat up. Delicious. Quick, easy, and very cheep. Add some bread, some leftover cheese lasagna (I had to finish off the leftovers), and some fish sticks Mint decided she really needed to have, and you've got dinner.

The kind of dinner that reminds me why I've been doing all this.

{The Menu - 05.08.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Spinach salad + corn polenta + pasta salad + baked tofu + roll
Night | Fettuccine w/ Giacchino Famous-Recipe Red Sauce + cheese lasagna + roll + zucchini w/ tomatoes (+ fish stick + lemon sorbet)

Monday, May 7, 2007

{The Menu - 05.07.07}

Morning | Coffee + plain croissant
Noon | Salad + roll + pasta salad + rice w/ raisins
Night | *erb Thai Restaurant, Brooklyn, NY + Jameson's + Crown Fried Chicken mac n' cheese & mozzerella stick + three cookies
By the way, this is the view from the Hearst Building,
which is where I've been working and thus eating lunch at for the last two weeks.
More on that soon

Sunday, May 6, 2007

{The Menu - 05.06.07}

Morning | Coffee + cereal w/ dried cranberries and banana
Noon | Cafe Grumpy, Brooklyn, NY + Brooklyn Label, Brooklyn, NY
Night | Pierogies + lemon sorbet + vanilla wafers

Saturday, May 5, 2007

RECIPE! Elissa Wiehn's Texas Caviar

IT'S A SHAME I don't have any pictures from this fiesta de Cinco de Mayo spent sitting around the gravel backyard of one Phil Falco. As you might imagine, we drank copious Coronas, but I screwed up by finding and bringing along a few cheep liters of Belgian beer, while Aaron and Peyton arrived with bourbon, mint leaves, and sugar for the makings of Mint Juleps. Hardly Mexican, to be sure, but how else does one celebrate when Cinco de Mayo falls on Kentucky Derby day with the Queen of England in attendance at Churchill Downs?

The highlight, however, was at least named after a state that borders Mexico and boasts the basic essence of salsa: Elissa Wiehn's Texas Caviar. This stuff is so simple and so delicious you will be wondering why you haven't been putting it on everything you eat. Required:

2 medium peppers, diced
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced small
3 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cans hominy, drained

2 can black beans (or black eyed peas), drained
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 scallions, chopped
some chopped parsley
1 bottle favorite Italian dressing

Put it all in a bowl. Mix. Eat. Feeds many.

This is the recipe as handed my by Ms. Wiehn, which already boats many a modification since it was once upon a time handed to her--an extra can of hominy and the use of cilanto in place of parsley, for example. You too could easily spice up this recipe by adding a bit more garlic and habaneros instead of jalapenos, but it's a pretty sweet salsa so don't go overboard. My only recommendation would be to use yellow or red peppers (as does Elissa) for color, and to soak and use fresh black beans instead of canned ones to drop the sheer sodium level, but that all depends on the prep time you have.

{El MenĂº - 05.05.07}

Morning | Coffee + bagel w/ peanut butter
Noon | Elissa Wiehn's Texas Caviar + tortilla chips + grilled cheese hamburger bun w/ tomato
+ beer
Night | Jameson's + egg sandwich

Friday, May 4, 2007

{The Menu - 05.04.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Spinach salad + tofu + rice w/ rasins and mint + bread + chocolate cake +coffee + banana
Night | Bread + dried cranberries + banana chips + peanut butter + Jameson's + Sapporo Haru, Brooklyn, NY

Roxie + I = big fans of Sapporo Haru

Thursday, May 3, 2007

{The Menu - 05.03.07}

Morning | Coffee
Noon | Salad + zuicchini + quinoa + salt cod fritter + bread + pear
Night | Cheese Raviolis in the Giacchino Family "Not-So-Secret (Anymore)" Tomato Sauce

Hexa: a big fan of raviolis

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

{The Menu - 05.02.07}

Morning | Coffee + banana chips + peanut butter
Noon | Bagel + peanut butter + banana
Night | Wine + cheese lasagna

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Maple Jelly is Amazing!

THE LAST TIME I visited my aunt and uncle in Connecticut, Mint and I were encouraged to stop by a neighbor's house known by another more yummy name: River's Edge Sugar House. Mmmmmm... that winter morning, along with my Aunt Kathy and my cousins, Paul and Adam, we pulled up the Sugar House driveway to find the place disappointingly quiet.

We stomped through the snow to peek at the horses out in the yard nearby, assured by Kathy their owners were friends of hers and wouldn't mind. As we were turning to leave--a noise in the woods! We all stopped. It moved closer and we started off, quicker this time, as a man with a rifle bounced out of the trees, yelling after us, "Hey, how are you!"

In this post, the role of Man with Rifle is played by friend Bill Proulx, who is also the owner of the aforementioned horses and (of relevance to this post) the River's Edge Sugar House. He is is also a purveyor of fine maple products, the man who has converted me to 100% real maple syrup, and, this past weekend, the man who sold me a $6 glass jar of homemade maple jelly.

Maple jelly makes a tasty sandwich!

Maple jelly, by the way, is a-mazing. I imagine it requires very little extra sugar to make, since the maple syrup used to make it is already something like 60% sugar itself, and might I add it pairs up ridiculously well with peanut butter. Want some? Well, my jar is gonna be empty pretty soon, so I'll just give you this:

River's Edge Sugar House - Pure Maple Products & Local Honey
326 Mansfield Road (Rt. 89); Ashford, CT 06278
(860) 429-1510 |

(You know you want some.)