Saturday, June 30, 2007

{The Menu - 06.30.07}

Coffee + Granola


Chips + Salsa + Jameson's


Veggie Burgers + Cole Slaw + Potato Salad + Pasta Salad + Apple Pie + Jameson's

Friday, June 29, 2007

Summer at South Street Seaport & Subway's New Ad Campaign, "Just Eat It!"

PLEASE FORGIVE MY lateness in posting almost a week of entries.

That apology, of course, is offered by "Future Mike" who, after almost a week-and-a-half of work-induced absence, is reliving his past by pretending it's the present for the sake of daily-blogging appearances. Is there proper grammatical tense for that? No version of Mike (now, in the third person) knows for sure.

Today (wink-wink), I met up with Marc Choi of "racist flakes" fame to check out the ever-emotional Ra Ra Riot at the South Street Seaport's summer Seaport Music Festival, part of the River to River series, which along with Street Fair is a true hallmark of summer in New York City. Opening was another Syracuse indie legend in his own right, the pizza-loving Scott Wiener, a la Bikini Carwash Company. A show not to be missed.

What is missed, however, is any hope of decent food down where Fulton Street meets the East River. There are a few sit-down spots along ye olde cobblestone of the wannabe-fashionable Seaport district, but out on Pier 17 you would think you had died and gone to the suburbs. A full-fledged mall, your food options consist of a mall food court, a handful of mall-based, sit-down restaurants, and all options anchored by Uno's Pizzeria. After examining all of the Chinese take-out options (Marc lamenting the absence of a China Express), we settled on Subway and quickly retreated outdoors to catch Bikini Carwash.

There's something I'd like to talk about here aside from how disgusting the Veggie Delite sandwich is: Subway's ad campaign for "Super Stuffed" subs, which apparently is only running in the tri-state area where the uber-sandwiches are being sold. In this campaign, Subway trades in its "Eat fresh!" slogan for something a little more direct, specifically, "Eat it--any way you can." Somewhere, Jared is smacking himself in the face. I cannot at present find a video of this this ad online, but I can offer a .jpg of proof:

My only guess is that Subway, after a half-decade of telling America to "Eat fresh!," has opted to reverse course. If America wants to get fatter every year, dammit, America's #1 Franchise
wants to be doing the fattening. Why only test serve the product in New York? Well, I suppose if the Super Stuffed sub can make it here, it can make it anywhere. As if America hasn't already weighed in on its love of fast food and meat.

Which is a good as transition as any to the vegetarian's selection this evening: Subway's Veggie Delite. I was fairly optimistic, actually, piling the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and such atop my whole wheat hero that my meal might not be half-bad. Then, my sandwich Picasso pulled two great, brown slabs out of the microwave and literally shoved them with two hands into my sandwich. Viola!, a Veggie Delite is born:

I can only admit to eating about six or seven of my twelve-inches of sandwich. Really, that slab of a misguided attempt to adapt the veggie burger the narrower confines of a hero was like a brick wall in my stomach. And I mean that in the politest possible way.

I'll leave you with a few terrible cellphone pictures of the show to wash that awful taste out of your eyes:

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Good Lord, no, he most certainly does not.

{The Menu - 06.29.07}

Coffee + Bagel w/ Cream Cheese

Spinach Salad + Roll + Chickpeas + Pasta Salad

Subway, South Street Seaport,
Pier 17,
New York, NY

Thursday, June 28, 2007

{The Menu - 06.28.07}

Coffee + Bagel w/ Cream Cheese

Spinach Salad + Roll + Paresan Orzo + Asparagus + Potato Salad

Fried Egg Whites + Granola + Pumpkin Cookies

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

{The Menu - 06.27.07}

Coffee + Bagel w/ Cream Cheese

Spinach salad + Roll + Tofu + Green Beans

Dive 75, New York, NY +
Empire Chinese, New York, NY

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

{The Menu - 06.26.07}


Whole Foods, Columbus Circle, New York, NY

Pumpkin Cookies + Bagel w/ Chocolate Peanut Butter & Bananas

Monday, June 25, 2007

Korean Barbeque: the March of Little White Plates

Shilla Korean Barbecue House
37 W. 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 967-1880

HAVING NO PLANS is frequently the best plan. At first, Jeanie just wanted to perhaps grab lunch. Then, both of us running late with our errands, we thought we might just meet up for dinner. I eventually proposed a Korean spot in Williamsburg; Jeanie countered with Koreatown. I agreed, happily, as Mint and Jeff were now dragged into the plot, a time was chosen, and the restaurant left to be determined as Jeanie saw fit. As I climbed up out of the subway onto Sixth Avenue my cell phone buzzed: Shilla on 32nd St. And so it was.

Two flights of stairs later, Mint and I found Jeanie and Jeff tucked into a third-floor corner overlooking 32nd St. and the lights of Koreatown; construction work outside looks to promise a balcony that might sit over the district. Jeanie had already scoured the menu and made a few selections: wild mushrooms and barbecue pork belly to be grilled at the table, a plate of clear rice noodles with beef and vegetables, and a scallion pancake with seafood. Mint and I acquiesced to her choices, quietly wondering if it would be enough food for the four of us. Then came the little plates.

When the waiters had finished, it quite looked like a tapas bar had exploded on our table. Little white dish after little white dish displayed a selection of kim chee, seaweed, bean sprouts, crispy squid, barbecue squid, stuffed clams, marinated radish, raw garlic, and spicy cucumbers. There was probably more. I lost track. We ate all of it. The grill was fired up and the mushrooms thrown on.

We ate those, still smoking from the grill, and heaped on the pork belly and onions. We passed around the plate of noodles and forked over slice after slice of Korean pancake stuffed with thick cuts of squid and whole green onions. When the pork belly was crispy, that too was eaten right off the grill, though Jeff was happy to wrap his in lettuce with rice. I'm not sure I've ever eaten so much food so quickly and so completely. Stuffed, we slowed, but picked at whatever was left on the grill and in our multitude of little white dishes until everything was gone. Satisfied? You bet.

Mint and Jeff, in the aftermath of Korean barbecue

The outing wasn't exactly keeping with a strict budget, I'll admit, but at $27 per person, including our tip, I can certainly say I've spent far more of far less satisfying food and drink, especially with a group of people when the bill can run amok. It's not an outing you pull off every week, but in the spirit of celebration, why the hell not? And what were we celebrating tonight?

Having no plans. Cheers!

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Yeah, and he asked Jeanie to get the recipe for Korean scallion pancakes from her mom. You can bet that one's coming soon. Unless Jeanie's mom hits MEF! with a cease and desist order on publishing the family recipe. We shall see...

{The Menu - 06.25.07}

Cafe Grumpy, Brooklyn, NY + Toasted Bagel w/ Jam + Tempeh

Shilla Korean Barbecue House, Koreatown, New York City

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Siggy's Good Food? Nope, It's Great!

225 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 963-4546

Siggy's Good Food
76 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 237-3199

HARD TO BELIEVE my first trip to Relish in quite some time would be overshadowed by a hole-in-the-wall organic kitchen in downtown Brooklyn, but that's the truth, people. And that's not to say the always-impeccable Relish wasn't up to expectations--Siggy's just flat out surprised us.

The Relish trip was decided-upon quite by accident. Jane, visiting for a birthday weekend, had only two simple requests for brunch: to sit outside and order off a menu that didn't bestow ridiculous names on its food. Is there a better Williamsburg option meeting that pair of demands? I think not. So, much to the chagrin of Mint who was working on a her usual day off, Sunday, it was off to the depths of Wythe Avenue.

Sunday brunch is better in the backyard at Relish

The beauty of Relish is always its menu of simple, delicious fare presented without pretense in neighborhood that quite literally thrives on pretense. My huevos rancheros were excellently cooked and the tortillas below still crunchy, somehow entirely unaffected by the pile of rice and beans piled upon them; the side of veggie sausage, while tasty, could certainly have been of larger quantity. Meanwhile, Jane was much pleased with her chicken sandwich. Best of all, though, was the towering Bloody Mary I received from the bar, thick, just a touch too spicy, and refreshingly cold on a warm afternoon.

After a visit to see Steph tending bar up at Dive 75 on a suspiciously slow Sunday, and after a game of Scrabble, quite a few bowls of chocolate candy, and a remarkable comeback by the US to dispatch Mexico 2-1 and win the Gold Cup, Jane set off across Central Park to find her way back to Murray Hill, while I set off to take the 2 train back into Brooklyn.

Meeting Mint off Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, we surveyed our usual options and decided, instead, to set off down Henry Street in search of something different. We came across Siggy's Good Food and were coxed inside by the adorable gray cat standing sentinel outside in spite of our apprehensions about Siggy's cozy, non-air conditioned interior.

Siggy's was refreshing nonetheless, a bottle of beer and fresh ginger-mint lemonade for Mint and I saw to that. The food, best of all, was not your typical vegan/vegetarian variety, as we had feared, focusing on organic offerings prepared with infinitely more touch and experience than many like-minded establishments. Mint's tofu, broccoli and soba noodles in Szechuan sauce, an overdone staple at many veggie friendly joints, was remarkably light, with all the flavor of soy sauce and spices without becoming too salty or overpowering the tofu, which was cooked very, very well.

Spotting macaroni and cheese on the menu I could do little else but order it, and so also chose a lentil garlic soup to start. The soup was wonderful, no real surprises, but the macaroni and cheese had to be the best I've ordered out anywhere in the City. Whole grain spelt pasta was an excellent, hearty choice paired with the tangy, organic blend of cheeses, and together the duo was gooey, sticky, satisfying, or try this: everything you look for in comfort food. Though, while at $6.95 (technically, it's a starter dish) the mac n' cheese is a pretty great value, I'm fairly sure its nutritionally void. You win some, you lose some.

Don't that just look delicious?

So, sorry, Relish, but you got shown up by some creative kids downtown. It's not that the food there was better, it was just that much more unexpected. When the stellar becomes status quo, surprises are just that much more surprising. Anyways, Mint is anxious for her first visit to your shimmery dining car quarters, so, no worries, you'll get your chance to shine for MEF! some evening soon. You just better hope we don't first go to Siggy's for brunch.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Absolutely, on both counts.

{The Menu - 06.24.07}

Relish, Brooklyn, NY

Siggy's Good Food, Brooklyn, NY + Crostata

Saturday, June 23, 2007

{The Menu - 06.23.07}

Coffee + Bagel + Pear

Tempeh Sandwich w/ Tomato + Greens +
Banana + Crostata

B Bar, New York, NY

Friday, June 22, 2007

RECIPE! Pear & Blackberry Crostata

PRIOR TO MAKING this recipe I'd never before heard of crostata. Or so I thought. Apparently, I've eaten them with some frequency. After some online research, crostata turns out to be little more than an Italian quick-fix recipe for a more labor-intensive pastry--a tart. Score another point for Italian home-cooking.

Truth be told, this recipe looked anything but easy when I first saw at it. Making a pastry crust from scratch seemed like an awfully intricate and complicated task, and not one I thought myself ready for. The result, however, was a surprisingly simple process so very far less daunting than it seemed and a terrifically impressive dessert that's fairly hard to mess up. It's really worth a shot for anyone who doesn't bake often but wants to look good doing it. Locate the following:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar

+ 1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup butter
+ 2 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp shredded lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup blackberry preserves or jam
4 medium peeled, sliced pears

1. In medium bowl, stir together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and baking powder. Using a pasty blender (or: two knives cutting in opposite directions--it helps if the butter is not too cold for this but it absolutely cannot [read: cannot] be warm and/or melting), cut in 2/3 cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

2. In small bowl, mix egg, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tsp lemon peel, and vanilla. Pour mixture into flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Knead gently until smooth (keep hands well- floured). Separate one-third dough, set aside; pat remaining two-thirds into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan. Spread blackberry preserves evenly over pastry in tart pan.

3. If you have the space and a rolling pin, turn out the remaining dough on a well-floured surface into a 9-inch circle. If you live in New York City (read: have a kitchen the size of a shoebox), sprinkle flour on a plate, covering it well. Take up the 1/3 remainder of dough in well-floured hands, and work dough into a flat circle as large as is easily obtained, attempting for 6-7 inches in diameter. Set on floured plate and lightly work outwards to full-size; place in freezer.

4. In a large bowl (this can be the now-empty dough bowl), toss together pears, 1/4 sugar, and 1 tsp lemon peel. Arrange pear slices over preserves in tart pan. Drizzle with melted 2 tbsp butter. (Tip: wait to peel/slice pears until this step--the dough firming in the freezer will be easier to work with next step.)

5. Remove your chilled, flattened dough on well-floured plate from freezer. Cut into 1/2-inch wide strips. Arrange strips over pears in a lattice pattern. (Looks fancy, right?) Brush lattice with additional milk; sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cool tart in pan for 30 minutes, serve warm.
(Tip: if particularly juicy, you can chill your crostata fully in fridge after allowing it to sit out its 30 minutes in pan.)

I felt like adding those notes in italics within the body of the recipe instead of here post-recipe as is MEF! custom because some of those points are rather important--they make working the recipe significantly easier, cleaner, and more successful. So, there you go. The crust of this thing is ridiculously rich (almost a cup of butter will do that), tastes like you spent way more time on it than you did, and the lattice-work looks like you are way better at baking than you are. Not too bad for not too much work.

{The Menu - 06.23.07}

Coffee + Pumpkin Cookies

Veggie "Big Mac": Two All-Veggie Patties + Special Sauce + Greens + Gouda + Tomatoes + Shallots on Sunflower Seed Bread

Pear-Blackberry Crostata

Thursday, June 21, 2007

{The Menu - 06.21.07}

Coffee + Toasted Bagel

Black Bean Burrito w/ Guacamole + French Fries + Vitamin Water + Pumpkin Cookies

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Of Liquid Measures and Asian Fusion

Champion Coffee
1108 Manhattan Avenue
(b/t Clay St. & Dupont St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 383-5195

Planet Thailand
133 N. 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

(718) 599-5758

Fresh out of grounds around the apartment, I lasted until about noon before caving in to my caffeine cravings and stomping up Manhattan Ave to Champion Coffee. Looking only for a quick fix, I ordered to go a 16 oz. cafe americano. As I watched the big, beautiful Faema machine pumping out espresso, I almost missed the guy turning to grab a cup to pour it in--a cup noticeably smaller (by half!) than the one which I was given on my last visit!

Now, I'm not up on my liquid measures. I can't approximate 16 fluid ounces. from 12 ounces, or which would be closer, in size or weight, to 1 cup of anything. So, I said nothing, took my coffee and headed home. But curiosity got the best of me:

According to Google, 1 cup equals 8 fluid ounces. After home-measurement analysis (and my margin of error is plus or minus 100%), my cup had in it 10 fl. oz. of coffee at best, probably less. This is quite disappointing. I don't imagine that Champion is deliberately siphoning ounces of delicious coffee away from its consumers, but I do question how it could advertise (and willingly charge) a full $2.00 for what is clearly half the expected amount. I will be sure to raise this question on my next visit. Answers in a future post, I promise.

On, to Thailand!

Mint had dinner at Planet Thailand a week or so ago. Being her first visit, she returned excited by the prices and variety of its Thai menu, and so we agreed to stop by again soon so she could try out something else. Myself, having been on three or four occasions and always opting for the excellent Thai menu too, I decided to take the opportunity to try out Thailand's Japanese offerings. I have to say--I was disappointed.

The sake I ordered, which was listed as "very dry," turned out to be quite sweet without any bite whatsoever and tasted, dare I say, watered down; the miso soup also had a muted flavor neither salty nor savory; and our sushi appetizer (at $7.95, a dollar more expensive than Mint's basil tofu entree) was satisfying though not spectacular. The unagi don, eel over rice, a favorite of mine, was a little too fishy and the sauce not nearly as rich as the one served at Sapporo Haru.

Dessert was the highlight. A special listed among the daily offerings had caught our eyes: black sticky rice with mango and cappuccino ice cream. We asked to exchange the cappuccino ice cream for a mango sorbet we had noticed elsewhere on the menu, and our server was happy to oblige. The black sticky rice (our guess is tapioca pearls used for flavor and color) was rich and warm, crunchy with grains of toasted rice. It paired well with the mango sorbet and fresh-cut mangoes perched on top.

I imagine the cappuccino ice cream would have also been a very good match for the black sticky rice. And so it all comes full circle to coffee.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Champion, with questions; Planet Thailand, for Thai.

{The Menu - 06.20.07}

Champion Coffee, Brooklyn, NY +
Toasted Bagel + Tempeh

Planet Thailand, Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

{The Menu - 06.19.07}

Coffee + Bagel w/ Egg &
Veggie Sausage

Leftover Pad Thai +Fried Taro + Tempeh + Popcorn + Tofutti Chocolate Fudgesicle

Monday, June 18, 2007

{The Menu - 06.18.07}

Coffee + Leftover Pancakes

Tempeh Sandwich w/ Tomato & Greens + Cheese Pirogies

*erb, Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Beer Garden: Reason No. 1 to Visit Astoria, Queens

The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
29-19 24th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11102
(718) 274-4925

THE BEER GARDEN is one of the only reasons I visit Queens. No offense to Ms. Cha and fiance Mr. Blakeman, or to Chef Giacchino, but while the G-train to 7-train to N-train sequence is not the worst of all possible triple-transfers, it's not one I seek out often. Unless, of course, the Beer Garden beckons.

Do not be fooled by other NYC bars that promise such green pastures for pouring pitcher after pitcher. The only authentic beer garden in the five boroughs, built in 1910 and surviving near on a century later, is the Bohemian Hall. It not only remains a mecca for Czech culture but has become a destination point for those who desire to gather in the great outdoors. And get smashed.

Ms. Jeanie Cha, responsible for arranging this particular gathering of former work friends and assorted other individuals, provided the games; the Bohemian Hall provided the eats: huge piles of potato pirogies heaped on sauerkraut, enormous potato pancakes with both applesauce and sour cream provided, and lengths of kielbasas sliced and grilled to delicious. All of this is washed down with glass after glass of the draught beer of your choosing, all them a mere $14 per pitcher at the bar. Drink up!

It was such a good time that Mint and I passed up the chance to go watch Real Madrid stage a 'heart-stopping' comeback against Mallorca to win the team's first Spanish league title in four years. But when Brian and Sophie are attempting to figure out the best way to drink a triple shot of Jager, why would anyone leave?

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Yes, and perhaps drink a little less? Nah.