The Spotted Pig
When it comes to small bites and tapas with a large group, you’re only as good as your weakest link. So when, at a dinner with some friends of friends at Takashi, the largest guy of the group started slouching in his chair, rubbing his belly and making comments about how he felt like he was going to explode, ATO and I knew it was all over. Everyone had had their fill…. except for us. We simply weren’t close enough to this group (we just met most of them that night!) to reveal our true disgusting selves. We paid the check, said our goodbyes, and went on our separate ways.
Some people headed home, others went out for some drinks, we dragged MT1 and MT2 straight to The Spotted Pig for second dinner.
The Spotted Pig is always crowded, and at 11pm on a Saturday night, this night was no exception. But, for once we weren’t starving (I mean, we had just come from a huge dinner at Takashi), so we happily perched near the bar and took down some tasty cocktails while waiting for a table. Within half an hour, we were ordering some shared “snacks” to fill our greedy stomachs.
We started with an order of the deviled eggs. While nothing mind-blowing, their deviled eggs are always fresh, flavorful and whipped to the perfect smoothness. A great little bar snack.
Next came the chicken liver toast. I love April Bloomfield’s chicken liver. It’s rustic farmhouse style. Coarse in texture, super savory and good. Brings me back to a house-made version I had in a small village winery in France (VB, thinking of you!).
We lightened things up with a seasonal salad of sunchokes, pine nuts and cheese. Man, I love sunchokes, and these were expertly executed. Tender but firm. Exuded appealing earthy notes. The creaminess of the cheese and the crunch of the pine nuts was a pleasant contrast.
Finally, my favorite burger in the city. I haven’t had this burger in years. How did it come to that? I have no idea. But it lived up to my memory of it. The meat was high quality and tasty, a perfect medium rare. The bun nicely toasted. And the cheese……oooooooh the cheese. That salty tangy, funky blue cheese. It wraps and hugs this burger with so much love and warmth. It brings that specialness to an otherwise good, but not fantastic, burger. And it comes with a winning little sidekick: super stringy shoestring fries, mixed with fresh herbs. YUM.
Second dinner: success. April Bloomfield sure has late-night dining down.
thebardofeccentricity asked: So I moved to Hell's Kitchen a few months ago and while I've definitely tried a lot around the area, I generally have a tendency to stick to what I know. I stumbled on your Takeout in HK blog post and decided to try a burrito from Toloache tonight. Oh, god, it was fantastic. I had a minor religious experience. Thanks much for the recommendation. I look forward to your future posts!
Awesome! I’m so glad you liked it. I’m so sad I’m out of their delivery zone now (moved to the Upper West Side). Have many more burritos on my behalf!
Hell’s Kitchen: Best of Take-Out
Until 2 weeks ago, I lived in Hell’s Kitchen (for 7 years). The food scene improved each year, and it’s now actually one of my favorite neighborhoods for food in Manhattan. So here’s my ode to my old hood, showcasing the best of take-out!
My blog posts usually feature “occasion” restaurants - places I’ve hit up once or twice, but not my “regulars”. This post focuses on the joints (and specific dishes) that I’ve probably consumed upwards of 20, 30, 40 times. These are my go-to take-out orders, my weekly rotations on Seamless; this is the food that I survive on… the food that I am (because, after all, you are what you eat). These meals are tried and true and have passed the test of consistency time and time again. Oh geez, I’m faklempt…… I’m going to miss these meals so much!
The Breakfast Burrito (Georgio’s Country Grill)
Served all day. Turkey bacon makes it satisfying, without being sinful. Throw in a “Banana Health Shake” for good measure (it’s rich and creamy and tastes like ice cream). Sub fries for breakfast potatoes for a change of pace, or fruit, if being good (although the fruit cup is mostly filled with melon - bleh).
Best Mexican Food and Our Favorite Burrito (Toloache)
I’ve blogged Toloache before. It’s totally delicious. But the biggest secret - the best item - is only offered to-go! The burrito. Just as big, and the same price, as a Chipotle burrito… but 100% better. This is the one food item that I will miss the most because, well, I can’t just stop by the restaurant and order it. If you live in Hell’s Kitchen and will allow me to borrow your address for take-out, I’ll love you forever!
For A Quick Slice (Uncle Mario’s)
The grandma pizza here is seriously addictive. Hot, crisp, and with a tangy tomato sauce that will knock your socks off (and anyone you’re talking to, because it’s got a powerful garlic zing). Definitely worth the low price tag and quick wait. For a truly authentic and higher-end delicious pizza though, Don Antonio’s delivers too (review: http://photo-hungry.com/post/19379257399/don-antonio)!
Cheese Fries! (Lucky’s Famous Burgers)
Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite food of all time is cheese fries. It combines the two best things in life: fried potatoes and chhheeeeeeessssse. And the best kind of cheese for fries? Artificial, processed whizzy cheese! Lucky’s totally hits the spot. Many people find this totally disgusting, but I think it’s grand, especially for (1) when you’re drunk and (2) when you’re depressed and just want to wallow in it. I always order a turkey burger (in fact, I’ve never had their beef burger) on a whole wheat bun cos, well, you gotta be somewhat healthy, right? And yes, this time I got a side of cheese fries AND onion rings (which are made with real onions). So what?
My Favorite Turkey Sandwich (Lunch Box)
I’ve blogged this one before, but must do it again because it’s so d*mn good. I’ll keep it short and simple this time: go get one!
Drool-Worthy Thai Noodles (Chai Home Kitchen)
In a neighborhood flooded with Thai restaurants, Chai is my favorite. Their pad see ew (above) is da bomb - as the Black Eyed Peas say, “I just can’t get enough”. The pad thai and other noodles are amazing as well. And the northern style Chiang Mai noodles in a thick, spicy complex broth? I’m in heaven. (The version at Pam Real Thai is a close second). Get the party started with the “steamed Thai dim sum” (below) and some basil eggplant for some veggies.
Other honorable mentions: Pita Grill for a good salad or grilled eggplant sandwich (their fries are surprisingly good too); Basera is the best Indian place on the block, but might make you want to die afterwards; Chinese food is pretty weak in the area, but Mee Noodle House is a safe bet; for sushi, we always order Sushi of Gari (yes, it is ridiculous to Seamless Michelin star sushi, but sometimes you gotta live a little… or a lot); for bagels, although admittedly not the best in the world (or the city), Pick-A-Bagel, f.k.a. Bagel Stix - always fresh (turnover there is great) and they got whole wheat everything - what what? Pile on the veggie cream cheese like a Philly cream cheese commercial (it’s like 2 inches thick) and layer it with avocados and tomatoes for the ultimate wake-up meal; and for any kind of baked goods you can imagine, Sullivan Street Bakery is the best (their flatbreads make a fantastic mid-day snack). Sigh. Nostalgic already….
El Pescador Fish Market & Restaurant (La Jolla, CA)
A full fledged fish market that also sells some quick seafood bites. A perfect last treat in San Diego before rushing off to the airport for our dreaded red-eye back to NY.
Everything was fresh, delicious, and pretty dang cheap. Above is the clam chowder. Filling and satisfying, chock full of clams, but not too heavy or creamy. All for $2.95. That’s cheaper than a small serving of pinkberry, yo!
Mmmmm, dungeness crab cocktail. My motto: always indulge in dungeness crab while in CA, cos we east coasters are stuck with our Maryland blue crab (not worse, just different).
Nice and flaky tender grilled white halibut, served in a torta roll with lettuce, tomato and green and red onions. Awesome.
Must. Have. More. Dungeness. Before. Leaving. This time, in the form of an entree salad, served on a bed of spring mix, romaine, red and white cabbage, tomatoes, green and red onions, lemon and gigantic slices of avocado. For $10.95! What a steal.
Bellies full of yummy local seafood, we could make peace with our departure and slept wonderfully on our red-eye :-).
Tacos El Gordo (Chula Vista, CA)
We woke up Sunday morning in San Diego, groggy, tired, and totally starving after DW and VL’s amazing wedding the night before. It was time for hangover food. Luckily, we had prepared the night before. During cocktail hour, we had befriended some San Diego locals, and told them our one big food request while in San Diego: delicious, grimy Mexican food. This resulted in a 30 minute discussion on cheap tacos, a half dozen names being thrown around and furious iphone note-taking by me.
From our worthy list of recommendations, we picked a hole-in-the-wall no frills joint a mere 15 minutes from the Mexican border, Tacos El Gordo. This place originated in Tijuana, but due to its success a branch was opened on our side of the border as well. Lucky us.
You approach the counter, stand in the line for the particular type of taco that you want (which resulted in us standing in several lines, since we wanted to try several different types of tacos), add your radishes and limes at the open toppings bar, grab a drink, pay at the register and find your own seat.
Then stare down in happiness and smile at all the wonderful food you’re about to inhale.
They’ve got all sorts of lip-smackingly good little tacos! Each type of taco comes with its own set of garnishes, so you don’t have to worry about what to pair it with. Above, the tacos de lengua (tongue), one of our favorites!
There were two varieties of tacos de adobada, one in spicy beef (above) and one in spicy pork (below). Both were super flavorful, although the spicy beef tacos seemed to be the more popular order. They were both carved off a large spinning piece of meat and tasted like they’d been freshly plucked from a halal truck.
Below, the carne asada, the only tacos that came with guacamole! One of the more straight-forward tacos, but tasty nonetheless.
We also took down some tacos de tripa (tripe) and tacos de suadero (brisket). Good, but not as good as the tongue and adobada varieties, which, not coincidentally, had the longest lines.
Topped it all off with some grilled-up onions and spicy peppers (beware of the seeds). Chomp!
Definitely hit that street style cheap*ss Mexican food craving. Yum!
Adam Platt recently opined that the Asian Fusion rage has been replaced with the Asian Hipster rage (I’m talking about food, not human reproduction!). True story. Some of the city’s most sought-after tables reside in dark little divey joints serving some semblance of Asian cuisine (think Mission Chinese, Red Farm, Pok Pok, Talde, Biang! and the numerous untraditional ramen houses popping up every day (Dassara, Chuko, Yuji)). From what I can tell, the biggest difference between Asian Fusion and Asian Hipster is the cost and the atmosphere. Asian fusion = expensive, big production, fancy schmancy, see and be seen vibe, lychee martinis. Asian hipster = cheap, no reservations, long lines, small spaces, bad Asian beer. I definitely prefer the latter.
So when our foodie friends, SG and JG, came to town, we decided to check out the latest Asian hipster spot that was making a stir, Uncle Boons. Uncle Boons serves Thai food (“Thai style drinking food”, as their website states, to be more specific), from two former Per Se chefs, Matt Danzer and Ann Redding, who both have some background with that cuisine. Uncle Boon is the name of Ms. Redding’s actual uncle, and the restaurant is littered with eclectic Thai decor from her family’s houses in Thailand.
The apps were strong. Above is the betel leaf wrap with ginger, lime, toasted coconut, dried shrimp, chilies and peanuts. A very crunchy and full-bodied snack. Awesome start.
We moved on to a salad of sweetbreads with crispy noodles, peanuts, dried shrimp, sawtooth herbs and tamarind sauce. The sweetbreads were perfectly fried - hot and crisp on the outside and tender and soft on the inside - and all of the flavors came together beautifully.
ATO couldn’t resist and ordered some charcoal grilled blowfish tails. Nicely charred, but not too much other taste.
A creamy and smooth dip of salted black crab, ground pork and coconut cream came next, served with chilled seasonal vegetables for dipping. I liked this better in concept than in reality. The dip was both too fishy and bland for my taste. ATO definitely liked it better though.
For some fire, we ordered the spicy roasted chicken and banana blossom salad with crushed cashews, crispy shallots and coconut milk dressing. Nice textural contrast in each bite, and a pleasant tongue-numbing heat. Not particularly noteworthy though.
For entrees, we went curry crazy. This is where things got a bit inconsistent. Above is the red curry with rock shrimp, wild ginger custard, holy basil and kaffir lime. It was way too thick. A total turn-off. My stomach started doing twists and turns after a couple of bites. It felt like I was eating a curry-flavored heavy cream.
The green curry with rice noodles and hen of the wood mushrooms, herbs, pickled mustard greens, steamed egg and fried shallots was an improvement, but also a disappointment. Green curry is my favorite type of curry, and this version just didn’t pack the punch that I’ve come to expect from a good green curry.
The massaman curry with boneless beef ribs, potatoes, red onions, peanuts and green peppercorn was better yet. More complex and vigorous in flavor, and the stewed beef ribs, which just fell apart, were a great conduit for sopping up more curry.
Finally, the best curry of the night, the Northern style golden curry with homemade egg noodles, chicken legs, pickled mustard greens and coconut milk. It’s khao soi! But a far tastier version than my typical seamless order from Chai Thai or Pam Real Thai. This is the only curry I’d really recommend coming here for.
My suggestion: come for some snacks, for some slushy beers (did I mention they serve a slushy-cold Chang? Refreshing!) and for a cool atmosphere. But if you’re craving a full-on authentic Thai meal, hop a train to Queens and check out Ayada (http://photo-hungry.com/post/50322523157/ayada) instead.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, NY)
We took a brisk and beautiful half-day hike near Bear Mountain and rewarded ourselves with an early dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was a magnificent day: perfect weather, amazing company and an unforgettable meal. This day happened 5 months ago (Memorial Day weekend!). I never blogged about it because, well, it was just too good. I couldn’t face the challenge of putting it all in words. Really, I knew I couldn’t do this meal any justice. But in the end, five months later, I’ve decided that I just have to share my crazy enthusiasm for this place. I’ve felt like a cheater keeping it to myself for so long! And since, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve decided to take you all on a purely photographic tour of our splendid day.
But first, a few words (he he):
(1) Actually go. The Blue Hill in the city is not a good substitute. This is so much better.
(2) Definitely do the farm tour, or at least wander around the farm on your own, before your meal. It’s an incredible farm. Like a Pleasantville version of a farm. Everything is orderly and tidy, the plants are bright and healthy and all the animals seem to be having the time of their lives. It’s definitely part of the experience and not to be missed.
(3) Go in a bountiful season. The first time we ate here it was late February, and dining here in late May was definitely better, largely due to the seasonal produce available.
(4) Go even if you are a vegetarian. Actually, go because you are a vegetarian (if you are). The veggies here are definitely the star of the show; they are the best part of the meal! A veggie meal here is not a rip-off by any means; in fact, for me, it was a revelation of just how good a vegetable can be.
(5) Do one of the larger tasting menus: variety is the spice of life, and there are just so many darn good things to try here! You’re not making this trip all the time, so definitely go all out.
(6) Sit back, relax and enjoy. This was definitely one of the top five meals of my life, and so different than a typical “fine dining” experience in NYC. It felt like a vacation. It was perfect from beginning to end. I hope that you all have the same experience that I did!
Walking around the farm on our gorgeous May afternoon.
The greenhouse full of yummy veggies and herbs.
Baby chicks! So cute, I couldn’t stop staring.
The pigs, not even all that stinky!
Geese, just happily roaming.
Baby lamb, grazing on fresh green grass.
The cocktails are spectacular, so definitely order one. Above was the sour plum cocktail.
A fully flavorful and expertly spiced horchata.
The amuses came plate by plate, but very quickly, and soon our table was filled to the brim with a fantastic spread of one-bite treasures. The presentation, though a bit overwhelming, was nothing short of breath-taking. I seriously have never been so blown away by a series of amuses. Above is the corn crackers with kale and purslane.
Beet blinis with horseradish and a thin slice of lardo to top it all off.
From the garden, the most fresh and tasty crudités you can imagine.
Rhubarb slices garnished with celery flowers.
Sprouts served with a sticky and citrusy spread of lemon, pepper and honey.
A soft steamed egg and pancetta tart.
Birchwood whoopie pies. So fun!
Finally, the “real” courses begin! Above is the celtuce with pine nuts and green garlic.
Close-up of my bread, topped with all that goodness.
The housemade bread.
Next up, goose egg pasta with a shaved cured immature egg. Yes, you heard me: shaved cured immature egg. Cos that’s the type of stuff that they serve you here. Totally ridiculous! Which brings me to another point: come if you’re vegetarian, but not if you’re vegan. Because the eggs here are to die for.
Above, the super savory chicken poussin heart and liver served with parsnip purée.
For our main dessert, a delicious concoction of corn, almonds and buttermilk, served two ways.
Bottega Louie (Los Angeles)
Salted Caramel, Espresso, Grand Cru, Strawberry and Earl Grey macarons!
In a city where everyone seems to constantly be on a diet, these are surprisingly delicious. No Ladurée, but definitely tasty enough to gobble down the whole box in one sitting. I mean, cos they won’t taste as good the next day, right?
Crumbs Bake Shop (The Crumbnut)
Sometimes two beautiful people result in an unattractive child. And sometimes mixing elements of a croissant and a doughnut make a pretty bad cronut. It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong, but it’s clear to all that something has, in fact, gone wrong.
Which brings me to the newest creation from Crumbs Bake Shop: the Crumbnut, a ripoff of the frenzy-causing Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery (http://photo-hungry.com/post/58428637308/dominique-ansel-bakery-the-cronut).
Like its muse, a Crumbnut is a mix between a croissant and a doughnut. It comes plain, sprinkled with sugar or filled with Bavarian cream (which is its first misstep, because the real Cronut is filled with cream AND rolled in sugar AND topped with icing). It is square. And it tastes like a stale Boston kreme from Dunkin’ Donuts, minus the yummy chocolate icing. There was little sign of its croissant lineage, except that it was greasier than a normal doughnut. Oh yeah, and it has a stupid name. So there!
Looks like my least favorite cupcake shop in this cupcake saturated city just gave me one more reason not to visit. Hold the calories for another cause (I bought two and actually threw one away)!
Thai food is amazing, but you can’t eat it every day. On those days when I’m sick of the hundreds of Thai spots in my neighborhood, and I’m craving something simple but a little different, I hit up Gazala Place for some yummy Druze cuisine. It’s like a fun mix of Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli flavors.
Above, some of the best babaganoush I’ve had in this city. So creamy - almost a peanut buttery taste - smoky and smooth. Comes with the house-made, thin and airy pita to dip.
For entrees, above is the Moshakal, a combo meat platter of lamb, chicken and kafta, nicely spiced up and flame broiled with those tasty grill marks. Yum. Served with rice and a tangy, fresh salad.
My favorite entree, the lamb hummus. Super flavorful, chopped-up pieces of lamb and pine nuts, served on a huge fluffy bed of hummus. Also served with rice and salad. (Also works very well wrapped in the pita).
A very satisfying neighborhood-y meal that’s quick and won’t clog your heart. There’s a location in our soon-to-be hood, the Upper West Side, as well! YES.