Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gotham Eats.

yes, (above) it's an eyeball bender (for foodists!)*

Nothing takes the edge off the hyper-sensory urban experience like phenomenal weather. ("Autumn in New York" is a jazz standard for a reason.) Autumn is New York City's premiere season—moody-hued foliage, pretty girls in boots and knee-length dresses. And, if you're lucky, a lingering Indian summer backdrop for... Gotham Eats.

Snubbing sidewalk cafes with $8 sides of lightly dressed micro-greens, I was in search of my New York comfort foods. The quest brings to mind a few things: Ethnic (cow heel soup, anyone?), Innovative and Dammit, why can't I button my jeans?

In a very quiet section of the city, 379 Grand Street to be exact, Doughnut Plant is making coffee breaks more adventurous. DP is possibly worth a cab ride from midtown at three in the afternoon, especially if you're curious about the Peanut Butter Glaze and Jelly-filled SQUARE doughnut (pic). Innovative! Their most popular one is the Tres Leches, but for purists real moist, rich milk flavor gets lost in translation. There's delectable creme piped into the powdered cake donut, and if you've never had real tres leches cake you would certainly be blown away by such a delight. But it's not true tres leches. (yes, there are two ways to spell doughnut! ...according to the OED.)

And, then...there was the knish—Ethnic!—I shared with my transplanted Californian pal Karey who although Jewish confessed she'd never had a knish. Huh-loow? OY! According to Wikipedia:
"Knishes can be purchased from street vendors in urban areas with a large Jewish population, sometimes at a hot dog stand."
Yes, you can buy a knish at many a NYC hot dog stand. They're located in a steam compartment right behind the large bottles of mustard that any honorable street vendor—Ya want muh-stud?— will pump into your knish. At the 2nd Avenue Deli where I got our plain knish (they're supersized), their spicy yellow mustard melded perfectly with the creamy innards of savory potato delicately packaged in a thin, chewy dough glistening with egg wash. Where did we dine on that 77 degree Fall day? The steps of the NY Public Library, of course!

With a bare bones budget, I had to stay focused on things that I've yet to source in Northern California... orbs of golden knish, a cuban sandwich crafted on a flat grill in working-class Queens and...gasp!...Rainbow Cookies. Call them "Tre-colore" cookies or "Venetians," the Italian classic's colorful cakey layers alternating with a thin layer of fruit jam (I like apricot!) and finished with a top-n-bottom chocolate coat has made it's way into Jewish delis, chain supermarkets and Grand Central Station coffee kiosks—all over the 5 boros—but apparently not Northern California. What gives? (I horded a box of Rainbow cookies for ten days across three states.)

Maybe, my trip back home wasn't standard bagel and lox, but it was delicious...and relatively cheap. (I guess I'll hit WD-50 another time!) When I wasn't subway surfing, I spent more on taxis than I did on dinner ...There was even a misty evening spent in Flushing tracking Joe's Shanghai's legendary xiao long bao, aka "soup dumplings" and red bean doughnuts! By the time I reached Connecticut I was having "trouble" with my jeans. (i.e., Get ready for my low-fat holiday cooking posts!)

For more on being Frugal in NYC check out the Times' Oct 12th Travel Section. Next time, I swear, I will go to Brooklyn. And, mangia Italian food. Join me on my next trip to... Om, nom, nom...

P.S. I didn't forget NY PIZZA! I'm a fan of NY's Two Boots, but in a pinch—just up the street or down some steps you can always find a hot slice!
(Late at night...the neon beckons. Salty, chewy, cheesy, greasy and cheap.)
Clockwise from top left: Gabby's in Hollis; neapolitan slice from Penn station's food court; late night sicilian slice.

*inspired by "games" magazine ca. 1980's - can you identify this "eyeball bender"?
post a comment with your answer. Above, pics 2 & 3, 4 & 8: Times Square at night & Union Square Green Market, Day, another Doughnut Plant rush, Jay Z at the 179th Street Deli, a real hole in the wall in Queens.

(storefront menu on hillside ave, nyc)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stripey Bear's Appendage.

stripey bear went back to school...but the other kids made fun of his appendage!
(it's a rose crescent fingerling potato)

Best Fingerlings:
Boil them in a big pot of salted water under fork tender. Then, spread them on a half pan sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and roast them in the oven. Have aggression? You can smash them first with a mallet.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

For all you Muffaletta Freaks—

At the Ferry Building my heart jumped a bit when I saw the big red sign for Boccalone—Chef Chris Cosentino's foray into the Salumeria arts. But, my heart actually started racing when I read the word "MUFFALETTA" under the words "HOT PANINO." (So much for my three mile run and healthy lunch!) The last muffalettas to enter my system had been in New Orleans this past April (served warm and cold), so I had high expectations. I get mad muffaletta cravings, too. I even lodged a grievance at Bi-Rite when they took their cold muffaletta off the deli menu.

For a hot, pressed version, Boccalone's done good. And, I'm kindof a freak about Italian meats. (having spent formative years in an Italian 'hood in Long Island). Boccalone's muffaletta meat was sliced pretty thin, almost shaved, and the three or four minutes under the hot press really brought out the flavour...and the tenderness. The mortadella (with bright green pistachios) was my favorite. Melt in your mouth. And, the Boccalone salame while not my favorite local salami cold was delectable warmed. Oiliness was a slight issue, but the bread wasn't soggy or unpleasant. Not sure what kind of cheese they put in there and another tablespoon of house-made (from house-cured) olive spread (or more piquant spread? what else is in the mix?) would 've given it that Deep South kick. Overall, Boccalone's warm, cured meat is the star. I will return...

I've written a "Ferry Plaza Frugal" list on, but at $8 a pop for a 6-7 inch sub (they don't use a round loaf—wtf?—Neither did Bi-rite or Cafe Amelie) this doesn't make the cut.

Perhaps, I should make another list... Ferry Plaza Treats... or FP Good Eats... or just plain Eat-here-even-if-high-food-costs-suck... Alas, we pay the price for our passions...

Should we make our own muffalettas?
A generous slick of aged olive spread spiked with vinegary red peppers, melt in your mouth meats cut thin and piled tall and a few earthy slices of provolone inside a semi-soft, slightly sweet large round muffaletta loaf.

Do you have a muffaletta story?
Tell me.

Eat well~