Friday, March 30, 2012

Mike's Lunch: An ode to toasties

Mike's photo of his salad from Toasties came with a manifesto to the chain sandwich and salad shop so I'll let him speak for himself.
Well said. Truly an honor to hear from you, salad expert Mike. I happen to like the consistency of the salads from Chopt, but I guess that's just me. I rarely eat salad.I recently had my first Toasties experience. I was super overwhelmed by the menu and the long line but decided on the Russian, a hot sandwich with ham, turkey, swiss, thousand island and cole slaw. I love slaw on a sandwich. I got it in a spinach wrap. The 'wich was good but there was just too much damn meat. It would have been great with a little more slaw and less turkey. I would try something else next time. The line moved quick and it was under $10 so it's a solid option for midtown lunch.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pork Pie: A Love Story

For me, pork pie and the English countryside go together like New York and pizza. You can have one without the other, but it is just not as satisfying as when the two are united. Since the beginning of my rendezvous with the English culture, my feelings toward pork pie have transformed from those of fear and disgust to those of undying love. The hard, greasy crust, salty and fatty meat filling and transparent gelatin holding it all together have become a guilty pleasure that I savor whenever I make the trek north from London to Lincolnshire. When paired with a brisk afternoon walk through the rolling fields of local farmers, life seems simple and sweet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Patty's Lunch

Shrimp enchiladas! I WANT ONE. Patty found a recipe for these babies on  and she made the batch last for a week's worth of lunch times. 
There's a spicy shrimp and sour cream mix on the inside and lots of salsa verde on top. Looks delish. I can see myself jacking this idea in the near future. muahahahahahahahaha. Gracias Patty.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Potbelly's Pizza Sandwich

Yesterday I got Potbelly's signature Pizza Sandwich and went for their mac salad. It's official, I love Potbelly.
I got the sandwich "skinny" with less bread and added hot peppers to the pepperoni, meatball, capicola,  marinara sauce, provolone, mushrooms and Italian seasoning. The peppers make the 'wich a bit oily but it is so worth the sweet fire they bring. The sandwich was warm and melted and the sauce was sweet. It was almost impossible to make out each separate meat but the combo is seriously delicious -- the calories are worth it.
The mac salad was quite thick but it had a sweet proportion of mayo to vinegar. I LOVE that they use gemelli instead of usual elbows, it's a nice personal spin. They give a good sized portion for under $2.

Athough the line outside of Potbelly in the Concourse is always out the door, it moves quick and the staff are friendly. Great go-to spot for an under $1o lunch.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop: See site for various locations around Manhattan

Monday, March 26, 2012

Emily's lunch

EMILY IS THE ONLY PERSON WHO SENDS ME HER LUNCH. You may remember my plea for participation here. Let's just say the overwhelming lack of response has sent a clear message. Charlie sent me his once or twice but that's because he has to
Anyway, Emily likes to buy small dishes at Dean & Deluca and stretch them for the first few days of each week. She brings some mini bread slices to top it off. Today she went with wild rice and orzo with cranberry salad. "I enjoyed the cranberry pieces because they gave some flavor to a normally boring rice combo," Emily said. "Dean & Deluca allows customers to try salads before purchase, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. I have lentil for tomorrow, and orzo again for wednesday. nomnom"

Send me your lunch or we're not friends.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Datte Foco, A Pizza and Love Joint

I'd read a bit about Datte Foco in the Stoke Newington area of London on a few blogs, and since Charlie lives quite close to Stoke we decided to take the walk over one night. Datte was opened recently by two Italian brothers who learned how to make pizza in Rome. They have brought the Roman price-by-weight institution to London -- you eye out how large you want them to cut each slice, and they weigh and price it later. Kind of dangerous. Charlie and I went for a few slices to share, including potato and cheese, mushroom, two different sausage ones and a birra moretti each.
We were quite surprised by how crispy the crust of each slice was. It was nice to have a little crunch on the bottom but cushion on the top. I would have liked the slices to be a bit hotter, but all of the toppings were really good. My favorites were the potato and the sausage and pepper slices. I could tell that the ingredients used were of good quality. We used chili oil on the slices to add a little kick. I think I remember the pizza in Rome as foldable. Long Island has made me a natural pizza-folder, but there was none of that at Datte.
Our meal was super cheap and the service was good. We took a table in the back and the friendly staff brought our food back to us. The place was not crowded, perhaps because of its Stoke Newington location. There is no tube to Stoke, allowing for a quiet and quaint little high street leading into the main thoroughfare down to Dalston. I would definitely pop in again. This was the most authentic pizza I have had in London for sure, and it was nice to see a casual stay or go joint in London, where most are used to seated service.

Datte Foco: 10 Stoke Newington Church St., N16 0LU, London

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Easy Cheddar and Gruyere Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese and Taco Bell are basically my favorite foods. Isn't that funny? Charlie and I made a BBC Good Food version of mac and cheese when we were lazy one night last week before going to the theater to see my true love, Zac Braff, in his play, All New People. The recipe called for the below trio of cheeses, a boat load of milk, a tomato, some flour, dijon mustard, butter and bread crumbs. And pasta. My classic favorite elbow macaroni is like super elusive in the UK apparently, so we went with cavatappi.
I hate grating cheese. We were meant to create a roux with the flour and butter and then mix the heated milk in slowly until the sauce thickened. We screwed this up, but ultimately it didn't really matter. Our milky mixture didnt get thick until we added all of the cheese and the al dente cooked pasta. 
We let this thicken for a min or two on low heat and then poured it into a casserole. Charlie had frozen homemade breadcrumbs to which we added a bit of parmesan and sprinkled on top. Finally the dish got hit hard by sliced tomatoes and went into the oven for like 15 mins. To get the browning process happening we put the broiler flame on for a few mins at the end.
Sometimes mac and cheese can be so heavy and debilitating to the rest of your day. I did not find this true of this recipe. It wasn't super creamy or sharp. I think the nuttiness of the gruyere cut the sharpness of the cheddar. It wasn't a typical yellow american mac and cheese, but more of a gourmet, grown-up version. I think both types have their purposes. When it comes to mac and cheese, I hope I never grow up.

Friday, March 9, 2012

London Market Food: Banhmi11, The Guildable Manor and Monmouth Coffee

Wandering along the Berwick St. Market in London's SoHo brought Charlie and I to the Banhmi11 stand. We are banh mi enthusiasts and as we were currently debating our lunch options, it was easy to decide that Banhmi11's presence was fate.  Charlie went with the Imperial BBQ sandwich with thinly sliced British pork marinated in caramel and lemongrass and I with the Crackling Pork Belly with slow roasted British pork marinated in lemon jus and five spice.
We simultaneously "ahhh"d upon first bite. The characteristic Vietnamese bread had a perfectly crispy crust and the inside was like eating a cloud.  Both sandwiches had pate, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber and lots of fresh coriander. I didn't try his, but my meat was nicely sweet and sticky and delicious. 5 quid each (about $7.85) was a bit pricey but we both agreed that this was a nicely done banh mi and we would get it again.

Most times I go to London I try to make a stop at the Borough Market, located just south of the Thames near the London Bridge train station. Borough has some of the best gourmet foods and ingredients from all over the country, but I always find myself returning to the Guildable Manor stand for a lamb sandwich. Since Guildable Manor is located right near the entrance to the market, I usually take a spin around to assess my options. More times than not, the only answer is Guildable.
Guildable offers locally sourced lamb, beef, chicken, game (venison and wild boar) and veggie options. Although game is tempting, I usually go with the lamb. The ground lamb is spiced with mint, coriander, smoked paprika and cumin and is served with lettuce, onions and cabbage. They suggest a homemade harrisa and salsa verde as toppings, but I usually go with their delicious and addictive aioli instead of the harrisa. Above Charlie went with the salsa verde and harrisa. These sandwiches are always really nice, but this last time we were both unsatisfied with the bread. There was too much of it and the crust was soft. It was nothing special. Otherwise, this has always been a solid choice. 

Right near the market on Park St. is Monmouth Coffee, a sustainable and fair trade shop that is regarded as having some of the best coffee in London. We waited on a quick moving line for a cappuccino each. Each coffee is single cone filtered individually and Monmouth's site lists the origins of every ingredient and bean they use. The cappuccino was as delicious as it was beautiful before I ruined the masterpiece with a lid. 
Banhmi11: Berwick St. Market and Broadway Market locations.  See site for details.

The Guildable Manor: 3 Green Dragon Court, Borough, SE1 9AW. 

Monmouth Coffee: Borough, Covent Garden and Bermondsey locations. See site for details.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Doritos Locos Taco

Newsflash: the Dorito taco at Taco Bell has finally joined us in this world. And: it could be better. Denise and I waited on the drive-thru line for about 15 mins just for this baby and the cashier confirmed our suspicions that the newcomer has been a huge seller today.
It comes in a cardboard shell to protect your fingers from orange dorito-ness. Besides the pimped out shell, this is just a regular hard taco and sells for $1.40. I never order hard tacos at T-Bell but this one was way too salty and the fake cheese with real cheese combo was not really working in a positive way. It seemed even saltier than Doritos from a bag.
Ways it could be better: (Listen up T-Bell)

1. Cool Ranch Dorito instead of Nacho Cheese.  Instead of saying, here's some more fake cheese and salt, a Cool Ranch shell will say: here's some ranch. Let's face it, ranch is good on EVERYTHING. Rumors are that this shell is in the works.

2. Dorito Double Decker. Throw a soft shell around this baby and buffer between shells with refried beans and you have a winner. Not only will the orange-ness be out of the way of the eater's fingers, but the extra soft shell and beans will tackle the saltiness of the Dorito shell.

3. Nacho Cheese. I stand by the statement that any item at Taco Bell will benefit from the addition of T-Bell's own hot nacho cheese.

Please do not mistake this constructive criticism for negative feelings toward Taco Bell. I'm still helplessly obsessed with it. This new taco just simply will not be replacing my beloved and now extinct Nacho Cheese Chalupa. RIP.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pappardelle with King Prawns and Leeks

The Brits have some funny little phrases. Like, wtf is a king prawn? It seems so easy to be regarded as royalty in England these days. At least it's not an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp, but still... ugh. I just spent the week in England and Charlie has had a new fishmonger open up near his flat in Highbury. It looked pretty posh and we were both intrigued by the fish and shellfish, dead and alive, staring at us from a bed of ice in the front window. I resolved that we should go back later in the week for some shrimp and make some kind of pasta. Thus I bring you, Lidia Bastianich's Tagliatelle with Leeks and Shrimpbut with pappardelle and king prawns.
The recipe is a simple one and only called for a few ingredients that Charlie didn't already have stashed away in his kitchen. I started off by searing 8 shrimp in a hot pan with a bit of oil for about 2 minutes until pink on both sides. I put the shrimp off to the side and added 1 large chopped up leek to the pan. It was nice and pretty to chop the leek up like coins and a challenge to try to keep them together until the meal was served. When the leek was soft after about 5 minutes, I added 2 diced shallots for about 2 minutes until soft. Next was 1 cup of homemade and previously frozen chicken stock and about 2 tablespoons of butter.
On the side I boiled up a bit less than a pound of pappardelle pasta that we got at an Italian deli also near Charlie's flat. Just before the pasta was al dente I added the shrimp back into the sauce combination and cooked through until no gray was visible. Last I added the al dente pasta to the pan with the sauce and gently folded together to coat.
I served the dish with grated parmesan and a bit of salt and pepper. We thought it was delicious! We were nervous that I added too much chicken broth but it ended up cooking down really nicely when the pasta was added to the pan. I may have added a bit more broth than the 1 cup that the recipe called for but I think it was needed to thoroughly coat the pasta. The shrimp from the fishmonger were really tender and noticeably much more flavorful than frozen shrimp from the food store. The leeks were nice and soft and added a sweet note to the whole dish. This was a simple and tasty recipe and both Charlie and I agreed that it's a keeper.
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