Monday, May 28, 2012

Soft-Shell Crabs at Home

It's soft-shell crab season. Last year I embraced the short period when the crabs molt at Wondee Siam, but this year I took the homemade route. We snatched up a few at the fish market for $5.99 each. They cleaned them there for us by cutting off the faces :( and bottom carapaces, and removing the lungs from under the top shell. 
We simply dredged each in flour with a pinch of cayenne and old bay, and then fried them in about 1/4 inch of oil for 5-7 minutes on each side until golden brown.
We ate them open faced on toast with a little bit of red pepper aioli, but they didn't really need the bread. Each was meaty and moist in the middle, and crispy brown on the outside. Perfectly crabby.
This was a great send-off meal for my trip to Panama. I'm leaving tomorrow for three weeks, so there won't be much going on here until then. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tacos I've Recently Loved

Dude, if you don't like tacos, I think you're an alien. I love a good one, and these here are some good ones:

Wahoo's Fish Taco: A coworker told me about Wahoo and I finally got there after a few hours at the Rink Bar one day. The menu was a little overwhelming in my slightly altered state, but I settled on a combo of one fish and one shrimp taco with white rice and black beans. I also ordered a Tecate. We sat down to wait for our food and I immediately regretted not ordering the svelt looking onion rings that were repeatedly passing by. A dude (the waiters are like transplant skater dudes from Cali or the Vans Warped Tour) came to tell me they didn't have Tecate so I got a Pacifico instead. He also said we could have a round on him since they didn't have what I wanted. At this point I was dreading more beer but any other night that would have been a bonus.
The tacos came not to much longer after the beer. I was a bit underwhelmed by the amount of filling in the tacos, but otherwise they were so tasty! I like to split the two tortillas if possible and make each taco into two tacos. Do other people do this? Sometimes there's just too much filling and I don't like to get messy. The huge portion of rice and beans was delicious as well.  I think my whole meal was like $13 and the atmosphere was chill and friendly. I will definitely go there again.

Eggstravaganza Cart Steak and Egg Tacos: I'm not an alien and thus I love tacos, and I LOVE eggs. I could eat eggs for two meals of the day. Yesterday I did! (I had quiche for dinner.) And today, I got a gorgeous box of blue heirloom eggs as a freebie at work! They are beautiful and perfect and I can't wait to see how orange they are inside. I love eggs.

Naturally, any food place called Eggstravaganza sounds like a delicious party to me. I trekked to 52nd and Park and got two steak and egg tacos for $8. 
The steak and eggs were scrambled and cooked together and topped with onions, green guac, a bit of melted cheese and a bit of hot sauce. I love these. They were stuffed full but I couldn't split into 4 tacos because the shells were broken a little. I eat a lot but probably could have been full from one. There are other cool combos on the menu at Eggstravaganza too like Mexican grilled cheese. 

Tell me about your favorite tacossssssssss. There are so many out there!


Wahoo's Fish Taco: 333 Park Ave S. (212) 466-3330

Eggstravaganza Cart: 52nd and Park

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Great GoogaMooga

I can thankfully say that I survived day one of the Great GoogaMooga festival in Prospect Park this weekend. There were times during the day when I thought I might die of dehydration or heat stroke, but the festival provided great food and music with a beautiful green backdrop and free entry. Food was the main attraction here and the grounds were lined with vendors, most from the New York City area but some from around the country, serving up the best of what they each had to offer. Servings ran from about $5 to $15, while drinks were higher at like $7 to $12 and hour or more online for a beer. Do I sound bitter?

Emily and I hit Crawfish Monica first, and to our delight there was not much of a line (long lines were a theme of the day.) Crawfish Monica is a New Orleans favorite and serves up their signature pasta dish to devoted fans at Jazz Fest every year. They made a special trip up to NY for this weekend and I wasn't about to miss out. The two of us shared one serving. It was decently sized and about $9. It was so good. Like, I'll never forget it good. The tender meat was abundant and the creamy pasta was light. Ugh, more now please.
When we found Baohaus perpetually out of food (wahh), we tried the pastrami on rye from next-door Kutsher's Tribeca. The fatty pastrami was melt-in-mouth and the rye seemed fresh. New dill pickles made a perfect addition. They're my favorite pickles. There was NO line at Kutsher's.
We did wait in line, however, at Arancini Bros. Known for offering bangin' balls in Brooklyn, the Bros. offered a ragu ball and a basil pesto ball. I'd say we waited 30 minutes for these balls. Maybe a little less. I don't spend much time in Brooklyn and don't know when I would ever make it to the shop, so I think it was worth the wait to get these here. That's the thing -- people were waiting on line for like 1.5 hour for a Luke's Lobster Roll or Colicchio tacos. You can get these things any day people!

These rice balls were perfectly golden and piping hot. They were crusty on the outside and soft inside. Saffron rice complimented the cheese, meat and pea ragu, and whole tomatoes joined the fresh and green basil pesto. Excellent execution here. (I'm now a Top Chef judge FYI.)
We waited a long time for Roberta's too. You may remember that my friend recently raved about their Bee Sting pizza, and now I can myself. Tomato, mozzarella, soppressata, chili oil and honey are a winning combination on top of thin, slightly charred, marginally soft crust.
There is definitely room for improvement at GoogaMooga, and I'm sure that even by day two things had probably been changed. The drinks system was fatally flawed and there was no easy way to get even just a water without waiting on line for a very long time. Other festivals I've been to have free water jugs where you can fill your own bottle, or even water trucks parked and ready. It was a hot day, we need to fix this. I don't even want to talk about the ridiculous and unorganized ticketing system for the beer tasting hall. And "sold out" signs made me sad at quite a few food stands. Also, there was NO cell phone service. It was a pit of disconnection, which was kind of OK but simultaneously really effing annoying. Finally, the word googamooga bothers me, a lot. I'd be happy to never say it again.
These problems seemed overshadowing at times, but in the end, all that mattered was that I was in a gorgeous park with a full stomach and a glass of Woodchuck watching The Roots do their thing as the sun got lower in the sky. Happiness was hard to avoid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kerry's Lunch

Not only did Kerry send me a picture of her lunch, she sent me a step by step process backdropped by a pretty tablecloth. Best luncher everrrrrr. Kerry works by Madison Square Eats, an annual food market that sets up near across from the Flat Iron to offer lunch. She went with a Bee Sting pizza from Roberta's with tomato, mozzarella, soppressata, chili oil and honey. That sounds bangin'.

"I was a little nervous that the honey would be overbearing (because I'm picky, as you know) but it was absolutely delicious," Kerry said. "The soppressata and chili oil gave it a little kick and the honey added a nice flavor that you wouldn't normally expect from a piece of pizza."

Kerry, next time you go to Mad Sq. Eats, let me know. I will lie to my job (ahem, I would never actually do that) and come meet you. This pizza is worth it to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Num Pang

Andrea and I finally made it to Num Pang for lunch last week. When we arrived around 1:00 there was not much of a line but when we left a few minutes later with our sandwiches it was more crowded. The Cambodian sandwich store is adorned in graffiti which reminded me of my own trip to Southeast Asia, in particular my time spent in Vang Vieng, Laos, a tiny town unfortunately mutated to accommodate travel-tragedies and drunk Canadians. A happy memory nonetheless.
Andrea and I both went with sandwiches from the seasonal specials menu. I had the Five Spice-Glazed Pork Belly with pickled Asian pear and Andrea went with the Grilled Spanish Mackerel with Leeks and Thai-basil infused olive oil. All sandwiches are served with pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and chili mayo on special little toasted rolls. Both of our sandwiches were ready within 10 minutes and we headed back to Bryant Park to enjoy our feast. I was surprised when I opened the container and my eyes were met with a huge slab of tender, glazed pork belly, preventing the roll from sitting evenly or fitting in my mouth. Besides being messy, this was like one of the best sandwiches ever. Andrea shared my emotion about her own. Our only regret was not grabbing napkins. The roll looks small but this is filling, trust me.

Num Pang is scheduled to grace Brooklyn with its presence at the Great GoogaMooga festival later this month, and I will definitely be hitting their stand hard. I'd like to try the Grilled Khmer Sausage or Hoisin Veal Meatballs.

Num Pang: 140 E. 41st St, between Lex and 3rd, with an additional location in Union Sq. (212) 867-8889

Monday, May 7, 2012

Enchilada Casserole

Sometimes I get so tired of bringing sandwiches to work for lunch every day of my life. I was hit by inspiration for an enchiladas casserole at the food store last Sunday when I saw tomatillos in the produce department, so I threw together a verdes/suizas combo casserole to last me through the week. It's easier to pack lasagna-sized pieces than actual enchiladas for lunch. Living in the state of Nueva York means that there is always an abundance of Hispanic ingredients available, which makes me happy.
I started by throwing a chicken into a pot of water to boil for about an hour. When the chicken is done you have to wait a bit before pulling the meat off the carcass because that shit is hotttttttttttt. Save the chicken stock though because it will be used later!

To make the green salsa I roasted about a pound of peeled and washed tomatillos, two serrano chiles and 3 cloves of garlic. I then threw the roasted veggies into a processor with cilantro and a white onion. I cooked the combo up for a bit and then added some crema and about 1 to 2 cups of the chicken stock. 
I covered the bottom of a rectangular glass casserole with green salsa, and then layered corn tortillas on top. I added chicken, monterey jack cheese, and more green salsa. I think I did two layers and then covered the top with tortillas, cheese and salsa. This went into the oven for maybe 20-30 minutes to heat through and melt. To bring to work, I topped each portion with crumbled queso fresco. I think next time I would make more green salsa because although the casserole was not super dry, I think it could have used a bit more flavor. It did last me through the week even though I know others in the house (Denise) were picking on it too.

It's safe to say that now, after 4 days of enchilada lunch, I'm sick of enchiladas.

P.S. I've been practicing my Spanish with cab drivers while drunk because I'm going to Panama for three weeks at the end of the month. Look out for beaches and ceviche, coming soon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Otto

I wanted to go to ABC Kitchen with my parents on Wednesday, but we couldn't get a rez. So, we went to Otto, Mario Batali's pizza and pasta joint, instead. Mom and I started with drinks in the front bar section that meant to channel an Italian train station vibe. My experience with Italian train stations comes from spending the night on the floor in Milan with bums all around and nothing but a big mac for sustenance so I don't conjure great sentiments, but Batali's more idyllic image is quite nice. 

When we sat down we ordered more drinks and started with some cheese and prosciutto. The deal was three cheeses for $11 and below you can see what that gets you. Not much cheese. We went with the ricotta, ubraico and pecorino, and each was delicious when paired with the cherries, truffle honey and spicy apricots provided.
For our mains, Dad went with the Ravioli di Brasato with tomato, basil and parmesan, and Mom had a special spinach lasagna. I went for the special truffle pizza
BOOM. Now that, my loyal comrades, is a $35 pizza. It was swathed in truffles and guanciale, and topped with a glorious egg. I'm definitely against genetically modified shit, but wouldn't it be so awesome to have truffles shaped as dollar signs? Imagine if those truffle shavings on the pizza looked like neat little dollar signs. That would be ballin'. Truffles are so ostentatious in their in-concealable aroma, but if they looked like dollar signs, it would be an "opulence; I has it," moment. Google that phrase. The truffle pizza was bangin', although quite oily. The crust was delightfully thin and theres nothing I love more than a runny egg on top of anything. But yeah, I conveniently (and truthfully) didn't know it was $35 until Ed got the bill. Oops. 

Mom's lasagna was also delicious. It had creamy bechamel and the homemade spinach pasta was a nice twist. Dad's freshly homemade ravioli were nicely al dente and stuffed with pork. The portions were on the small side and the pastas rang in at $17 and $18, but they were both special. There is a list of regular pastas on the menu that are all quite reasonably priced at $10. We didn't stay for dessert but I've heard that Otto's gelati are some of the best in the city. Next time. By the time we left the dining room was packed and loud. I definitely recommend a reservation.

Otto: 1 5th Ave at 8th St. (212) 995-9559
Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tommy's Lunch

Tommy sent me his review of the Slow Roasted Berkshire Pork sandwich from 'wichcraft. My 'wichcraft experience is limited to one binge-ful day on which I consumed 'wichcraft for breakfast AND lunch. My TV inspired love for Colicchio remains after that day, and I can only say that he melted my heart even further with his fried eggs, bacon, gorgonzola and frisee sandwich. I had the Berkshire Pork for lunch, and although I found it a bit dry, Tommy did not seem to have that problem. I'm happy to believe that mine was a fluke. 

Here's Tommy's run-down:
Pros: Delicious, such good flavor from the pork, the bread & butter pickles were a nice balance, the bread was fresh and not too doughy, it was filling, although I thought size was going to be an issue. Cons: Price (but that's New York), and it was a bit messy so it definitely does not allow for a working lunch.
I think I need to experiment further with 'wichcraft. And anything Tom Colicchio. I'm looking for volunteers to bring me to Craft or Colicchio and Sons. Hit me up.
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