Saturday, July 25, 2009

Steve's Key Lime Pie

As far as I can see you only go to Red Hook for a few reasons; a home furnishing trip to IKEA, the Latino food carts by the ball fields, and Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie. Let me tell you, these pies are awesome.

Kevin and I woke up on Saturday anxious to get out in the city but with no destination in mind. We hopped on the free water taxi at Pier 11 by the South Street Seaport which takes you directly to the new IKEA in Brooklyn. There has been a recent controversy that will require riders to pay up for the ferry during the week unless they can provide proof of a purchase at IKEA. But for now, Saturday and Sunday are still free with the ferry departing every 20 minutes or so.

We followed the signs that pointed to the pie and finally arrived at an old warehouse on the pier. A Swingle (key lime pie dipped in chocolate and frozen on a stick) was reason enough for the trip across the river but we got our 8 inch pie for $15 to take home and it was delicious with its crumbly graham cracker crust. Not overly sweet as I feared, and it has a natural limey flavor.

KEY LIME PIE, infatuation that shouldn't exist,
KEY LIME PIE, indulge and I am in your debt.
KEY LIME PIE, inspire me with foolish love,
KEY LIME PIE, your green filling makes me inept.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Arab – African Street Festival

The Annual Arab-American and North-African cultural street festival earned my presence in the Village this past Saturday afternoon. Vendors lined the street offering a variety of products, exhibiting original crafts, displaying Arabic literature, and playing regional music. But you know why I’m there, to sample the food! Middle Eastern and North African foods can refer to a wide range of cuisines and often utilize similar ingredients and cultural tastes. The dishes frequently contain flat breads such as pita and chickpeas or beans. Many dishes do not include meat, making Middle Eastern cuisine a great option for vegetarians. This is how I fell in love with Falafel. Falafel is a fried ball made from spiced chickpeas and/or fava beans, originally from Egypt, and usually served in pita-like bread called lafa. This is always a perfect fast food option fresh from the streets.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Regreso Puntas

You may have missed my food critiques for some time now due to my attempt at learning Spanish in Madrid during the month of June. I had intended to update the blog regularly with postings describing all the marvelous Spanish foods I was eating abroad but unfortunately did not spend much time by my computer. Madrid was an exciting and fantastic city that reminded me of New York in so many ways and my new amigos from Universidad de Antonio Nabrija made this trip el tiempo de mi vida.

Madrid is the capital and largest city in Spain. The metropolitan area is the fourth-most populous urban zone in the European Union after Paris, London, and the Ruhr Area. While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of it's historic neighborhoods and streets. Some of its landmarks include the Royal Palace; the Teatro Real; the Buen Retiro park, and superb art museums such as the Prado Museum, which hosts one of the finest art collections in the world, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which had a brilliant Matisse exhibit during my visit.

Madrileños have a much different custom of eating than Americans. They eat very little for breakfast, usually just a pastry and coffee and then have their largest meal at lunch, around two o’clock, before siesta (the regular afternoon nap to avoid the heat). One of the best ways to sample Spanish food is to try tapas, or snacks, which are served at any time of day in local bars. These were usually costly and difficult to order without an understanding of the Spanish menu, which we didn’t study until the last week of class for some reason.

The gastronomy in Spain is heavily influenced by the different cultures which have passed through the Iberian Peninsula. Some events that heavily influenced Spanish cuisine include the Roman Invasion, the Invasion of the Moors, and the discovery of the Americas. The Romans developed wine, oil and wheat production while the Invasion of the Moors contributed to their knowledge of water management for agriculture and also introduced oranges, lemons, and rice to Spain. The discovery of the Americas provided the Spanish with potatoes, maize, cocoa, tomatoes, and peppers. All of these products form Spain’s current food culture. Madrid is an amazing city and will always have a place in my heart but this does not waiver my loyalty to New York City which is still the food capital of the world.

Restaurants offer tourist menus (menu del día) which include a primero and segundo course plus a glass of tinto for 12 to 15 Euros. Among the popular Spanish food recipes that make up the varied cuisines of Spain, a few can be considered common to all or almost all of Spain's regions, even though some of them have an original origin such as Paella, a typical Valencian rice dish. Paella is one of my favorite Spanish dishes. It can be prepared in many ways, based on meat or seafood. One of my favorite paellas was from Riofio in Columbus Plaza. I also had a wonderful Hake dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrino de Botin, where most go for su especialidad, el cochinillo (the specialty, the pig).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dance Parade

Just a warm Sunday sitting in Tompkins Square Park, eating Arepas and watching the old men play chess while tourists take pictures of squirrels. What is everyone waiting for? The third annual NYC Dance Parade. They started dancing to raise awareness for the importance of dance in the community. Registered dance groups range from ballet to belly dance, capoeira to the rumba, and from salsa to zydeco. In addition to the dance companies and individual dancers, colorful floats, live bands and DJs waltz, tango and pirouette down Broadway from 32nd Street to Tompkins Square Park with a dance festival finale in the park through sunset. Best dance parade ever!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Caracas Arepa Bar

Pale gold arepas, made from scratch daily, they have been described as "dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle..."

The truth is that arepas resist definition. They are the result of a relentless dedication to homemade quality slow food. Straight from Venezuela, Caracas Arepas Bar is located in Manhattan's East Village, but has its original location in Williamsburg Brooklyn. The versatility of arepas is probably the reason why in Venezuela they are at the center of every meal; from breakfast to lunch, dinner, and the occasional after party treat.

Kevin had the De Guasacaca for $5.75 which is filled with Venezuelan guacamole and paisa cheese. I had the La Jardinera for $6.00 stuffed with grilled eggplants, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions and guayanés cheese. Both were delicious and so filling that the sidekick Yoyos for $5.00 (fried sweet plantain balls stuffed with white cheese) were really not needed but still tasty.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

West Side Story

I was fortunate to find a Saturday night ticket for the Broadway show “West Side Story”. The musical, revived for the first time in almost thirty years, opened this past March at the Palace Theatre and is already sold out until the end of the summer. Fifty years ago, when Tony just met a girl named Maria, theatergoers were shocked by the brutality of the ethnic gang warfare of “West Side Story” and a review in the New York Times said the material is “horrifying” and “rooted in ignorance and evil”. My, how the city and times change. This modern audience is less fearful and more sympathetic for the lovable misfits and their knife-jabbing side-kicking dance-offs.

There were a variety of forces causing the public to be frightened by the original WSS. The postwar “Migración” was in full swing and tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans were settling into the city each year. Being “Spanish” in New York use to mean being treated as an outsider and island natives were not even officially counted into separate ethnic groups until 1955. The population continued to grow and by 1960 Puerto Ricans made up 14 percent of the Upper West Side population, where the 1961 movie version was filmed. Now, Puerto Ricans comprise about one-half of NY Hispanics.

But over all Hispanics make up just a tiny portion of Broadway’s audience. In the 2007-8 season, according to the Broadway League, they bought 5.7 percent of all tickets purchased, compared with 4.8 percent the previous season. So when Bernardo and his gang take the stage at the Palace and speak to one another in Spanish, some have complained the dialogue was difficult to follow. When Maria confides to friends about her secret love and she playfully swirls to “Siento Hermosa” instead of “I Feel Pretty”, some say adding Spanish was an unwarranted contrivance.

So many objections were made that English had to be strategically deployed so non-Spanish speakers could understand what was going on. Who doesn’t already know what is going on in West Side Story? There are few new aspects to this rendition besides the genuine use of language and I barely noticed the change. I wish more Spanish had been used to give the show an aspect of something unique and updated from the original. Many people prefer performances to stay the same but different can be exciting too. By the end of the almost three hour production, my view on the use of language changed to either do it all or not at all. The snippets of Spanish followed by fluent English seemed just inane.

Overall the production was excellent but there was lack of passion and chemistry among the characters. The numbers were all well prepared but never started a fire. Anita was the standout in every way; in the candy store scene at the end, she looked like she could have taken on all the Jets single-handedly. I was so excited at the prospect of the revival, and I feel let down. Oh, well.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Nas @ Hunter

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I haven’t heard much about Nas in awhile until I got the email informing me of his show at Hunter. I did not even know that Hunter hosted concerts but they can fit almost two thousand people in Thomas Hunter Hall and the tickets were only $10 for students.

After about an hour of the opening act, Blitz, and another 30 minutes of security yelling at the crowd to back up from the stage, Nas finally came on stage and did about an hour long set. All of the classics were played and the finale was his most popular song One Mic, from his fifth album, Stillmatic. One Mic has been noted by music writers for its political consciousness and dystopian themes. Nas' gold-certified album Untitled was nominated for a 2009 Grammy award for best rap album.

This morning I woke up to this yahoo news story which may help expain why Nas is spending his Friday nights playing Hunter College. Kelis, who is seven months pregnant, is rumored to be unhappy with Nas' "verbally abusive and cheating ways" reports RapRadar.com. Thursday Kelis officially filed for a divorce from her husband of five years and nine months. They met when Nas made a cameo in Kevin’s favorite video for Kelis' song Milkshake. Kevin will be so sad his favorite Hip Hop couple is breaking up.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Suggestions and Recommendations!

If you know of a great restaurant that I should visit in New York City, please leave me a comment and I'll go! Or perhaps there is an event you want reviewed or just a certain place I should see. I'm open to all ideas and look forward to hearing them. I'm also hoping for your suggestions of places I must see this summer while I'm in Madrid, so drop a line on your favorite tapas bar! Don't be shy!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Dead @ MSG

The Grateful Dead’s 30 years of touring continued after Jerry Garcia’s death; first as The Other Ones, and later simply as The Dead. The band now includes the original members Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, as well as guitarist Warren Haynes and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.

We arrived at Madison Square Garden, where The Dead have played more than 50 concerts, greeted by a crowd of fans desperate for tickets. The lure to sell was strong but Kevin is convinced scalping tickets leads to prison so we proceeded to the show. The show tonight opened with five Garcia tunes in row, Cosmic Charlie, China Cat, Shakedown, Ship of Fools, and He’s Gone. Also, an appropriate song for the night: One More Saturday Night.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Citi Field

It was a perfect spring day in New York so Kevin and I went to a ballgame at the just opened Citi Field in Flushing. The Mets were playing my home state Milwaukee Brewers and the Brew Crew won today 4-2. It’s easy to get to the stadium from downtown and only took about 40 minutes on the 7 train. It has a capacity of 42,000, over 15,000 fewer seats than Shea Stadium and the exterior facade is reminiscent of Ebbets Field.

Citi Field offers a wide choice of eateries. Taste of the City is the food court located in the left center field section of the ballpark. It includes a variety of stands, including the award winning Shake Shack (Burgers, Fries, Shakes), Blue Smoke (Barbecue), El Verano Taqueria (Mexican Cuisine), Nonna Delia’s (Italian), Box Frites (Belgian French Fries) and Catch of the Day (Seafood). The World's Fare Market is located on the field level and features sushi from Daruma of Tokyo and sandwiches and pastries from Mama's of Corona. Restaurants and shops are available in every level of the ballpark.

All of the choices were temping but by habit I chose the sweet Italian sausage which is the real reason I go to the ballpark. It was better than ever with fresh crisp onions and peppers, plus it wouldn’t be a Brewers game without a Brat. Overall the entire experience at Citi Field was great. The seats are wider and there is more legroom compared to Shea. The concession and bathroom lines were almost non existent except of course for Shake Shack but a line is inevitable with any Shake Shack. I haven’t been to the new Yankees Stadium yet but it will be hard for it to compare to the Mets Citi Field.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Its Hanami time at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden! Hanami is the Japanese cultural tradition of viewing and cherishing each moment of the cherry blossom season. We have meant to go for several years but this is the first time we’ve actually made it. The blossoms only last for about six weeks and Hanami is celebrated in the Garden from April 4 - May 12.

This weekend was still a little early in the season since not all of the trees were in bloom. Mainly the Cherry Esplanade had not bloomed which features rows and rows of Prunus Kazan trees. The cherries of these trees are the most popular and are considered by many to be the most beautiful.

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Japanese Hill and Pond Garden was constructed in 1914 and has my favorite blossom, the Higan. Seeds of the weeping Higan were brought from Japan around 1862 and these cherries produce delicate blossoms that reflect in the water. The flower color on the Higan has a range from nearly white to a pale pink.

I want to return for the Sakura Matsuri Festival during the weekend of May 2. This is when the Brooklyn Botanical Garden hosts over 50 events and performances celebrating Japanese culture and the blossoming of over 220 cherry trees making it one of the leading cherry-viewing sites outside of Japan. Visitors to the weekend-long Cherry Blossom Festival can enjoy a range of performances from traditional Japanese music and dance to concerts by some of Japan's hottest pop stars, plus taiko drumming, bonsai pruning workshops, Japanese-pop DJs, and a traditional kimono show.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cheddar’s Casual Café

IRVING, TX – Yet another chain restaurant on our visit home and this time its Cheddar’s Casual Café. It’s a made from scratch American food restaurant founded in Arlington, Texas in 1978 that has expanded throughout the South and Midwest. I have known the co-founder, Douglas Rodgers, and his family for many years.

Today, I’m going to do a simple burger review. I had an Original Burger, described as a thick juicy burger with lettuce, tomato, mustard, pickles and onion. Overall it was decent, as is typical the burger was overcooked from my requested doneness of medium. Also, the bun to burger ratio was off as the bun overwhelmed the sandwich. I shoulda stuck with what I know I like, the Top Sirloin Ribeye, the Chicken Fried Steak or the Cheddar’s Club.

The Metroplex is all about the chain restaurant and despite the burger review, Cheddar’s will always be one of my favorites for the quality of the food and the great prices that go along with it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

La Madeleine

COPPELL, TX - Whenever I happen to be driving by a La Madeleine, I try to stop in and enjoy another one of Texas’ popular chain restaurants that are not yet located in New York. La Madeleine’s founder opened his first bakery on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas and as with many of Texas’ first great restaurants, the chain has expanded to more than 60 locations throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Washington D.C.

La Madeleine has the feel of a café and neighborhood gathering place that specializes in classic French country fare. They offer healthy salads and soups along with rich pastas and pastries. Unfortunately, they don’t supply all of their nutritional information to the public yet but they do offer la Cuisine Vitale which features healthy low fat and low carb options.

Today while in Coppell we went in for a light lunch. Kevin had the Croque Monsieur; a classic French ham sandwich accented with cream sauce and Swiss cheese, baked to a golden brown. It arrived perfectly crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, accompanied on the side was the Tomato Basil Pesto Pasta Salad. I had my usual French onion soup and small Ceasar salad; not as exciting as Kevin’s lunch but still delicious and filling.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Albertsons Wedding Cake

FRISCO, TX - It is rare that you choose to have a second piece of cake at weddings. Usually they are stale and made earlier in the week but not for my brother’s wedding in Texas over Easter. It was relatively inexpensive compared to most and ordered from Albertsons, a supermarket chain in the Southwest. This particular white cake had a buttercream frosting and was moist and delicious. The wedding was beautiful and my new sister in law is an angel. I love you guys!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mi Cocina

DALLAS, TX - Some people in New York like to complain they cannot find great Tex Mex in the city. Some people may say what the heck is Tex Mex. I say if you want great Tex Mex you have to go to Texas and you have to go to Mi Cocina. The cuisine that would come to be called Tex-Mex actually originated with Tejanos (Texans of Hispanic descent) as a hybrid of Spanish and native Mexican foods when Texas was part of New Spain and later Mexico.

I’ve heard there is a restaurant of the same name in the West Village in NYC but it is not affiliated with the Texas chain and I believe they closed recently anyways. Since 1991, Mi Cocina has been one of the best traditional Tex-Mex restaurants in Dallas. Our usual location is the first and original on Preston and Forest. It is just one of 15 locations distributed throughout the metroplex. All locations are worth a visit since no two Mi Cocinas look alike for the reason that they are designed to fit in with the neighborhood.

Kevin and I have begun a tradition of returning here with his mom and sister each time we revisit Dallas. The food is always delicious and fresh. The tortilla chips are crisp, but not greasy. For some, the salsa may be on the hot side of delicious. My order of enchiladas included two spinach and one cheese for a total of 9.95, it is a deal good enough to eat every day. The cheese oozes from each corner of the tortillas and practically off the plate.

Kevin and Debbie split Ernie’s chicken which cost 13.95. A hot plate filled with marinated grilled chicken breast topped with queso and crema, served with guacamole, rice, and pico de gallo was finished with no complaints. With so many choices here I always look forward to my next visit, but I already know next time I will copy Karin’s order of fresh veggie quesadillas.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

PJ Clarke’s

PJ Clarke’s has been a New York fixture since 1884 and the original location at 915 3rd Avenue (55th Street) still provides an authentic city experience. Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Buddy Holly and Jackie O are just some of the well known celebrity’s that made PJ Clarke’s a regular late night stop. Today, you can find PJ’s at three different locations around the city, the original location, Lincoln Center and my usual location in the World Financial Center.

With Dr. Brown in town we needed a quick lunch after returning from an exhibition game at the new Yankee Stadium and before he had to head out to a wedding. With PJ Clarke’s just a few blocks from his hotel this became the most logical spot for us to go and I am glad we did. I have always enjoyed the food, particularly the burger, and to see the historical aspect of this building and location provided a whole new experience. I had the French Onion soup, which is one of the best I have ever had and we split a Reuben Sandwich, also very good. Not exactly an inexpensive restaurant but we were pleased to get in and out for lunch with a bill under $30. I would recommend going to any of the PJ Clarke’s locations for the food, but you have to check out the original location to get the authentic old time New York vibe.

And to finish, a pic of me, my sister Christine and Dad (Dr. Brown) at the game, I like the people in the background of this picture.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cellini

There are certain restaurants in the city that one may never patron without the promise of someone else paying the bill. Cellini is one of those. Usually this leads to an amazing meal and experience that you can’t wait to go back for but this does not accurately describe Cellini.

Kevin’s family was in town for a wedding and invited us to this restaurant Friday night. The atmosphere was quaint and the service was above average. The wine menu provided all the necessary choices and the Italian menu brags of a flair for home cooking. We had many daily specials to choose from, including a variety of pastas, fish and meat. A complimentary plate of antipasto was on the table when we arrived to include brushetta, olives and cheese which I truly enjoyed. We started by sharing the Alla Cesare consisting of hearts of romaine, classic caesar dressing, focaccia croutons and parmesan cheese which Kevin and I agreed was completely bland. For the main course Kevin and I chose from the daily specials menu. He had the Mushroom Ravioli which was freshly made and enjoyable. I ordered the Sea Bass which was plain and lacked much flavor. I didn’t finish the dish and this is against everything I believe in so you know it wasn’t that good.

The company is what makes the meal, so in that sense we loved this place. Dining with Susan and David and the opportunity to meet a few members of Susan’s family made the experience wonderful. There wasn’t anything terrible about this meal however nothing memorable either. Cellini is located in Midtown East at 65 E 54th Street and I would place it in the category that is very common for this area, a place trying to have a family run restaurant feel but in actuality is part of a larger restaurant conglomerate.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Terrace Fish & Chip

This place is right across the street from our offices in the Financial District on the corner of Stone Street, the actual address is 77 Pearl Street. It is a walk up with no seating and on this particular rainy Friday there is a line out the door.

I have been here before and now remember why it has been two years since I last ordered from here, not a fan. I stuck to the Fish & Chips, the “C5” to be exact which is Flounder and Shrimp. Its two large pieces of Flounder and four Shrimp. By the time I got it back to the office everything was cold, lots of grease and nice foul odor for all in my office to experience for the rest of the day. I have found plenty of positive reviews on this place and Robb is a bigger fan than me, so it may just be my occasional issues with fish leading to a bad experience today.

Next week is a vacation to Dallas, so a week of Tex-Mex and Bar-B-Q to post about. Go4Kb.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Top Chef The Tour

Working in Flatiron today brought me to the tent and tour of Bravo’s Top Chef. The show just completed its fifth season and is filmed in NYC of course. A large crowd gathered around the tent, mostly people coming from Madison Square Park after getting a Shake Shack burger, but also a mix of Flatiron District shoppers and tourists.

The show Top Chef offers a fascinating window into the competitive environment of the restaurant business while the Top Chef Tour offers some photo opts and rather disgusting samples. The sample I had the patience to wait for was oatmeal blended with a mix of fruits and nuts which sounded safe but made me want to gag. Apparently there were some demonstrations earlier by last year’s contestant Nikki Cascone and the most recent winner Hosea Rosenberg, but I missed that.