A while back, some colleagues and I got to talking about spice tolerance. One thing led to another and I somehow found myself committed to the P’Hall curry challenge at Bricklane Curry House. The challenge had been on my mind since I first saw Adam Richman take down this bowl of inferno on Man v. Food (see below). I even had plans with various NYC cohorts to take on the challenge, but we never seemed to be able to pull of the coordination. Though to the detriment of my taste buds, my stomach, and my pride, this week, I finally made it with a group of coworkers (one of whom took the challenge with me).
The deal is simple. Thirty minutes to take down a 16 ounce bowl of the stuff and you get a certificate, a beer, and your picture on the website.
To state the obvious, the curry is hot. Not the hottest thing ever to pass my lips. That honor goes to the bomb. But, unlike other fiery concoctions I’ve encountered before, there was just too much. I got through most of the chicken and maybe a quarter of the sauce. The only flavor discernible above the heat was the bitter sweet flavor of one of the less finelly chopped chilies. The heat wore on me as the water, rice and, bread I foolish used in my attempts to quell the burn filled my stomach until I couldn’t take another bite–I felt sick.
I may have lost the battle, but I don’t consider the war over. An observing coworker thinks she has what it takes and my fellow challenger is eager to declare victory. I’m reformulating my strategy away from rice and water and preparing mentally for a rematch in the next few weeks!
December has been a bad month for posts. Between work, boozy holiday festivities, and recovery from said festivities my free time at the keyboard has, yet again, been very limited. But lets make up for it with a little potty humor (and continued limited typing by me)!
If you’re a line cook, a dishwasher, a porter? Chances are, you’re paid by the hour. Even if your employer wanted to pay you for sick days and vacations, chances are, he can’t. If you’re anything like I was during my 28 years in the business, you’re already living paycheck to paycheck. You’re already struggling to make rent. Any unplanned cash flow interruption is going to cause some serious problems…
So, let’s do what we can. Just cause a little DIY place has got its power back on, doesn’t mean the bleeding has stopped. While there is no doubt that there are still people with direct, immediate, emergency needs, it would be a great help if those who can afford to do it would eat in the most seriously afflicted areas as early and as often as they can, patronizing local businesses in areas that were clearly hit hardest.
Tip heavily. And maybe send a $20 back to the dishwasher.
That’s not charity. It’s just neighborly.
Anthony Bourdain’s full article/blog post can be found at Eatocracy.
While this should not take the place of more targeted relief, I may need to make a trip this weekend to some of my favorite spots in hard hit Red Hook.
One of the best pizzas at my favorite pizza place introduced me to this strange ingredient. The bartender told me had to order the Smoked Pancetta pizza just to give the black garlic topping a try. And he was right. Each blackened clove was delicious.
So how does black garlic get its color? There are false rumors that the darkness is imparted through a balsamic vinegar infusion. Though the infusion theory is believable from the flavor, the real secret is fermentation. South Korea pioneered its use and chefs here in the good old US of A have started integrating it into their dishes.
The black garlic’s flavor is subdued relative to its raw, or even cooked, relations. The closest approximation is roasted garlic. But with a similar mellow flavor and hints of sweetness, the black garlic also offers up some elusive savoriness.
Every time I order the Smoked Panchetta, I dream of a little dish filled with these black diamonds, some freshly toasted bread, and a knife for spreading. Thankfully I just thought to look through the great series of tubes that is the internet and have found the stuff is widely available. Black garlic bread, here I come!
Hidden in the middle of an office park in Columbia, Maryland is a gem. If you can manage to navigate through Stanford Road, Standford Avenue, Stanford Circle, Stanford Lane, Stanford Way, and Stanford Drive you’ll find a wood-panelled dining room. A place where quiet music from a live jazz band floats through the dimly lit air.
It’s been almost twelve hours since I took my last bite of key lime pie at the Stanford Grill and I’m almost ready to think about food. After driving five or so hours from New York, with nothing but a bag McDonald’s dollar menu food to sustain us, we were ready to eat! For half the drive, Nick extolled the virtues of the Stanford. After ordering drinks I was skeptical. Our waiter was confused when I ordered a negroni, after a consultation with the bartender I had to walkthrough the drink’s construction. But all was well. An adequate negroni (and mysterious bonus glass of gin) arrived. And the quality of the food stood above that of the bar.
I ordered the bone-in ribeye steak, but was convinced to go surf and turf and add a crab cake. Before I could get the words out of my mouth, Nick put in an order of the mac and cheese starter. The mac and cheese was a solid and extremely cheesy dish. I prefer a more refined version with top layer of bread crumbs for texture. But this dish satisfied my taste buds and thrilled my stomach. The crab cake contained large chunks of crab held together with the right amount of breading. And the steak, Oh the steak. I haven’t had one in a restaurant since Peter Luger and I was not disappointed with my choice. A perfect light char surrounding a medium rare center. The mashed potatoes side was well executed as were the green beans, though I decided to forgo much of them so as to take down every bit of protein on my plate. I continued to devour steak as my fellow diners ordered and received desserts. Cleaning the bone, I accepted generous offers of bites of key lime pie and crème brûlée. The key lime pie was extraordinary (says the man who usually skips dessert).
A meal full of delicious nap inducing excess. I owe my body a run for this one. But for now, I think it’s time to consider lunch.
Sometimes a meal fails, but the experience is still worth the price of admission. A recent Living Social deal offered a brunch boat tour for $40. I was lucky to make the trip with Nick and Becca, not only for their fine company, but because Nick drove us in Becca’s car to the dock down in the Southern tip of Brooklyn. The final couple of miles took us along a bay–the smell of the sea filling the car. Worried that the boat might leave without us, we arrived with time to survey the water from the dock. Swans and a variety of seagulls (I learned there is more than one kind) meandered above and on the water until it was time to board. As we sat at a table with a panoramic view of the shore the crew began to pass out mimosas. Horribly sweet mimosas. Possibly made with Sunny-D rather than real OJ. But respectably strong. They tasted great with the view, the sun, and fresh air.
The “brunch” buffet turned out to be be much more lunch than brunch with wrap sandwiches and various salads. The wraps were more or less edible, with the exception of the eggplant, which was as dry as sandpaper. But the Cesar pasta salad was satisfying and lunch was lifted by two of the best words in the English language: “open bar.” We sipped mixed drinks from the bar and refills on mimosas as we floated on the water.
On returning to land, Nick was in the mood for some digital violence in form of Big Buck. I’m never one turn down a game of buck. Various bar closures and fails at internet searching lead us to trek north to Cherry Tree. I had seen this bar on a couple late night cab rides and had been meaning to check it out.
On arrival, after a long walk, we learned the Sunday special: a pizza pie from the attached South Brooklyn Pizza shop and two pitchers of PBR for $20! PBR isn’t my favorite beer, but I’m easily lured by the siren song of a bargain.
Before the arrival of the pizza, we sipped beer and explored the Cherry Tree. The bar is a large space with a generous with a junk filled and closed patio space. However, fresh air and sun could be found near a large open window on the second floor. Renovations appear underway to portions of the interior. Seemingly haphazard planning (odd spaces, protrusions, unlit nooks and crannies) and the halted construction left me feeling like I had dropped into an M. C. Escher drawing or H.H. Holmes’ hotel. But the beer was cheap, the patrons pleasant, animated animals to be shot were of plenty, and the pizza good.
The pizza encompassed the best the New York style, with a thin crisp crust. A higher end version of the New York pizza to be sure, but fantastic. With football season quickly approaching, it may be a while before I’m able to make a Sunday return, though I look forward to it.
As its name suggests, the Grand Ole Creamery serves up the heavy creamy stuff in a seemingly endless list of flavors in waffle cones made on site. I’ve enjoyed countless summer ice cream cones at this establishment. It was great to finally return after more than four years.
This place is a treat, even in those dark Minnesota winter days.
The night before I grabbed my last MN burger lunch with my dad at the Bulldog, I grabbed my last MN dinner with my madre at one of our favorite spots.
Punch Pizza takes the Neapolitan pizza seriously. Punch is among the few U.S. restaurants to be certified by Vera Pizza Neapolitana (V.P.N), the Naples organization that oversees that quality of those wishing to take the V.P.N title. Aside from the three letters, the title means that Punch makes some of the best Neapolitan pizza you can find outside of Naples. Better than some I’ve had in Naples. Really freaking good pizza!
The certification means an eagle’s eye attention to ingredients and process. The pizza is cooked at 800 degrees in a bell shaped wood fired oven. The high heat creates a crispy crust with a doughy layer under the toppings. The uninitiated might think the crust is burned. It’s not. That crisp, with the occasional blackened spot, is exactly how it should be. It’s a unique style of pizza perfectly designed to celebrate quality ingredients.
My mother had the margherita. As always, it encapsulated the prefect simplicity of basil, mozzarella, and crushed tomatoes. I opted for the vesuvio (spiced salami, saracene olive, cracked red pepper, piparras pepper, and basil). The vesuvio was good, but in my selection my mind was too much on one of my favorite Brooklyn haunts, Toby’s. There was just to much going on. I should have kept things simple and ordered the margherita extra, a prefect combination basil, mozzarella di bufala and crushed San Marzano tomatoes. Similar to the regular margherita, but made with absolutely the best ingredients to be found.
Eating at Punch took me back to innumerable dinners with friends and family over amazing pies and back to Naples. If you live in the Twin Cities and haven’t made your way to Punch yet, now is the time!
My posting has been sparse lately, in part due to an 11 day trip back to Minnesota. A trip that has left me backlogged with food I want to write about. Tragically, the timing and heat of the trip limited the amount of actual cooking I got in. Though, I did get in a couple good grills with the boys.
I’m starting off with one of my favorite Minnesota spots that I’ve so far neglected to mention here: The Bulldog. This fine establishment can be found on Lyndale in Uptown Minneapolis–which, despite its name and for reasons I’ve never been able to figure out, is located south of Downtown Minneapolis.
Back when I used to live in Minneapolis, I think it was safe to call me a regular. I can’t count the number of burgers and beers I’ve taken down with friends at this spot. So, after working through some of my Twin Cities must eats, this spot was an easy choice for a last lunch with my father.
The menu boasts a creative burger menu that is only matched by the Bulldog’s impressive beer list. The burger list includes such amazing creations as the Stilton burger and the Hawaiian. All the burger come with fries and everyone is under $10! (The hot dog menu isn’t shabby either and is worth of an occasional departure from the burgers.) The beer options are heavy on the Belgians but include great bottles from stellar U.S. brewers.
On this trip, I set my sights on the Humpty Dumpty (a fried egg, melted cheddar cheese, red onion, shredded lettuce, tomato and mayo). This hangover cure used to come with a slice of ham. And, as crazy as it sounds, I think the burger is better off without it. The egg is a great addition, but the ham just got in the way of the burger.
After eating, my dad and I turned to a few games of darts while we worked our way through a bit more of the beer list.
Great burgers, beer, and darts with the old man: a near perfect way to wind-down my last days in my home State.
2549 Lyndale Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Even here on the East Coast, I’ve heard rumors of the wonders of In and Out Burger. Some have dared to say it rivals Shake Shack, a New York burger institution which I’ve enjoyed but never drank the kool aid for. So I knew that I would have to get in at least one good eat at this famous chain.
The menu on the wall is bare bones basic, burgers, cheese burgers, fries, etc. But the standard menu is augmented by the not so secret menu (available at the company’s website). The options expand from there with additional secret menus to be discovered.
There are many others who have explored and written far more on In and Out Burger and its secrets than I intend, the options are seemingly endless. This is my hit and run experience.
I actually managed to do my heart right and hit this place twice on the trip. The first go with Matt was an impulsive stop on the way to take down a full deep dish pizza. I wanted to keep things simple, so I just got a cheeseburger animal style (lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty, pickle, and thousand island spread with grilled onions), fries, and a soda. It was good, but the burger seemed to get lost in all those toppings. So when Nick, Becca, and I stopped at the In and Out at the airport on our way out of town I got a 2×2 (two patties and two cheeses) animal style but with no lettuce. With the double meat, foregoing the lettuce seemed unnecessary as the right-sized beef could hold up to the layers of extras.
In all, this place is awesome. Despite the rumors of a planned New York opening, I just don’t know if this place could survive in this city. It wasn’t just a tasty burgers, the place is unbelievably clean and the folks working there didn’t seem crushed by life and working a job they hate. They smiled. They actually gave shit! Things that would break the laws of fast food physics in New York. Though if its arrival does materialize, my waistline and cholesterol levels are in danger. Tasty, tasty danger.