Archive for March, 2011
I’d like to introduce you to a friend named Tyler. I met Tyler roundabout 6 or 7 years ago through a friend of a friend, and we ended up living in a house together while I was in college. Tyler and I are the ultimate example of diametrically opposed forces in the
kitchen. Whereas I ususally know what I want a dish to look and taste like before I start cooking it, Tyler is very much a person who is enthralled with the process of cooking itself. He will start out with the ingredients at hand, but usuaully does not know what the food will look or taste like until its done. To the best of my knowledge, this only lead to inedible food on one occasion, when he added a tablespoon or two of cumin to a noodly-cream sauce dish… we shall not speak of that horror.
Since we were the biggest cooks in house, we invariably ended up collaborating on meals on some nights and our contrasting cooking styles always made for interesting meals. The entire process was a struggle between us; Tyler would make a suggestion and I would resist because I already knew what I wanted. I would make a suggestion and Tyler would resist because he wanted to see the outcome of what he was doing. We didn’t always listen to each other, but there was usually a shared commitment to accept some input, and typically the meals we created ended up better than either of us could have produced on our own. This night was no different. Tyler sent me a text saying he had spent all day roasting red peppers and was planning on making lasagna that night. How could I resist?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact ingredient list for you because Tyler bought most of the groceries and (of course) did not have a recipe while doing it. Here’s what I think we had though:
- 2 boxes of lasagna noodles (one was regular pasta, the other was whole wheat. We preferred the latter.)
- 2 jars of Bertolli alfredo sauce
- 2 frozen chicken breasts
- 1lb of venison steak/cutlets
- 1-2 lbs of mushrooms
- 2 cups of roasted red peppers, cut into strips (if you have homemade, god bless you)
- 20 oz. frozen spinach, thawed (I normally dont like frozen spinach, this turned out quite well.)
- 2 logs of fresh mozzarella
- 1 tub of ricotta cheese
- Wedge of parmasean and/or asiago
- Fresh basil
- Red pepper flakes
We pre-prepared everything so we could just bake the lasagnas long enough to melt everything together and not have to worry about uncooked meat. The chicken breasts were boiled in a heavily seasoned (salt, pepper, garlic powder, sage, rosemary and thyme) pot of water, then diced into small peices. After that, we tossed them with the liquid left in the jar from the roasted peppers to add another layer of flavor. Note: while the boiling liquid smelled fantastic, I don’t think enough of the flavor trasnferred. You might be better off brining and roasting them. Alternately, you could use chicken thighs which usually have more flavor. The venison was already sliced into medallions, about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. We patted them dry, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic & herb, and chili powder, then seared them in a very hot pan with a teaspoon or two of canola oil. By the time they are well browned on both sides, they should be done. Then cut them into matchstick peices so they can be sprinkled throughout the layers. Lastly, the mushrooms were cooked with some butter, garlic and seasonings. Just make sure you get a good amount of the moisture out so it doesn’t come out in the lasagna itself. One thing we forgot to do: the recipe we were loosely consulting suggested mixing the ricotta with an egg, then mixing the spinach into that. I think that process would have helped hold the lasagna together a bit better when it came time to serve.
Put all the various ingredients into some bowls so you can put together the lasagna via assembly line. First layer was alfredo sauce and a small amount of spinach. Then noodles. The next layer was meat(one lasagna was chicken and the other was venison), spinach, mozz, roasted peppers, shrooms. Then noodles. Then sauce, ricotta, and spinach. Then noodles. Then meat, spinach, mozz, roasted peppers, shrooms. Maybe a littlle sauce too (this was hardly a scientific process). Then noodles. Then sauce, ricotta, spinach, red pepper flakes, and some chiffonaded basil, then some shredded parm/asiago. Then the last layer of noodles. Top layer is some sauce, spinach, peppers, and a larger amount of mozz than you had been using. I really tried to cover the top layer in mozz so it would broil up well, then topped with some more shredded parm. Spray some aluminum foil with cooking oil, then cover the lasagna with it. Throw the lasagna in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. After 15 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and let it go for another 25 minutes in the oven. Depending on how crusty and brown you like the cheese, you may have to finish it under the broiler, which is what we did. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then furiously devour it.
Saturday morning, after a late night of grilling, poker playing, and a backyard bonfire, my roomie Nick suggested that it was time for brunch. Fayaz was out of town to Miami on “spring break” and Meg was stuck in Midtown editing an article for the law journal, but a few guests had spend the night – one visitor from Maryland and two NYC friends who decided not to brave the 4:30 a.m. subway ride home from Park Slope — so we had a nice little crew. After a bit of internet searching to decide where to go, we were out walking in the cool spring air to the Perch Cafe.
Before I talk about Perch Cafe I have a Minnesotan confession. When I heard the name Perch, I immediately thought of the little fish that I would catch as a kid–not the thing birds do on sticks and wires. I know, surprising since I currently live with two pet birds. I guess it just goes to show: you can take the Minnesotan out Minnesota, but not the Minnesota out of the Minnesotan.
When the five of us arrived at 12:30, brunch was in full swing. True to Park Slope the children were numerous, but after almost three years out here it’s kind of nice to see them. There wasn’t an open table in the place… but there was outside! All wasn’t lost, we wouldn’t need to wait 30 minutes to get seated, as we made our way directly to the patio. The air was cool, but the sun was warm so we jumped at the chance to take the brunch outdoors.
Last week, I wrote a post about my brunch experience at Sette and I can’t help but compare. The Perch brunch was filled with pandemonium, but the terrific attitudes of our server and the manager, plus the pure awesomeness of the food made for a night-and-day difference in brunching-experience at this place after my recent disappointment with Sette.
The confusion for our server seemed present from her first appearance: she poked her head out the back door, looked around and pondered, seemingly to herself, whether we were her party of five. She slipped back inside and came back in a few minutes with water and only 4 sets of cutlery for the 5 of us. But she was positive and upbeat and we all enjoyed exchanging a few stupid jokes as we ordered. The food came out in spurts, and there was a need to switch-up an order of waffles because the kitchen had run out of batter. After the first plate or two came out Matt, in visible pain, decided that the night before had gotten the better of him, and that it was best that he head home for a nap. There seemed to be a lot of confusion about what food would be ready when. At one point, refilling our coffee, the waitress looked particularly stressed and we inquired what was going on. A little prodding finally invoked a report of a fight in the kitchen (which she had just broken up), but she assured us that everything was back on track now and the rest of the food would be on its way. We then, along with a number of apologies, received the rest of the orders as they were ready.
It was all little crazy. But the waitress was upbeat, apologetic, and happy to joke with us about the situation. A complete contrast to the manner of the sulking waiter at Sette, faced with similar hiccups. And, near the end of our meal, that manager came over, introduced himself, and explained that there was a new cook getting used to handling the big brunch rush and that our drinks and some of the food would be comped.
I should also note that the patio started to fill as we ate, and that other tables seemed to have smooth sailing with their orders. I think we just got hit by some of the chaos that can happen at any restaurant and the people at Perch handled it well.
But, let’s not forget to address the excellent food. Between the five us, we filled the table with huevos rancheros (my order), waffles, French toast, eggs Benedict, corn chowder, tomato soup, and grilled cheese. With a lot of sharing at the table, I was able to sample a little of everything.
The huevos rancheros started with a tortilla and with a layer of black beans, topped with two perfectly-fried eggs, some sour cream, and guacamole. With a generous helping of the Tabasco sauce (I’m a big fan of spice, in case you haven’t noticed), I was very content. I just love the combination of black beans and eggs for breakfast. And the eggs were done right, with nice runny yolks, but a good crisp on the bottom and edges. (The color in the photo is a little off, the guac was beautiful and bright in person–my cellphone camera sometimes just decides to blue out pictures.)
The eggs Benedict, which I have an ever-growing soft spot for, were delicious. Again, nice runny yolk and a good ham-to-egg-to-bread ratio. In an interesting twist, Perch used corn bread as a base, in place of the traditional English muffin. In my experience, corn bread can be hit or miss. Sometimes it’s just too dry for my taste. In this case, either from some inherent cornbread moisture or from the runny yolk and Hollandaise sauce, the corn bread had just the right level of moisture and worked as a perfect base for getting all the deliciousness onto the fork. This dish also came with homefries, which, in an interesting change-up to the standard fair, included sweet potato.
The French toast and the waffles were good–if you are into that kind of thing. I just don’t understand why I would eat the “sweet” when there is so amazing “savory” to be enjoyed.
The corn chowder was good pick for the cool day and actually pretty perfect to eat via dunking the bread that came on the side. Finally, the grilled cheese and tomato soup was rock star. Yeah, grilled cheese and tomato soup is pretty much always satisfying and it would probably take some work to make it fail, but this stuff was really done well: the soup was thick and chunky and grilled cheese had just the right crunch to the bread.
Each dish was a solid execution of a simple, tasty idea. All-in-all, Perch Cafe should find it’s way into everyone’s BK brunch rotation.
Next up, the Do-It-Yourself brunch!
Who doesn’t love brunch? And here in New York it’s practically an institution. There is no better way to shake off whatever you got up the night before than a little grease or sweet paired with Bloody Marys or Mimosas. But, with so many great places to choose from, it’s a waste of an early afternoon to head back to a place that is OK at best–which is where Sette Park Slope ranks. There was no single disaster when Meg, Stu, and I made our Saturday afternoon trip to Sette, but we were met with a seemingly constant series of missteps.
The restaurant is, without a doubt, aesthetic. The main dinning room presents an exposed kitchen, thick wood tables, and wine storage on the walls above the kitchen. On arrival,, we chose seating on the enclosed patio and got a table in a corner with a great view of Park Slope’s 7th Avenue and 3rd Street. After being seated, we got water and some amazing raisin and walnut foccacia bread.
My disappointment with Sette started with our server. He was a handsome man, with an intriguing accent (when he begrudgingly spoke), who clearly didn’t want to be there and didn’t seem to care that we knew it. Now I’ve worked in the service industry (admittedly only for a short time) and I appreciate that being a waiter is hard and often shitty job, but the active disinterest he showed our table was over the top: no “how are you doing today?” and thinly veiled annoyance when we weren’t ready to order right away – and even annoyance at getting our first round of all you can drink drinks. Stu, always friendly, tried to warm things up by asking his name, which he gave half turned around sulking from the table. Brunch is all about a fun times with friends but the server set the opposite tone, and a good friendly tone could have helped me over look the other problems with Sette’s brunch.
There were three choice for the unlimited drinks: a Bloody Marry, a Mimosa, or a Bellini. All of which tasted fine, but were definitely on the weak side.
Sette’s brunch offers an antipasti and an entree, in addition to the unlimited drinks and the raisin walnut foccacia bread. Both Stu and Meg ordered the ricotta fritters with fruit puree which were a complete home run. Fried and the size of doughnut holes these little gems were moist, not overly sweet, and perfect when dipped into the fruit puree. I ordered the seasonal melon, balsamic figs, and prosciutto. I have fond memories of prosciutto melone from a past trip to Italy, so I may have had the bar set a little high, but I was very underwhelmed. The long thing slices of cantaloupe were under ripe, hard, and not sweet enough. The prosciutto was fine. The main problem came with the balsamic figs. They were almost rock hard and were drowning in a super sweet syrup (balsamic reduction?) that would have been great on french toast. The syrup was completely out of place in this plate and it flowed it’s way over to the prosciutto, overwhelming it and the melon with it’s toxin sweetness.
For the entree, Meg and I each ordered the poached eggs “Benedict” on foccacia bread with black forest ham and tomato sabayon (a sabayon is similar to hollandaise sauce, but without the butter–so in this case probably some egg yolks, sugar, and tomato puree). Stu ordered the egg panini with fennel sausage and fontina cheese, but, being a vegetarian (yes, shock of shocks, I can be friends with a vegetarian), she ordered it with some onions and no sausage.
Stu’s entree was the first to arrive, with the onion, but also with the sausage. The food runner or whoever it was that brought the entree was great though. He apologized and took it back to the kitchen to get fixed. While we were waiting for round 2 on Stu’s meal, Meg’s entree arrived. A few minutes later Stu’s panini made a return sans meat. But I was still waiting on the my eggs Bendict. So I asked the guy bringing out the food; he seemed confused and went to check with the kitchen. He came back to the table and said the kitchen had never gotten the ticket, but it was making the dish now and it would be out soon. A few minutes later, a nice woman, who seemed to be the manager, came over and apologized and assured us the food would be there soon. After another few minutes, our elusive waiter stopped by to say the same, but started to run off as we were mid-sentence asking for a coffee and booze refill. Finally, my eggs made it to the table. Again, this wasn’t any huge disaster (thought I’m not sure how it seemed normal that I was only doing part of the prix fixe), but was just one of many things–especially the server’s attitude–that soured the brunch.
The eggs Benedict was good. The picture makes it look unappetizing, but it really looked amazing. The white on the outside of the eggs had a perfect cloud like appearance. My one criticism would be that there was too much ham. More precisely, the ham formed a meaty shield for the bread so that when I cut into the poached egg the wonderful yolk ran over the ham on to the plate and didn’t get much of a chance to sink into the bread. Also, foccacia bread, because of the the nature of its outside, simply isn’t that absorbent.
We got the bill. When we left we passed the manager, herself seeming a little stressed. I knew that she knew about at least part of the problems we had. She asked how everything was. I just said “fine” and continued out the door. I know I should have asked for something, a little off the bill etc., but I hate doing that, I feel that when the manager knows about these kinds of issues they should be proactive.
All-in-all I think I might have hit Sette on a bad day. If I had to guess, here is what was happening: more than one of the waiters called-in or just didn’t show up, our server got a call that dragged him out of bed after a long night out into a crazy understaffed brunch rush. The manager was struggling herself (she was out re-filling drinks) to keep things going. But that wouldn’t change the food. Like the excess ham on the Benedict’s foccacia , Sette is reaching a little too far. It has some really great thing going for it, but some of the dishes are just over the top and should be paired back and simplified for a better result.
There aren’t a huge number of brunch places in the Slope, but there is no reason to risk a mediocre C+ when there are enough great brunches to be found (especially considering the endless number in the city).
The twitter feed is also now shown on the ECL site’s side bar.
The Melodramatic Prologue
It was December 2010. In the biting chill of winter. The piercing wind whipped through the man-made canyons that are the streets of Manhattan. Two adventures set out on a culinary quest. Months before Meg had eaten at a Japanese bar that she thought I would love. It reminded her of Village Yokocho. She wasn’t exactly sure where it was. Between 6 and 7 Ave. On 51st Street. Maybe 50th. Definitely in the 50s. What was it called though…? She wasn’t sure, but there was a boring bar a couple doors down and there were stairs in the restaurant that bring you down to the seating area. Against my better judgment, I became the second adventurer on this foolhardy adventure.
We started on our way, walked the five avenues over and four blocks down, the winter air challenging us to turn back at every step. Once we got to 50th street, we walked its length west from 6th Ave to 7th Ave. The mysterious restaurant did not reveal herself. Meg assured me that it must be on the next block. So we walked 51st going West from 7th Ave to 6th Ave . The mysterious restaurant still did not reveal herself. “I’m sure it’s right near here, it must just be the next block up.” 52nd Street from 6th Ave back to 7th Ave. “OK, really, it’s right near here, I’ll know it when I see it.” 53rd Street from 7th Ave to….. We made, snaking between 6th and 7th Avenues, it all the way up to 59th Street, where, frozen and defeated, we gave in and turned back to eat at Joe’s Shanghai midtown location on 56th.
But like all good tales, this one comes with a happy ending. A few weeks ago, Meg tracked down the location of this mystery restaurant. It’s on 49th, just on block South from where we started our Northward hunt! But the meal we finally enjoyed this weekend made the earlier chilly trek worth the pain.
Finding ourselves in Times Square, we stopped by the mystery restaurant, which we learned is actually an izakaya, or Japanese pub, called Sake Bar Hagi. We had to pass an hour waiting for a table, so we passed the time at the bar of Pasta Lovers, a few doors down. It was early evening, around 6:30, which made us a little surprised to find a huge crowd at Saki Bar Hagi. But, given the Midtown location, Hagi seems to draw a large after-work crowd. (As an aside, please ignore all of the great things I say about this place, avoid it like the plague, so that next time I go there it won’t be so crowded!)
The sign above the outside door simply reads: Sake Bar. Once past the first door, there’s a narrow staircase leading down to another door to the bar and seating area. I felt like I’d stepped out of New York and into an Osakan sports bar. The actual bar is medium-sized, with most of the warmly lit room dedicated to long wooden tables, with smaller tables on the outskirts. From pretty much wherever you sit you have a view of a one of the many flatscreen TVs on the wall and get a view of one of the many signs with the daily specials.
The menu and drink list were a little overwhelming at first. Laminated page upon page of bright text and pictures of unending deliciousness. In the end, with the help of an unfiltered sake, we narrowed our choices to a seaweed salad, wasabi octopus with cream cheese (from the special menu), the octopus balls, a beef skewer, wasabi pork dumplings, rice and salmon, and the spaghetti with flying fish roe.
I’m not really sure what they did to this seaweed salad, but it was hands-down the best I’ve ever had and it was Meg’s favorite dish of the night. It was visually beautiful, with the dark black seaweed punctuated by little bits of green and red. The flavor was sly and ephemeral with little bits of salt, light acid, bright onion?, garlic?, and lemon? And the crunchy texture was great. If I had it to try again I might still have to much fun eating it to really focus on all of the flavors going on.
Wasabi Octopus with Cream Cheese
What is wasabi octopus with cream cheese? I had no idea my self when I order it off the chalk-written specials menu next to our table. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was definitely surprised when it got to the table. There were maybe a half-dozen crackers on the plate with a small pile of what could pass for a dip in the Midwest sprinkled with something green (minced green onion I think). After putting some of the “dip” on a cracker and biting in, I found the octopus hiding in 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch pieces in the mixture. It was one of the more subtle uses of wasabi I’ve tasted–it was there adding flavor, but the burn was completely mellowed by the cream cheese. My mouth got a barrage of flavors with each bite. The cream cheese seemed to be mixed with something–it was much less thick than I expected it to be. Honestly, given the texture, I’m not sure how it held it held together in a little mound rather then spreading all over the plate. The flavors were bright and the cream cheese made the dish comforting as any good bar (izakaya) food should be.
On the menu, there were two options for the octopus balls: pan fried and deep fried. I really wanted to try the octopus balls – in part to compare them to the ones I know and love and Village Yokocho, and since Village Yokocho pan fries, I had to go that route. The first difference between the balls at Hagi is they are fewer but larger. On biting in, the difference continued. The Hagi balls are bready on the inside, a very moist bread, but still a bread texture. In contrast, Village Yokocho’s balls are slightly doughy. The size of the bits of octopus encased in the little bread balls was also different. At Hagi you could feel the chunks of octopus; at maybe an inch to an inch and a half you had to give a couple good chews before swallowing. At Village Yokocho, the octopus comes more as bits than chunks and require no more chewing then doughy balls they’re in.
My verdict on the winner for octopus balls is still out. But never fear. I’ll take one for the team and eat as many as it takes until this problem is resolved.
The skewer was simple and great. It was fatty (maybe a little grisly) cut of beef with a sauce coating of some kind. With each bite the delicious fatty bits melted in my mouth.
Wasabi Pork Dumplings
These bad boys packed a tasty wasabi fueled punch. Again, I was interested to see how Hagi stacked up on a known favorite from Village Yokocho. As with the octopus balls, size of the protein was bigger. Hagi’s pork had a very coarse grind, where as at Village Yokocho the grind is finer. Again, the stack-up here is tough call. The only thing I can think to do is to take a day and head to each with Fayaz and implement a proper comparison. (Too spicy for Meg’s taste.)
The rice ball really wasn’t much of a ball at all, but more of a rice triangle with a small dent in the middle filled with Salmon. This dish was probably my least favorite of everything ordered. All-in-all it was just fairly bland. A rice triangle, with a crispy outside, chewy inside, and some salmon flavor. Still, if I’m throwing back the beers at Hagi while watching a game on the flat screen, I could see where this simple, filling rice dish might have it’s place.
Spaghetti with Flying Fish Roe
Meg had sampled this dish at the encouragement of a friend the first time she came to Hagi and was determined to try it again. It takes a lot for a dish to make me think to myself, “WTF is going on here?!” and this plate of spaghetti definitely made me do that in a very good way. I liked, but didn’t love this dish. Still it was exciting to try something so different. The base of the sauce on the spaghetti seemed to be mayonnaise or cream based–maybe a little to much mayo for my taste. The fish roe and a good level of saltiness and some interesting texture. There were some other flavors at play but, like so much of what I tried, I had trouble picking them out of the shuffle.
The food arrived at Hagi in a nice ordered progression with never more then two dishes on the table and never more than a few minutes with nothing on the table. In contrast, at Village Yokocho the food either seems to arrive all at once or in random clumps. But Hagi hasn’t replaced Village Yokocho as my go to izakaya. For once thing, it’s a bit more expensive, though only maybe by $1-$2 a dish. For another, Village Yokocho will just always have a special little place in my heart (and a large piece of neighboring real estate in my stomach). Still, I can’t wait to get back to Hagi and tear through some new menu items!
Today Meg and I braved Times Square to hit the new Pompeii exhibit. One of the exhibit’s areas was a display of the kitchen tools and actual food found at Pompeii. Between the 2000 year old bread and the ancient cooking instruments was a sign that talked about common eats in the region and era. The most interesting menu item: dormice.
Yep, those crazy Romans would take a dormouse, put it in a clay jar, fatten him up, and eat him. Eaten as appetizers, or as desserts, dipped in honey and poppy seeds, dormice were considered a luxury. I’ve always been a fan of savory over sweet but I’m not sure that I’m ready for this on my desert plate. (Okay, that’s a total lie, if I found this on a menu I would have no choice but to order it. You know how I love savory desserts.)
I never liked Italian food growing up, which caused friction with my brother Allen who I think would have been content to eat Spaghetti every single night. As my palate has matured I have realize that I didn’t dislike Italian food, I disliked poor impersonations of Italian food. What I mean by that is mushy spaghetti, topped with canned tomato sauce, and maybe some overcooked and unseasoned ground beef. Yuck
. But properly done Italian food? Fantastic. I especially like the recipes which bubble away for hours, letting the flavors mingle and making your kitchen smell so damn good that you can’t resist stealing some of the food before it’s done.
The basis of this recipe came from my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. Btw, if you are unaware of the ATK cookbooks/TV show or Cook’s Illustrated magazine, you should really check them out. It’s a wonderful organization. They test endless variations of each recipe they publish to find the very best methods, and they also test kitchen equipment and common ingredients to tell you the best ones to buy. Anyways, in this particular instance I thought their recipe was a bit too simple, so I added a few things to make it more interesting. You will need:
- 1.5-2 lbs of beef short ribs or pork bone-in country ribs
- 1 tbsp light olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 28 oz. of canned diced tomatoes (look for Muir Glen Organic. They won the ATK taste test of canned diced tomatoes.)
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed (you want these left whole, so you can take them out after stewing)
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb of pasta (the book recommends tubular pasta like a rigatoni or penne)
Pat the ribs dry, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the ribs, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the fat in the skillet (I poured it all out and replaced it with some bacon fat from the fridge. I think it added a nice smoky background flavor.) Add the onion and shallot to the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine has reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes.
This is another spot where I differed from the recipe, either because I didn’t have the right size pan or because I leaned more towards the 2lb range in terms of meat. Either way, instead of returning the meat to the skillet, I transferred the meat and wine/aromatics to a large pot, about the size of a dutch oven. Don’t forget to add any juices which might have come out from the meat while it was resting; that’s good flavor. Then add in the tomatoes and juice, plus the garlic cloves, bay leaf and oregano. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 1.5 to 2 hours, turning the ribs occasionally until the meat is tender and falling apart. That is the real test of done-ness, when I made this I let it go for 2.5 hours and the meat was shreddable but still just a bit tougher than I would have liked.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and let cool. Shred the meat and discard the bones and any chunks of fat you find. You’ll also want to remove the garlic cloves and bay leaf. Return the shredded meat to the sauce and continue to simmer over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so to re-heat the ribs and thicken the sauce a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When tossing with pasta, add some of the pasta water if the sauce needs to be thinned out a bit. For a garnish, I shredded some parmesan and sprinkled some chiffonaded basil leaves, but really this can stand on its own. One last note: to get a gentle simmer (1-2 bubbles per second as the book describes it) I had to turn my stove down as low as it could go, until the flame was almost turned off. So it might take some fiddling to get the heat just right.
Most mornings I make my own coffee. It’s easy enough and cheaper than the coffee shop cup. I get to sit down with my bowl of cereal that I share with Mika (my excitable parrot), sip the coffee from the french press, and watch New York 1 before heading out the door.
But, on days I’m running late, I give in and grab my coffee on the way to school. The problem is that Joe’s, the coffee shop near school, always has long morning line–to make me all the later getting to class. The bodega coffee near school is weak and needs a ton of sugar and milk to be drinkable. So when I was running late Tuesday, I decided to try a new coffee shop (having seen it’s enigmatic frowny face sign time and time again) that’s on my walk to the subway: Café Grumpy.
I went to the counter and asked for a large coffee to go. I’m not sure what it was about the place, the limited sitting place, the few people, all the actually ceramic cups…. but I could tell that there was something different going on. The guy asked what I kind of coffee I wanted and , sensing a little confusion, he pointed me towards the printed list at the register.
When I looked at the list, the first thing that struck me were the prices. There were three coffees listed, one for $2.75, one for $3.50, and one for $4.50. This had the potential to be dangerous. But deciding that this place probably had really good coffee I went for the middle of the road in the price range, the Rodomunho, hailing from Brazil. After I ordered, I was informed that they only had one size, but that my pick was very “robust.”
Then I found what probably accounts for some of the price and what was going to hold me up. First, the barista (is it still barista for a man?) measures out the correct amount of beans on a digital scale, then grinds the beans, places a metal filter in a glass holder, places your cup underneath, puts the grounds in the filter, pours a little water into the grounds, and spends the next minute to minute and a half checking in and pouring more water over into the grounds until the cup is full. (I missed my train by seconds–this is how I got to be 2 minutes late to Criminal Procedure.)
When the brewing was done and the barista asked if I needed room for milk, I was right in guessing that this brew wouldn’t need it. So he took my full coffee cup, poured it into a metal pot and then back into my cup (probably to mix together various layers from the slow brewing process).
I walked the next two blocks to my train letting the cup cool before trying my first sip at the subway entrance. It was probably the best coffee I’ve ever had. There was nothing completely magical about it, I didn’t feel like the skies opened and the light of god shined down upon me, but it was a great coffee. It had that acid that coffee has but I would say it was soft, rounded and had a roasted nutty sweetness. It had a little texture that started to remind me of espresso. Oh, and yeah, it was “robust”, packing the full caffeine kick I was looking for.
A little research has revealed that Grumpy’s is a chain is a few other locations around the city. All seem to just have the same enigmatic frowny face sing outside.
All, in all, Grumpy’s is off the list for my regular morning coffee–but holds first place in coffee shops I want to get back to again. I can’t wait to sit down and order this fine coffee in a proper glass or to venture a sip of their espresso.
383 7th Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11215