Search results for "state fair"

9th August
2012
written by Arthur

Ah, the summer has been great.   Insanely busy, but great.   Lots of travel, social activity, that whole real job thing keeping me off the blog.  But after next weekend things should calm down a bit.  Almost perfectly, the Fifth Annual Minnesota State Fair Day is coming up on August 18th to mark the wind down of summer–just as the real MN State Fair marked the wind down of my childhood summers.

Last year’s MN State Fair Day was fantastic.  And, having been involved in the 2012 planning, I know this year is going awesome:  Sweet Martha’s Cookies,  cheese curds, Midwest beer, fried pickles, corn dogs, fried Twinkies, fried Oreos, and funnel cakes!   I can feel my arteries clogging just thinking about.

So CLICK HERE and buy your 2012 Minnesota State Fair Day tickets.  The fun starts at 2:00 PM on Saturday, August 18.

22nd August
2011
written by Arthur

The past few days have been an amazing food and beer fueled whirlwind.  So much awesomeness and so little time to write.  I’m going to focus on the Minnesota State Fair Day (MNSFD) and try not to stray into other topics that deserve their own post including Beer Table (a good restaurant with great beer), Fonda (the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten), an insane Latvian bar in the Lower East Side (LSE), and Bento Burger (a Japanese styled burger place).  Yeah, like said, it’s been busy, but pretty awesome.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s been great to leave the comfort of Brooklyn and find some adventures in the city.

MNSFD – “The Great Minnesota Get-Together [in New York].”

The 2011 MNSFD, held on Saturday August 20, was a great success.  Over 120 Minnesotans and Minnesota-lovers took to the streets of Manhattan to recreate the Minnesota State Fair.

Before I go on, since people not from Minnesota seem to get confused, I should explain the Fair.  If you’re Minnesotan, just skip this paragraph, you’ve been going to the Fair at least once a year since before you could walk.   First and foremost, there is the food.  On these 12 days leading-up and including labor day, you can find corn dogs, fried cheese on a stick, fried cheese curds, pork chop on a stick, corn on the cob, Sweet Martha’s Cookies, deep fried candy bars, deep fried pickles, mini doughnuts…. you get the idea: if you can deep fry it and/or put it on a stick  you can find it at the fair.  (Eating food of a stick is kind of a big part of the experience.)  And while, for many of us, the Fair is about walking from food stand to food stand there are actually are things to see and do.  The animal barns showcase every barnyard animal imaginable.   Scattered throughout the Fairgrounds are various stages with a range of music playing.  There are the arts and crafts buildings displaying Minnesota made seed art, jams, quilts, and paintings.  The Midway has all the games-you-can-never win and brightly lit death trap looking rides you could hope for.  And, of course, there are the horticultural displays showcasing some really big fruits and vegetables born out Minnesota’s fertile soil–many a blue ribbon is handed out.

Okay, back to MNSFD.  In 2008, a few Minnesota ex-pats put on their fanny packs and set out into the city to recreate the food of the Fair.  Each year since, the project has grown and evolved.  This year’s set-up took a pub crawl meets choose your adventure book approach, with 5 main bars and various optional side-trips including corn dogs, funnel cakes, and corn on the cob.  (See map and details below.)

For the first time, tickets were sold for the event with the funds purchasing 40 lbs of Sweet Martha’s Cookie dough and real cheese curds from the same dairy the actual Fair draws on.  The City Tavern served-up the famous chocolate chip cookies with an endless supply of cold milk.  While it might never be the same as grabbing a bucket of Sweet Martha’s and getting a glass of unlimited milk from the Dairy Barn it was a delicious approximation.  Woody McHale‘s opened their hearts, deep fries, and beer kegs to the group.  In addition to deep frying the cheese curds, Woody’s had Leinenkugel (a Wisconsin beer) on tap and gave each ticket holder a glass on the house.  While delicious, my one source of sadness was that I couldn’t enjoy my cheese curds with a cold Summit beer–I’m waiting with baited breath for the day this great Minnesota brewery starts distributing in New York.  On the route, the planned culinary detours warmed my Minnesotan soul (while raising my cholesterol and increasing my waistline).

But more than the food, it was a blast to meet an endless stream of fellow MN-ex pats.  Some who have lived in New York for years, others for only a few weeks.  I’m looking forward to seeing some of these faces again at the next MN happy hour here in the Big Apple.

The MNSFD Map

Finally a shout-out to the event organizers who pulled it all together:  Laura Carter, Nina Panda, Jen Wise, Kieley Taylor, Sam Willems, and Shannon Robinson. Thanks guys for making this another awesome State Fair Day!

19th August
2011
written by Arthur

Tomorrow is MN State Fair Day in the Big Apple.   The 150 tickets are sold out and the route is set.

Since it looks like I won’t be making it back to MN for the real Fair I’m excited to get a few bites of genuine cheese curds and Sweet Martha’s Cookies.  That’s right; the MN crew hooked-up the real stuff this year.

I’ll be volunteering (tasks unknown), but I’ll be tweeting and following the day up with a post.

Ok, now everyone cross their fingers for good weather!

3rd August
2010
written by Arthur

I’ve been in New York for almost two years now and, while there are a million new culinary delights out here on the east coast, there are some things from Minnesota that I just can’t replace. The top five culinary absences in my transplant life are:

5. Isles Bun & Coffee:

This place has the best cinnamon buns and scones I have ever had. But the real find is the coffee cake—crispy on top, fruity, not overly sweet, and perfect with a cappuccino. I don’t normally have a sweet tooth, so my love for this place says a lot about how great they do morning pastries. You can find this gem in Uptown Minneapolis (which is south of downtown Minneapolis for some reason).

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4. The Minnesota State Fair:

This isn’t just one food, but many. If you can put it on a stick and deep fry it you can find it at the Minnesota State Fair. My arteries clog with joy just thinking about it.

My simple favorite, dating back to childhood, is the corn dog. Crispy dough on the outside, followed by a layer of soft dough, followed by the hot dog—all covered in mustard and ketchup. But the great eats keep going: pork chops on a stick, cheese on a stick (fried of course!), cheese curds (no stick with this cheese but it’s still great), french fries, chocolate chip cookies and all you can drink milk, bison burgers, and mini-doughnuts. Sure, some would argue that eating any one of these foods is bad for you. But when you eat them all in the same day your body is surely so overwhelmed by calories that it doesn’t know what to do and you actually lose weight!

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3. The Italian Pie Shoppe:

I don’t understand why New York doesn’t even try when it comes to deep dish pizza. And NO, Sicilian style pizza doesn’t count just because the crust crosses the quarter inch mark. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thin crust found on every corner, but I miss my deep dish.

The Italian Pie Shoppe makes a true deep dish pizza that is measured in inches, has a crispy bottom on the crust, with a soft and almost doughy middle. And, as is right, the cheese  goes underneath the simple canned tomatoes that top the pizza.

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2. Summit Brewing’s Oktoberfest:

With the end of summer and the start of football season around the corner I can’t help but think of this great beer. The brew’s reddish-gold color perfectly matches autumn leaves and the flavor is sweet malt with some light fruitiness to it. I’ve found a lot of great New York beers during the last two years (with Brooklyn Brewery near the top of the list), but Summit’s Oktoberfest will always have a place in my heart.

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1. Pad Thai Cream Cheese Wontons:

I don’t think that it’s been proven yet, but I am fairly certain that there is a genetic defect in people living outside of the Midwest. This defect has the tragic effect of making people see cheese and not wonder what it would be like somehow deep fried. Nowhere outside of Minnesota have I found the cream cheese wonton. Yes, there are crab rangoon wontons to be had in New York, but it’s just some perfectly good cream cheese polluted by crab.

The best of the cream cheese wontons can be found at Pad Thai Café in St. Paul. The cream cheese has a small addition of scallions to add a little depth. While they are nothing complicated, I could eat these every day.   I have a bias toward Pad Thai, with a strong sense of nostalgia, after eating there from 8th grade on. Still after eating cream cheese wontons at dozens of other places the gold medal for taste goes to Pad Thai’s wontons.

Still, even with those five greats, one foods need an honorable mention: The runner up is Jack’s Frozen Pizza. I think the best way to describe Jack’s is that it is truly the Taco Bell of frozen pizza. After a night on the town it’s there, waiting for you in the freezer, for you to cook and eat with that last nightcap. Sadly, my internet research tells me this not-so-fine, but still delicious, pizza is only distributed in the Midwest.

7th July
2013
written by Arthur

Last Sunday, Rick and I were finally able to get in a cook. It’s been a minute since the two of us have co-piloted on a cooking project.  Something about 7,800 miles of the Pacific ocean and these United States of America between Taipei and New York. The cooking was a classic affair with an old friend, complete with a series of minor mishaps requiring creative solutions but resulting in a tasty meal.

We decided on a Mexican theme.  After perusing a few cookbooks, we settled on arroz con pollo and zucchini and corn with cream.  Rick took the lead on chicken dish as I worked on the side. Brothers in arms in the kitchen. Just like old times; if only a few others from Minnesota were able to stop by.

The tribulations started with the ingredients and continued until the meal was on our plates. My roommate Nick kindly agreed to add our groceries to his stop on the way home from a Sunday in the office. Unfortunately the store was out of cilantro.  My dish called for a lot of cilantro: one cup, chopped.  The watercress the grocery employee of the month pushed on Nick wasn’t going to cut it.  I would have to do without.  My next surprise came in green flecks growing on the top of my Mexican crema.  I was forced to sub in some yogurt.  The result was a more liquidy dish than might be desired.

Rick’s arroz con pollo started out well.  But 10 minutes after the listed cooking time, the rice was still hard, the chicken still under cooked, and much liquid was unabsorbed.  Another 10 minutes did little to improve the situation.  (I rarely use the cookbook the recipe came from because I don’t trust it.) But this was Rick’s time to shine.  He proved once again that he is a god damn MacGyver in the kitchen.  After brain storming, we pulled out the chicken, shredded it, and pan cooked it as Rick cooked the rice like a risotto.  Another five minutes and boom.  Dinner was served.

The result may not have been what we had in mind when we set out.  But it was adventure to get to the end and a satiating end it was.

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19th November
2012
written by Arthur

I made bread.  Let me type that I again.  I made bread!  And I am embarrassingly satisfied with myself for accomplishing  something that billions have managed to pull off ever since humans first gave-up hunting and gathering for this whole civilization experiment.

Baking bread, and baking in general, has always been a bit of a barrier to me.  Something outside my core competency.  I’ve seen people make bread, but the recipes just seemed doomed to failure in my hands.  But last week I was reminded of a supposedly simple can’t fail recipe.  I had the ingredients about and figured I’d give it a shot.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1 pack instant yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water (the original NY Times recipe called for 1 5/8 – I think that’s a really annoying measurement and 1 1/2 works just fine)
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Directions:

In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast, and salt.  You can also add ingredients as desired (raisins, nuts, etc.).  Add water, and stir until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours,  but preferably about 18, at room temperature.The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape into a ball. Put the dough down on a re-dusted work surface and dust with more flour, bran, cornmeal or whatever you’d like. Cover with a cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will have more than doubled in size.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide the dough into pot.  It might look like a mess, but that’s just fine. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf has browned.

The Results:

Bread!  And a house that is filled with the smell of fresh baked bread. For almost zero active work!

After playing with the basic recipe I’m convinced you would have to intentionally try to make it fail.  At four in the morning, after a night of poker playing and more than my fair share of whiskey, I tried some “creativity.” I’m told I looked like Muppets’ Swedish Chef–arms and flour flying everywhere–and sounded much like the same.  In my enlightened state, I decided beer is better than water and substituted a cup of it in.  A few tablespoons of brown sugar seemed like a good idea, as did a small palm full of black finishing salt.  The next night I was almost afraid to bake the monstrosity.  But, though a little on the salty side and runny before baking, the bread turned out perfectly enjoyable!  (They say a four year old can make it and now I believe it!)

I’m very excited to experiment with additions and twists to this recipe and to have fresh bread around as the weather cools in these dark winter months.

 

6th June
2012
written by Arthur

A few weeks back, my friend Erin sent out an email with the brilliant idea of a supper club.  In a twist on the classic supper club, the guests are in charge of the food while the host takes on the booze.  Each dinner is to be organized around a theme and this last Saturday things kicked-off with Peruvian night.

Ceviche

On reading the theme, I was taken back in time to a cliff top restaurant in Lima where I savored ceviche while watching the large dark blue waves of the Pacific ocean roll, crash, and foam below.  I knew I had to make this citrused Peruvian classic.

In fairness, this dish likely originated in a few place across the globe.  But around 500 years ago the Moche, a coastal civilization in current-day northern Peru, came up with the stuff.  Modern Peru adopted it and it hit the United States in force in 80s. It’s easy to make and prefect for these warm summer months.

For the uninitiated, cechive is fish or seafood “cooked” in citrus.  Cooking fish, meat, poultry, etc. is all about changing the structure of the proteins or breaking them.  In science/Alton Brown talk, the citrus does its cooking by denaturing the proteins in the fish.  And, since the cooking comes from the fish’s time in the citrus bath, unless you’re using sushi grade fish, be sure to use small pieces and marinate for approximately three hours; raw fish can carry some nasty stuff.

[DDET The Ceviche Recipe]

Ingredients

  • 1 pound white saltwater fish: albacore, sole, snapper, halibut, etc.  (I used halibut)
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 T. salt
  • rocoto chile (chile manzano in Mexican markets) or 2 aji limon (substitute a habanero) – I used the habanero, the only pepper I could find.
  • 1 medium onion, sliced very thinly into half-moons
  • 4 T. chopped cilantro

Directions

For the citrus, you’re going to want to buy the fruits and juice them yourself.  The stuff you buy in a bottle is going to disappoint every time.

Cut the fish into pieces no bigger than one inch cubes; remember the bigger the pieces the longer it takes for the citrus to do its work. Salt the fish, then cover with the citrus juice in a non-reactive (glass or plastic, metal might yield an unpleasing metallic taste). Add the sliced onions and the chiles.  Put the covered mixture in the fridge for two to three hours–if you have true sushi grade fish, its okay to shorten so the fish is still raw in the middle.  When you serve, garnish with the cilantro.

[/DDET]

Overall, ceviche is a very forgiving dish as long as you start with good fish.  It’s a great food to play with: ratchet up the heat (the habeneros were a little intense), pull it back, add the cilantro before marination, change-up the citrus juice, etc.

Peruvian Stewed Chicken

Because ceviche is, in all honestly, a bit of a cooking cop out, I helped Nick and Becca in their preparation of Peruvian Stewed Chicken.

[DDET The Peru Peruvian Stewed Chicken Recipe]

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 to 12 small chicken pieces
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup green peas
Directions

Place tomatoes in a blender or a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until liquefied. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or stockpot over moderate heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another two minutes. Add cumin, oregano and bay leaf and stir to combine. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to pan. Brown the chicken lightly. Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover 3/4 of chicken. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until chicken is cooked through. About 10 minutes before the chicken is done, add the green pepper and peas. Serve warm.

[/DDET]

True to form, we managed to pull off the dish and (a big pot) of rice and arrive fashionably late, along with most of the supper club crew.   At the dinner itself, the stewed chicken was a bit bland.  Though the the next day, the flavors had come together and were more bold.  I would recommend making this dish a day in advance and reheating, for maximum flavor.

Transporting our creations was a bit tricky and I was thrilled, for probably the 100th time, that Becca actually has a car in New York.

The Supper

The actual meal was a lot of fun.  Erin pulled together a good group of people who pulled off some great dishes (including a salad, a cheesy potato dish, and a beef dish that seemed to be the bovine cousin of the stewed chicken) .  I’m very much looking forward to the next one.

23rd August
2011
written by Arthur

Beer Table is another one of those place that I walked by a million times before finally stopping in.  Though in fairness, the streets are packed with more amazing look restaurants than I can hope to take on.  In the mile or so walk from my apartment to the gym there must be well over 50 restaurants.  But I’m not complaining.  There are far worse things in the world than finding a hidden gem just down the street after living in a place for almost a year.  Have I mention lately that I love Brooklyn?

In July, the final hours of the dark days that were studying for the bar, I stopped in for a little dinner and a beer break.  Recently, I stopped back for a second visit.  All in all, I love the beer menu, the food is good, but might cost more than I’m comfortable spending.

Let me start by talking about the beer.  To say that Beer Table has a good beer selection is an understatement.  The draft list is 6 beers long and rotates on a regular basis.  The bottled beer list, at 25 beers long, presents a wide range of styles.  Both the drafts and bottles are beers you’re unlikely to find at a normal bar.  It’s a place that will make a beer love feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store.

One of the perks of Beer Table is that you can either get a full glass of beer (not always a pint, some of the higher octane brews come in properly reduced glasses) or a smaller taster glass (maybe about 2 or 3 shoots worth).  The small glass is great way to try a few new beers and still be able to savor the third as much as the first, with the added benefit of being able to make it work the next day without a headache.

Both times I’ve made a visit the servers seemed excited to tell me about  their beers and help me find something delicious.

On my last trip I sampled the Rogue John Juniper Ale.  As the name suggests, it has some strong Juniper elements.  (Juniper is a berry that gives gin it’s characteristic flavor.)  I was informed by the server that the beer is actually aged in barrels formerly used for gin.  And the taste?  Imagine a light and delicate gin (think Hendrick’s Gin) becoming effervescent, gaining some beer color, and not without a flavor reminiscent of beer.  It’s light and refreshing.  I wish had a few of these when the mercury was pushing its way past 100 degrees.

I also tried a small glass of Barrier Spelunker a Saison with all kinds of crazy coffee and malty flavors in the mix.  This beer convinced me that Saison’s are my current under-explored corner of beer and that I should focus these over the next few months.

The food is good.  Actually it’s really good.  The menu is small, but seems to change regularly.  One wall of the bar is lined with jars of dehydrated vegetables.  On my last visit, dehydrated tomatoes were prominent in both the “BLT” (dehydrated tomato, mustard-glazed bacon, pickled bok choy) and the spicy pork and beef meatloaf (with Tickle Sauce, potatoes, kale, and red onion).  The BLT was small, two little sandwiches with two tomatoes slices holding the pork, each about 2 or 4 bites, but packed a solid punch of flavor (with the dehydrated tomatoes lending a concentrated, almost savory addition).

And looking at the prices objectively, they are reasonable.  But I’m tempted by so many things on the menu: an entrée, a “snack”, some spicy pickled vegetables (they don’t pull punches on the spicy), and of course some great cheese.  I just need a little self restraint on my inevitable next visit and I’ll be fine.

Beer Table
427B 7th Ave. 
Brooklyn, NY 11215

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13th March
2011
written by Arthur

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.

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The Place

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 Eats

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.

 

Seaweed Salad

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.

 

Octopus Balls

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.

 

Beef Skewer

Yeah, we ordered just one.  Something told us we might have enough food coming our way to fill us up.

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.

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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.)

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Rice Ball

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.

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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.

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The Epilogue

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!

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20th February
2011
written by Arthur

The Dream

This will be more of a rant than a coherent post, but I have reason to be frustrated.  Again I’ve been tricked into trying a Cream Cheese Puff here in New York in hopes of re-connecting with my cheesy Minnesota roots.  As I talked about in my Delights Missing From New York I can’t seem to find a pure cream cheese wonton.  Today, I thought my luck had finally changed.  Walking home through Park Slope I saw a hand written sign outside a Chinese restaurant advertising cream cheese puffs.  No mention of crab or ragu polluting the glorious cream cheese.  But when I got home and opened the bag and took my first bite… wait for it…. FAKE FREAK”N CRAB! And the hunt continues.

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