Friday, July 31, 2009

How We Think and Talk About Food

The New York Times Happy Days blog has a sweet collection of short anecdotes wrapped around the common thread of treats, mostly ice cream, and the preciseness of terminologies related to them.

There's something to be said for being aware of the things we like and just how we like them and, if we're able to get to the bottom of it, why. To eat purposefully is to create the indelible memories that we dig into each time we eat again or when we want to recall specific people, places and events.

I loved this answer to what the Xerox machine sounds like:

"When I asked him what he liked about the Xerox sound, he said, I guess it’s a kind of a creamy, crunchy sound, like the inside of a Twix Bar."

And the idea of creating a record of what ice cream flavors or desserts I choose each time I have them, just might become my next project.

The Couch is Conquering the Kitchen

This weekend's New York Times magazine features another food-related cover piece. Michael Pollan analyzes how Americans are more prone to watch than do when it comes to cooking.

The Custard Cure

How to cure the crankiness of a hot, humid Friday? Shake Shack Red, White and Blueberry custard. This is one of the best flavors I have tried. Cake batter was the other standout, but judging that next to this fruity concoction is the apples to oranges comparison, so I'll call it a tie.

This may be a bit of a tease to post about given that today is the last Friday the flavor is available. This flavor tastes as beautiful as it looks here! The smooth blueberry custard is mixed with swirls of marshmallow and strawberry sauce (with tiny bits of strawberries) - finding them in a bite is like getting a surprise gift, a burst of bright fruity contrast with the blueberry. I had barely walked three blocks away before I was scraping the bottom of this little cup and savoring the creaminess lingering in my mouth.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pancake Potential

I swear I smelled a whiff of pancakes and maple syrup when I read this post from Serious Eats declaring Pershing Square a potential candidate for the best pancakes. If it's true, it's certainly been a well-kept secret. So far, my favorite pancakes are the ones from Clinton Street Baking Company. But Pershing Square is now on my list to try.

Interview with George Mendes

Restaurant Girl (also the restaurant critic for NY Daily News) has an interview with George Mendes, of Aldea restaurant.

The first two places he mentions for Spanish food are two of my favorite tapas places in the city:

"Where do you like to go for a great Portuguese or Spanish meal in New York City?

For Portuguese I would go to PAO in west Soho or to Newark, New Jersey – Ferry St. For Spanish, I love Boqueria and Txikito as well as El Quinto Pino."

The Cost of Treating Obesity

Obesity is a recurring theme of many of the articles I've linked to here, not only because it's a problem for a greater proportion of the population but because people are becoming more aware and concerned about the growing effect it is having on things like healthcare.

The Wall Street Journal, via the Freakonomics blog, writes about the cost of treating obesity. Treating obesity now accounts for 9.1 percent of all medical costs in this country. And the study cited says obese people spend 42 percent more on healthcare. So even those who are not obese should be concerned at how this strains the overall system.

Stephen Dubner says that obesity is "a self-inflicted condition any way you look at it" and argues that we should seriously consider the idea of fat taxes. I don't entirely agree with his statement that obesity is self inflicted, but people don't always make the best choices for themselves, despite awareness of health impacts. I'm guilty of it myself. But moderation is key. And for those who have more difficulty regulating themselves, it is possible that more taxes on certain fattening foods could encourage people to choose the healthier options.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food for Film

The Times writes about styling food for its on-screen role - so that it looks realistic and is not just edible, but actually tastes good for the actors eating it.

When watching films or plays involving food scenes, I have long wondered whether the actors get tired of ingesting things over and over when rehearsing (or performing nightly in the case of plays). Here's a clue:

"Chris Messina, who plays Julie Powell’s husband, had a great appetite and never complained, even on the day he had to enthusiastically eat bruschetta topped with tomatoes 36 times."

But not all of it is real:

"Of course, there are plenty of times a food stylist has to employ tricks. Cherry pies are filled with mashed potatoes, poultry is partly roasted and painted with Kitchen Bouquet, glycerin and water make beads of sweat on glasses, and ice cream is wrapped around dry-ice nuggets so it won’t melt."

McCafe Doesn't Fail to Disappoint

Awake and tired, early morning - the conditions were right to try McDonald's McCafe Iced Latte, and hey, it was free. To clarify, I am not a McDonald's customer, even less so after the movie Super Size Me. But I try to stay open minded (within limits). McDonald's has also been giving away free mochas on Mondays since early July to promote their coffee offerings. Just thought I'd say that for the record, their coffee tastes like pure, burned liquid. It doesn't even come close to competing with mediocre Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Small Bites

-Are restaurant kitchens teeming with drug-addled staff? One food writer and former chef shares his take on cooks and coke.

-Marc Ambinder discusses the politics of obesity and the food industry's responses.


-Why are we so fat? The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert explores the evolution of obesity.

-Rachel Maddow shares her favorite Midtown lunch. It's a counter in the back of a deli. I have yet to try, but if it's anything like Tehuitzingo, it's worth a try.

-Oh, the fun science has with ice cream! No-melt ice cream! A bagel brunch in ice cream form! And on the not-so-appetizing side - cigarette ice cream?!?

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Street Sweets Encounter

With some time to kill one day last week, I stopped by MOMA. It turned out to also be an opportunity to try the Street Sweets truck, which has found a steady space across the street from the museum's entrance on 53rd Street for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

I opted for an afternoon snack of iced coffee and a $1.50 chocolate chip cookie. The coffee was pretty standard, though it was served in an eco-friendly plastic cup. The chocolate chip cookie was of the softer variety - fluffy with good, melty chocolate chips. Not bad, but I prefer my cookies to be less cakey. And for $1.50, it was on the small side. My assessment is similar to Midtown Lunch's: Though it's been some time since I tried the Treats Truck chocolate chip cookie, I do recall it being tastier and cheaper ($1). (Not long after getting my Street Sweets treat, I passed by the Treats Truck on 45th Street near 6th Avenue parked next to the Rickshaw Dumpling truck. Midtown along 6th Avenue is veritable corridor of street food.)

The Street Sweets brownies and small tea cookies looked tempting too. One thing the truck may have going for it is that it also has savory croissants to satisfy those who want lunch before dessert. The gentleman who served me was enthusiastic and presented me with a frequent customer card that he explained would allow me to choose anything from the truck once the card is filled. He didn't fail to promote the truck's Facebook and Twitter accounts either. While I support dessert trucks and think Street Sweets is perfectly good if I am in the area, I probably won't be going out of my way to grab its treats.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bicoastal Food Truck Mania

Serious Eats reports that yet another food truck is coming to New York's street vendor scene - this one will be peddling Moroccan food in Union Square.

While New York marvels over its abundance of food truck options, Los Angeles has its own set. The Los Angeles Times has its own theory on the proliferation - the product of the middle class's evolving lifestyle:

"On the other hand, despite being hyped to the heavens, these decidedly experimental -- and often expensive -- nouveau food trucks may be more than just an emblem of culinary fusion or a clever use of social networking technologies. They may actually herald a significant change in the mobility patterns of young, middle-class urbanites known as "millennials."

"I think the vending phenomenon is the product of a whole new lifestyle," says James Rojas, founder and co-chairman of the Latino Urban Forum and a transportation planner for L.A. County's MTA."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Gourmet Read

Gourmet magazine is one of those publications that seems to have a narrow focus of food and drink, but in fact manages to cover a broader range of related issues, including travel, culture and design. And for that, I love it even more. It does a good job of including interesting, complex recipes for those who might be more advanced cooks, but remembers the cooking- or time-challenged by presenting some simple, quick recipes as well. And all of this in a beautifully designed package.

So being the fan I am of the magazine, I signed up for the Gourmet newsletter- a weekly e-mail from editor Ruth Reichl with a brief story or notes about some of her favorite things and links to the best of recipes and stories from the Web site.

This week's newsletter focused on the theme of ice cream. Here is Ruth's note:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Win Tickets to Julie & Julia

Grub Street is giving away a pair of tickets to see Julie & Julia next Tuesday, July 28, if you can come up with an interesting list of which actors would play the roles of various New York chefs in a movie and why.

The list of chefs:
Dan Barber
Mario Batali
Anthony Bourdain
Tom Colicchio
Padma Lakshmi
Wylie Dufresne
Lidia Bastianich
Rachael Ray
Danny Meyer
Eric Ripert

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Small Bites

-Some are criticizing Obama's nominee for surgeon general for being overweight.

-Frank Bruni gives Locanda Verde, one of my to-try places, two stars.

-Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi may soon be starring in a culinary sitcom.

-Serious Eats brings word of a great Midtown breakfast cart on 52nd Street and Park Avenue.

Aldea Review

Some newly-opened restaurants need time to get their feet wet and for the first few months while they get on track, patrons are often willing to cut them some slack and overlook any initial blunders. Aldea does not need you to go easy on it.

It stormed on to the New York dining scene in May with it already all figured out. Diners can come here with high expectations and have them met. Aldea has alternately been described as a Portuguese restaurant or a place doing Iberian cooking. The important part is that this is good food.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Hot Highline Afternoon

Last weekend, some friends and I wandered into the High Line Festival. There was a snaking long line just to get up on the High Line, so we had to forgo our plans and instead walked the bustling cobblestoned streets of the Meatpacking District. On this day, it seemed this was the place to be for food trucks.

Not only was the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck in the spot where I had first seen it, but it was now offering an earl gray flavor! Alas, not too long before we had partaken in Chinatown ice cream factory following dim sum at Oriental Garden. Normally, I would not let that stop me, but given that Van Leeuwen's line on this hot afternoon was also mighty long, I decided to save my tasting for a future time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cupcakes Invade Ice Cream Territory

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is coming late to the cupcake craze, Grub Street reports, and in my opinion, it's unfortunate that it's thinking about cupcakes at all. And I'm not the only one with that opinion. I'm partial to the almond cookie flavor. But I think I'll give the egg custard flavor a try next time I'm there.

Julie & Julia

Diner's Journal has a fun little post about food personalities who make brief appearances in the movie Julie & Julia set to open in a couple of weeks. The movie about Julia Child and loosely based on blogger Julie Powell's memoir is directed by Nora Ephron and reunites Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (they appeared together in Doubt).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Small Bites

-New York magazine's food blog, Grub Street, goes national.

-Which restaurants in America are the toughest restaurant reservations to score? Of the restaurants on this list and the honorable mentions, I have eaten at two (Momofuku Ko and Per Se) and hope to eat at another this fall (Alinea). And French Laundry, Schwa and Minibar are all on my list.

An Excerpt from Bruni's Memoir

This Sunday the New York Times magazine runs an excerpt from food critic Frank Bruni's forthcoming memoir due out in August.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Horizon

There are new restaurants sprouting up in New York all the time and as the reviews roll in, I check out the menus and try to keep a list of the ones I most want to eat at, in hopes of avoiding the "Where should we eat?" dilemma.

A few of the places currently making the cut:

Gus & Gabriel - This is the latest from Michael Psilakis, the man behind Kefi, Mia Dona and Anthos. It's a gastropub - a pub, but one that aims to serve better food than standard pub fare. The menu includes a meatball hero, burgers and hot dogs, and mac & cheese. Serious Eats has a lovely visual review of many of the dishes.

222 W 79th Street
(between Amsterdam Ave & Broadway)
New York, NY 10024
(212) 362-7470

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Golosi Gelato Opens Near Koreatown

This past Saturday, a sliver of a storefront space wedged between a spa and a Jamba Juice near Koreatown, opened as Golosi Gelato. Not too long ago, the Caprese cafe just a few doors away had added a Golosi gelato freezer. The spare gelato shop on 5th Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets is also selling frozen yogurt, refusing to cede that ground to the Crazy Bananas, Pinkberry or Red Mango, all within a block away.

The small cup of Ferrero Rocher here was $3 ($3.25 with tax). The menu also lists something called a mini-cone, but they are not yet available. The flavor was strongly reminiscent of the actual Ferrero Rocher chocolate and even had bits of candy mixed in, but the gelato itself was not the greatest ever. It lacked something, perhaps some creaminess, perhaps tasting a bit too artificial. But Golosi is open until 11 p.m. and, given that I'm not a fan of the frozen yogurt craze, I'm happy to welcome a new convenient gelato shop to the area.

And when Kyochon opens up on the corner, it'll be easy to do fried chicken and gelato, all on the same block!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bad News: Smith's Closes

I am on a roll with eating at and blogging about soon-to-be-shuttered restaurants.

Eater reports that Smith's, home of the amazing $35 chicken-for-two deal I wrote about in May, has closed. Looks like it's best to try out those recession deals sooner rather than later!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Favorite Food Blogs

I have already acknowledged many of my favorite food blogs in my posts and many of the links I've used have directed readers to some of them. But I thought perhaps others might be interested in further reading on all things edible, culinary, restaurant-related and tasty.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Along Came a Cart

Now an even better chance at getting some Van Leeuwen ice cream. They've added an ice cream cart to the three trucks stationed around the city. How cute.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

My Case for Murray's

Murray's Cheese Shop is one of the city's great specialty food markets. And when I am in the area (West Village) I tend to be drawn in, even if just to marvel at the cheese. It is where I discovered my favorite- Pleasant Ridge Reserve. A hard cheese from Wisconsin, it's similar to a Swiss or Gruyere, and has a wonderful crystally crunch to it. It's great as a snack.

But Murray's has much more. In fact, it has so much to offer that it often seems overwhelming. When a friend gave me a gift card to Murray's, I was able to head there with a sense of free reign and excitement to try some of the store's other wares beyond the cheese. I carefully selected a variety things including the rich, heat-and-eat mac & cheese and a bottle of fine Spanish olive oil.

Small Bites

The Wall Street Journal reports there are many problems with analyzing the effect of listing calorie counts on menus. Without meaning to let the calorie counts affect me, I have taken notice of them in places like Baskin-Robbins.

Following several instances of contamination, there has been an increasing concern over food safety. The Obama administration is taking steps to reform food safety regulations.

Craving suckling pig? Traveling to Portugal? Head to Mealhada for leitão da Bairrada.

Top Chef 6 will be held in Las Vegas. The contestants have been announced.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Just came across the blog Taxi Gourmet by way of Midtown Lunch. Interesting concept for a blog - hail a cab once a week and let the taxi driver steer you to your next meal.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An Appetizing Adventure

Terrence Henry, a blogger at The Atlantic's food channel is embarking on a food roadtrip around the country (and Canada). Though he is not the first to do so (Jim Leff, co-founder of went on a serious Chow Tour a couple of years ago), these food tours are an interesting way for bloggers to interact with readers who are not shy about posting tons of recommendations. It often turns into a good resource for food suggestions when traveling. His first stop is Montreal. And he's already got some great places on his map, many of which I hope to someday try.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Di Fara Prices

I have yet to try Di Fara's pizza, touted as one of the best in the city, but with the latest price hike bumping the cost of a slice to $5, it's moving down on my list of places to try. I'm happy sticking with Vezzo's thin crust closer to home.

Farewell, Damon: Frugal Friday

Sadly, Damon: Frugal Friday (which had expanded to become Frugal everyday but Tuesday) has closed. I'm glad I had the chance to try this place out for the first time just a couple of weeks ago; I only wish I'd had time to get back there.

Perhaps it's an early sign that the economy is picking up around here?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Small Bites

The Times writes about calculating consumer happiness. Sometimes we associate a better product with higher cost. Sometimes we ignore price and value and choose what it is we want anyway. The human mind is quite a puzzle.

Mark Bittman discusses some great Paris bistros. And meal taxes are going down - time to plan a trip back there! I took a weekend trip to Paris in March and in the course of researching places to eat, I came across the name of every one of these and they were on my list to try. Unfortunately my visit coincided with the two days when most restaurants are closed (Sundays and Mondays)!

You can now get Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory ice cream in Midtown - they're selling from Pershing Square, a spot right across from Grand Central.

July, July

It's July, so you know what that means- a new custard calendar at Shake Shack!

Monday - Mojito
Tuesday - Peaches 'n Cream
Wednesday - Black Cherry
Thursday - Mulberry
Friday - Red, White & Blueberry
Saturday - Cavaillon Melon
Sunday - Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn must be a popular flavor as I have seen it appear during several months. Though I haven't tried the Shake Shack version, I have never been a fan of the flavor anywhere else. And I notice its repeated presence here because on multiple occasions I have found myself in the neighborhood considering some custard on a Sunday and have been saddened to remember that it was a Sweet Corn day.

I have had Peaches 'n Cream, which was slightly disappointing for me, but will likely work for anyone who likes chunks of fruit mixed in with ice cream. I'm most intrigued by the Mojito flavor.

I had never heard of Cavaillon Melon and had to research what this flavor might be. It's a French melon named after the town they come from, similar to cantaloupe. Apparently extremely fragrant, they are enjoyed mostly during the summer months. Nice touch, Shake Shack!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Celebrate July 4th in Queens

If you're looking to avoid fireworks and observe July 4th in a novel way, then the Independence Day Pig Roast and Camp Out on the Queens County Farm might be the event for you.

Tom Mylan, of Brooklyn's Marlow & Daughters, will handle the pig roasting while you pitch a tent on the grounds of the orchard and play old camp games like capture the flag. And the next morning you'll wake up to a farm-fresh breakfast.

The Queens County Farm Museum looks like an interesting place to visit - its even got a corn maze! - and if you've ever wanted to camp out in the New York City, here's your chance.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Street Fights

The Mr. Softee ice cream trucks churning out their annoyingly repetitive jingles, and the dirty dog carts polluting the air with the smell of burnt pretzels, are no longer the only street food vendors around. Upscale food trucks are popping up all over the city, testing the laws of supply and demand, heightening intense competition for pedestrian customers.

In Wednesday's Dining section, The Times caught up on the recent disputes over prime territory among these new vendors and the old guard. Midtown Lunch has been all over the issue and if you've been reading carefully, In a Nutshell directed your attention to it a couple of weeks ago.

Is the fighting driven by a sense of desperation in this economy? Is this a sign that the food truck market has already ridden a steep curve to a saturation point? Personally, though I have only tried a few of the options, the variety offered among these trucks is a welcome addition to the city's food community, especially the sweeter ones. I say that not just because I like dessert but also because I have found that the city lacks post-dinner dessert options for those who want dessert elsewhere. The idea of the carts seems also to mesh well with the growing Twitter crowd - many of these carts update their current locations throughout the day on the site.

The Times article alone specifically mentions nine food carts and references another. The roaming sweets vendors cited include:
Street Sweets
Cupcake Stop
Treats Truck - The desserts here are less fancy than just simple and tasty.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck - See my verdict on this from a few weeks ago.
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Not mentioned in the article is the great Dessert Truck. The individual-sized desserts offered include a superb chocolate bread pudding, one of my favorites.

On the savory side, you can go for Taiwanese food from the Cravings truck. There's also the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck which is related to the local Rickshaw Dumpling chain. Based on my experience at the brick and mortar business, I'd advise spending your money on subway fare to Chinatown for cheaper, better-tasting dumplings. Another one that started as a stationary vendor is Le Gamin, which sells sandwiches and crepes.

And then there are the things you wouldn't think would have a big enough audience for a truck devoted soley to that food - a new schnitzel truck called Schnitzel & Things or Wafels & Dinges, a Belgian waffle truck.

The Times article also mentions the Steak truck and the new La Cense Burger truck.

New Yorkers are suckers for pizza, and in addition to all the many well-known pizza places, the city has an appetite for several traveling pizza trucks:
Papa Perrone
Vinny Vincenz

Beyond all of these, there are plenty more varieties of street food, including halal carts and several Mexican/taco carts that have been widely praised. And the trend is not just limited to New York, but extends around the country as The Wall Street Journal took note of last month.

So keep your eyes open and stay hungry!