Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Authenticity of Chinese Food

A Slate blog post earlier this month asked whether authenticity in Chinese cooking is an overrated concept, after The New Yorker and the Oxford American ran articles about the nomadic Chinese chef Peter Chang and the following he has garnered. And an essay on Open Salon also considered the idea of whether dishes can authentically reflect a particular ethnicity. These both had me pondering my experience of Chinese food.

What exactly is an authentic Chinese food experience? By the dictionary definition of the word authentic, it’s something that is “entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience.” And in the case of Chinese food, the known experience presumably would be that of Chinese people. Guess that includes me!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Korean Fried Chicken: The Midtown Lunch Perspective

The long-awaited Kyochon fried chicken finally opened earlier this month to middling reviews with which I agreed. Midtown Lunch took the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison of the three Korean fried chicken places that will soon occupy spots within a block of one another. For now, Bon Chon's 38th Street location stands in for the coming Fifth Avenue branch.

More El Quinto Pino

Just a few days ago, I posted my review of El Quinto Pino, a tapas bar in Chelsea that I've come to like a lot. Now, there's even more opportunity to squeeze EQP into your day: Grub Street reports that they will open for breakfast beginning tomorrow.  

Monday, March 29, 2010

No. 7 Sub Review

Have you ever thought about what to have for lunch, considered a sandwich and then concluded that a plain old turkey and cheese with wilting lettuce and a soggy tomato just seemed boring and uninspired? No. 7 Sub is attempting to change that attitude by offering crafty sandwich combinations. It's just a small takeout-only joint on Broadway near 29th Street, around the corner from the hip Ace Hotel, joining Stumptown Coffee and The Breslin restaurant in making this the new "it" neighborhood.

After perusing the menu that includes both options for vegetarians or omnivores, I narrowed my choices down to the Braised Lamb and the Ceviche. Upon asking for a recommendation, the woman at the counter offered not her preference, but her approach to choosing a sandwich: She tries to tailor her choice based on what kind of day it is. Given that it was rainy, to her it was a ceviche sort of day; she wished to be on an island somewhere, so she'd want something refreshing. Though I had been leaning toward lamb, I let her convince me. And I figured if I went with the one I was feeling less and it impressed me, that would be that much stronger of a statement.

Friday, March 26, 2010

El Quinto Pino Review

El Quinto Pino has quickly became one of my favorite places in the city and in a little more than a month I have already returned twice. A narrow room made charming by the low lighting and dark wood, and chalkboard menus up and down the far wall and the center column. Seating options are limited to stool seating along a curved bar or along the opposite wall and a single, friendly waiter manages to keep everyone happy. Our party of four lucked out and managed to get one small bit of table that juts out from the wall. But the best way to guarantee yourself a space is to visit in pairs, or go early or late.

We started with a few dishes at a time and slowly worked our way across much of the menu, adding a couple more every time the waiter passed by. The food was fantastic and the reasonably priced drinks put you in a happy mood. I'd recommend the Pomada — Frozen Basil infused gin lemonade from Mallorca — or the sangria.

We started with the marinated lamb skewers — chunky pieces of lamb with a deep musky flavor — and the bocadillo de tortilla espanola. A sandwich of potatoes and eggs coated in a light mayonnaise sauce between two pieces of delectable doughy bread from Tom Cat bakery seems like a crazy carb overload. But this is an excellent combination, filling and wholehearted.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Small Bites

- A tour of New York restaurateur Michael Huynh's favorite places in Ho Chi Minh City, where he grew up.

- Harvard University gathers some big-name chefs, including Ferran Adria and Jose Andres, to teach a course in culinary physics.

- You can't visit North Korea, but you can eat at Pyongang, a North Korean restaurant chain, in various places throughout Asia.

- NBC's blog, Feast, interviews Thomas Keller. In Part II, Keller talks about how the recession has primarily hurt private dining at his New York restaurant, Per Se, and how he would like to open a Bouchon Bakery in Brooklyn.

- Eating fat might not be such a bad thing, as long as it's the good kind.

- It's often been said that eating many small meals throughout the day rather than just three meals speeds metabolism. The Really? column says there's little difference.

- Pepsico plans to test out a "designer salt" that it hopes will help consumers reduce sodium intake while retaining the same salty flavor in its snacks.

- The health care bill passed this week includes a requirement, like one that already exists in New York City, that all chains across the country post calorie information on their menus,

- Not only have real portion sizes grown over time, but also the size of entrees in various depictions of the Last Supper has increased.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recent Eats

This weekend I popped back in to a few of my favorite places and tried out a new food cart.

Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe is a great Midtown wine bar hidden off to the side of restaurant-heavy 9th Avenue, on 52nd Street. It's an easy place to return to because it falls into an all-purpose category: If you want a casual dinner, a menu of small and large plates makes it easy to achieve. Wine, cheese and/or appetizers? You'll find any and all of that here with good quality. If you're looking for a late night drop-in spot, Casellula is open until 2 a.m. everyday.

On this particular visit, my dining companion and I ordered light — the stuffed peppadew peppers with buffalo mozzarella and speck; white anchovies with fennel and pickled shallots; and a plate of three cheeses chosen by the restaurant. Salty, sour and sweet. The cheeses are each paired with an appropriate and fun accompaniment. We got a mild goat's milk cheese with an orange honey, a hard cow's milk cheese with sweet and sour onions, and a sharp sheep's milk cheese with prickly pear ketchup. A perfect warm-up spot for the evening.


A post-play late night snack of Bombay Spicy Chicken Biryani. This was unlike any biryani I've had in a restaurant. The rice itself was plainer; the sauces on top added the spice. The chicken was pretty good and there was a hard boiled egg in the center. It was similar to the chicken and rice dishes you get at other halal carts. It likely also makes good post-drinking food.

Friday, March 19, 2010

K! Pizzacone review

 K! Pizzacone: Today was your chance to convince me, a pizza lover, that despite your silly name, your concept of pizza in an easier-to-eat form would woo me. You had been teasing me for weeks as I walked by. This was your day only because I missed my chance with No. 7 Sub, which ran out of bread by the time I returned on its first day. Your open doors were welcoming and my stomach too weak today to pass you up. The bossa nova playing in your bright yellow room was novel for a fast food joint. You offered so many choices, but I finally settled on bbq chicken with tomato sauce. You made me wait, but you came out looking quite nice.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Let's Try That Again

Midtown Lunch reports that Kyochon, which has been open for just about a week, has closed to retrain its staff after poor initial reviews.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Small Bites

- As if there weren't enough types of food contamination to worry about, add spices to the list. The FDA is urging the spice industry to find better ways to reduce the risks.

- Slate tells us what whale meat tastes like. I had my own sample of Minke whale on a trip to Norway a few years ago.

- Frank Bruni shares his thoughts about restaurateur Donatella Arpaia's move into television. Bruni also had a story in last weekend's New York Times Magazine about Katie Lee Joel, former host of Top Chef and aspiring food celebrity.

- Hipsters using food stamps to support their foodie lifestyles — are they scamming the system or being resourceful?
Update: One of the people featured in Salon's article defends himself.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sweet News

In happy news for those addicted to sweets, the city's dessert options continue to expand. The Dessert Truck and the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck opened up storefront branches and Doughnut Plant and Shake Shack announced plans to open additional stores. Now, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, a fabulous gelato place in the Lower East Side, will bring us a new larger location with seats in June. The bigger store will allow them to offer more of their flavors at once and will stay open later.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kyochon Review

After being away for a few days, my first meal back in New York City of course had to come from the newly opened Kyochon. Judging by the line out the door, it seemed many other people had the same idea, even late in the evening. The wait was for the upstairs dining room. So we opted for takeout, where the wait was only as long as it took for our order to be filled. In a walk-by at lunchtime today, the takeout line was nearing the door. Eater has gathered the early reactions from around the Web. And my experience was not too much different.

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the Archives

In case you missed them, a look back at some of my favorite posts.

Blue Hill Stone Barn
Per Se
O Ya

On Chinese New Year.
On Thanksgiving.
On grandma.
On rice.
On ice cream.
On supermarkets.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Small Bites

- Finding a good grocery store in New York City is a tough order because many are small and dirty or have little stock while others are just plain expensive. In a grocery comparison between Gristedes, Food Emporium, Fresh Direct and Whole Foods, which would you guess is the most cost-effective option? The answer might surprise you.

- The people behind the recent documentary Oscar winner "The Cove" are part of a sting operation on a California sushi restaurant suspected of serving whale meat.

- A Chinese herbal treatment may help curb the rising number of people reporting that they are afflicted with allergies.

- Musicians are foodies too. Several own restaurants.

- Fluorescent lights at supermarkets may help make spinach healthier for you.

- Why healthy stuff costs more than the bad stuff.

- An interview with Daniel Humm, chef at Eleven Madison Park.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Recent Eats

Some scenes from good eating in Vail, Colorado, earned after hard days of skiing. Given the large group, not all dishes were documented; these encompass primarily things I ordered or tasted.
An excellent meal at Sweet Basil. There were few complaints among the very tough crowd and in fact there was much praise for both the food and service. The one minor complaint being the lukewarm temperature of the main courses, but the quality and flavor of the food made for room for forgiveness. But as we ate dinner, there were often moments of silence at the table — just the sound of happy diners.

Caesar Salad
Creamy garlic vinaigrette, organic egg, reggiano parmesan
Jumbo Lump Crab "Mac and Cheese" 
House-made ricotta agnolotti, parmesan brodo, orange, black truffle
This was the first thing my hungry heart gravitated to on the menu and a solid recommendation from waiter sealed the deal. It was an excellent appetizer with a great helping of crabmeat and several agnolotti in a terrific truffle-flavored broth.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Or Not

The wait goes on for Kyochon to open. The grand opening is now scheduled to take place Friday. I had actually hoped to get some Korean fried chicken for dinner Wednesday night. If only you could have seen how fast my face fell when I spotted the paper still up in the windows! And only moments earlier, I had been imagining the crowds and how long the line might be. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Small Bites

- After failing to open a lower Manhattan outpost, Grimaldi's Pizza plans to open a 24-hour branch in the Limelight Marketplace, in a former church on W. 20th Street.

- Tipping is always a hot topic for debate, or maybe, just complaint. Also, a North Carolina customer was refused service for being a bad tipper and in return, she calls for a boycott of the restaurant.

- Dining at Blue Hill Stone Barn is a meal to treasure, especially when you think about all the fresh fruits and vegetables of the spring and summer. But can a meal at this local farm-based restaurant still be as interesting in winter? The Washington Post finds that even in cold weather, Blue Hill still finds a way to pull off its inspired cooking, and that a trip there should include an exploration of the surrounding area.

- Flavorwire comes up with a fun little guessing game for these artistic photographs of typical breakfasts from various countries.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Kyochon Opening Imminent


The long-awaited Kyochon is finally slated to open tomorrow

Recent Eats: Part II

Brunch at Joseph Leonard

At a tiny place like this, in the West Village, even arriving early in the day for brunch can't stave off a wait, albeit a short one for us. This atmosphere was welcoming, homey, decorated like a rustic cottage with knick knacks scattered around and black and white portraits on the wall. It turns out all of my food blog reading came in handy — I recognized the owner, Gabe Stulman, eating here. He moved from spot to spot visiting tables that must've been filled with regulars or friends. (It was recently announced that he'll be opening another restaurant just across the street.)

Joseph Leonard's clientele was dominated by women who had obviously spent much time putting together classy outfits and making themselves up, which seemed uncharacteristic of such a casual atmosphere. While it made for good people-watching, it left my dining companion and me feeling rather out of place. I usually try to avoid places filled with such people — they're often not as focused on the food they put out. And had we anticipated it, we might have used that as a hint to what our meal would be like.

Pork and garlic sausage, fried eggs, hashbrown, crème fraîche and arugula

Monday, March 01, 2010

Shake Shack's March Flavors

What better way to start off the week than with a new month of Shake Shack custard flavors. Hooray for the return of Coffee & Donuts!

Monday: Chocolate Chuckles
Tuesday: Mango Madness
Wednesday: Peppermint Patty
Thursday: Coffee & Donuts
Friday: Lemon Meringue
Saturday: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel (mmmmm...)
Sunday: Pineapple Nut Brittle

Just for comparison's sake, this is what March looked like one year ago:

Monday: Giggles
Tuesday: Peppermint Patty
Wednesday: March Mango Madness
Thursday: Strawberry Blonde
Friday: Cinnamon Toast
Saturday: Coffee & Donuts
Sunday: Piña Colada