Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small Bites

And now for a health-themed Small Bites (will there ever be a conclusive study on anything?):

- In Baltimore, the city's public libraries help get healthier food into communities with few supermarkets.

- Laughter may increase appetite? Hm.

- There's some kind of link between chocolate and depression.

- Seafood allergies develop later in life than most other food allergies.

- Sleep more so you don't get fat.

- But maybe having a few extra pounds may actually mean something good.

- Mild peppers could help boost metabolism.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recent Eats

Although I stopped in at The Tangled Vine with a friend for a drink and some pre-dinner appetizers, as is wont to happen with me it became more like my first of two dinners (the second being pizza at my favorite local spot, Vezzo).  It seems to be a nice, casual addition to the Upper West Side on a stretch of Amsterdam Avenue populated by several noisy sports bars.

Mushroom Fricassee  seasonal mushrooms, duck egg, shoestring potato fries 

The waitress was enthusiastic about this dish and made sure to point out that it had even just been added to the brunch menu. The mushrooms were tasty, emanating the round, dark flavor characteristic of the earthy sprouts. The shoestring potatoes made for a subtle texture contrast, but the dish could have used some stronger complementary flavors. The egg didn't fulfill that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Corner Bistro Review

(Photo by Hiroko Masuike on an iphone)
Burgers are probably the food I eat least often, almost never, in fact, because I don't typically like beef. And the only other burger I can remember eating any time in my adult life was at Shake Shack. But a coworker had a craving for a burger and wanted to try Corner Bistro, an old tavern in the West Village known for its beer and cheap burgers, so much so that people often line up to grab a spot here.

New York Magazine's listing for the place says this: "If you call yourself a New Yorker, consider it your civic duty to have a beer and a burger here at least once. If you're really a New Yorker, you'll know that the best time to do that is a weekday afternoon, when Corner Bistro's timeless tavern charm feels as warm as the sun streaming through the front windows."

We arrived late on a Thursday night and still had a short wait in line before landing a roomy corner booth in the back. I went all out and got the Bistro Burger — a burger topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, onion and tomato. The thick patty under all of that made for a pretty tall stack. We also got two plates of fries, which you must order separately.

It was a decent burger, from what I know of them, but I wished that it had a little more salt or seasoning in the meat and that I had gotten it medium rare instead of medium. Even the bacon, which should have added some extra salt wasn't quite enough for me. The fries were great — just the kind I like, thin and crispy. And all of it washed down with a Blue Moon was enough to call it a good night.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Small Bites

- The former Fulton Fish Market in South Street Seaport could become the site of a fresh food market.

- Serious Eats tests out the new set of Ben & Jerry's flavors, including Boston Cream Pie and Hannah Teter's Maple Blondie.

- A very small research study found that exposure to fast food logos could make us spend more money and be more impatient.

- Being overweight or obese is harmful to your brain.

- Oh, the consequences of a misprint.

- The Times gathers a group to discuss the role of the government in making it easier to eat local food.

- The FDA has a long-term plan to work with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt in all processed foods.

- Slate pits Thomas Keller's fried chicken recipe against that of the Pioneer Woman.

- Airlines continue to try to make their food taste better, despite charging for it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taste Test

Shake Shack is betting that people like strange food combinations: They tested out a peanut butter bacon burger at the Upper West Side branch recently and Eater has an update that says the burger will be offered again this Saturday.

Marea Begins Offering Brunch

Marea, a fantastic Italian restaurant on Central Park South, which I reviewed a couple of months ago is now open for brunch. And according to the post by Grub Street, it'll be a $38 prix-fixe, pricey but based on my dinner experience, probably worth it for a special occasion or if you're looking to impress.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Place for People's Pops

If you aren't the type who craves Shake Shack custard as the weather gets warmer, maybe popsicles are more your style. Now there's a fun, reliable place to get your fix in Chelsea MarketPeople's Pops. I tried their offerings at the New Amsterdam Market a couple of years ago. I have seen them around with a stand at the Brooklyn Flea and at various outdoor festivals and often, if it's near the end of the day, they've run out of stuff — proof, I suppose, that at the very least, it's popular! Besides popsicles, they offer shaved ice.

An Old Favorite Glams Up

One of my favorite tapas places, La Nacional, located in a hidden spot in the basement of the Spanish Benevolent Society, was closed by the Department of Health a few weeks back. While that might sound off-putting, the owner explained that the restaurant opened in 1868 and needed structural renovations. Grub Street reports that La Nacional has reopened and based on their photo, it looks quiet different and may have lost some of its charm. But only a revisit will tell.

The Word on No. 7 Sub

I went to No. 7 Sub not long after it opened, about a month ago, and gave my take on it. Eater has a roundup of the still "early word" on the sandwich shop. It seems many have encountered long waits. I tried to go one day around 1:30 p.m. and the line was out the door and I turned around and left. But on the day I actually made it in, around noon, there was maybe one other customer and the wait for my sandwich wasn't long at all.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eating, Exercising and Writing About It

Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton has a piece in this Sunday's magazine about how he manages the job of eating for a living while staying healthy. Along with that the Diner's Journal has a blog post of Sifton's food diary for a week — the calories he consumed and the calories he expended exercising. It seems people are always curious about the life of a food critic and, naturally, all of this has generated lots of questions from readers, which Sifton has answered in several rounds.

Colicchio & Sons Review

From a superstar (Tom Colicchio) in the food world, I expect a superstar brunch (Colicchio and Sons). This was no flashy, impressive brunch. But neither was it a snooze. It fell somewhere in between — uniting ingredients unfamiliar with with one another, yet leaving a distinct sense that they were all trying to hard to show off. And unfortunately, we saw right through it.

The space, near the west edge of the city on 10th Avenue and 15th Street behind Chelsea Market, was airy and modern, but impersonal, a place you could only have a superficial friendship with, not a cozy closeness.

Brunch at Colicchio and Sons went something like this:

Ferris Bueller for a waiter, a goofy grin on his face, presents us with menus and determines our preference for water. He soon returns to take our order, asking if we have any questions. Only one: Does the assortment of pastries include all the pastries listed? He too excitedly answers "Yes, everything there." Then a moment later he clumsily corrects himself — everything BUT the lemon cream doughnuts that we had been hoping for. We settle for an order of just the doughnuts.

The three plump doughnuts arrive generously coated in sugar, oozing lemon cream.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shake Shack Update

The Shake Shack Web site has added menus for its new branches in Miami, the Upper East Side and Times Square coming later this year. Eater makes note of the main difference — the concrete creations unique to each spot. The theater district branch will include one — Jelly's Last Doughnut (vanilla custard, doughnuts, strawberry preserves, cinnamon sugar) — that gives Doughnut Plant doughnuts a permanent spot on the menu.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Small Bites

- Juan Valdez is the Starbucks of Colombia.

- McDonald's tries to spread America's cupcake craze to Europe by naming them after New York neighborhoods and selling the desserts in its German stores. Though cupcakes are still newer to those across the Atlantic, some are already tiring of them.

- Marcus Samuelsson, former chef of Aquavit restaurant, has a personal essay about food on Huffington Post's new food site.

- Don't try this at home: Japanese knives are for serious chefs.

- More people are buying kosher products for health reasons.  A few years ago, I told a friend that I didn't like the taste of generic supermarket chicken and she recommended I try buying kosher chicken, which I now do because it actually does taste better.

- Aluminum foil or plastic wrap — which is better for the environment?

- The way farmed catfish and farmed tilapia are raised makes them safer to eat than farmed salmon.

- The Washington Post's All We Can Eat blog has some notes on a recent event with Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine, where she spoke about her last book, her time at Gourmet and Twitter.

- Eating eggs has often been assumed to have a negative effect on cholesterol, but that assumption may be wrong for most people.

Chewing on Chinese Food

I recently wrote about the authenticity of Chinese food and my relationship with it. The Huffington Post's new food and drink section includes a piece about one (non-Chinese) guy's journey to liking Chinese food. And the word "authentic" is mentioned twice:

"[David] Chang, asked about his inspiration, always cited the authentic Szechuan and Cantonese cuisines of Chinatown and Flushing. I decided to give Chinese another chance."

"I spent hours on foodie message boards trying to find the most authentic restaurants."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Marketplace Includes Food Vendors

Grub Street reports that the new Limelight Marketplace on 6th Avenue and 20th Street will open May 7. They've provided the full list of vendors, which includes several food options. The 24-hour branch of Grimaldi's is one of them. And following in the footsteps of recent truck-to-storefront moves, Cupcake Stop will join the market too. It looks like the place will be heavy on the sweets. Some of the others joining them are Baci Gelato, Butterfly Bakeshop, It's Sugar, Jala Frozen Yogurt, Mari's New York (brownies), and a branch of the Soho chocolate shop, Mariebelle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Conquering the Custards

No, this isn't the Shake Shack custard blog. But, another lovely afternoon in Madison Square Park and another custard covered. Perhaps this could be the month I make it through every flavor of the week before the month changes. The carrot cake custard was a wonder — not only could I taste the nutty carrot cake, but also the smooth cream cheese frosting all in one bite! The layering of flavors was impressively complex, everything was distinctly there. How do they do that?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recent Eats

Finding a good neighborhood restaurant, the kind that can be a go-to place, when you live in Midtown is a tougher task than it seems like it should be. Artisanal is in a perfect location, not too far away, but I've always found that it's just a little too expensive and is often hit or miss. It's most suitable for a cheese and wine occasion. And if you like cheesecake, they make a darn good one.

Vegetable quiche with wild mushroom, spinach, taleggio cheese and a side salad. It's a large portion and because it's so rich, half of it was enough to fill me for lunch. There are lots of mushrooms in it so you don't feel like you're just eating eggs and cheese.

Artisanal cheesecake with pecan praline and caramel sauce. This is the only place where I've eaten cheesecake and not forgotten about it. It's light and not too heavy or sweet; the nuts and caramel pump up the sweetness. The cheesecake also has a bed of crumbs for a crust that provide just the right texture contrast to the cake.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Recycle Your Corks

I've always felt a little sad throwing out the corks from wine bottles, as though they should have some other fun purpose or at the very least be destined for a better end than the garbage can. Well now, here's news for those of you who may have felt the same way however odd it may be: Whole Foods stores will be collecting customers' corks and working with different companies to recycle them in various ways.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Small Bites

- Tel Aviv is Israel's culinary capital.

- The Village Voice interviews the executive chef of Gramercy Tavern.

- Photographing food and posting it online for others to see (seem familiar?) is an exploding phenomenon.

- Yelp, a source of many customer restaurant reviews, is changing the way it posts reviews.

- A study of Dairy Queen.

 - The Boston Globe publishes the first of a three-part series about a couple opening a restaurant on a budget, in a recession — are they to be admired for pursuing their dream or considered foolhardy for "misguided idealism"?

- The last sardine cannery in the United States, in Maine, is to close this month.

- Why eating oysters isn't inconsistent with being a vegan.

- People have complicated relationships with food.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Custard Kick

With the weather getting warmer, I've found myself swinging by Shake Shack more often to fill my custard cravings.

On a gloriously beautiful day this weekend, I actually found a line for the B line for the first time. But not excruciatingly long, unlike the main one, which wound around the curvy paths of Madison Square Park for what must have been a two- to three-hour wait. 

But now, on to the Pancakes & Bacon custard. It looked like vanilla, but perhaps we had to break in for the surprise. It turns out this was pure disappointment. Where oh were the bacon bits? Or the buttery flavor of pancake batter? If my dining companion and I hadn't known better, we would have assumed this was a creamy vanilla with sporadic salty pockets.


Mondays are Shack-uccino day. The custard was flecked with what I assume were espresso bits and had a mild, creamy coffee flavor with light undertones of cinnamon. It was tasty, though I could go for a more robust coffee note to it. But the ample helping of custard was appropriately refreshing for a warm day.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Recent Eats

Typically dessert is a post-meal snack. But last weekend, dessert was my version of pregaming. My evening began at Shake Shack for a double dose of custard. It was my last chance to try the Shack's Saturday March flavor, chocolate peanut butter pretzel. So, despite the unfortunate chill in the air, my dining companion and I stepped up to the B line for a single scoop. There was also a sign for a special "Standing Order Concrete," vanilla custard blended with fresh strawberries and orange-poppy seed caramel. Could we eat all that? Well, we couldn't resist trying.

The chocolate peanut butter pretzel was luscious, firmer than the Shack's custards usually are and, as a result, more my style; I attributed the better texture to the peanut butter mixed in. I'm also not normally a fan of chocolate ice cream, but this wasn't too sweet and had a strong peanut butter flavor. Unfortunately, most of the pretzel bits were soggy, with only a few crunchy pieces. Perhaps thinner pretzels would hold up better. And my dining companion wished they had added even more salt to the whole mixture. But overall, we loved this flavor.

In an afternoon of opposites at Shake Shack, the normally thick concrete was unappealingly soupy. Aside from that issue, this tasted like a slightly sweet strawberry shortcake in a cup! I had a few passing moments of orange flavor and a few glimpses of poppyseeds. With a stronger freeze, I could make this a repeat concrete.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Small Bites

- A review of Jamie Oliver's new television show. Oliver goes to Huntington, W. Va., to try to change the eating habits of the unhealthiest and most obese city in America.

- American culture is obsessed with competitive eating.

- A shortage of slaughterhouses puts a crimp in the eat-local food movement.

- Things are looking up for restaurants with the arrival of spring, returning customers and a bounty of certain crops.

- Learn how to be an urban forager; you can start by finding edible day lilies.

April Custard Flavors

No fooling around here — it's Shake Shack's April custard menu. And today seems like a good day to get out there and grab some!

Monday: Shack-uccino
Tuesday: Gianduja
Wednesday: Strawberry Blonde
Thursday: Milk & Honey
Friday: Fluffernutter
Saturday: Pancakes & Bacon
Sunday: Carrot Cake