Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Small Bites

- I have trouble letting go of any book, but Epicurious has some suggetions if you're looking for some help culling your cookbook collection.

- Chef Pierre Gagnaire tries to stay away from faddish foods and instead finds inspiration among Asian ingredients.

- Although Chinese food is nearly ubiquitous, it takes many forms, and Hangzhou food is one type that has yet to be imported to the West.

- Who has a responsibility to try to fight obesity?

- To be a true locavore, you have to pay.

- One writer takes a stab at making healthier cupcakes.

- Ben & Jerry's no longer claims it's "all natural."

- Some interesting essays on food: The influence of ethnic foods, connecting to memories through paella and Francis Lam's street fair experience, a commentary on the melding of cultures in the cuisine of America.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hill Country Chicken Review

Flatiron barbecue spot Hill Country is one of my reliable, go-to spots. So when they got in to the fried chicken game and opened Hill Country Chicken around the corner, naturally, I was excited to try it.

The line seemed reasonably short when I arrived in this retro-looking kitchen. Everything is sold a la carte and so it took awhile to figure out exactly how best to compose my meal.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Peter's Since 1969 Review

Walking in to Peter's Since 1969, you're hit with the warm smell of a fire roasting up chickens as the herbs work their magic into the skin. It's a comforting smell, one that makes you ready to pull up a chair to the table with fork in hand and dig in to a hearty meal. And if you're hungry, you'll certainly get a lot of food here.

Peter's is a casual, counter service place, a bit like a modern-day Boston Market, but with a cumbersome mouthful of a name. I tried out the one in Hell's Kitchen that opened not long ago, but the original branch is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The restaurant itself lacked much individual character and the dining area was bathed in unappealing yellow lights that cast a sickly pall over us. Though the place was empty, we were greeted by friendly, patient faces as we mulled over the menu options. We could see the chickens roasting on the rotisseries against the back wall and we were offered tastes of anything from several bright red dutch ovens crowding the counter.

All the meals come with two sides, a cup of soup and a mini corn muffin or sweet bun. My dining companion and I ordered a quarter chicken (white meat) with collard greens and mac & cheese and cream of mushroom soup. We also had the homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes and cabbage salad and chicken vegetable soup.  We also tried the mint lemonade, served in mason jars, which was a refreshing choice.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Person's Boredom is Another's Excitement

I missed this blog item on Diner's Journal last week in which Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton drew attention to a letter from a reader commenting on an article about recent changes at Eleven Madison Park. The reader worried that the service and menu changes, which the restaurant made to elevate its status in the dining world, would make it a boring place with exciting food.

It's an interesting move on the part of EMP to switch to a prix-fixe-only menu, something that I do associate mostly with very high-end places, and to reduce the number of seats, making the reservations harder to acquire. I have dined at EMP a couple of times and although it has been on my list of places to return to, especially after it received a good re-review from The Times last year, I haven't made it back. A change in the way the restaurant operates provides me with additional incentive — I know I would not only be testing out the food again (I had dinner there shortly after the current chef, Daniel Humm, became the chef), but that I would now also have a new experience.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Small Bites

- Find out what it's like behind-the-scenes at Thomas Keller's French Laundry. The San Francisco Chronicle also explored the kitchens at other four-star restaurants in the area.

- Bon Apetit magazine moves from Los Angeles to New York and loses its editor, Barbara Fairchild.

- The Huffington Post corrects some major food myths.

- Sugar beet farmers hurt by a judge's ruling that they cannot plant genetically engineered varieties.

- The Boston Globe runs a series on the "Science and Cooking" class at Harvard, which includes Ferran Adria as a lecturer, among several other major chefs.

- The Museum of Modern Art currently has an exhibit on kitchen design.
- The New York Times Science section explains the science behind spiciness in chilies.

- Grant Achatz, chef of Alinea restaurant, explains the thinking behind some of the dishes at his restaurant.

- A diet heavy on plants and low-fat dairy can help prevent kidney stones.

- Dulce de leche is the ice cream flavor of the moment in Buenos Aires. And Cincinnati ice cream company Graeter's tries to expand its nationwide reach.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Egg Review

I previously dined at Egg, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for brunch a few months ago. More recently, I had a chance to sample the dinnertime offerings. The menu overall has a Southern bent to it, but I had heard much to do about the fried chicken, so I was eager to pass judgment on it.

In place of bread as a starter, there are boiled peanuts, soft and salty.

The caramelized grapefruit with mint, served warm, was more sweet than bitter, as grapefruits can be. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Il Matto Review

Il Matto, a fairly new restaurant in Tribeca, by all appearances could be the domain of a madman, which is one way to translate its name. You get this psychedelic feeling from any number of characteristics: the tracks of multicolored lights on the ceiling; the colorful teacup-shaped booths anchoring the corners of the restaurant; backward letters and rough sketches on the menu; the grenade salt and pepper shakers; terrariums serving as candle holders; or vinyl tablecloths. Not to mention some unfamiliar concoctions among the food and drinks.

But it adds up to more than just a schtick. There are things here to make mouths happy. Start with the crazy playground that is the cocktail list. It unites ingredients that will make you wonder how that could possibly taste good; several of them introduce alcohol to some savory components. We tried the Smilla (vodka, lemon juice, sugar, peach puree, celery, white pepper), the Rosso Tiziano (rum, lemon juice, sugar, raspberry and cherry tomato), and La Signoria (gin, lemon juice, sugar, lettuce, strawberry, balsamic  reduction). Who knew that peach and celery are, in fact, quite complementary, mellow flavors that embrace each other.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hide-Chan Ramen Review

When the rippling heat transforms into brisk breezes, I can handle ramen for dinner once again. The steam wafting in my face, opening up my pores, the warm broth toasting my tastebuds. Ramen joints seem to be proliferating these days; there are lots of options around the city to get your fill. And the price points and quality vary with each. Hide-Chan Ramen in Midtown East exists where another Japanese spot, Yakitori Torys, once was on 52nd Street close to 2nd Avenue. Hide-Chan was opened by the same owner as Torys and of the Totto family of restaurants (Totto Ramen is another new-ish ramen place on the West side). But Hide-Chan is a bit out of the way, perhaps a better stop for East side business lunches.

I tried the Hakata Char Siu Ramen, served with extra sliced pork marinated with soy sauce and brown sugar. The broth was creamy and salty, but the pork had thicker strips of fat than meat and the scallions overpowered the bowl when it was all mixed together.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Small Bites

- Americans find it tough to fulfill their daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

- Ferran AdriĆ  says that when he turns his restaurant, El Bulli, into a research lab, he'll post a new recipe from it online every night. Most of us will never have a chance to eat at El Bulli, so we'll have to settle for reading about others' experiences —Vanity Fair has a good profile of AdriĆ .

- Salon's Francis Lam tries a doughnut ice cream sandwich and lives to tell the story.

- recaps the recent conversation between David Chang and Anthony Bourdain at the 92nd Street Y.

- The Wall Street Journal clues us in to what Restaurant Week does for restaurants.

- Trader Joe's will open its Upper West Side branch on September 20, according to MyUpperWest.

- High fructose corn syrup has earned a bad reputation, so corn refiners are trying to rename it corn sugar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Chicken Keeps Coming

If you like fried chicken, not only do you have many Korean fried chicken options to choose from, there is now Hill Country Chicken nearby. Eater reports that the chicken place, opened by Flatiron barbecue spot, Hill Country, opens tomorrow and there's a copy of the menu. Looking good...

UPDATE: Zagat Buzz has more details on the look and food of Hill Country Chicken.

Recent Eats

Lunch at Eataly
I checked in on Eataly at lunchtime recently. My dining companion and I found a crowded, confusing food hall. The retail options are mixed in among the food stalls making for a not-so-comfortable experience. It's still early, so perhaps when things settle down the place will seem calmer. But our attempt to try the pizza was thwarted by a 35- to 40-minute wait to sit down. So instead, we ended up at the panini counter. The choices were limited — just a couple options for cold sandwiches and hot ones. 

We both got a mushroom and taleggio cheese panini. It was a fine sandwich, but nothing special, nothing that impressed us and nothing that made us think we'd definitely return.

We also got an apple cake from the counter across the way. It wasn't too sweet, but the texture was grainy. Maybe we didn't choose well, but it didn't say much for Eataly.

Monday, September 13, 2010

West Side Gets Artichoke Pizza

Now if you need your late-night fill of Artichoke pizza, you don't have to head to the east side, you can wait on the west side instead. The Chelsea branch has an actual restaurant in addition to the take-out window.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maialino Review

That I have returned to Maialino several times should in itself be an indicator of how good I think the place is. The attentive and genial service never fails to buoy its reputation, the food never fails to leave its mark of satisfaction. And for that, I recommend it to everyone.

Carciofini Fritti: Fried artichokes & anchovy bread sauce. Coarse artichokes are transformed into a crispy and delicate appetizer. The creamy sauce cuts the slightly sour taste of the vegetable.

Salumi Misti & Olives. Mortadella, soppressata and speck (top to bottom). I wasn't crazy about the mortadella, which reminded me too much of bologna, but the speck was amazing, thinly sliced and salty.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Small Bites

- The market for halal food in France expands and gets more upscale, spurring debate over its significance.

- A Q & A with cookbook author Grace Young on stir-fries and woks.

- All the fat and salt in McDonald's food seems to keep it from spoiling for a disturbingly long period of time.

- Unemployed life for former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl means daily bread-baking.

- The Village Voice covers nine cuisines the New York dining scene is weak in.

- After winning the first season of Top Chef, Harold Dieterle opened Perilla restaurant in New York. Metromix talks to Dieterle about his next place, a Thai restaurant called The Kin Shop, opening this fall.

- A new study shows that people who drink alcohol outlive nondrinkers.

- The Feast blog conducts a taste test of Shake Shack concretes from various branches.

- Experts provide advice on how to eat safely while keeping to a budget.

- Global food prices rise, prompting concern.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Rockmeisha Review

Rockmeisha Izakaya, on lovely Barrow Street in the Village, is an intimate place to sample Japanese small plates. Everything we tried was good, but the thing to go for was the ramen.


Mentai (roe) potato salad. If you don't like it when the roe tastes fishy, you won't enjoy this.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Early Word on Eataly

Even those who don't read food blogs religiously or closely follow highly anticipated openings in the food world have heard about Eataly, the mega-market opened by Mario Batali, among others, and seem to be excited about it. So, because people keep mentioning it to me, here's an early look at the Italian supermarket, including a review from Serious Eats of the pizza place inside and one from The Food Doc on the upscale steakhouse.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Recent Eats

Sam's Falafel Stand downtown reminds me of the highly regarded and oft-recommended falafel spot in Paris, L'as du Falafel. Several rounds of crispy, not too garlicky falafel stuffed inside a soft pita with eggplant, hummus, lettuce, tomato and a little spicy sauce.  It makes for a very tasty and satisfying lunch. And for $4, it's a bargain.

Wafel & Dinges is a yellow Belgian waffle cart that you may have run into around the city if you were paying attention. Although I had passed by it several times, I'd never had the opportunity to try it out. This time though I was hungry for something sweet and it fit the bill. Wafel & Dinges now have several carts out, but this one is stationed at South Street Seaport. Although the guy in the cart tried to explain the ordering, there still seemed to be some confusion as to just how many toppings you get with your order. We ended up with the "de bom," a wafel topped with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and our choice of toppings — strawberries and strawberry jam.

The wafel was a nice soft and chewy chunk of dough that absorbed the fruity jam nicely. The ice cream didn't exude enough strawberry for my tastes but overall the combination did the trick at quelling my sweet desires.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Small Bites

- California is the only state where home ec is still called home ec. Should the class be mandatory?

- Food helps one family's child to stay connected to her heritage.

- Pleasant Ridge Reserve, one of my favorite cheeses, is named the best cheese in America by the American Cheese Society.

- Roger Ebert can no longer eat or talk, but he cooks and writes about food.

- Check out a slideshow of different types of mooncakes and get ready for the Mid-Autumn Festival on September 22.

The First Fall Flavors

Although I don't personally need a reason to look forward to fall, Shake Shack gives me some good ones with the new custard flavors. If you've missed Red Velvet on previous occasions, here's another opportunity to indulge.

Monday: Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice
Tuesday: Red Velvet
Wednesday: Buttered Rum Raisin
Thursday: Coffee & Donuts
Friday: PB&J
Saturday: Grasshopper
Sunday: Figs & Honey