Thursday, December 30, 2010

Small Bites

- A Taiwanese restaurateur reveals what makes his noodle dish the most expensive in the world

- The debate over restaurant critic anonymity is revived when a Los Angeles restaurant aggressively outs the Los Angeles Times critic.

- LA Weekly interviews departing Bon Appetit editor Barbara Fairchild.

- The rapid spread of coupon sites such as Groupon and Village Vines, which offer dining discounts, has restaurant owners debating whether they are advantageous or bad for business.

- The Rungis International Food Market, the world's largest food market which has operated since 1110, is still going strong.

- A dispute with the Los Angeles Film School over parking is endangering the Hollywood Farmers Market.

- Madhur Jaffrey, the queen of Indian cooking, hasn't always had a life that revolved around food.

- How did black-eyed peas become a New Year's tradition?

- Now that Christmas is over, you could turn your tree into your next meal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Must Eat: Lamb Burger

Often, I recommend restaurants that I've had good meals at because I think the food I've had is good overall and the atmosphere is right for the occasion. Less often, a particular dish I've had stands out and merits returning to a place just for that one thing. But those are the things that I become evangelical about, foods that people just must try. 

Last year, I visited April Bloomfield's Breslin restaurant for the first time and liked it. I have been back several times because the food's pretty good, and the location and hours are often convenient. But since trying the signature lamb burger there, it's become one of my favorite dishes in the city. The thick, juicy burger is served medium rare on a grilled bun with a slab of feta cheese and slices of red onion. When you cut through it, the pink juices spill out and drain into the moat of the cutting board-like plate. Eating it nearly quenches a thirst. Sinking your teeth into this burger is a satisfying effort and your tongue is humbled by the deep, smooth flavor of the lamb. The fat fries are crispy and addictive. They come with a cumin mayo on the side. It's a complete winner of a dish. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Leña Latin Grill Review

After passing by Leña Latin Grill nearly everyday for months since it opened this summer, I finally went in and tried one of their "wraps." Wraps are one of my least favorite things to eat, but Leña's versions are more like burritos. In fact, I had the impression that this fast food place was not unlike a Chipotle.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Small Bites

 - The Wall Street Journal explains the importance of a cheesemonger.

- Not only have Americans gained weight, so have cookbooks.

- The Freakonomics blog examines the relationship between price and taste among wines.

- Though business slows down in the winter, many food trucks have no choice but to keep turning out in the cold weather.

- Francis Lam indulges in Drake's cherry fruit pie.

- What is the impact of grass-fed beef on the environment?

- New York City restaurant owners feel the pressure of the grading system.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mmm...Enfes! Review

Thanks to a post by Midtown Lunch that a friend alerted me to about gözleme being sold at the Bryant Park holiday shops, I was able to indulge in memories of my trip to Turkey several years ago. Food is a great lifeline to the past, to nostalgia because it stirs your senses — you're connected to the smells, the atmosphere, the people and the place. The taste of new experiences can be strong.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Community Food & Juice Review

A weekday midmorning breakfast is what I'd like to think of as a peaceful domain, fewer crowds and a time of leisure, for those lucky enough to have the hours free. At Community Food & Juice, this was not quite the case. It was perpetually packed with diners and by lunchtime there were people crowded at the entrance waiting for a table. This neighborhood restaurant specializing in organic, sustainable food was opened by the owners of Clinton St. Baking Company, which should have been my first hint that its popularity would not heed the bounds of common rush hours. Despite this, the restaurant did not rush us and generously allowed us to set our own pace, which in our case was rather slow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

El Guyaquileño Cart Review


I was in the mood for something ethnic for lunch, something with some heavy spices or flavors, something to warm me up from the inside and keep the chill out. I thought about returning to the Dosa Cart to try something different, but then I remembered a cart I had seen often on my way to work, parked in Midtown on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 37th Street — El Guayaquileño.

After reading Midtown Lunch's review, I thought the goat stew sounded like the perfect remedy for my cravings.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Small Bites

- The government's lack of action in regulating the egg industry may have contributed to the salmonella outbreak that led to the biggest recall ever of eggs.

- President Obama signs a child nutrition bill, something the First Lady has shown much support for.

- The Zagats weigh in and provide some good background on the disputes that several prominent restaurateurs are having over tips and fair wages.

- What the opening of Hooters in Japan looks like.

- Could thinking about the foods we really want to eat make us want to eat them less? It could be the ultimate diet. But on Francis Lam argues that it would take away from the satisfaction of eating.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Adventures in Southeast Asia Part 4

Our visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia, fell in the middle of the trip, sandwiched between Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. Its rural, tropical feel was a nice break from the big cities. Sadly, we didn't have any good meals in Vietnam. So, this lunch on our second day in Siem Reap was our first truly good meal. After touring a couple of temples, our tour guide took us to Eat at Khmer, a roadside restaurant across from the old royal swimming hole. It was a place that was clearly hosting only groups of tourists. With every vehicle's unloading, children swarmed, singing out "Madam, take a look," in an attempt to sell cheap souvenirs to you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Adventures in Southeast Asia Part 3

My time in Bangkok was limited; with just a day and a half, I wanted to make the most of my few meals in the city. So as soon as we arrived, I had a place picked out for our first lunch: Khrua Aroy Aroy. The Lonely Planet guide only listed the intersection of two streets as the address, so it was a bit of a challenge to find, especially when I had little sense of what type of restaurant I might be looking for. It was across from an Indian temple and had a worn awning with a room that seemed to merge into the sidewalk. Entering this cozy spot was disorienting — we turned heads when we entered and I wasn't sure that anyone spoke English or that there was room for us. But the excitement of trying some real Thai food had my heart beating hard. After lingering for a moment of discomfort, one of the waitresses motioned for us to take a small table at the back to which they had to add a stool or two.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adventures in Southeast Asia Part 2

Bangkok is rich in its street food culture, but the next best thing seems to be the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, simple affairs that are spare and family run. Any basic research on food in Bangkok turns up the name Chote Chitr, a tiny restaurant that has been around for 90 years. There are tons of recommendations for it, but as with any popular place, also many mixed reviews. But nevertheless, I put it down as a must-try, to find out for myself.

After touring Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, I successfully guided my skeptical family to the shadowy doorway of Chote Chitr. The place was empty but for a woman sleeping with her head down on a table — my heart sunk. And it was then I noticed the sign posted on the door: Closed for renovation until Dec. 1. That was the next day. So, that would have to wait until my next visit.

With the Lonely Planet city guide in hand, I tried to find a replacement lunch spot on Thanon Tanao, along which the guide suggested an eating tour. I struck out on the first couple, which appeared to no longer be there. But we managed to find Kim Leng, a place specializing in the food of central Thailand. It was filled with locals who all turned to stare when we stepped inside. A short, round man pointed to the only empty table in the middle of the room, still topped with dirty dishes from its previous occupants. He came over and asked what we wanted, but not being quite that well versed in Thai food, we asked for a menu. He brought over a few, but kindly recommended two dishes — mee krob and the minced catfish with shrimp paste. So we ordered those along with a few tame dishes.

The mee krob was a sticky jumble of sweet, crispy noodles. A few pieces of tasty shrimp hid among them. On its own it was a bit too sweet, but it helped to tame the heat of the spicy catfish.

The minced catfish was fried and tossed with incredibly hot chili shrimp paste and topped with some fried basil. A little bit with rice was tasty, but my lips were soon burning.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Adventures in Southeast Asia Part I

If you've been paying any attention in the last few weeks, you might have noticed a lack of posting. In that time I was traveling to in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand on a family trip. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip with just a couple of days in each place and what felt like constant traveling. I was extremely excited for the food in the region and hoped to have some good reports upon my return. Although I had some tasty meals, much of this trip unfortunately fell prey to tourist traps and a lack of an adventurous spirit on the part of my traveling companions. Also, I have to say that it reinforced for me just how good the ethnic food that is available in New York is. But, I'd still like to highlight the best of my eats abroad.


The streets of Thailand are amazingly rich with food vendors and where I most enjoyed the food. Despite nearly every block being occupied by some form of edible fortification there isn't as much repetition as there is with the dirty water dog and kebab carts on every other New York street corner. Exotic fruits, Thai candies, fried foods on sticks fill the tame end of the spectrum; wok-fried noodles, pots of stews and many other colorful unidentifiable foods call out to the more daring eaters. Dabbling in street food in foreign lands is always a risky prospect, especially when facing plane rides in the near future. I had heard and read mixed opinions on the safety of Bangkok's street food — it's such an integral part of the culture, how could I not try it? Yet, I did not want to be left bowled over in pain. Been there, done that.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Small Bites

- The Senate passed a new food safety bill.

- How food recalls affect consumers' buying habits of those products.

 - A former New York Times restaurant critic weighs in on a reader's complaint that The Times caters to the wealthy by reviewing expensive restaurants.

- The Village Voice interviews Amanda Hesser, founder of Food52 and a new cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.

- Slate takes cues from Rene Redzepi's NOMA cookbook (Redzepi is the chef of NOMA, which has been dubbed the best in the world) to guess what might soon show up in American cooking.

- In case you ever wondered what it would be like to go on a 60-day potatoes-only diet, this man is finding out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

DBGB Revisit

It had been over a year since my first visit to DBGB. I returned with a dining companion who was new to the place. The food on this visit was a notch better than last time, but it still seemed like a place to go to primarily for the sausages; the other food is incidental.

To balance out all the meat in the meal, we chose the simple butter lettuce and chive salad with radishes and garlic mustard dressing. The large leaves were lightly coated in the mild dressing, making the flavors feel well integrated rather than overwhelming. It's the way a salad should be done, if the dressing isn't served on the side.

If you plan on sampling different flavors of sausages, ordering the duo of sausages entree is a good option. We got the crumbly Beaujolaise (pork, mushrooms, onion, bacon & red wine) served with a side of lentils and the Thai sausage (pork, lemongrass and red curry with green papaya, basil fried rice, chili sauce and a quail egg). Both were good, though I really enjoyed the Thai sausage. The seasonings common to Thai food — basil, lemongrass — were bold. But the Thai sides tasted like they were trying too hard.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Shake Shack's December Flavors

Shake Shack is in the holiday spirit with appropriate seasonal flavors. Thursday's flavor sure is a mouthful.

Monday: Eggnog
Tuesday: Figgy Pudding
Wednesday: Panettone
Thursday: Chocolate Orange Chestnut Swirl
Friday: Candy Cane Crunch
Saturday: Gingerbread
Sunday: Spiced Apple Cider