Saturday, June 30, 2012

'The Truck Food Cookbook' by John T. Edge is a Must Have for Great Recipes

When I first moved to the City, many moons ago, I was not a huge fan of eating street food from vendors other than the occasional Hot Dog or Pretzel, and even then I was sure I'd get some kind of food poisoning. Street Fairs were not much better with their high prices and fried everything assortments. Again the fear of stomach pains outweighed the possibility of finding something edible. Fast forward to a couple of years ago when the economy sank, forcing many people to transition to new careers and alternate ways of making a living. Suddenly, as if without warning, Food Trucks began to multiply all over town offering up goodies never seen before on the streets of the city.  There have always been food trucks, so it's nothing new. There used to be a taco truck that used to station itself under the 7 train in Queens where I used to live. No I never tempted fate even though in the wee hours of the morning those tacos smelled pretty good, and they always seemed to have a line. Hmmm. One day somebody told me about a delicious treat that they had on the street from a cart that was called The Treats Truck. An Oatmeal Cookie with a scrumptious Raspberry Jam center, which they called the Oatmeal Jammy. Other treats included a humongous Rice Crispy Treat, Caramel Creme Sandwich Cookies and various delectable Brownies. Yes, yes I ate them all that first time, and in no way did I feel like a pig, until later in the day when I wanted some more. What that experience did was open my eyes to the quality of just what a Food Truck could be. People who probably had dreamed of doing something with food their whole lives, and maybe never had the chance until they were laid off and forced to rethink their future. Whew! Suddenly I began to search out other Food Trucks. I scoured the web for blogs that had reviewed as many Trucks as possible, and then I began to search them out myself. What really stuck out to me other than the quality and choices, was how each individual Truck showcased their specialities. You see most Food Trucks, or should I say good Food Trucks, do one type of food really well. There are Ice Cream Trucks, Burger Trucks, Waffle Trucks and so on. The key is to be unique, to show a new way to experience food that is offered without the constraints of owning a restaurant.
Now, thanks to John T. Edge, we have a cookbook with some of the delicious recipes from our beloved Food Trucks! The book is called The Truck Food Cookbook, and it includes 150 recipes from Food Trucks all over the country. Mr. Edge visited over 200 Food Trucks from coast to coast and believes that..."Street food is theater, it's not just about great food." Amen. So check out the book when you can, it's about 12 bucks on Amazon, so there's no excuse if you don't buy a copy. To give you an excerpt, below are a few recipes from some of our own NYC Food Trucks. Yes, I know, your welcome.
For more info on the book, please visit the website:
truckfoodcookbook.tumblr.com/




RECIPE: TOASTED CURRIED COCONUT
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
2 cups large-flake coconut
1 tablespoon curry powder, more to taste
Instructions
Heat a dry skillet over medium-low heat (do not use a nonstick skillet for this). Add the coconut, then shake the curry powder on top and stir to coat. Taste for seasoning, adding more curry powder, if desired. Cook the coconut until it takes on a golden brown hue, about 2 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning the coconut. Transfer the curried coconut to a pan or heatproof bowl to cool before using it as a topping for ice cream. The curried coconut can be stored in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.
Recipes excerpted from “The Truck Food Cookbook” by John T. Edge ($18.95, Workman Publishing).
RECIPE: CHEATER SOFT-SERVE ICE CREAM
Serves: 4 cups
Ingredients
For the ice cream:
3 cups vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 cup whipped cream (see note)
2 to 4 tablespoons chocolate syrup (optional)
Scoop the ice cream into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the whipped cream and, if you like, the chocolate syrup and beat until thoroughly blended. Cover the ice cream tightly, either by placing it in a container with a lid or by wrapping the bowl several times in plastic wrap. Place the ice cream in the freezer for at least 12 hours; it will still be slightly soft after that time. Then, it’s ready to eat, with or without toppings.
Note: To make 1 cup of whipped cream, pour 1/2 cup cold, heavy (whipping) cream into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Instructions
Scoop the ice cream into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the whipped cream and, if you like, the chocolate syrup and beat until thoroughly blended. Cover the ice cream tightly, either by placing it in a container with a lid or by wrapping the bowl several times in plastic wrap. Place the ice cream in the freezer for at least 12 hours; it will still be slightly soft after that time. Then, it’s ready to eat, with or without toppings.
Note: To make 1 cup of whipped cream, pour 1/2 cup cold, heavy (whipping) cream into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
RECIPE: CALEXICO CARNE ASADA TACOS
Serves: 8 tacos
Ingredients
Traditionally carne asada is made with beef variety cuts like shoulder clod and the lesser sirloins. This recipe, based on one made by Jesse and the boys at Calexico Carne Asada, relies on hanger steak, known among clever chefs and informed eaters as butcher's fillet. The implication is that a butcher knows this cut to be the equal of a tenderloin. That's a bit of an overstatement, but it does make a fine taco.
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika or sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds hanger steak, trimmed
8 small (4 to 6 inches each) corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade
Avocado Crema (recipe follows)
Calexico Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)
1 small head cabbage, cored and shredded
Instructions
Place the lime juice, lemon juice, oil, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, paprika, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Pour the marinade into a large resealable plastic bag, add the steak, and massage the marinade into the meat. Press any air out of the bag and seal it, then let the beef marinate in the refrigerator for no less than 6 hours and preferably for 24 hours. Turn the bag occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly over the meat.
Set up a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. Or heat a stovetop grill pan over high heat.
Remove the beef from the marinade and discard the marinade. Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Grill the steak until done to taste, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice the steak into thin strips across the grain.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and warm the tortillas one at a time in the skillet until pliable, about 30 seconds on each side. As you work, wrap the tortillas in a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm.
To serve, place a few slices of meat on a tortilla and garnish it with Avocado Crema, Calexico Pico de Gallo, and shredded cabbage.
Avocado Crema
At first blush the pairing of buttermilk and avocado seems unlikely, but the interplay of acidic buttermilk and fatty, rich avocado is a natural. Inspired by Calexico Carne Asada, this recipe is just the thing to keep in a squeeze bottle in your fridge.
Makes about 1 cup
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Put the avocado, sour cream, buttermilk, lime juice, and salt in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. The crema can be refrigerated, tightly sealed, for 2 to 3 days; it must be sealed airtight or the sauce will turn brown.
Calexico Pico de Gallo
This pico de gallo, from Calexico Carne Asada, could become your summer table sauce — the stuff you make when the July heat bears down. The stuff you pull from the fridge every afternoon. If you make it in the winter, look for plum tomatoes.
Makes about 1 cup
3/4 cup chopped ripe tomatoes (about 2 medium-size tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes)
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
Place the tomatoes, onion, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper as necessary.
RECIPE: TAIWANESE FRIED CHICKEN
Serves: 4
Ingredients
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds), quartered
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 cups sweet potato starch (see note)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
Peanut oil, for frying the chicken
Cooked rice, for serving
Taiwanese Pork Sauce (optional, recipe follows), for serving
Instructions
Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the five-spice powder, and the pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken to the soy sauce mixture, turning it to coat all sides. Let the chicken marinate, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
Beat the egg yolks with the cornstarch in another bowl. Add the yolk mixture to the bowl with the chicken and stir to mix well.
Place the sweet potato starch, garlic powder, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of five-spice powder in a large shallow bowl and stir to mix. Working with one chicken quarter at a time, dredge the chicken in the sweet potato starch mixture and let sit for a few minutes.
Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a cast-iron skillet and heat over high heat until it registers 350°F on a deep fry thermometer. Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the skillet, carefully add the chicken quarters to the hot oil and cook, turning once, until golden brown and cooked throughout, about 12 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the cooked chicken to paper towels to drain. Serve the chicken over the rice with the pork sauce, if desired.
Note: You can find sweet potato starch at Asian markets.
Taiwanese Pork Sauce
Call this gravy if you like. That's what it is: Pork gravy with soy sauce, inspired by the NYC Cravings folk. In my native American South, this is the kind of stuff we mop up with biscuits, the stuff we plop on mashed potatoes, the gilding with which we anoint a fried chicken thigh. Serve it over rice or fried bird. Your call.
Makes about 4 cups
Peanut oil
10 shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Pour oil to a depth of about 1 inch into a heavy, medium-size saucepan and heat over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shallots and cook until brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels to drain. Do not wipe out the pan.
Add the ground pork to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking the meat up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, and enough water to cover the meat. Return the browned shallots to the pan, reduce the heat, and let the sauce simmer until the water has cooked off, about 45 minutes.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Favorite T-Shirt From Threadless: Meat is Murder, Tasty, Tasty, Murder

This is my favorite T-Shirt from Threadless.com, and I wanted to let everyone else see it since it's on sale for only $9.99! Of course for those who are easily offended, this may not be the shirt for you, but Threadless also has lots of other cool shirts on sale right now. So click the link below to find out how to buy this shirt and others:

www.threadless.com/product/490/Meat_is_murder_Tasty_tasty_murder/tab,guys/style,shirt

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fairway Market Opening in Midtown in November

Red Hook, Brooklyn
Talk about a worthwhile store opening in the city that's NOT part of a nationwide chain. An exciting announcement for the Eastside of Midtown, Fairway Market is opening a new location this November! For those of you familiar with Fairway you know it's a truly New York store, opening it's first location way back in 1930 at it's 74th Street and Broadway location, which is still the flagship. The new location will be approximately 42,000 square feet, and one of largest in the currently 9 store chain. The new location is at Kips Bay Plaza, 30th Street and 2nd Ave, and will be filling the space where an Office Depot and Crunch Fitness once operated. Back in April Crain's New York reported that the grocery chain was in negotiations for the space, but nothing was official until just recently. Too bad for Whole Foods since they were apparently looking at the space as well...boohoo. Not that I don't like Whole Foods, but we are talking about a New York establishment, an institution, and New Yorkers need to get out and support our businesses. Nationwide chains have their place, but if you let them, they'll multiply like Gremlin's (80's movie reference.)

Here is what a typical Fairway Market offers:

  • Huge selection of imported specialty items
  • More than 600 artisanal cheeses
  • Dozens of hot dishes prepared fresh in Fairway's kitchen
  • More than 100 varieties of olive oils including unfiltered barrel oils imported exclusively from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and California
  • Over 80 coffees from all over the world, roasted on premises
  • Aisles with more than 90,000 traditional, specialty, and organic groceries
  • Vast selection of gluten-free groceries and frozen foods
  • Homemade mozzarella, sushi, pastas and sausage
  • Enormous array of smoked salmon, various smoked fishes, and Fairway house-smoked salmon
  • Custom-cut meats and poultry
  • Fresh Glatt Kosher meats and poultry produced under strict rabbinical supervision
  • Hand-selected, dry-aged USDA Prime beef
  • Produce delivered fresh from farms to store, with no warehousing
  • More than 70 types of olives
  • Full line of organic produce
  • Fresh, made-from-scratch baked goods
  • Kosher bakery
  • Organic and natural health and beauty aids
  • Floral and plant department
  • Full-service catering department

What's great about Fairway is that it really feels like a New York store. What do I mean by that without sounding crazy? Honestly you would have had to walked around the neighborhoods of New York for years to truly understand what I mean, but I'll give an example. Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is a true New York food destination with it's 100 year old market in the center surrounded by tons of amazing Italian food shops. For the average New Yorker, it's not a daily trip since not too many people care to make too many trips to the Bronx if they don't have to. For my family, and growing up in Westchester, it was really close to drive to and gave us the real New York City experience without living there. What Fairway does is bring it all together in one store, putting all the flavors of the city at your fingertips. Unfortunately if you live on the Eastside(Midtown) you've never had the chance to shop at one of their markets, unless you were in the area or felt ok with dropping 20 bucks on a cab. For most New Yorkers it's all about convenience and thankfully with the announcement, more people will get to experience just how great Fairway Markets are...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Best Falafel In NYC? Taim In The West Village Says the Daily News

Courtesy of the Daily News
I am no Falafel connoisseur, so I plead a bit ignorant on the subject, but I do know a good one when I eat it. Falafel is not something I have eaten for very long, only trying one a couple of years ago at Maoz (steveeatsnyc.blogspot.com/2010/07/maoz-vegetarian-makes-me-gassybut-it.html), but quickly realizing that I love them. However it's not a dish that I seek out too often, so I'm glad the Daily News picked the best in the City to give me another great place to eat. From the picture above you can definitely see how delicious Falafel can look, and it really makes me want to visit Taim in the West Village (222 Waverly Place.) So please click the link below to see the article in the Daily News:

www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/best-york-falafel-article-1.1099371

You can also read about my visit to Rainbow Falafel & Shawarma if you click this link:

steveeatsnyc.blogspot.com/2010/04/other-end-of-spectrumrainbow-falafel.html

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dairy Queen is Coming to NYC, But Do We Care?

Whoopie! Yeah! At last! We all scream for Ice Cream! Well, I'm not so sure. The CEO for Dairy Queen, John Gainor, announced recently that the company would soon be moving into the NYC market, opening up three to four stores over the next year or so. Ho-hum. Dairy Queen ain't what it used to be. If DQ, as I once referred to it, was still the Ice Cream only shop that it used to be many moons ago, then I might have some interest, but honestly it's become rather run-of-the-mill if you ask me. They are basically now a fast food restaurant that also sells Ice Cream, which to me has ruined whatever nostalgic feelings I had about the place.
For most of my childhood my family vacationed in Cape Cod where my Dad's parents lived, and right around the corner from their house was an old-fashioned styled DQ. What I mean by that is Dairy Queen used to be the drive-in style of Ice Cream shop where you would walk up to a window to order. Of course times change but memories don't. DQ used to be a special treat, a once in a while event that occurred maybe two or three times a summer. You know back when chain restaurants weren't on every damn corner. We'd be on the beach all day, then drive over to Chatham to ride the go-carts, and after eating a delicious Italian specialty from my Grandmother, we'd all head on over to DQ to wait on a ridiculously long line. Really DQ wasn't all that special, it was just custard on a cone for me, maybe covered in sprinkles. Sometimes the simplest things turn out to be the best things. Now if you wanted the best Ice Cream in Cape Cod you went to a place called Sundae School, an old-fashioned soda shop that wasn't too far from the house either. That was even more of a treat.
So what am I getting at? Am I saying that Dairy Queen shouldn't come to NYC? No, of course not. What I am asking is do we really need another fast food restaurant? To that I say no because that's what Dairy Queen has turned into, Ice Cream has become an afterthought for them. They have Burgers, Fries, Chicken Strips, Combo Meals, Premium Salads (Ha, premium,) and baskets of Popcorn Shrimp. They no longer focus on Ice Cream, and that seems a little disappointing.
This announcement also comes on the heels of Mayor Bloomberg's fight to reduce the size of soft drinks sold at places like Dairy Queen. If there is any silver lining here it's that DQ has actually already reduced the sizes of some of their offerings. For instance due to customer requests they decreased the serving sizes of their famous (or is it infamous) Blizzard Ice Cream treat.
First up will be a location at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in St. George (Why they chose that location is anyones guess,) then soon after somewhere in Manhattan. Ok, maybe I'll get a Blizzard at some point with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in it...

The Dirty Dozen...Of Fruits and Vegetables

Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty apple! Yup, you're looking at the dirtiest fruit in the world, and no I don't mean actual dirt, I mean pesticides. Apples are the most pesticide filled fruit on a new list, also known as the 'Dirty Dozen', from the Environmental Working Group. Below is the actual list.

After Apples it's:



2. Celery
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Peaches
5. Strawberries
6. Nectarines-imported
7. Grapes
8. Spinach
9. Lettuce
10. Cucumbers
11. Blueberries-domestic
12. Potatoes
Apparently simply washing these fruits and veggies isn't enough. The best way to avoid the pesticides is to buy Organic which most of our grocery stores today have specifically separated. Also if you are buying at a farmers market, take the time to ask if pesticides were used. I think for most people the perception of Organic = Expensive, and while I understand that feeling it's way better to spend a few extra bucks to get clean fruits and veggies. To read more about the list please visit the site:
There's also a ton of other great info on the site like cell phone radiation reports and a sunscreen safety guide, among others...


Friday, June 22, 2012

Good Humor Runs Out of Ice Cream, Oh No!!!

Ah the Good Humor man, how I used to love to see your truck driving around my neighborhood. What was so cool about him was the fact that he'd drive around in his little truck, then stop and come over and say hello wearing his little coin dispenser. I was so fascinated by that coin dispenser, always wanting one so I could quickly and conveniently dispense coins without having to scrounge in my pockets. Those were the days when I worried about having spare change so I could buy Ice Cream from the Good Humor man. Were there any Good Humor Women? I'm not sure. Official Good Humor Men (or Woman) have been gone since 1978 when the company sold off it's fleet. However some continued as independent contractors and continued to sell Good Humor along with other brands, in fact some of these trucks are still on the road and can even be rented for parties. How cool!

Houston, we have a problem.

It seems that three of the best selling Good Humor bars, Toasted Almond Bar, Candy Center Crunch and Chocolate Eclair, are completely out of stock due to early warm temperatures causing a surge in sales. It has coincided with the closing of one of the parent company's factories in Hagerstown, MD, due to a consolidation of the manufacturing. So what does one do without the delicious Toasted Almond Bars? Wait until the end of July when production should catch up with demand. End of July! Are they crazy? I mean it's not like they just started making the damn things. Can you imagine what Eddie Murphy thinks about this (ref to his old comedy routine) ? Not all is lost, at least Strawberry Shortcake is still available. Whew!

A Recent Trip To Five Guys Burgers and Fries Elicits Cheers From My Children

The heat today was unbearable. It felt like the walls in my house were going to melt and taking a couple of showers just wasn't cutting it. And those faces. My kids were begging to do something fun. So after a trip to the Y where we played some hoops and swam in the pool, I told them I was taking them to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Let me just say that my ears are still ringing. They cheered, loudly, like I'd never heard before...even more than when I told them we were going to Disneyland a few years back. I mean that was a vacation, so maybe I shouldn't compare. What's really strange was that my son, who is 6, was just as excited as my daughter, and he's not even a burger eater! Anyway, it seemed like a good idea to give them a little treat.
Basically I assumed my son was just going to eat the fries, those delicious, fried in peanut oil spuds, but to my utter amazement he declared that he wanted a Hot Dog. "A Hot Dog?" I said. "But you stopped eating Hot Dogs last year when you went exclusively to eating Spaghetti." Literally the boy eats pasta for every meal. Not breakfast, he likes bagels.
The Fried Dog: Rarely Seen in The Jungles of NYC
So me and my daughter, eating our Cheeseburgers smothered in extras, sat and watched as he devoured most of the Fried Dog that had been smartly cut in half. You see to properly fry a dog you don't throw it in with the Fries and submerge it in oil until it is done, no, no, no. You must cut it and lay it flat in a pan or a surface fryer...way better taste. Now there was nothing particularly special about the dog, and since my little boy doesn't like anything on it, it was as plain as can be. However I always find it a pleasure to sometimes go simple and just eat one plain, still a little mustard couldn't hurt. No ketchup on dogs, that's my motto. So of course I waited for that moment. The moment when my son looks at me and says he is full, that's when I pounce. One of the great privileges of being a parent is the over abundance of leftovers. But before I could snag the rest of his Hot Dog he said to me..."Dad, Five Guys is better than McDonalds." It's a moment I may never forget, my little boy is growing up.
Over the last couple of years I've resided myself to the fact that Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Shake Shack to an extent, will be the closest thing to In-N-Out burger I'll ever get on the East Coast. Five Guys is really good. Their Fries are exquisite, and I love how they dump a little extra in your bag. Shake Shack is really an experience, waiting on those long lines. You just have to try it. However nothing has the same feeling, taste or experience of going to an In-N-Out burger. It is truly unique and special, and until you've been there you won't really know what I'm talking about....

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Benny's Burrito's: I Ate Like it was 1991!

Man, it's been years. The place where I lost my virginity, no not what you think. The place where I ate my first Burrito, in fact the first place I ever ate Mexican (that's the virginity reference,) and boy does that feel like a long time ago. Probably 1991, or somewhere around then. I was in college, crazy, naive, and followed my friends wherever they went, even to do something I had never done. Initially I was lured there for the cheap and delicious, monster Frozen Strawberry Margarita's, man they were the biggest I ever saw! I was told that it was also a must to include a Benny's Bay Burrito because otherwise the meal would not be complete. Well let me tell you something, I almost threw the whole thing up that very first time. It was an explosion of flavors that I had never experienced before, it was amazing! I was drunk as a skunk and ready to spew black beans and rice all over the sidewalk. So of course I had to go back the very next night! It was like a right of passage. In order to be on the up and up with my group of friends I had to finish the whole thing, Burrito and Margarita, every last drop, not a scrap left, lick-the-plate kind of done. Eventually after four or five visits I was actually able to enjoy it.
My Chicken Burrito From Today
Ok that was an exaggeration. I quickly began to love the Burrito's at Benny's and worked very hard at my part time job to have enough money to go there as often as I could. I never swayed, it was always the Bay Burrito, Chicken with Black Beans, and a gigantic Frozen Strawberry Margarita, can you say brain freeze? For a time Sour Cream and Guacamole was inside the wrapped Burrito, which is the way I prefer, then changed to little cups on the side. Other than that the Burrito stayed the same through the beginning of the 00's. Then, horribly, as if stuck in a terrible nightmare I moved away, far across the United States to a place where Mexican food ran rampant in the streets...Arizona. It was there that I was introduced to other Mexican dishes, none that I care to name, and to Chipotle, a nice try but nothing quite like Benny's. Soon Benny's Burrito's faded from memory into the depths of my vacant brain, to a place where it would hide for over 10 years. 
When I first returned to NYC back in 2007 it was like I was a tourist or something, like I'd forgotten everything I used to know, including great Burrito joints I'd once loved. So when I finally came to my senses and remembered my roots, my Burrito roots, I walked down Greenwich Ave. looking for my Benny's (I actually prefer the East Village locale,) but it was called something else...Blockheads? What? Wait a minute it was also still Benny's too, how could that be?
Thoroughly discouraged I continued walking, passing the establishment with covered eyes, fearing that if I went in I'd surely be disappointed in what they would try to pawn off on me. Soon the clouds above grew into a black mass. Thunder rumbled in the distance. A small pooch crapped in front of me. Was it the end of the world?
Much time passed as I drifted into a food coma...from eating lots of food of course, as I refused to return to what might be a Burrito impostor. Until today that is. So on a sweltering, practically 100 degree day in the Big Apple, I found myself walking down Greenwich Ave. again, only this time with a renewed hope. A vision of splendor that had come to me as I walked down 8th Ave., sweat pouring down my back, jeez it was hot. What was in store for me? I thought. Would the Burrito Gods shine down on a lost brother like myself, and nourish the belly that came empty?..I'd forgotten breakfast. Thankfully my friends I have good news to report. Benny's is back! Gone was the silly moniker of Blockheads and shining in the front window, full of neon beauty, Benny's Burrito's glowed like the blistering sun above...there is a God, I said, a Burrito God, indeed! Honestly it was like stepping into the past. The flavors were there, the smell, it was almost the same, especially since the Sour Cream and Guacamole were back inside the Burrito! Unfortunately a Margarita was not in the cards for me my friends. It was the middle of the day and I had a meeting to go to. The chimes of responsibility rang in my ears putting a damper on what could have been the most wonderfully nostalgic moment in my entire 40 years!  Damn the guy next to me sucking his straw like a baby with a bottle, his Margarita looked so cold and delicious! If I'd had a knife I could have killed a man today! Well, not with the butter knife by my side, that was simply too dull. Ah to be a college kid again, I lamented. 
Seriously folks, for a great MexiCali Burrito, make your way to Benny's Burrito's for a real Burrito experience that is better than Chipotle. Benny's Burrito's is at 113 Greenwich Avenue, which is still apparently affiliated with Blockheads, but there is also another Benny's in the East Village at 93 Avenue A...I don't know the difference, they're both great and have the same logo. Maybe one was lost in a divorce.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Donatella Wins Best Ice Cream Sandwich In NYC, So Says the Daily News

Courtesy of the Daily News

Near and dear to most children's hearts (and most adults as well,) the Ice Cream sandwich is a staple of Americana. I can remember spending my summers at the town pool, scrounging up enough money to by a couple of them, and devouring every morsel before the chocolate tops of the sandwiches stuck to my fingers. One was never enough, three far too many, but the sandwiches were a perfect amount of Ice Cream and cookie (?). So when I saw that the Daily News was trying to find out who in town made the best Ice Cream sandwich I was immediately enthralled. The Rainbow Cookie Ice Cream sandwich at the Chelsea Pizza parlor Donatella was the winner, besting several other candidates from across the city. I must admit I have never exactly been a Rainbow cookie lover, but I can easily be swayed with the right combination. However the real treat of this delectable dessert is the filling, Vanilla Gelato topped with a smidge of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam....mmmmmgood! Ok enough of my blathering. Click the link below to read the article:

www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/best-york-donatella-wins-best-ice-cream-sandwich-article-1.1095015

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Smorgasburg 6/16: The Aftermath of a Delicious Day in Williamsburg

Fried Chicken and Waffles from Buttermilk Channel
Chicken and Waffles, need I say more? So it didn't take much convincing to get my family to take a detour to Williamsburg yesterday (before heading to see the in-laws in Bay Ridge,) to go to Smorgasburg, the best food festival in the city. Not to mention that it was probably one of the most beautiful days of the year. First off, it's completely overwhelming to have to choose something to eat without feeling like a pig, and especially when you have to kids in tow. Everywhere you look food vendors from all over the region are selling some of the most mouth-watering treats you'll ever find, so my advice is go prepared. Literally you could spend hours walking from tent to tent trying to figure out what you are going to eat, and then when you think you have decided, you see some guy walk by with a meat filled sandwich that looks amazing. Then of course you realize that there are no bad choices. When I say go prepared, check out their website www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/, and see what foods tickle your fancy. My wife seemed to be the only one to listen since she had requested the Fried Chicken and Waffles after seeing the photo on the website. Me on the other hand? You can lum me in with the kids because everything I saw I wanted.
Brisket Sandwich from Lonestar Empire
I finally ended up with a Brisket Sandwich from Lonestar Empire with a side of Potato Salad and accoutrements, that's French for stuff. The kids were actually way easier than I was.
Ribs from Baby Got Back Ribs
Ribs and Vietnamese noodles for the little ones who made me look silly because they chose like they knew what they were doing. I'm a mess. It's probably the worst scenario for me to be standing in the middle of 100 food vendors, I just can't avoid feeling like I'm missing something better. Oh well. It was still a great experience only enhanced by the fact that it's right on the water with an amazing view of Manhattan.
That's my daughter with her Mets cap on
So listen, if you want to have an amazing food day, either alone or with a group, head out to Brooklyn and experience Smorgasburg for yourself. You'll thank me, I guarantee it.

A few more pictures for your enjoyment:

People's Pops Shaved Ice


Brooklyn Piggies Pigs in a Blanket
Mimi and Coco's Teriyaki Balls

Friday, June 15, 2012

New York Mag, Where One Goes To Find Out What's Good to Eat in NYC...At Least That's What I Do


Where do I go to find the best places to eat in NYC? I walk. Ok, ok...other than randomly trotting around the city, I often find that New York Magazine is a great place to find new places to eat in the city. It's pretty much better than all the New York newspapers combined because it offers the most new choices all with a very unbiased opinion that's easy for everyone to understand, yeah I'm talking to you New York Times. You see I don't care about all the fancy this, fancy that aspect that some critics are looking for, I'm just looking for a good meal. Yes, service is important to a good dining experience, but for me it's gotta be all about the food, and not just dinner either. You see I want to know what the best food truck is. What's the best slice of pizza, (that I haven' tried yet?) Who makes the best sandwich in the city? It's those type of questions that appeal to most New Yorkers. We are the kind of people that want to sit-down-relax-and-enjoy-our-meal-without-spending-too-much-money kind of people, and if it's also a little fancy, well that's ok too.
New York Magazine is always doing great surveys too about the best sandwich in New York, or where to get what in different parts of the city. Meaning that they keep it fresh and always have something new for a foodie like me who gets tired of the same thing pretty fast. Below there are two links to current articles that I think everyone will like. One is about great Turkey sandwiches, one pictured above, and the other is about value-minded consumers and the costs of foods in the city. Both are great little reads. If you have time however, pick up a copy of New York Magazine to finger through and find unique eats that otherwise you may have missed...

nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2011/turkey-sandwiches/
nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2011/consumer-price-index/

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Smorgasburg at The Brooklyn Flea Market, A Foodies Dream

For a foodie like me who is always on a quest for new and delicious eats in the great City of New York, it's always amazing to me to find something that I can't believe I haven't already tried. The thing is in New York one doesn't have to go very far to find something truly unique and mouth watering. However when your taste buds scream for something just a bit more exciting, then Smorgasburg at the Brooklyn Flea Market is the place for you...and me of course. It's a Flea Market of Food! And not the food you find at most street fairs in NY either, it's over 100 vendors from NYC and across the region selling all kinds of prepared and packaged foods, as well as fresh produce and items for your kitchen. That description didn't exactly sound exciting so do as I did and go visit one of the coolest, most delicious happenings in NYC, and experience it for yourself!
One of my favorite treats are Mimi and Coco's Teriyaki Balls, as seen above, which you can happily taste every Saturday at Smorgasburg from 11 to 6, rain or shine...
For more info please visit the site:
www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Philly Beats NYC In Best Sandwich of the Northeast, So Says Adam Richman

Courtesy of the Travel Channel

 After watching the first episode of Adam Richman's new show on the Travel Channel, as a New Yorker, I gotta say I'm a bit bummed out. How in the world could he not choose Katz Corned Beef and Pastrami on Rye? I dunno. The winner of the best sandwich of the Northeast is pictured above, and man does it look delicious. It's the Roast Pork Sandwich from DiNic's in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, and as Adam says it's only his opinion. I have not had the opportunity to go down to Philly to visit DiNic's, but it's certainly a place I want to go as I have wanted to try the Roast Pork for some time. Being a huge fan of Katz, it's hard for me to imagine another sandwich being better, obviously I'm biased. Katz is a New York City landmark, with it's fabulous Pastrami, Corned Beef, Hot Dogs, Pickles and ambiance, it just simply smells NYC. 
Back to the show...I really enjoyed this new sandwich competition show hosted by the one and only Adam Richman, who has become a regular in my home. Man V. Food at times was a bit disgusting as it often showcased ridiculous over-eating contests that no normal human should endure, even though at times was fun to watch. This show however offers much more in the way of responsibility and I look forward to seeing where it will go. Of course all it does is make me want to travel the country eating all the sandwiches to see just what I think, but who's gonna pay for all that? Anyway, tune in next Wednesday at 9pm on the Travel Channel to see which sandwiches will represent their regions in the quest for America's Best Sandwich...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Word 'Gourmet' and Taco Bell Should Never Be Associated with Each Other

Warning, the opinion below will be very biased and unapologetic in regards to Taco Bell, so if you are easily offended please stop reading...
Taco Bell recently announced that it was introducing new menu items in order to combat recent changes in tastes in the upscale, fast food Mexican arena, and have the nerve to call them 'Gourmet!' First and foremost the real reason they are doing this is to combat the WAY BETTER Chipotle, which to me is a battle that they will lose. Below you can see all the new items:


Whole black beans with Mexican spices
Cilantro rice with onion, garlic, and parsley
Citrus and herb-marinated chicken with tomatillo
New guacamole made with Hass avocados, jalapenos, cilantro and tomatoes
Fire-roasted Corn salsa with red and green peppers and spices
Creamy Cilantro Dressing
Pico de gallo, diced tomatoes and onions with cilantro, lemon juice and vinegar
Vegetarian versions of salad bowls and burritos

Gee, seems to me like they are basically just trying to copy Chipotle. However for me the sticking point is still the word 'Gourmet' and exactly what that means. Does it mean that Taco Bell will be responsibly sourcing the ingredients associated with these new items? They probably won't. Just go on to the Chipotle website and see where they get their ingredients, it's all there, and it's all good stuff. Listen, I don't care that some chef from a reality cooking show on NBC created the menu, it's still Taco Bell. Not that I'm trying to say Chipotle is the greatest either, I prefer Dos Toros in NYC anyway, but if we are going to compare Taco Bell with Chipotle it's no contest. To this day I still find it funny when typical fast food restaurants (are they really restaurants?) use terms like 'Fresh,' or 'Nutritional,' or the infamous 'Gourmet.' Hey Taco Bell, don't insult our intelligence and act like you are trying to be responsible, just come right out and say that all you are doing is trying to compete, that to me would at least be honest...


Adam Richman Comes Back To Travel Channel With Search For America's Best Sandwiches


I love the pastrami at Katz deli, a true institution of New York City. If you click the link directly below you will see my blog post from 4/23/2010, and exactly how I feel about one of my favorite places to go.


So I was very excited to hear that on Adam Richman's new show for the Travel Channel he will be visiting Katz on it's first episode. The new show will be about his search for the best sandwiches in America, and to find out more click the link below to the Daily News article. The new show airs on Wednesday's at 9pm and is an hour long program.
Photo courtesy of the Daily News

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mickey Mantle's Restaurant Closes After 25 Years

The Mick was my Dad's favorite player growing up as a kid in Westchester, in fact he was everyone's favorite player during a time when Baseball stirred the imagination of an entire country. How times have changed. After 25 years on Park Avenue South, Mickey Mantle's restaurant has closed, and I gotta say it's very sad day indeed. My Dad took me there soon after it had opened and I remember how excited he was just to be in a place called Mickey Mantle's. To this day I still can't relate to the type of idol worship they had back in the 50's and 60's for a bunch of guys on a baseball field. I love baseball, but it's a different sort of love than they had back at a time when TV's were black and white and reporters didn't exactly report everything the players did. These guys were seen as superhuman, and Mickey Mantle was certainly at the forefront of that discussion. Anytime my Dad and I discuss a great player of today he always talks about how fast Mickey was, or how far the Mick could hit a ball, there is no persuading him. So today when I told him about the restaurant closing I knew he took it harder than he let on. You see for him Mickey Mantle represents the best part of his childhood, probably the best memories of his life.
The restaurant was filled with all kinds of Yankee memorabilia, like the jersey's of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio hung behind glass doors, and several of Mickey's bats hung all over. Even for a Mets fan like me, I knew how significant of a place it was even if I don't really remember the food too much, I mean I think I had a hamburger the first time. Back then I wasn't much of a foodie.
25 years is a long time in the restaurant business and one has to wonder if the restaurant could have lasted longer if the Mick was still alive. Not that he was all that involved when it had opened. Mickey Mantle was not much of a business man and certainly during the 80's he spent a lot of his time drinking, so it is hard for me to imagine that he really had much to do with the place. That's not the point really.
What Mickey Mantle's restaurant represented was the memory of one of the greatest baseball players ever to play the game even if his bad habits kept him from being the absolute best. It was a shrine to him, and to a person that so many children grew up idolizing trying to mimmic his every gesture. Even for a Mets fan like myself, something that my Father still doesn't understand, I can appreciate just what this place meant to so many.
The reasons for it's demise are not uncommon. Poor management, a decrease in customers, or a rise in costs. Last April it was reported that the restaurant was having troubles, and just last month a brief reprieve in bankruptcy court was given, but it was to no avail. So I say so long to Mickey Mantle's, a place where I stepped into the past with my Dad who always seemed to get a bit younger every time we went.

Daily News: Anthony Bourdain thinks Brooklyn is the Center of World Cusine

Picture courtesy of the Daily News
I have to admit that I haven't spent enough time eating in Brooklyn, only visiting occasionally to see the in-laws. And while Bay Ridge does offer lots of good dining choices, it clearly doesn't represent the whole borough. Please click the link below to read the article in the Daily News where Anthony Bourdain talks about the amazing cuisine choices of Brooklyn for his upcoming show:

www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/anthony-bourdain-brooklyn-nexus-world-cuisine-article-1.1092234

Thursday, June 7, 2012

2012 Big Apple BBQ Block Party 6/9 & 6/10

The famous Big Apple Block Party is celebrating it's 10th anniversary this weekend in it's usual spot of Madison Square Park...yeah next to Shake Shack. The picture above is one I took two years ago when I first happened upon the BBQ event totally by chance. There's always something special about finding an event like this without previously knowing about it in NYC, but now I'm able to let everyone know about it so you can go! Follow the link below to the Block Party website for any and all info:

www.bigapplebbq.org/index.php

Be prepared for long lines and crowds. Some vendors give away small tastes for free, so those lines will be extra long, but worth it. Prices vary but are fairly reasonable for the amounts of food served. So if you have time please go and check it out!

Outrageous Double-Bacon Potato Salad Recipe from Cookingclub.com

I love a good potato salad at a BBQ during the summer. Usually I go for the ole' standard Hellman's Mayonnaise recipe, which 9 times out of 10 is a winner, however lately my taste buds have been yearning for something more. The other day I came across an article with a recipe for Double-Bacon Potato Salad which used two of my favorite foods...Bacon and Potato Salad. Now bacon in Potato Salad is not an original idea at this point, but I can assure you that this recipe definitely has it's unique points. Please read below....


From CookingClub.com: This potato salad will be the talk of the cookout, thanks to a double dose of bacon that puts it over the top. Diced strips are mixed into the potatoes, while the drippings left over from cooking them are used as the base for a homemade mayonnaise that holds everything together. The resulting flavor is unbeatable.

8 oz. thick-cut bacon
3 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cubed (3/4 inch)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 pasteurized egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon barbecue seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped baby dill pickles

1. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium to medium-high heat 7 to 10 minutes or until crispy; drain on paper towels. Chop bacon. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the drippings; let stand 5 minutes or until room temperature.

2. Place potatoes in large saucepan with enough water to cover; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to low; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Drain; place on large rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until cool.

3. Meanwhile, combine oil and reserved 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in liquid measuring cup with spout. Blend egg, lemon juice and vinegar in blender 10 seconds or until combined. With blender running, slowly add oil mixture in very thin stream until incorporated and slightly thickened. (Mayonnaise will be thin.)

4. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, barbecue seasoning, salt and pepper in large bowl. Gently stir in potatoes, celery, green onions and pickles. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to blend flavors.

5. Just before serving, stir in half of the bacon; sprinkle with remaining bacon.

12 (about 2/3-cup) servings

PER SERVING: 255 calories, 17 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 5 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 30 mg cholesterol, 575 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber


I personally would substitute Olive Oil for the Canola Oil, a regular Hard Boiled Egg for the Pasteurized Egg and White Vinegar for the Sherry Vinegar, though either way this is a great spin on an American classic...