Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Food Desert That Is Newark Airport

In an attempt to have local restaurants at Terminal C in Newark, they have recently opened up a Grand Central Station Oyster Bar. There are a few other places like Gallagher's Steakhouse and Caliente Cab Company, but somehow no matter what local place opens up here they instantly become as generic and corporate as the chains (Macdonald's, Ben and Jerry's, Starbucks, etc).

I thought perhaps this is a function of airports, but then I remembered Portland's Airport and then today I got off at SFO to a sea of local-feeling restaurants.  Maybe it's just the volume of New York City airports that makes their food outlets so lacking in warmth or personality.  The Oyster Bar people made an attempt (they even put in faux Grand Central terra cotta ceilings tiles), yet somehow it feels more like a postmodern cafeteria then a place you'd actually want to eat.  I did end up eating there, however.

I had the Blue Lumps Crab hash; it wasn't really hash, it was roasted potatoes with poached eggs and crab meat sprinkled about, all floating in a watery hollandaise sauce.
It was actually not bad and the coffee was good as was the service.  Certainly given the options I was glad to see the Oyster Bar.  Of course it goes without saying it wasn't cheap. 
Gallager's fares a little better decor-wise; all the wood and gingham table cloths add a much needed warmth and the glass cased refrigerator at the front of the restaurant filled with drying cow carcass does indeed add a note of authenticity. I'm not a steak house kind of guy, so eating breakfast (of all meals) there wasn't an option.  

What I really wanted was a Balthasar type place.  Actually I think a Balthasar's, which is still a big corporate restaurant, but one done so well that it's French bistro theme park decor would actually be unique in an airport environment, especially if they recreated it with the same panache they did at their Soho flagship.


Neil and I ate here the last time we travelled together.  The idea of Japanese before a flight seemed like a treat.  It wasn't.
Steak Escape as a name for an airport restaurant is really funny.


Vino Volo is my favorite place to hang out at terminal C.  They have a selection of small bites and lots of well chosen wines by the glass or the bottle, but no breakfast.  They have also stayed small which has allowed them to keep a warmer, more casual, less corporate feel.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On The Road

Our friend Audrey took this picture just before she left this morning on her way back to LA via Boston.  I've also packed my bags and am heading off to San Francisco for my yearly pilgrimage to to this great food city (really I think the best food city in the world). 

Friday I have a lunch reservation at Chez Panisse and I am so excited!  Otherwise the theme of this trip is eating on the cheap!  I see a lot of market shopping, Chinatown exploration and Mission Mexican in my future.  Stay tuned.  All aboard!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Food Life of A College Student

Neil's nephew Natan went off to college this September; I'm glad to see from these pictures that I have made an impression on his food life. Although, to his credit he, is much more organized than I!

Lani's Farm Stand






The bounty of the Fall season is so beautiful!  This last picture of squash blossoms made me think of a recipe I saw recently where instead of deep frying and battering them, as is usually done, they were stuffed with different kinds of crab, then pan fried lightly and served with a black truffle sauce.  How good does that sound?

These pictures are all of Lani's Farm Stand which is at Union Square Green Market on Mondays.  They grow organically and it is well worth the effort to make sure you get to the Monday market to visit Lani's stand.  They have the best salad greens anywhere (she mixes mint and basil in with delicate baby greens: sheer perfection!)

A great cookbook with inspirational recipes to take advantage of all this amazing bounty is Harvest to Heat (not sure about that title...) but the book is wonderful, I've made several recipes from it and so far they are all winners.  Written by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer and with a lovely forward by Alice Waters.  The theme of Harvest to Heat is the relationship between farmer (fisher, cattle raiser etc.) and cook. The authors go all over the country and find pairings of the two.  So, for example, I made this amazing fish dish where the fish is poached in a sweet pepper butter sauce.  The recipe is a collaboration between Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon restaurant in Portland and Manuel and Leslie Lukas Recio of Viridian Farms.

And of course be sure to buy it at my Amazon Store where I keep adding more and more wonderful Urbanfoodguy approved goods for you and your kitchen. 




Monday, September 27, 2010

In The Kitchen With Urbanfoodguy

My friend Audrey is visiting from LA and staying with us and caught me in the kitchen...

6 Ways to Preserve Apples

One of my favorite food/agriculture websites is Homegrown.org which is sponsored by Farm Aid.  If you haven't checked them out you really should.  They have really great discussions and articles about everything from Beer making to how to Compost.  This week they have a great piece on apples (which are really amazing right now) and 6 ways to preserve their goodness.

I love the idea of making apple cider at home!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stephen Colbert Advocates for Migrant Farmworkers


And he rocks!

This was the only part of his testimony where he wasn't in character and as you would expect a lot of people (politicians) don't get him, but I think his showing up and testifying before congress on this issue will help bring a lot of much needed attention to it.

If you want the big story check out Huffington Post.

And the Vendy Winner us.....


This just in:

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2010 VENDY AWARD WINNERS! – September 25, 2010

Vendy Cup Winner: The King of Falafel & Shawarma, Fares “Freddy” Zeidais

He parks his truck in Astoria but I'm hoping now that he has won a Vendy he might shake it up a bit and move around a little.

Val's 50th Menu

The carrot gnocchi was really delicious and very easy.  I adapted it from a recipe from Marcella Hazan, who serves it with sage and butter and melted Parmesan.

The Watermelon Salad was Marcus Samuelson's recipe and it was a nice change from the usual feta mint watermelon salad.  In this recipe he uses capers, Harissa, sliced almonds, garlic, mint, parsley and tomatoes. He calls it Tomato Watermelon Salad with Almond Vinaigrette , but I called it North African Watermelon Salad just to be exotic...check out the recipe at Cookstr

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Concord Grape Crumble Tart


 I think this might just be the best expression of concord grape-ness that I have come up with so far.  The pastry is a pate brisee (think shortbread), the same filling as the pie only with 3 Tablespoons of Tapioca starch not 2.  For the crumble I kept it very simple:  1 1/4 cups flour (1 cup AP, 1/4 whole wheat) a pinch of salt a short grating of nutmeg, 3 Tablespoons of demerara sugar (or brown) and 1 Tablespoon of cane sugar.  With your fingers mix in about 7 Tablespoons of unsalted butter

The crust recipe I used was cooked for 15 minutes but you don't need to bake it blind; with weights it's much more straightforward.  I then took it out of the oven filled it with the prepared filling (I used 1 cup of sugar but you can use anywhere from 2/3 -1 cup depending on your taste - see the link to the recipe) and lightly sprinkled the crumble on top and baked in a 350 F oven for about 40-50 minutes until the filling is bubbling over and the crust is lightly browned.
I am in the midst of preparing for house guests (Audrey is coming from LA we are so excited) and making diner 2 of 3 in a row so I will get back to you with the recipe for the crust.  In the meantime, go to the market and get some concord grapes while you still can!
The real key is to make it the day before and let it sit in the fridge for a good 8 hours.  I brought it out at the start of the dinner to warm up a bit, but as you can see from the pictures it was not at all runny.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Progress

They spent the better part of last year installing these fancy ass bus shelters and now I see just down the block from me on Grand and Allen they are installing MetroCard machines, so you can actually pay for the bus you've been waiting for (Buses in NY don't take cash, so unless you already have a Metrocard with money on it you were hitherto out of luck, but no longer).

Damn we're becoming so, um, European.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comfort Food

So often when I write recipes here they are somewhat involved, so I thought it might be good to have some balance and feature a few things that are for those nights when what you want more than anything is to get home, make something quick and simple, relax with a glass of wine and watch a DVD.

One of the first things that Neil and I used to eat for dinner when we first met and were living in Washington Heights was refried beans.  At the time this was very exotic: I was from Canada and Neil from Connecticut.  What did we know from Mexican food?  Certainly I used to go out for Tex Mex in Toronto but mostly it seem all about melted cheese and salsa over some kind of chicken wrapped in a tortilla, and the idea of making Mexican at home hadn't even entered my mind.  Then, there I was in the middle of this very Latin neighborhood and the grocery store seemed to be aisles of Goya products.

I'm not sure what it was that finally got me to take the leap.  I think it must have been the joy and pleasure we used to get when we treated ourselves to a trip downtown and dinner at MaryAnn's (which I recently revisited after years and was plesantly surprised at how much I liked it and how happy I was to see 2 for 1 Margaritas and free salsa and chips!)

I bought a can of black beans and a can of pinto beans, opened them, drained them and emptied the beans out into a pot with heated oil in it (a couple of tablespoons of canola or olive oil).  I then added about 2 tablespoons of Mexican chili powder1 tablespoon of cumin powder and a good pinch of cayenne. salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste - I  continued to mash the beans over a medium heat until they reached a mashed potato with lumps consistency.  

Here it is at the start of mashing:
 
Sometimes I'd add a little dried oregano or even a little bit of the jarred salsa I was using.  Always taste and adjust seasoning.  Finally I'd just take the pot off the stove and place it on a trivet on the table (in front of the TV) with a big bowl of corn chips (always buy non gmo chips) and some salsa (I use HOT organic 365 Whole Foods brand these days).  

Here they are fully mashed and ready to eat:
 
Takes about 3 minutes and is one of the most satisfying things I make.  If you feel guilty you can always make a simple green salad to go with this.

Did you ever notice that when you buy a bag of corn chips you end up with a third of the bag in little crumbs that are just useless for dipping in anything?   The solution I  have found is to whip up a few eggs with maybe a dash of cream and add a handful of corn chip remnants and let it all soak for a minute.  While you're waiting add a splash of oil into a skillet and get it hot, then throw the corn chip and egg mixture in and cook it like you would scrambled eggs (always use eggs from a farm not a factory) It's like a Mexican Matzoh Brei.  Melt some cheese on at the last minute and serve with some of your left over salsa.  Yummy!  And so easy.
Lastly,  when all else fails, good bread toasted with cheese on it and maybe some preserves always hits the spot.  I had some left over candied sour cherries and some Kunik cheese and it made one hell of a satisfying lunch!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dhaba and Lexington Avenue's Indian Restaurant Scene

I've been to Dhaba a few times:  it's become my go to choice when I find myself with a hankering for Indian food. They have a huge menu specializing in street food from Punjabi.  I like how the menu is divided up so you can get a huge selection of smaller dishes.  Then they have a section called "London Calling, British Curry House" as well as the "Indo Chinese Corner."  In short, something for everyone. The room is fun and colorful; the back of the banquets along the south wall look like rolls of silk fabric, but in reality they are some kind of tubing which is showing it's wear and isn't so comfy. 

I had a particular hankering for goat, but was eager to try one of the thumbs up chef recommended dishes.  After a long conversation with the pleasant waitress, she said they could make the Achari Goshet, normally made with Lamb (they use Australian Lamb), with goat.  I also ordered Dahi Bindi and some Tandori Roti with butter (the butter option isn't on the menu, but was offered by the waitress).
To drink I ordered a mug o' Chaas with cumin and coriander; for the uninitiated it is buttermilk on ice, the cumin is in roasted seed form and the coriander is fresh and very scarce.  It was delicious.

To start everyone gets a selection of chutney's: Onion, Coriander and Tamarind.  All good, and not to sweet (I hate it when they are sugary).  My favorite was the coriander.  A basket of spice seed filled poppadom is placed along side the chutneys.
 
Dahi Bindi are crunchy battered Okra lightly dusted with some Indian spices.  Even if you hate Okra you would like these:  brilliantly deep fried (no oil slicks here!), crunchy and with just a hint of spice.  Think of them as healthy french fries (not that I can vouch for their healthy-ness).

Rice and bread are extras so I just ordered the aforementioned Roti, which I dipped into my Achari Goshet when it came.  The base of this dish is pickling spices with the addition of hot peppers.  The heat was just right.  When I bit into a chunk of meat it was lamb not goat.  Delicious nonetheless.  As much as I enjoyed dipping my bread in the rich spicy sauce my lamb came in I think next time I would have a carb splurge and get the rice.

As good as Dhaba is it's not cheap.  Don't go with 6th Street expectations, either of the food or the price; my little crunchy Okra dish set me back $14 (which strikes me as too much) and the Lamb was $15.  I don't understand how the food cost for Okra and the food cost for Lamb can be so close?  Nonetheless, as a special treat or if you have friends in from out of town Dhaba is a fun room with an exceptional array of choices of well presented quality Punjabi dishes.


Before I even got in the door at Dhaba I was struck by the selection of upscale restaurants that have sprung up on Lexington.  It must have been 15 minutes before I finally stopped looking in all the windows trying to make up my mind as to where to eat.  Across the street is Saravana Bhavan which is an Indian Vegetarian restaurant with locations all over the world.  I've never been but every time I walk by in the evening there is a line.  Also of note is Cinnamon, another newcomer (to me) on the block, which looks inviting and advertises handcrafted Indian cuisine.  These are just a few of many places that look well worth a trip to Lexington Avenue's little India which runs from 25th to 29th (give or take a few blocks), and don't forget to get there early so you can do some shopping at Kalustyans.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Of Etrog and Pomelo

Etrogs for sale at a table along Essex Street

The Jewish Holiday Sukkot starts tomorrow and lasts for a week (September 22-29).  Sukkot is, as best as I can tell, a harvest festival that involves cute little outside huts (Sukkahs) and the buying of an Etrog (אֶתְרוֹג‎) and a Lulav (a palm frond) which are then used during the services of Sukkot.

So every year in the days before Sukkot vendors set up tables up and down Essex street.  Essex Street between Grand and Canal is really the last few blocks of what used to be a huge Jewish community that spanned the entire neighborhood and in many ways defined the neighborhood for decades.

Now I'm sure you're wondering why I'm telling you all this.  Etrog is a citrus; most of the ones sold here are grown in Israel.  Besides the wonderful festival market-like feel these Etrog and Lulav sellers create along Essex, the Etrog is a rare and delicate citrus fruit and you can candy it's peel (and then maybe even dip it in dark chocolate) or use it in baking (of course the first thing that came to my mind is Christmas Cake...).  You would candy Etrog the same way you would any other citrus, trying to keep the white pith to a minimum and simmering in a sugar syrup (1 cup water to 1 cup sugar).  I like to let mine simmer for hours and sometimes after it's cooked I'll leave it in the syrup over night before I lay it out to dry.

The other, lesser know citrus I have come across in my wanderings of Manhattan's Lower East Side is Pomelo.  Mostly I find Pomelo's here are disappointing, too juicy and too much like a Grapefruit.  In Thailand they make an amazing salad from Pomelo, which are much drier there, thus segmenting easily and the skin comes off leaving a perfectly formed, skinless wedge.  The peel is very thick so don't let the size scare you the actually fruit part is much smaller.
If you are feeling adventurous and are at the North East Corner of Grand and Forsyth where I found these wonders in a Chinese grocery store, you might want to buy one and make a salad.

Like most Thai food the basic ingredients for your salad should be lime juice, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, fish sauce, and then you might want to add some crunchy fried shallots, peanuts, coconut... maybe even a little chopped Cilantro.  I didn't pick one up but I will this week and see how they fare in my ongoing search for the perfect Pomelo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sir Norman Foster Comes to the Lower East Side

This is the great British architect Sir Norman Foster's latest New York Building.

Located at 257 Bowery , it's just a half block north of the New Museum and a half a block south of Whole Foods.  It also is a gallery: Sperone Westwater.

The red box is an elevator that they plan to move to different floors for different shows so that they have an ever changing space (or at least that is my understanding of it).  

My, how the 'hood has changed!

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the building.

Fisk and White Slab Palace

The owners of Fisk and White Slab Palace used to have a huge space way downtown near us (I think it was Orchard between Canal and Division) called Good World Bar and Grill.  It was in this great old building that got torn down to make room for some new hideous monstrosity.  When that happened I figured the funky, fun Scandinavian gastro pub that was Good World was gone for good.  When White Slab opened (about a year later?)  I didn't make any connection, but when Fisk opened next store to White Slab (a couple of weeks ago) I got suspicious and went in and ask and indeed this is the resurrection and rethinking of Good World.

It's just so damn quirky you have to love it.  How many places do you know that serve herring, local brewed beer and have a stuffed reindeer head on the wall?

White Slab is great for an early evening drink, located right on the corner of Delancey and Allen (77 Delancey 212.334.0913).  The entire place is all glass doors that they open up when it's nice out (it's the last picture). You get a nice breeze and a wonderful vista of the comings and goings of the Lower East Side.  So the next time you have a hankering for some Swedish tapas and a beer this is the place for you.
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