Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Keko Cafe - Manhattan

Not All Breakfasts are Created Equal
Sometimes, for no apparent reason, things turn out perfectly. Keko Cafe is usually just a coffee spot for me but the Puff suggested trying their breakfast. It is a cozy, warm, closet-sized space with no more than 5-6 small tables. Every inch of the walls is covered with interesting bric-a-brac and a tv on either end, tuned usually to European soccer matches. It feels as if you've left Manhattan and stepped into a cafe in Paris or Amsterdam.

This photo from nosh and nibble.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Caffe Falai - Manhattan

Breakfast Bomboloni
My gut and I would like to thank Serious Eats for their "Best Donuts in NY" post. Ever since I read it my donut intake and waistline have been increasing. I had no clue that bomboloni existed and was perfectly content. Of course, their photo looked so delicious I HAD to have one, so off to Caffe Falai went the Puff and I. Very swanky place, whitewashed throughout, triple chandeliers over the counter and tables bedecked with linen. Not a place where pocket change is gonna cover it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Red Hook Ballfields - Brooklyn

Pupusas for the Puffin
The Puff List is working. The Puff is here for her second visit and what better way to reintroduce her to the BK than to take her to for some Salvadoran pupusas at the Red Hook ball fields. I hear that Singaporeans have elevated street food to high art, so I know what you're thinking: this is a risky move. Thanks to the heads-up from Eating in Translation that this past weekend was the last of the season for the vendors. For those of you not in the know about the ball fields, check this out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cart Guy at 26th & Madison - Manhattan

Friday is Danish Day!
I know, I know - Friday is supposed to be Donut Day. I've been chomping my way through the Serious Eats donut list and needed a break. I went old-school this morning and hit up my favorite cart guy for a pecan danish. If you live in NYC, you know this type of cart guy. He always has a 20-person line at his cart but has your usual order ready without your saying a word. But if you skip his cart for a week, this type of cart guy also says something like "I thought you died!" or "I guess you like that crap McDonald's coffee more than mine, huh?"

I hadn't been to his cart for over two weeks! I looked at my shoe tops, mumbling something about having to travel for work lately, not half-believing the lie. He stared hard at me as he tossed the bag across. "NEXT in line, please step up!"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Despaña - Manhattan

Not Your Run of the Mill Ham & Cheese
I went to Despaña to look for churros (cinnamon-sugared drumstick donuts) to find out they're only sold frozen. Just as I was spiraling into grumpy-mode, I noticed a small kitchen in the rear and shuffled over to inspect. A quick scan of the sandwich list on the counter struck gold: chorizo and manchego. In other words, Puff, good old ham and cheese, but many links higher on the food chain. Chorizo is a pork sausage that includes paprika, giving it the red glow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chinese Mirch - Manhattan

Satisfying, but Not Sock-Knocking
This sunny Murray Hill spot bills itself as Indian-Chinese, not the other way around. I was unable to engage the Indian and Chinese waiters in a debate on the subject, but they did confirm that the word mirch means spicy in Hindi. They have plenty of spicy dishes to bring you to a boil, a good idea on a cool, windy day like today. I warmed up with Manchou soup - vegetables, green chilis and crispy noodles. The slight sourness of the first spoonful was gracefully overtaken by chili-heat.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dogmatic - Manhattan

Piggies in Blankets, Flossy Style
Let's cut to the chase: Delicious! Delicious! Delicious! The name Dogmatic is misleading, these are not hot dogs, these are sausages. Here's how it works, you choose a sausage and a sauce from the list. You can pick any combo you like:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Baked - Brooklyn

For Me, It's All About the Space
Yes, they have freshly baked goodies, coffee from Stumptown, friendly staff and free wifi. The B61 bus even drops you at the front door. These are mere trifles because what struck me immediately about Baked was the space. I sunk into a cushioned bench with my latte and took it all in. The faux crystal chandelier above the counter contrasts against chocolate walls on one side.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stan's Place - Brooklyn: CLOSED

A Bit of New Orleans in the BK
I've only been to New Orleans once, so I cannot judge Stan's on authenticity. I will stick to basics: vibe, food and service. First, it is a warm and inviting space - I went for brunch with Hatebean on a warm day and we sat in a front window that was open to the street. (No, that is not us in the photo.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hanco's - Brooklyn

Banh Mi in the BK
This tiny Bergen St sandwich maker never ceases to please. Lately, it has become my go-to Sunday football half-time meal. The menu is limited, which jibes well with my indecisiveness.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Donut Plant - Manhattan

You Gotta Get Up Early to BKF with the Kid
Friday is donut day, I've decided. Last night as I went to bed I had the Donut Plant on my mind so is it any surprise I woke up before dawn? This is not a shot of the Donut Plant, this is a shot of the moon. I am up early, get it? Ok, nevermind.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prune - Manhattan

What Kind of Restaurant Name is Prune?
No, prunes are not their specialty and they aren't served in any dish. Strange name or not, this is a cozy place whose lunch menu of "New American" dishes doesn't lack ambition. The choices, though few, were so equally enticing that I had a hard time choosing. To start, a barley and oxtail soup. Weighted by the expectation of a West Indian oxtail stew, I found it to be too mild, as unfair as the comparison is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crif Dogs - Manhattan

Dogs, Bacon-Wrapped, Deep-Fried to Boot
I learned about this spot by reading the NYC Food Guy blog. It was everything it was promised to be. I ordered the "Chihuahua" - an evil-genius concoction of hot dog, wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and slathered in sour cream and avocado. True love at first bite. The dog-bacon combo is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. If this doesn't call out to you, I am worried about you. Click on the photo for a close-up. Check out the rest of the menu.

Pho Bang - Manhattan

Vietnamese Lunch in Chinatown
I went to Chinatown to get a Banh Mi sandwich from Banh Mi Saigon but since I am unlucky, I picked the one day that it happened to be closed. Not one to quit easily, I wandered around looking for some Vietnamese and ended up at Pho Bang.
As soon as I read the words "Salty Lemonade", I had to try it. It was a little too salty for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rice to Riches - Manhattan

To Go, Please - My Spaceship is Double-Parked
There is something wierd about a place that serves nothing but rice pudding. Something spacey about it. From the futuristic look of the exterior....

Monday, October 13, 2008

Taci's Beyti - Brooklyn

Jumping the Q Train to Istanbul
I have a colleague from Turkey who, when asked to name her favorite Turkish restaurant, jumped from her seat and began speaking in tongues. "Can you write that down for me?", I asked. As you can see from the title, thank goodness she did. She also gave me a specific list of dishes to try. A few days later, me and my monthly metrocard were on our way to Midwood. I was excited, this was an insider's recommendation - it simply couldn't go wrong. I got off the Q at King's Highway and didn't recognize one language I heard during the three block walk. The place was pretty low-key from the outside, which only made me more confident.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blue Marble - Brooklyn

I Scream, You Scream....
I was during this morning's breakfast search on Atlantic Ave that I discovered Blue Marble, an ice cream purveyor. I made a mental note to return in the afternoon and continued on my way. No further than twenty steps later I did an about face and jogged back. Nobody is gonna know that I had ice cream for breakfast, right?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shopsin's General Store

I Ain't Afraid of Kenny, or His Sliders!
This one is so deep - I cannot do it justice. We're talking about a NY institution, manned by a true NY character - a chef who has his own documentary. I didn't know much about the place or the man until recently, I read up on both in only the last few weeks. If you believe what you read, you should expect a visit to Shopsin's to include being cursed out, yelled at, thrown out or worse. You should also expect some good food. Just look at the menu!

Shopsin's current incarnation is a small corner of the Essex Market on the Lower East Side. Kinda like a glorified stall.

Got this photo here.

I was there specifically for the sliders, a foodstuff with all the food groups you'll ever need. I didn't expect to see the man himself, but there he was, Kenny Shopsin, sitting in a chair near the entrance. I was looking around nervously as he checked me out. "You coming in buddy?", he asked in a friendly voice. No beat skipped - "Only if you got sliders in here." "Come in, sit down. Zack! Throw some sliders on." I later learned that Zack is one of his sons. There were a few customers scattered around - I chose a table out in the market hall, far from Kenny. Ok, to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive - how am I gonna take a photo without his noticing? When the sliders arrived, I no longer cared. I had to get a shot. Please click on the photo and get a close-up look.

Tender, direct, unadorned beef. A perfect blend of meat, cheese, onion and bun. I scarfed all three down within minutes. If you are a doubting Buddhist, pondering trying beef for the first time, this ain't a bad plate to start with.
120 Essex St
Map it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Chocolate Room

Cake and Ice Cream for Dinner
In some cultures it is called a sweet tooth. Me? I got a wolf-mouth full of em. I mean, it just grabs hold of me. I swear. I had no intention of going into the Chocolate Room - none. See, the colors caught my attention, made me turn to take in the full bloom of the place. My feet slowed their usual shuffle. I was standing, staring, not really thinking. Ok, a quick peek inside to see what they got.

I managed to walk by all the chocolate bars stacked up fort-knox-style in the display cases, past the cupcakes, past the kitchen to the back of the place. Ok, I'll rest my feet and sit for a minute. A menu? Sure, I'll look one over. Before I knew it, things were arriving. A small taste of chocolate ice cream. So rich, so delicious. Now the juices are flowing.

Next, a darkly good slice of chocolate cake. So dark that it kinda scared me. Waiter - bring me a coffee, quick! Need some coffee to handle this baby. Couldn't wait though. Carved off a nice chunk and to my surprise, it had a light, clean taste. I blinked and stared at it as I chewed, like I would at an optical illusion. How the hell did they do it? How?

269 Court St
Map it!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stinky bklyn

Ham and Cheese Ain't Ever Gonna Be the Same
First of all, can you think of a cooler name for a cheese store? Check out the sign - I love it. First time I walked inside this Smith St. gem, I noticed that it indeed was kinda, well, odoriferous.
Here's a shot of the outside. I hope they got a chain on that bench, the economy is starting to drag. Before you know it, "bklyn" will start being "Brooklyn" again.
If it ain't obvious yet, they specialize in cheese. All shapes, sizes and provenances. I noticed a number of different Spanish Manchegos - which happen to be my favorite. All you need is some Spanish ham to go along with it....
Got this flick off of flickr.

Speaking of ham.... Click on this pic and take a closer look. Yep, they got the real stuff, straight off the hoof, so to say. I haven't seen it like this since I spent a summer in Madrid. I never thought I would see this in the good old US of A.
So, here is the plan: when you come back we'll celebrate with some Manchego and a few prime slices of the Jamon Iberico. Oh, did I fail to mention that they also sell Chinotto? I feel like I've hit the trifecta.
261 Smith St

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Atlantic Antic

The Street Fair that Wasn't
I don't know when or how or why it happened, but at some point the Atlantic Antic went from being a unique, eclectic street fair to a boring, stale, also-ran. It is full of the same old crap you see at every street festival. They may as well designate one street to hold all street fairs on and allow the vendors to build permanent structures. You know, like a big strip mall.

It has been bad for a while but every year I go check it out with the misplaced hope that it may be good again. Italian Sausage anyone? No thanks, I prefer a 2 by 4 to the teeth.
Oh wait, hang on - polish sausage and corn dogs together.... How original.
I don't even know what kettle corn is and don't care but I bet it is better than cinnamon glazed nuts.

For a more positive look at the Antic, check out this review by Always Eating.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Treats Truck

Treats on the Move
When I first learned of the Treats Truck I thought to myself "Why didn't I come up with this?" Such a simple, good idea. Get a truck, load it up with homemade treats and park in different parts of the city to sell them.

I got this photo from Flickr.

As I've argued before, the peanut butter sandwiches are rich and delicious. I got this one the other day when the Truck was parked near Bryant Park. Delectable, as usual.

I also tried an oatmeal chocolate chip, which was a chewy delight. Broke me outta that group think equation oatmeal+raisins=traditional.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Amy's Bread

Tokyo Ain't Got Nothing on Amy
Ok, look, I loved Tokyo. The Japanese got a lot of stylish, tasty treats. But they ain't got Amy. We got her. We also got her bread and cakes and donuts and....... well, you know the rest. You remember this spot, I'm sure. I arrived there this morning around 7:20am and I had to get in line behind a bunch of Japanese tourists and Parisian ex-pats. I sure wish the dollar would strengthen and thin out the visiting herd. It is laid out exactly as you remember it: production to the right, eating to the left.

Man, what a lot of choices. I could go with any of these and be a happy man. I almost got one of those French blueberry muffins in the middle but ended up going with my usual cherry cream scone.

Bowl of latte was an automatic. I asked for and got an extra-strong. Just look at it. Don't you wanna take off your socks, dive in with a big splash and do a caffeine backstroke? What? You can't swim? Serious?

672 Ninth Ave

Map it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bryant Park

What, No Food???
Ok, this is an entry that is not about food - I changed it up a bit. It does belong on the list, however. Where else can you get the great outdoors, free seating, a nice table to put your laptop on and free wi-fi! Yes, you read that correctly - the whole park has free wi-fi.

So, pull up a seat and get to work! Oh, you may wanna bring your sunglasses....

42nd St to the North, 41st St to the South
6th Ave to the West, 5th Ave to the East