Does this need an explanation? I don’t think so. Here’s to hoping this cart outlasts the temporary summer lunch market at Madison Square Park.
As a Harlemite, the most exciting and heralded restaurant event of the last six months was by far was the opening of Red Rooster. A black celebrity chef opening a soul food restaurant in Harlem! Nevermind that he’s Swedish. The tittering commenced. Aunties and church members from across the country called and asked, “Have you been to that Marcus Samuels restaurant yet?” (They always butcher his last name.) And before Red Rooster, I always had to reply, “No, unfortunately I can’t afford to go to Aquavit.”
But Red Rooster is a delight of a place, another showpiece in Harlem’s popping restaurant scene. The decor is welcoming, there’s always a vibrant scene of people waiting, eating, drinking, mingling in the front bar. And the downstairs lounge is never empty Thursday to Saturday, a racially and generationally diverse crowd boogie-ing down to old school jams on the early side, hip hop and dancehall after midnight.
Then there’s the food. Having never sat down to a full meal at one of Mr. Samuelsson’s other venues, I have no basis for comparison. But from years of observing him and following his career, I expected soul food, but with his signature international flavor profiles and his own fine-dining finesse. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I heard a few grumbles from the local color that “well it wasn’t all that” and “it wasn’t enough food” and whatnot… But one must understand: it’s soul food, something that is defined as variably and subjectively as each cook or eater’s tastes. Is it going to taste like your mother’s? Or the favorite neighborhood spot back home that had the bomb [fill-in-the-blank] whatever? NO!!! This is Marcus Samuelsson’s vision, the vision of an Afro-Swede’s interpretation of American soul food. It’s not going to be to “your” taste, or even to a “traditional” taste. It’s to his. You either like it and enjoy it, or you don’t. No shade, but I personally hate both Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s food, both heralded as staples of Harlem soul food. Too greasy, not enough thought or spice for my cultured creole tastebuds. But I loved this.
The food and drinks were simply delicious. Yes I had the fried chicken. No, it wasn’t earth shattering and groundbreaking – it was fried chicken and french toast. But expertly made, with a unique flair. Worth a trip uptown, for those daring enough to brave the 2/3 train to 125th.
I will use any excuse possible to visit 67 Burger in Ft. Greene. Sunny out? Take a burger to Ft. Greene park. Raining? Plenty of space in the actual restaurant to camp out and dry off over a burger and beer. Not hungry? It’s a long train ride back to Harlem, you might be before you get back. It’s just good. The curly fries are everything the curly fries of my childhood should have been but weren’t. They also have a nice selection of beers on tap, I believe I went with the Kelso IPA on this particular afternoon.I will use any excuse possible to visit 67 Burger in Ft. Greene. Sunny out? Take a burger to Ft. Greene park. Raining? Plenty of space in the actual restaurant to camp out and dry off over a burger and beer. Not hungry? It’s a long train ride back to Harlem, you might be before you get back. It’s just good. The curly fries are everything the curly fries of my childhood should have been but weren’t. They also have a nice selection of beers on tap, I believe I went with the Kelso IPA on this particular afternoon.
Oh, Shang (Thompson LES). I would’ve linked, but your website is down. Your food, so delicious. Your service, so atrocious. I waited 20 minutes for a table in a half-empty restaurant, only to be called forward, then asked to wait 15 more minutes while they prepped a table. It was Valentine’s day (’11), I had the special, a delightful steak garnished with peppers that made my eyes water (in a good way). It was a great deal, $25 for a prix fixe that included a little bubbly, a nice dessert. But then a tragic soft-indie-rock band started soundchecking in the middle of dinner… Not too romantic.
In a later visit, I watched as horrified dinner patrons scurried away (some abandoning tables) from blasting urban club music while a D/E-list hip hop producer, hangers-on and a gaggle of chickenheads drank free liquor (some “healthy” infused tequila shit that tasted like cough syrup) to the dismay of the tragically overstaffed bartenders (all 2 of them). The sushi chefs had actually taken seats on the balcony because no one was actually ordering food. I wept a single tear for the establishment. Because the decor and the food really had the potential to be quite sexy. However, this restaurant’s demise is proof positive that it really takes more than just that. It’s ambiance, vibe, warmth, hospitality, people, attitudes that make the place.
I hope the chef lands someplace great, it’ll be worth a visit in calmer pastures.
I am a real sucker for an expertly concocted, deliciously dangerous cocktail. The kind that dances around your tastebuds and might cause a sudden eyebrow raise or a guttural purr. The kind you sip, savor, then swallow… and realize, depending on whether or not you ate before starting in, that you may not be prepared to finish because you’re already drunk. Angel’s Share is my favorite place to get these kinds of cocktails, because they never, ever disappoint. It also happens to be, among the “secret” “she-she” speakeasy cocktail bars, the oldest and most affordable. Their drinks are also my baseline of comparison for whether or not a cocktail is worth its two shakes. Why drink this, when you can drink this or even this?
However, no self-respecting restaurant with great food is going to ignore the drinks that accompany it, and one of my favorite boozy pastimes is to sidle up to a restaurant bar and snack while imbibing. The older I get, the more I prefer a dimly lit restaurant with conversational ambiance to screaming over music that I usually hate in a crowded, standing-room-only bar. Macondo, the dressed-down sibling of the fantastic Rayuela, is always a favorite, especially if you can snag an outdoor bar seat on a nice day.
I don’t remember which two cocktails these are exactly, because the drinks did their duty well… But I do know that over my five years in New York, I’ve tried them all. And most of the seasonal tacos (Hello, Short Rib!), and the skirt steak as well. It has never let me down, and is always worth the wait.
Try something with a smoked salt rim.
On my last day in town, I wanted a muffuletta. While Central Grocery is a historical staple, I’d always found it a bit too oily for my tastes, and the line was always too long. I had my sights set on a newer place that was making a big splash for itself in the city: Cochon Butcher.
The fine dining restaurant, Cochon, was nominated for a Best New Restaurant James Beard award in 2007, the same year David Link, the co-owner of Cochon and the popular Herbsaint, was named Best Chef: South. Stephen Stryjewski, the other co-owner of Cochon, was bestowed the very same honor this year in 2011. This butcher shop was their casual brain child – part butcher counter, part restaurant, part supply shop for amateur gourmet – the epitome of everything that modern “fast food” could be in my opinion. My flight was at 3pm, and I had just enough time to bring back a muffuletta (and a few Hubig’s Fried Pies) to cram in before I returned to New York.
Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. It was the epitome of what I would classify as a nouveau-Creole muffuletta; herby, soft bread perfectly balanced with the finest cuts of meat, a distinctive olive tapenade that may have contained pearl onions and other spices… simple with depth, exactly what would be expected from a Beard-nominee. And in spite of the fact that I was so entirely full that I didn’t think I could fit another bite of food into my stomach, I ate the whole thing.
My stomach was a wreck on the way home, due simply to the fact that I’d eaten entirely too much. By volume. I wasn’t hungry at all when I ate that muffelatta. On the contrary I was quite full. So I already knew that what I was doing could only be classified under the biblical sin of gluttony.
I sat shifting back and forth in my seat trying to find some comfort, to no avail. So I made the utter mistake of consuming yet more – a ginger ale “to settle my stomach”. Less than 30 minutes later, I was fumbling awkwardly in my seat pocket for the bag of terror, which I proceeded to fill to the horror of my rowmate. I didn’t feel sick before or after. Only sublimely embarrassed that I’d actually partaken in a romanesque purge.
A fitting departure for a whirlwind baptism, a forceful re-christening of my stomach into the ways of my old world. Yet an awakening… into a new awareness of health and balance. A knowing, that I still craved another bite in spite of my puke mouth and that I wanted to enjoy eating these things forever, so I had to beat back my primal urges and create balance. You can’t possibly eat rich and gaudy deliciousness for every meal. It’s unsustainable. Hence, my neverending quest for…
Having your cake, eating it too, and walking it off afterward so you can fit into the skinny jeans.
Follow my quest.
At least once a week, both my mother and grandmother would make homemade biscuits from scratch for breakfast. They’d always make a big batch, enough to freeze into “individual” serving sizes of 2 or 3 (“snack” vs. “meal”). Grandma would make buttermilk biscuits, impossibly fluffy and light, and I would eat them with Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and butter. Mom went all macrobiotic when I was in high school and started making them with whole wheat flour. Which was disastrous at first and they came out like hockey pucks. But she gradually learned how to adjust her recipes so they weren’t terrible, and whole wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour became more easily available. I also discovered the love of my life at that point – Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup – and never willingly ate anything else on a biscuit or pancake ever again.
Anyhow, I can’t shake the weekly biscuit habit. I use the JOY recipe, with unbleached flour, sometimes with buttermilk, sometimes drop biscuits instead of rolled (only if I forget and flub up the recipe). I take great pleasure in kneading, punching, and making little shapes with the dough. The problem is, with my singleton status, I end up eating them all myself. Between that and my potato habit I’m likely to ruin my bid for bikini shape. I’ve started walking an average of 10 miles a week to try to justify my carb intake. Because I will forever be entranced by those fluffy little bites of love.
One of my favorite breakfast meals growing up was oatmeal… It felt like a warm hug from grandma. I like mine stiff, with cinnamon, raisins and a fat cube of butter in the middle, drenched in whole milk. But trying to conceptualize oatmeal as a savory dish is both compelling and mind-blowing for me. I’m dipping my toe gingerly into the mix, this time adding a dry-aged grana padano cheese grated over my regular recipe.
Now, Mark Bittman suggested scallions and soy sauce… But I’m leaning more toward the fried egg and sausage mix some Chowhounders recommended, with a little tomato relish or salsa… Any thoughts or suggestions?
San Diego is a quaint, not-so-little place. Forever in the shadow of its bigger and more glamorous neighbor, Los Angeles, it constantly seeks to prove itself as more fun, more laid back, and just as worthy of a settlement for young adults and families as ever. And it largely succeeds. For those Californians that are not internet or entertainment industry-obsessed, San Diego is the perfect place to have a military, bioscience or technology career in a diverse seaside surfing town with globally influenced food, superb weather, and an active nightlife.
My first stop in San Diego this trip was Santana’s, the fast-mexican drive through with the drool-worthy carne asada fries. Any time of day or night back in NYC, I crave this monstrosity at the mere mention of nachos or fries. As such, I made it a priority. You’ll see why here:
I can never usually finish. But I certainly tried!
After a disappointing stay at the Bristol Hotel last year, I decided to upgrade and stay at Se San Diego. Although it’s definitely not New York service (hurried snob that I am), I had a pleasant stay in a well appointed room and was totally worth it for the easy access to chef Anthony Calamari’s wonderful creations!
At my one big dinner at Suite and Tender, I went for the olive tapennade and the caprese salad w/white balsamic vinaigrette… and ended up choosing the short ribs w/pecorino chive red potatoes and the steak au poivre with bacon-honey brussel sprouts over the mustard brined roast chicken (next time!).
A good dinner is like a good tumble in the sack… it’ll put you right to sleep! Needless to say, I slept like a baby.
I had the great pleasure of visiting San Diego the week of St. Patrick’s day this year, and thoroughly enjoyed the Gaslamp District’s festive attack of the holiday. They do the same thing during Mardi Gras each year: close off the restaurant/bar streets, get a massive DJ act, and let the college kids go nuts. What I didn’t do, however, is take any photos. Because you’ve seen Spring Break before. I was just trying to cut through the crowd and get back to my hotel unsplattered by green-tinted beer or puke. But I did escape to a gayborhood bar to enjoy a few green-tinted cocktails and the slider sampler at Lei Lounge before retiring.
I’m a bit sad that I couldn’t get down to La Jolla to visit Nine-Ten during this trip… As the food there was absolutely delightful! One more reason to return…