July 3, 2007

Remember When? (Summer Fruit Edition)

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 2:40 pm

I just had a damn satisfying bowl of cereal with strawberries and blueberries in it, made all the more satisfying (but at the same time dismaying) by all my failed attempts to have this same bowl of cereal with strawberries and blueberries for the last several months. Apparently they are now actually in season and so they actually, you know, taste good. But even though they previously weren’t in season and didn’t taste good, the grocery store kept putting them out there for me to buy (at tantalizingly reasonable prices) anyway.

It’s ironic, in this world where you can buy summer fruit in January and winter vegetables in August*, where global supply chains are devised to deliver to the consumer everything he wants when he wants it without respect for climate or geography, that we’ve actually lost a convenience that was intrinsic to the old order: the strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, plums, and nectarines only showed up at the grocery when they were good (or just a little bit before. And stayed around just a little bit after). You didn’t have to be a student of agriculture with a sharp eye for quality to know when it was and was not OK to buy strawberries: it was OK to buy them for the 3-4 weeks that they were available in grocery stores. Now, it’s just a constant exercise in mental discipline and delayed gratification. Ick.

Perhaps this is why I should do more shopping at the farmers’ market.

POSTSCRIPT: H should not read anything in this post to confirm insane and inconvenient ideas developed while reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma

* Who wants winter vegetables in August?


July 2, 2007

Una Pizza Napoletana

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 3:44 am

Last night, H and I wandered pretty much randomly* into the latest pizza lovers’ obsession, Una Pizza Napoletana. The menu is suicidal. There are exactly four food items, all pizzas. No appetizers, no sides, no desserts. The choices are: Margherita (plain), Marinara (no cheese), Bianco (no sauce), or Filetti (with cherry tomatoes instead of sauce). No slices, no toppings, no substitutions. A basically-individual 12-inch pie is $21 (ouch), any variety. There is a similarly limited and uniformly-priced list of wines and beers, which are served lukewarm in a plain drinking glass.

So the pizza better be pretty fucking good, right? Well… it is. Pretty fucking good. Perfect crust: crunchy, chewy, salty, etc. Nicely balanced sauce, nice cheese, fresh basil. Not my favorite pizza in the entire world, which is still either Di Fara in Midwood (a moment of silence…) or Vito’s Pizza of Hamilton, NJ, which was for me like mother’s milk. Still, damn good.

But… can we cut the crap? I’ve had una pizza Napoletana. In Napoli. And they have toppings. Nice toppings. Like arugula and prosciutto. Or artichokes. Or ricotta.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, people, loosen up. You’re doing good work. Now give me some ice cream.

* Momofuku had a wait and we were trying to catch a movie (Ratatouille, which was entertaining, as expected).

January 18, 2007

Restaurants In Japan

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 4:51 am

[Editor’s Note] This is old material imported from my now-defunct Wiki

Here’s the first thing you need to know about Japan: you’re not going to find anything if you don’t have a map, preferably a map with the thing you’re trying to find clearly marked on it. If you buy a guidebook, it will warn you that things are hard to find. This is a lie. Things are impossible to find. Very few streets have names, very few buildings are numbered, and very few numbers go in order. Outside of Tokyo, and even in the less touristy parts of Tokyo, very few businesses have Roman script on their signs—an establishment’s name written in kanji is an essential item for finding anything.

The second thing you have to know: if your Tokyo guidebook is more than a year out of date, it will be almost completely worthless for restaurant recommendations. Said worthlessness will be disguised for a time by the difficulty of finding anything, but eventually you will figure out that the restuarant you are looking for is not just very hard to find, but non-existent. In fairness, the guidebooks will suggest that calling ahead is a good idea. In fact, if you have your heart set on eating at a particular restaurant, calling ahead is absolutely required, or else your heart might very well get broken.

The good news is, if you’re willing to eat almost nothing but noodles and rice, you can get a decent meal at almost any ramen, udon, or soba shop you pass. Tasty, filling, and usually pretty cheap.

I spent my honeymoon in Japan in June 2005 with the guidance of Time Out Tokyo (3rd edition 2003) and Lonely Planet Japan (8th edition 2003). Here are some addenda for travellers of the future.

Time Out Tokyo

Time Out does not give the kanji for anything. Outside of the central city, this can be a problem.


(p. 125) Couldn’t find it. Ended up at a perfectly wonderful, seemingly quite popular place in the same area near the fish market. (BTW, the guide books aren’t kidding when they say to arrive early for the fish market. We got there around 11 AM and it was like a ghost town—no signs of commercial activity whatsoever.)

Ikebukuro Gyoza Stadium

(p. 128) This exists and is in fact quite easy to find. Time Out errs in not making it clear how strange and interesting this theme park dedicated to steamed and fried dumplings is to the Western visitor. Definitely check this out.


(p. 128) Couldn’t find it. In addition, Roppongi is overrated. Like Bourbon Street mixed with Times Square. (Every neighborhood in central Tokyo is like something mixed with Times Square.) We ended up at Freshness Burger, which wasn’t too bad, if a little stingy with the meat.

Pumpkin Cook Katsura

(p. 148) We scoured the neighborhood looking for this restaurant and I’m pretty confident in saying it doesn’t exist. Kiddy Land, around the corner from where this restuarant used to be on Omotesando, is a great place to stop for Japanese toys.


(p. 149) We were pretty tired of searching for restaurants when we came looking for this one, but I’m pretty sure it’s not there.

Lonely Planet Japan (Tokyo)

Lonely Planet gives the kanji for all the restaurants (and other sites) that appear on the neighborhood maps. Location on a map + kanji = good stuff.

Keika Kumamoto Ramen

(p. 194) No English sign; kind of a surprisingly dumpy little place. But the ramen was quite good. The salad comes with corn flakes.


(p. 196) No longer exists. This was kind of mind-bending, because this was kind of a “food mall” that occupied a whole block. We thought we might be losing our minds when we couldn’t find it. But the waiter at the (very tasty) okinamaya restaurant on the 4th or 5th floor across the street confirmed that the building had been torn down and replaced with a mall full of clothing stores.

Lonely Planet Japan (Kyoto)

Tagoto Honten

(p. 366) Don’t be fooled by the description of this restauarant as “one of Kyoto’s oldest” soba restaurants: it is located in a shopping arcade and looks brand new. We walked past this several times before we realized it was the place. There is no English sign, as I recall.


(p. 367) We found this one, though not with the help of an English sign. It is quite good, though fairly expensive and has a very pleasant deck on the river.


(p. 369) Found this one with no problem, just a few blocks off the Philosopher’s Walk.

Harajuku Girls

Not a restaurant, but none of the guide books make it clear that the infamous fashionistas of Harajuku show up in full force on Sunday afternoon, in the square just South of the JR station. You will see the odd Gothic Lolita on other days of the week, but Sunday is the day to see them on parade in Harajuku.

September 14, 2006

NYU Sandwiches

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 2:16 pm

After my cry for help last week, I’ve visited three new (to me) sandwich places in the NYU area.

  • bite is in that weird flattish building at Lafayette and Bleeker (the one that used to be a clothing store of some kind, I think, but I’m showing my age, because apparently it’s been bite for several years now). It is a good replacement for Pamela’s: it has the same kind of up-scale fancy cheese, fancy meat sandwiches, some of which are pressed and toasted. I had the fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and sun-dried tomato panini and I had no complaints. It’s a little pricey though: $7 for the sandwich and a lemonade, plus I went halvsies on a $2 brownie.
  • BB Sandwich Bar (W 3rd between MacDougal and 6th) serves exactly one thing: a cheese steak sandwich. It comes on a kaiser roll, with white American cheese, onions, and some kind of ketchup/chili sauce. It is $4.50 for regular people and $2.75 for NYU people. It is very yummy. (They also have cupcakes, which I didn’t try and which Ittai said he had never tried because he, “doesn’t like cupcakes.” Jackass.)
  • ‘wichcraft (8th Street between Mercer and Broadway) is Top Chef Tom Colicchio’s foray into “fast food.” I got turned onto this place by the NYU paper, which adorably thinks the “East Village” is between 5th Avenue and Broadway. I had the bacon, lettuce, and heirloom tomato sandwich, which cost an absurd $10 (it comes with aioli, not mayo, you cretins). Honestly, it was about as good as a BLT is going to get outside of a fine dining restaurant. But, even so, the tomato was a little mushy. Come on, guys, for ten bucks you can toss out a few mushy tomatoes! The “cheap” side of the menu is a $5 PB&J and grilled gruyere for $5.50. You can also get oatmeal, granola, or grits for $4.

September 11, 2006

Quesadilla, Red Hook style

Filed under: Food — Chris @ 5:06 am

Quesadilla, Red Hook style
Originally uploaded by C+H.

Let’s keep it a secret between you and me and the readers of the New York Times, there’s some really great cheap Latin food available down by the Red Hook soccer fields. Tacos, pupusas, quesadillas so big they’ll break off your arm. Last year when we went, we were the only white people around. Now, there’s white people everywhere… If you’ve got a Fairway and some nice pupusas, you’ve got yourself a neighborhood.

[UPDATE 9/11/2006] Food is available every Saturday and Sunday during soccer season. You should go soon, because the season ends in a few weeks.

September 8, 2006

N.Y. Dosas

Filed under: Food, India, Not Tech — Chris @ 11:07 pm

I had my first post-India dosa today and… it met expectations. Which expectations were to be disappointed.

You may ask yourself: why would someone just two weeks back from India buy a dosa in New York anyway? And I would answer: because the dosa guy is one of the only interesting places to get a “fast” lunch near NYU.* The other top contenders are Two Boots and Mamoun’s.** (Now that I think about it, I haven’t been to Two Boots or Mamoun’s yet. Somehow today I had the overpowering urge for a dosa. (Damn you, id!))

On the upside, I noticed that the dosa guy also offers uttapam and puttu, which I know I like, but have not had often enough to be a snob about (yet).

People of the world: NYU lunch joints. Recommend. A satisfying lunch has to be purchasable for $5 or less*** and it has to be fast take-out.**** Within five minutes of Warren Weaver Hall is preferred. (Joe’s and Two Boots have me covered for pizza slices. Falafel, schwarma, and South Indian are also covered. (Duh.) If I start going to Chipotle on a regular basis, Hilleary will divorce me.)

* This will seem absurd to some. Having haunted the NYU area for 11 years, I am ridiculously jaded.

** Pamela’s merits an honorable mention (primarily and inexplicably for the peanut butter and apple butter sandwich), but they closed over the summer…

*** Private to Tobi: that’s like five billion Rupees.

**** Fellow NYU grad students seem to think sitting down for an hour at lunch is reasonable. They are wrong.

June 10, 2006


Filed under: Food, India, Not Tech — Chris @ 10:36 am

Snacks in the MSR pantry
Originally uploaded by Chris & Hilleary.

I forgot about the snacks! Every day between 5 and 6 (i.e., about an hour before dinner), they bring out snacks in the MSR pantry. Typically there are two kinds of juice (e.g., watermelon, mango, grape, pomegranate) or milkshakes (that’s what they call them, but I don’t think they have ice cream in them), a variety of sandwichs (Bombay*, fruit, chili and cheese), potato chips (which they just call chips, in spite of the English influence), and some kind of “salad” slathered in something like mayonnaise.

The sandwiches and chips come in little take-away boxes with 2 sandwiches and a handful of chips each. This is a silly system, since the chips are more popular than the sandwichs—everybody just digs through the boxes for a pile of chips and you end up having to search for them in various opened boxes with untouched sandwiches.

In addition to the evening snacks, the pantry is always stocked with half a dozen kinds of fruit, a similar selection of cookies, raw almonds, soft drinks, coconut water, and of course, coffee and tea. So basically, I sit around all day and eat delicious junk food. It’s all so… un-American.

* I still haven’t quite figured out what a Bombay sandwich is. It’s grilled and it has a variety of vegetables inside it and it’s somewhat spicy.

April 1, 2005

Paul Kirk’s R.U.B.

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 2:56 am

I had the great privelege of attending a pre-opening party at R.U.B. (Righteous Urban Barbecue, on 23rd St. west of 7th Ave.), a blessing on New York from Paul Kirk, The Kansas City Baron of Barbecue. We sampled ribs, brisket, ham, pastrami, and smoked sausage and it was all outstanding. I wouldn’t put it above LC’s in Kansas City, but it was damn good—at least as good as Pearson’s—and it just may be Mr. Kirk needs to work out the kinks on his new smoking pits before he starts showing us how it’s really done. I will be going back ASAP to try the smoked duck and burnt ends.

Our pile of meat was followed by deep-fried Oreos, which might be my new favorite deep-fried dessert.

March 15, 2005

The ChipShop

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 5:34 pm

The Park Slope ChipShop has been one of our favorites since we moved to the neighborhood. The menu is quite extensive, though we very rarely stray from the perfectly delightful cod and chips. The bangers and mash are quite good, if you aren’t in the mood for fried. I wasn’t impressed by the fried sausage or the Shepherds pie. I have never had the guts to try a Scotch egg. The Stilton, Granny Smith & Walnut Salad is quite good, though somewhat beside the point. I haven’t tried any of the curries, despite feeling generally deprived of decent Indian food.

The fried candy bars are to die for. In my opinion, the Mars* and Snickers bars fare better than the Reeses cups, though I’d take the cups over the bars raw (i.e., unfried) no contest. Nougat and caramel respond well to frying; they liquefy and get deliciously gooey. Reeses’ peanut butter disappointingly resists gooification. I also recommend the candy bars over the Twinkies and the Twice Fried Cherry Pie—the Hostess confections are too sugary to begin with, they fall flat in fried form.

* I believe this is the British Mars bar, which is the same as an American Milky Way (nougat and caramel), and not the American Mars bar, which contains almonds.

February 4, 2005

Mr. Falafel

Filed under: Food, Not Tech — Chris @ 10:44 pm

Mr. Falafel makes an excellent chicken kabob sandwich. Nice fresh pita and salad, tender moist chicken (not what you would expect from take-out). We supplement with our own pepperoncini. Oddly, their falafel is disappointing. I have also found their gyros and feta cheese salads lacking. But the chicken kabob is delicious and cheap, and I would gladly have it delivered any day of the week.

UPDATE: Shish kabob, also good!

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