Sunday, December 30, 2007

Restaurant: Quality Meats

While I have said before that my taste in steak houses is far from perfect, I have been growing more and more fond of this unique dining experience. Recently a friend and myslef headed to a relatively new and different steak house called Quality Meats. Owned by the same group as Smith & Wollensky, it had a really nice hip and homey vibe to it, with a lot of mirrors, exposed brick and wood. Steak houses usually seem to be two types, extremely lavish and high end, or more casual all about the meat type of places. Quality Meats from d├ęcor alone seemed to try to fit in the middle of these two. Heck, even the waiters were dressed like butchers, which I thought was a nice touch, if not a little over the top. My friend considers himself a steak house connoisseur, often attending the top places regularly. Before we go any further, be warned, the wine list is incredibly expensive, even for a steak house. The cheapest bottle (a Merlot, of course) was $42, and most wines were around the $85-$100 range. So of course we went with the beer. The Quality Meats ale, while not terrible is nothing worth spending more than a sentence on here.

The “bread course” as our waiter described it was delicious. Piping hot bread, covered with parmesan, rosemary and oil was served in a single bun, which you broke into 4 squares with a spoon and was quickly replaced once it was devoured. Our appetizers soon followed, my friend getting a nice sized house salad and myself being served a tuna sashimi with julienned papaya. The fish was fresh, the papaya salad very refreshing, but the vinaigrette served with the fish seemed like it needed just a little more lemon and the oil made you lose the texture of the fish. Then again, who judges fish at a steak house?

The steaks and sides came out together and my friend got the three fillets, which ended up being a much bigger portion than expect. Each fillet had a different sauce, one a creamy beschamel, one a spicy BBQ, and one a mushroom sauce (which he had them leave off due to a mushroom “allergy"). From what I tasted the steaks were moist and the sauces very good without overpowering the fillet. My steak, a bone in sirloin, was a bit under cooked, closer to medium rare rather than medium, but after a bite I decided the accident did not affect the taste. One great thing that Quality Meats does is they make fresh a steak sauce in a mortar and pestal. The sauce was chock full of ingredients, and just a few we picked up were orange, thyme, vinegar and molasses. By the end of the meal, I declared it the best steak sauce I’d ever had. Sides were generously sized, suprising and delighting my steakhouse veteran friend. The sauteed spinach, while a little over garlicky was tasty, as was the mashed potatoes. Neither were anything special and could be served in dozens of restaurants in the city. The cheesy gnocchi however surprised us both for it’s size, and how tasty and oozing with cheese it was when served.

I forced us to get dessert despite statements of being ready to explode from so much food. My friend got a blueberry tart which was good, but nothing unusual. Same to be said for my banana cream pie, although the homemade graham cracker crust and cool refreshing taste of bananas and whip cream did help with the overload of meat and carbs.

All in all this was yet again another great steak experience, and my friend was very impressed, vowing to take clients there so he could expense it…

Meat of Good Quality

Restaurant: Caffe Cielo

I think the easiest way to start writing about this restaurant is simply by saying two words - Theater District. I can't think of anyone I know that actually eats or goes out in this neighborhood unless they are a tourist, going to a Broadway show, or actually live in the area. Even most people that live in the area venture further west because the food is better, and it's not catering to Midwest tourists. Caffe Cielo is an average Italian restaurant, that on a Saturday night at 8:30 was barely crowded, never a good sign for any place. Wines were about average, both in price and selection, and the prices as a whole were about what you would expect from a touristy area, a few dollars more for everything, and just not worth the price. The price is even worse once you actually start eating. If you like standard Italian food, with big portions, and the price to match, this is the right place.

By no means is this actually "Northern Italian" like the restaurant claims, and my starter of Insalata Graziosa, was quite bland. A nice combo salad on paper with arugula, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella, the salad needed more dressing and bite than a sprinkle of lemon juice and olive oil. Not to mention the fact that the sun dried tomato totally overpowered any other flavor in the dish because there was too much of it. Others at the table didn't even finish their salads, and the plate of "fresh" mozzarella tomatoes and basil was disappointing. The tomatoes tasted like something from Met Food and the mozzarella was very watery and crumbly.

For a main course I had a grilled swordfish with capers, olives, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and oregano. The swordfish tasted like they forgot to salt and pepper it before grilling, and was a bit over cooked and tough. The sauce was actually quite tasty, but again needed some salt and tended to overpower the normally strong flavor of the swordfish. The other dishes around the table looked nice, but not surprisingly no one finished their meals. While service was nice, the food was very average, and might impress someone visiting New York who only knows Italian food from pizza places and Olive Garden.

Caffe Cielo (why the extra F in Cafe?)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Dish: Italian Hero

Just the mention of an Italian hero, hoagie, saaaaandwich, grinder or whatever else you want to call it will make most men drool. It is one of those classics that is always popular because of the combination of different Italian meats and cheeses, great bread, and toppings ranging from hot peppers to just simply oil and vinegar. Heck, next to the meatball, the Italian Combo is probably one of the more popular choices at Subway and can almost always be found at any deli or sandwich shop. While I still occasionally dream of the Italian special at the "cheese shop" (R.I.P) near my high school, the best hero of recent memory was at Mama's of Corona Queens. Mama's is actually sold at Shea Stadium in the lower levels, but once you've had it from the source there is no going back. Mama's is also known as "Leo's Latticini"and it has three components, an old world Italian deli, a bakery (where they make their hero rolls) and a pasta shop.

I was lucky enough to take a little trip out to Corona for lunch on a cold Friday afternoon and must admit I was a bit intimidated by the store. Usually there is a board, or some listing of what you can order, but Mama's simply has rows of meats and cheeses and lots of people speaking Italian. I decided to do as the two Italian men in front of me did, and just order the special, which on this day happened to be just what I wanted. Besides the perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside hero roll, the hero came with thick cut fresh homemade mozzarella. The meat was a nice combo of salami and a peppered ham (I could be wrong, I don't speak Italian). After this the required oil and vinegar, plus the option to add roasted red peppers and marinated mushrooms, which I of course said yes to, combined to make for the types of bites of a hero that make your mouth tingle and your stomach happy. The subs are huge, packed with meat, and with a 20 ounce soda were only $8.50. Plus, they let you take your food next door to the bakery and cafe and sit and eat without having to order anything.

Sometimes Italian heroes have 4 types of meats, 3 cheeses, and a million different toppings, but Mama's proves sometimes less is more. Is Mama's the best in NY? I like to think it's up there, but sadly I don't know too many old Italian places (of which I know there are many) in the city. Hopefully I will find more soon.

Get to know your Mama

Monday, December 3, 2007

Restaurant: French Roast

French Roast, while technically a chain, is actually an above average French place simply because it does simple, popular French food in almost a diner like atmosphere. Similar to the other restaurants owned by this group, like L'Express, the restaurant is crowded, not too expensive, and serves up a wide variety of french, and French American fare. My recent trip to the west village location was for a very late brunch (is there any other kind?). I started with my usual Bloody Mary and a cup of coffee. Having had this maybe a thousand times, it takes a lot for me to actually notice something special. The bloody mary was exceptionally good, with just the right amount of tomato juice, pepper, vodka and horseradish. I even got a slice of cucumber with it, practically a healthy drink. The coffee was distinct for a simple reason, it lived up to it's name. The coffee actually tasted like the beans had been roasted thoroughly, and had that rich flavor that is lacking in 90% of the coffee out there now.

For the actual meal (there's only so many bloody mary's you can drink before you eat something) I got a croque poulet, or in English a grilled chicken sandwich. Similar to a croque monsieur, it was made with gruyere and grilled so that it was crispy and cheesy. It came topped with avocado slices, and a small side salad with a vinaigrette. The bread and cheese were amazingly rich, and the chicken nicely flavored with some herbs. Ultimately it was a great change of pace from a burger, eggs, pancakes, waffles or other standard brunch fare. Heck it looked so good (and big) that the large woman next to me kept staring at me and my plate as I ate it. Slightly uncomfortable, but flattering for ordering right. The only thing I would have changed was having the avocado actually in the sandwich instead of on top, and it wasn't exactly ripe, but it's also not the season.

Overall I would go back to French Roast, I have no idea what it would be like for dinner, but for brunch, it gives some great options besides the standards, with a french spin of course.

Laugh like the French, Eat Like the French

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beer of the Week: Boddingtons

I first really became intrigued by Boddingtons when a friend of mind who drank it religious showed me what I thought was blasphemy in beer circles. He shook an empty can of beer, and it made a clinking sound because there was something inside of it with the beer. Apparently, I learned that Boddingtons has a small metallic nitrogen doo-hicky (scientific term) at the bottom so that when poured from a can it gives a nice head. This is referred to as a nitro can, or nitrogen can. What kind of crazy technology will they come up with next, beer that doesn't make you have a gut? Wine that doesn't stain your teeth? Tequila that doesn't make you wake up in jail?

After this experience I of course had to try the beer, both from a can and on tap. Needless to say whether it is the nitrogen or the fact that it's British, the beer is lighter than expected. Boddingtons has a very interesting balance of the lighter smoothness you might find in an ale, but also the bitterness you expect in a darker beer from England or Ireland. The ale is also surprisingly creamy, and flows similar in your glass to when you pour a Guinness (it is poured the same way too, although the wait isn't as long). Some would say the taste is a little bland, and that the whole nitrogen thing is a bit gimmicky, but I find it a refreshing alternative to some the other "creamy" beers that taste great going down, but fill you up really quickly. One warning, if you get a keg that seems low on nitrogen, or is a bit old, the beer can taste really bad, and makes you regret ordering it the instant you taste it. This actually just happened to me at a bar called Wharf, so beware!

Number of Beers Drank in one Sitting: 3-4 (Depending on how much you like creamy beer)
Pair with Food: Personally, I think the creaminess of the beer takes away from any food, but I could see it going with fish and chips nicely.

Beer + Nitrogen = Deliciousness

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Restaurant: Cafecito

Usually when I venture down to Avenue C for food I head further downtown, but on a recent trip I was convinced to make a left instead of a right. Cafecito from the outside doesn't quite give you a sense of traditional Cuban anything. Once you step in the door and spread open the curtains, you are immediately aware of two distinct Cuban elements, the somewhat loud music (which I think was Cuban), and a great smell of garlic and delicious warming bread. Sadly, I wasn't that hungry when I went, and was a little sick, so I didn't get to try as many things as I would have liked. A small bar in the front lets you have some drinks and watch football if you don't feel like sitting in the back dining room. In the summer I believe you can sit outside on the sidewalk, but in the winter...well have fun with that.

Although I have never been to Cuba the food tasted and seemed extremely authentic. It's no frills good delicious cooking. I started with the simple Sopa De Pollo, or chicken soup. I have this secret love of chicken soup (maybe it's a Jewish thing?) and I really enjoy trying other cultures versions of it. This version was nice and rich, full of big chunks of chicken and some delicious fresh cilantro. The bread that came with it was great for sopping up the broth, but one major problem, I nearly choked to death on a small chicken bone. I know these can be missed, but I usually don't like the threat of choking to death with a meal.

The main dishes were much better and extremely well priced. I got the Masitas De Puerco which consisted of huge tender chunks of mojo marinated pork with tons of grilled onions and a roasted corn and sweet potato hash. A little bit of pork, a slice of grilled onion and some hash with a few drops of fresh lime was a delicious bite, although some the onions could have managed to be on the grill for a few minutes longer. While full of flavor, I was craving some sort of sauce to tie it all together, but instead relied upon the plentiful amount of limes provided. My dining companion had the Camarones Al Ajillo and I was pretty jealous from the start. The large shrimp were in a small bread stew with garlic, butter and lime. The bread absorbed all the flavor and was maybe the highlight of the dish, but then again, sweet plantains are an experience by themselves, and there were quite a few on the plate.

I will definitely be back, since the steaks I saw coming out of the kitchen when I walked in had a beautiful green Cuban chimcurri sauce which I have to try, and everything is so cheap. One very very important note. They don't take credit cards, so come prepared with cash so you don't get stuck like I did running to an ATM when they hand you back your credit card.

Visit Cuba without violating US Foreign Policy

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Condiment of the Week: Ketchup

Ketchup, or Catsup, or however you want to say it or pronounce it (I personally say Catch-Up, which is 100% wrong) is an American staple. Foreigners tend to associate American cooking with putting ketchup on something as witnessed by Micah on Top Chef this past season. A lot of association of ketchup with Americans is because of our fast food culture that has tried to spread throughout the world. When your known for burgers and fried food, ketchup isn't very far behind being put on the plate. So what is it about ketchup that we love so much? Well for one it's got a great sweet taste, and has a thick consistency that makes it perfect for dipping, but yet still can drip a little off a burger when you take an Eschelbacher bite. I still remember as a kid the only way my mom could get me to eat brussel sprouts was by giving me ketchup to dip them in, although eventually I "graduated" to spicy brown mustard. For many, this example is common, using ketchup as a way to disguise the taste of something for children that may not be popular, or even as a way to get a child excited about anything you serve. Heinz ketchup is almost synonymous with the condiment, and for good reason. Its flavor is probably stronger and sweeter than many other brands, has a better red color than others, and is so processed you are not even sure if tomatoes were involved in the creation of the french fry accompaniment.

As much as I love putting ketchup on the normal fries, burger, chicken fingers and other such healthy foods, ketchup really shines when you see how you can incorporate it into cooking, rather than as a sauce or dip. I like to use ketchup as a way to thicken and sweeten sauces for meats, and concentrate its flavor by reducing it with soy sauce and jalapeno.

Catsup Vs. Ketchup

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Dish: Pasta Bolognese

Many Americans when they think of Italian food think of the classic Italian-American dishes, and one of them is always pasta with meat sauce. In real Italian cooking this is usually referred to as a Bolognese sauce, because it originated and was perfected in Bologna. After spending a day in Bologna I actually managed to try the real deal, and while I have no idea if it's the best in Bologna it was pretty amazing. So far I have yet to have anything in New York close to this, but I find the biggest issue with American versions is that they are too afraid to cook it with the richness that it needs to be such a hearty meal. Plus, at least the one I had was with small cubed carrots, which actually added a nice sweet flavor to the meat, and very little tomato. Heck, what I had was so rich I wouldn't be surprised if there was butter or heavy cream in the sauce. The vast majority of Italian restaurants confuse a tomato meat sauce wit ha bolognese, and thus end up with something totally different. Most recently I had the bolognese with fusilli at Three of Cups, and a gnocchi bolognese at Lanza's. Even further back I have had a bolognese at Franks which is by far the best downtown that I have tried, and if memory serves me fat orange clog wearer has some form of a bolognese at Lupa, and I know I tried it but I can't remember much beyond being really really full and satisfied by that meal. Usually bolognese is served with Tagliatelle, and whenever I see this on a menu correctly I pretty much have to consider it as part of the game time decision.

When it comes down to it pasta bolognese is a great dish to order out, but in reality it probably the easiest and most fun and satisfying Italian dish to make at home. All you really need is some meat (usually beef), some tomato paste, and of course carrots. The rest varies, but many include heavy cream or milk and panchetta. It's a really easy dish, and when done correct can feed a lot of people in a delicious way.

The Real Meat Sauce

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Beer of the Week: Maudite

Maudite is maybe the only beer I can think of that could ever supplant my love affair with Newcastle. It is not a very common beer, and may be the best thing to come out of Canada since, uhm, well, I'll get back to that sentence later. I used to refer to Maudite as the devils brew because it has the devil on the bottle and it has such a high alcohol content that it can really hit you hard. For some people who claim it takes a lot of beers to get them buzzed, I submit Maudite to you, with it's 8% alcohol volume. For reference many beers have half that kind of alcohol. I know on a recent night I had 3 and was quite buzzed, but the really great thing about the beer isn't how easily it gets you drunk but rather the unique taste. Maudite is one of the few beers where you actually want to pour it with a delicious frosting on top. Instead of a standard pint glass Maudite should be poured in more of a decanter style glass. The beer is actually refermented in the bottle, so the older it gets the stronger the flavor. Usually what you can find in the US is about medium aged, and will be amber color but not see through, almost like a wheat beer. The taste has a sharp almost sour citrus bite to it, but it's not bitter like a darker ale. When a sip is savored a bit, you can almost taste some yeast and spices, but ultimately it's the finish that makes the beer worthwhile.

Ironically these crazy Canadians named this beer after a strange legend of a flying canoe that was steered by the devil himself.

Number of Beers Drank in one Sitting: 3 (and then I fell over)
Pair with Food: Absolutely, pasta stands up well to the strong flavor, as does a good steak or even food covered in hot sauce

The Best Thing From Canada Since...?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Condiment of the Week: Heinz 57 Sauce

Seems like Heinz makes all the condiments I like, weird, but hey can't fight the man you know. Heinz 57 Sauce is technically a steak sauce, although calling it just that limits it greatly. Too often I feel people see a label of "steak sauce" and think it would be blasphemy to use it with anything other than steak. Heinz 57, like many steak sauces makes a tangy and savory marinade for most any meat, although it is a bit strong for anything other than steak if your going to actually use it for a sauce. It also mixes well with other lighter ingredients if you want to add it to chicken salad, or even as part of a salad dressing. Heinz 57 has more of a citrusy and sweet flavor than a lot of steak sauces, particularly A1 which focuses on the vinegar flavor more than anything else (in both a good and bad way). The mustard and pepper flavor is also a little more distinct, and in general it taste richer than most steak sauces found in your local supermarket. By no means am I saying this is the best steak sauce you can find (that's a whole other argument), but it is very versatile, and a good starting point for marinating and grilling of meats. If you want to use it with fish, make sure the fish is a strong flavored steak, such as a swordfish or even a salmon.

Favorite Use: Marinate sandwich steak with it and pair with carmalized onions and pepper jack on a hero

Most Unusual Use: Combine with stronger citrus, garlic, and something cream (mayo, mustard etc) to make an interesting and unique salad dressing

Get Saucy

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beer of the Week: St. Pauli Girl

For some reason I find getting bottled German beer in the U.S. that is fresh very difficult. And by fresh, I mean not "skunky". Yes, I realize skunky is just a word that Budweiser created, but it is a very aptly named term. Too often the lighter German beers like Becks, St. Pauli Girl and others taste like they have been in the beer fridge for months. With that aside, I am not a huge fan of St. Pauli Girl, but then again, I don't seem to like any light commercial German lagers. The taste is more bitter than your average light lager, and the finish is not as clean as american, mexican and asian beers. Would I drink it? Sure, why not. Would I ask someone to please pass me a St. Pauli Girl? Only if it was the St. Pauli girl herself handing it to me. Did I recently drink three of these out of a ginormous beer mug? Yes. Did I do it for this blog? Definetly. It actually wasn't as bad as I had remembered it being, and it might actually be a decent beer to eat with some bratwurst or other German sausage, since personally I like a light beer with most heavy German foods.

Number of beers drank in one sitting: 2.5
Pair with food: Only the heavier German food (is there any LIGHT german food?)

Get Some Free Pictures of the St. Pauli Girl (Oh, and info about the beer)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Restaurant: Graffiti

First off, I must admit, I have been looking forward to eating at this restaurant ever since it opened right across the street from me. It's cozy, seating less than 20 people and a feel of what a living room would look like if we all had incredible taste and Indian backgrounds. A large Buddha, framed Indian imagery, chandeliers, exposed brick, candlelight, it all adds to the atmosphere of a cozy place. Not to mention the awesome "starter" chopsticks with animals on the top (please, someone tell me where I buy these?). The chef himself will often welcome you, and clearly wants to make the place accessible to the neighborhood and not some stuck up wine and food bar that only the foodies go to. I came in with a bag of apples from my parents garden, and by the end of the night he was offering to make something with them if I brought him a bag tomorrow. Oh, and did I mention the chef is a former pastry chef from some brand names like Jean Georges and Union Pacific? So yeah, you know he's got the skills, but what about the food? It's split into shareable plates of varying price ranging from $7 to $15. The chef recommended 5-6 plates for 2 people, but knowing his specialty we decided on 4 plates, and 2 desserts. Everything on the small, but diverse wine list is $8 a glass or $25 a bottle, so we went with a 2003 Malbec from Argentina. To start we had a watermelon and feta salad with mint sorbet. The flavor combination was amazing, combing the icy cool freshness of the mint sorbet with the sweetness of the watermelon and the saltiness and crumbly texture of the feta. It was probably my favorite dish, but I would recommend asking for it after ordering one of the heavier dishes, it's a great way to cool and refresh the palate. Main dishes included an Asian crab roll with cucumber and pickled onion confit which was also light and extremely tasty. Another favorite of mine was the chili pork dumplings, with our chef explained "candied grapefruit and semolina crunchies". I know, this sounds odd, but the combination of spicy, very sweet and crunchy had my dining companion and me fighting over the last dumpling, and only coming to a deal after I offered her an extra piece of scallop. Oh yes, the seared diver scallops with pickled ginger, candied chili's and an herb bread. Great texture, the bread was delicious and could have been eaten on it's own, but the three combined made for a taste where I didn't quite know what was in my mouth, by my taste buds were thanking me.

If you can't tell by now I was very happy with my meal, and there were about another 10 dishes I wanted to try, but will have to wait till next time. In the meantime, how about what this chef is known for, his desserts. Of the three, we tried two, the coffee chocolate steamed bun with peanut butter ice cream, and the stoned fruit bruschetta with black pepper ice cream. Personally I LOVED the chocolate steamed bun, to the point where I had to ask for silence after my first bite to really get its full affect. My friend liked the fruit bruschetta better, and it was more like a cobbler, but with less sweet topping. My dessert oozed dark chocolate with a soft chewy bun, as the peanut butter ice cream was absorbed into the bun and mixed with the chocolate making each bite like a luxurious Reese's peanut butter cup, but on steroids. The fruit bruschetta, despite being heavy on dates, was sweet and rich, with the black pepper ice cream adding a spicy coolness that balanced the sweetness of the fruit.

To say I enjoyed this dining experience is an understatement, and to say that this place is too fancy for your average person is also an understatement. Your taste buds will thank you, and you will walk out with a smile because it's like you just ate at home. I personally will be back this week, and hopefully will see what kind of creation the chef has come up with from the apples. One tip, if you plan on going, you will probably have to wait given the size. Personally, I would try to go during the week, and go early, they open at 5:30. I showed up at 7 and got a table right away, but it was rainy. By 8:30 it was full, and people were waiting, on a Wednesday. You do the math for a weekend.

Legal Delicious Graffiti

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Restaurant: Sal Anthony's Lanza's

Before I say anything I should point out that I have a bias for this restaurant because I know the family who owns it, and I even used to work for them in some of their other cafes and restaurants, prior to the flagship Sal Anthony's closing. Not to mention the gyrotonics (with white sauce). Now that we have that out of the way, Lanza's is a classic example of Italian comfort food in a cozy setting like you parents or grandparents living room. The decor is old world Italian, with paintings on the wall of the original owners when it was opened in 1904 and murals of Italy. Plants, paper table cloths and a nice wooden bar complete the feel. They even have a garden in the back that not many people know about, where Italian music is piped in, and is amazing on a summer evening with a bowl of steamed mussels. The food itself is nothing fancy, just what you’d expect from this comfortable neighborhood spot. Classic pasta dishes accompany simple dishes like vegetable lasagna, chicken with a fennel cream sauce and trout with rosemary. I've pretty much had every dish on the menu and personally I love the spaghetti Lanza, which is a basic marinara with fresh cubes of mozzarella on top. Meatballs, frutti di mare, the aforementioned trout, chicken calabrese and any of the pastas, especially the salmon cream sauce or clams in white wine sauce are excellent. Appetizers are pretty standard fare with the fresh mozzarella plate, pasta fagioli and melon with prosciutto. Desserts are delicious, and if you can take some richness, you have to get a piece of the black and white cake. The tiramisu is also superb. Prices, as you would expect, are extremely reasonable, and they have a pre-fix menu every night.

On our most recent night the woman sitting next to us explained that she sometimes comes for lunch to eat with all the old ladies who hold court on a daily basis, and have been doing so at Lanza's for decades. That’s the kind of neighborhood Italian place you get when you go there, and while the food will never make you say “wow, I’ve never tasted anything like this”, it will make you feel all warm inside and want to give mama a call.

Italian Home Cooking

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Dish: Pad Thai

In my mind Pad Thai is to Thai food what Chicken Parmigiana is to Italian food. A hearty classic that Americans seem to associate as the go to dish for that cuisine. Many people will say things like, I love Thai food, and then when asked what their favorite dish is, will say "Pad Thai from xyz restaurant". And I have to say there's very few things to not like about Pad Thai, although I wish more people would try other dishes in Thai restaurant, they have amazing and diverse flavors. Pad Thai is one of those few dishes that you almost never would try making at home because of the numerous ingredients and difficult harmonious balance between the 4 S's, salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Your standard pad Thai has chicken, sometimes shrimp, cured tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, noodles, scallions, eggs, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and lime juice. Most places will ask you how spicy you want it, and add hot pepper flakes to accommodate. The better Thai places will use chili's instead of the pepper flakes, or even a chili oil to cook the food in, but the latter is rare and also delicious. A good pad Thai is not greasy, and all the flavors meld into one so that on any given bite you can taste the citrus of the lime, the spiciness of the hot sauce or chili, the tender chicken, the saltiness of the fish sauce, and the sweetness of the egg. Not to mention the nice crunch and texture you get from the bean sprouts and the scallions, which add yet another dimension to the dish. Some of the best I've had are from Why Curry, Sea, Holy Basil and Peep. One of the worst I've ever had, shockingly, came from a chain, Kai Kai.

Learn more about why Thai Food is so amazing!

Beer of the Week: Pabst Blue Ribbon

I think most people when you say Pabst Blue Ribbon, or its more loving name of PBR, think of nauseous fumes, very drunken college nights, and sitting in the dirties diviest old man bar in the village that you can think of. Yet somewhere along the way this beer became the quintessential hipster beer (I hate you all by the way, yes you hipster). PBR is considered an old fashioned beer, usually grouped in with Schlitz and other disgusting, yet light and drinkable beers that you find yourself gravitating towards right before starting a 24 hour binge drinking affair. In fact, it won America's Best Beer award (which it proudly states on the can) in 1893. You have to wonder, what was it's competition in 1893? I'd be lieing if I said you could taste a difference between bud light, coors light, PBR and any other drinking game type of beer, but PBR seems to have taken on a life of its own, where people will go out of their way to order it at a bar since it usually is $3 or $4. Personally, I find myself always giddy right before I crack open a tall boy, but usually this is followed by a very unhappy stomach Saturday morning at 11am. So here's a toast to binge drinking, and tasteless beer from Manhattan all the way out to williamsburg.

Number of Beers Drank in one sitting: Why Count them, when you can drink them?
Pair with Food: Only if you count that 3:30am stop at Vanity Heaven for a couple of slices

Find out what makes Hipsters so AWESOME

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Condiment of the Week: Tiger Sauce

A recent wedding, believe it or not, reminded me of this somewhat unusual condiment. The bride had once told me in college that she could not live without Tiger Sauce, and I didn't really believe her, but had to try it nonetheless. While it isn't my favorite condiment, it sure beats most out there. Tiger Sauce at first glance may look like an average pepper hot sauce, with a big tiger on the bottle, it's reddish color, and it always being placed next to other hot sauces. In actuality Tiger Sauce is more of a marinade or actual sauce than it is hot sauce. Although the primary ingredient is cayenne pepper, it's is a very sweet and tangy sauce, with a thicker consistency than many marinades. Upon first taste it seems very sweet and citrusy, but once it hits the back of your throat suddenly the cayenne pepper grabs hold and you realize where the "tiger" part comes from. The company who makes the sauce claims it has 28 ingredients, but will not list all of them. Some of the key flavors I think are Worcestershire sauce, tamarind (mainly for color), and some sort of pickled vegetables. Some people have become so into the sauce they have tried making their own from scratch, with mixed results.

Favorite Use: Make a marinade for flank steak using tiger sauce, garlic, cilantro, and orange juice and let it sit overnight. Flavor is extraordinary, with a nice combo of sweet, citrus and heat.

Most Unusual Use: I like this sauce so much I dip vegetables and pita into it, although you have to be able to tolerate the heat for this. Also, try mixing it into a crab cake mixture to accentuate the natural sweetness of the crab, and to give some spicyness without a spicy mayo.

Feel the Tiger

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Restaurant: Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

I think anytime your heading to a steakhouse you need to assume two things: Your going to eat a lot of food and really enjoy it and you better bring a lot of money. I am the first to admit that I am not a "steak guy", generally preferring somewhat lighter more elegant food like fish, but my experience at Del Frisco's was very eye opening to me. The night started with a well made 7 & 7 at the bar where I managed to overhear the bartender talking about how the New York version of this nationwide "chain" started off so slowly that corporate had to convince people to stay on. This was followed by him mentioned that they are now the second to only Tavern on the Green in what they are making in New York on a yearly basis. A $12 cocktail probably helped their cause even further.

The restaurant, housed in the McGraw Hill building is immense and immaculate. It has a very old world feel to it with most things being made of wood, or huge wide open windows. We were lucky enough to be seated on the second floor in a room with not too many tables so the only noisemakers were ourselves. We later found out that the space is an old cigar club, which explained the labeled cigar lockers next to us, as well as the wood and airyness of the space. The service itself was almost impeccable, except for two things: Sometimes we couldn't get drinks fast enough (although that may have just been the bunch of alchies I was with) and we didn't get baseball score updates quick enough. The one over the top thing is when they bring you the steaks, they ask you to cut into it in the center, shine a small pen light into your steak and ask you if it is cooked right. I mean, this is one thing I could do without. If it isn't cooked right I will tell you and send it back.

Ok, I should probably get to the food by now huh? I had a Caesar salad to start, and apparently everything is bigger in Texas, including the croutons. I immediately took them off my plate and fed them to the table. You could probably feed a family of 4 with them, and do I really need that much toasted bread before I have my steak? Caesar salad is what it is, a solid salad, but I don't think anyone has ever waxed poetic about a caesar . We also got some crab cakes in a lobster sauce and some onion rings. The onion rings were again huge, but very nice crispy batter, with a pepper mixture that gave it a little kick. I would say it would have been even better with some sorta of Cajun remoulade dipping sauce. The crab cakes were good, but for something that the waitress described as a "specialty" I was a bit underwhelmed. The crab cake itself was meaty and moist, but the sauce was so strongly flavored that I could taste the crab.

I'm saving the steaks for last if you can't tell. We got a ton of sides, including mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, creamed spinach and some cheesy potatoes (I think?). The creamed spinach was the standout among these to me, although I as I've said before I am now biased towards mac and cheese. So steak....yeah mine was great. I had a huge porterhouse, that was cooked perfectly medium. I actually really like the dry rub that is seared onto the steak, but be warned it is very peppery and could turn some people off. It was on every cut of steak that was had at the table, from the double porter house to the strip. The filet mignon was the only cut that didn't get the rub, but hey, every steak house has their thing, and at least his add a nice accent and flavor to the meat.

I didn't even mess with desserts, but as a whole the meal was excellent, and I left with a very heavy stomach, and a very light wallet. Sometimes you wish the opposite of a meal, but in this case, I was pleased.

Cut That Meat!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Condiment of the Week: Franks Red Hot

Ok, so I promised myself I wouldn't write about another hot sauce for a while, but it's hard to think of condiments I like when my favorite is hot sauce. Franks Red Hot original flavor is probably the next closest in brand name hot sauces to Tabasco. By the way, Tabasco is maybe the worst hot sauce you could ever use. You might as well just light your tongue on fire and remove all your tastebuds. But I digress. Franks is my "go to" hot sauce for literally anything, from mexican, to chinese, to noodle dishes, eggs, tuna salad, sauces, marinades. It has a nice distinct flavor to it, and has a good amount of heat, but never seems to overwhelm what you put it on, probably because it does not have too much vinegar. Many common sauces served in restaurants start from base sauces, or mother sauces, and then have ingredients added to them, and for me Franks serves a similar purpose. It's like a base hot sauce, and you build flavors on top of it. Without it, the flavors don't marry together as well, and you feel like there is something missing. Is it good enough to have on it's own? Sure. Would anyone who likes spicy flavorful food want that? Probably not.

Favorite Use: Splashed liberally on top of a three egg omlette
Most Unusual Use: Coating one side of a Grilled Cheese prior to grilling

The Better Tabasco

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Beer of the Week: Moretti

So apparently I went on a Mexican beer kick without even realizing it, maybe it was the end of the summer, or my glory days in Cancun. Luckily enough I managed to rediscover my love of Moretti last weekend while dining on a plate of meat. Moretti is actually one of the first beers I ever had back when I worked in an Italian restaurant and the owner used to come in at the end of the night and have Moretti's with the staff. Moretti, or "Birra Moretti" is a somewhat amber beer that is very popular in Italy, where wine usually dominates. Although the beer tastes suspiciously like it's owner Heineken (Not a bad beer to taste like), it is really a pale amber beer, with a smooth finish, not much bitterness, and goes well with pasta and other Italian dishes. For some reason some people think it is a dark beer, probably cause of the brown bottle, but it is quite light. It may not stand out much in a beer competition between other pale ambers, if your in an Italian restaurant and don't want the wine, I would highly recommend ordering a Moretti.

Number of Beers Drank in one sitting: 3
Pair with Food: Definitely, especially brick oven pizza, somewhat heavy pastas, and meats.

Catch up on your Italian Beer knowledge

Friday, September 28, 2007

Restaurant: S'MAC

I feel like Homer Simpson writing about this restaurant, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe because I picture him taking one bite of their food and saying "MMMMM, S'MAC". Either that, or it makes me think of a blaxploitation film in the 1970's where someone is dealing S'MAC.

Ok, but I digress. For those who don't know about S'MAC, shame on you. This is the next generation of mac and cheese. I don't even like Mac and Cheese, or at least what I thought was Mac and Cheese. After having the Mac and Cheese at S'MAC a few times I am a convert. Calling it Mac and Cheese is like getting the DB Burger and saying you "had a burger for lunch". Each dish is made to order, with your chosen toppings added in and baked and served in different sized cast iron frying pans like you would find down south. Varieties range from All American, 4 Cheese and Cheeseburger, to the more out there Cajun and Brie. Plus, you have to try at least once the Buffalo Chicken. You even can "create your own" by choosing your different cheeses, vegetables and meat. Plus the portion sizes come small (Nosh) enough that you can order 3, share with someone else and not feel like too much of a glutton. Or if you really want a meal, get the "Munch". And if you happen to be from middle america, you'll probably want the "Mongo". Yeah, the names are a little Starbucksy, but I just love the word nosh so much, I'm willing to overlook this. I just love the choices here. They let you decide if you want bread crumbs on top, heck they even have whole wheat pasta if you want a little "health" in your food.

Oh, and just in case you didn't think it could get any better, it's really cheap, and there is a "S'MAC Happy Hour" where select Mac & Cheese combo's are even cheaper.

Favorite: Tie between 4 Cheese & Cajun
Least Favorite: Garden (damn vegetables are getting in the way of my cheese!)

Get some legal S'Mac

The Dish: Seared Barramundi with Yukon Gold Potatoes & Calamari

Sometimes when you eat out or cook at home or even have a snack there is a single dish or food that stands out, to the point where you don't need to write about the whole meal or everything you ate. Or maybe it's just lunch...

In this case it would be just lunch. Recently on a trip to the Grand Havana Room, I was lucky enough to order this delcious barrimundi (not pictured, I just thought this looked classy). The fish itself had a crispy skin from searing it in a frying pan, and was probably finished off in the oven. Flavored with some light herbs like parsley and oregano and thyme, the fish alone would have made the dish. The yukon potato slices and chopped up bits of bite size calamari added an even better contrast. Barramundi is a very mild whitefish, and the strong taste of potatoes and calamari were great when eaten together. Topped with a sweet red wine reduction and an earthy pesto like sauce without the garlic, and it made for a member of the clean plate club in no time.

Best way to eat each bite: piece of fish with skin, a potato, small piece of calimari, and a lil red wine reduction. Finish bite and repeat until full of happy goodness.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Condiment of the Week: HP Sauce

Quick, I say British, what food do you think of? Fish & Chips? Probably one of the few actually good British imported foods other than their various "pies". Similar to what I said about Lizano sauce, HP Sauce is like ketchup to the British. Well, actually, technically it is a "brown sauce" but it is the most popular, and pretty much all we know on this side of the pond. HP Sauce is a tangy blend of malt vinegar, spices and most importantly to me, molasses. Molasses is one of those ingredients that doesn't get nearly enough credit in cooking, and when something is made with it, man can you taste it. Ever eat a baked good and wonder, hmm what is that sweetner? That would be molasses. But I digress. There's also some fruit flavor, although I always felt that this was more of a subtle flavor than a front and center hear me roar type of flavor. HP is really good in sauces and marinades, but really excels when just eaten on it's own. I love topping burgers with it, or dipping french fries or even fried calamari! Ask a brit though, and it's really the best possible thing to eat fish and chips with.

Favorite Use: Fish and Chips. Especially if you first douse the fish and chips with malt vinegar when they are hot so it is absorbed, then dip in HP sauce and live the high life.
Strangest Use: Believe it or not, I've seen it used in mixed drinks, although for the life of me I can't find a recipe.

Beer of the Week: Sol

You gotta have Sol. Ok, bad joke, but seriously, you should have Sol. Do you like Corona, Tecate, or any other somewhat light beer that you drink with citrus? Then not only would you probably like Sol, but you would probably be impressed by it's crisp taste, but full of flavor more so than a Corona I feel. It's a very refreshing beer that actually is light enough to actually almost absorb some of the lime flavor when added to it, but not lose it's taste. And served ice cold, you feel like on of those Corona commercials just sitting on the beach with no care in the world. Mexican beer is very underrated, and this is probably one of those beers that flies under the radar because you don't see it in every single bar and i've never actually seen it on tap.

I've got Sol, and I'm super bad.

Number of Beers Drank in one sitting: 5
Pair with food: No, except a lime

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Restaurant: East Japanese Restaurant

By the name alone this restaurant sounds like your run of the mill sushi joint in Murray Hell frequented by people who like sushi, but don't strive for something different. Take a closer look, however, and the restaurant itself is a fun, different and entertaining experience. The sushi itself is good, nothing beyond your slightly above average spot in Manhattan, but it comes via a conveyor belt. Apparently this is considered "fast food" in Japan, but compared to our fast food, well I think we have a lot to learn. While you can get a seat at a booth, or at the fancy upstairs where you take your shoes off, the real fun is getting a seat at the sushi bar where plates of 2-5 pieces of sushi go by you freshly made for you to choose from. The plates are different colors and looking on the menu you can see they represent different prices, ranging from white (the cheapest) to black with gold and silver (of course the most expensive). Half the fun is trying to figure out what each sushi is, and trying new ones that look interesting, all the while stacking up your plates and deciding what to grab next before it gets by you. If you don't see what you want the chefs at the bar will happily make it for you, and waiters come often to see if you need anything off the menu or more drinks. The sushi ranges from your standard California roll and brown rice spicy tuna to anaconda/typhoon rolls, spider rolls and even a kobe beef sashimi ($10). Even desserts like lemon custard and some weird squishy balls come around with non-sushi appetizers like seaweed and other small salads.

Take a date or take a group, but either way, they will instantly love the idea of grabbing food as it comes by, and before you know it you'll have more plates stacked up than you thought.

Favorite Plate: Spicy Tuna roll - no mayo, just hot pepper flakes in the rice
2ND Favorite Plate: tie between Philadelphia Roll & Spider Roll

Sushi on a Conveyor Belt!!!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

What the heck do you do with...Tofu

The eternal love of vegetarians, and the undying hatred of everyone else is usually heaped upon this soy based product. Ask any meat eater and they will instantly ask you why? Why would you subject me to eating this, when I could have had meat. Chicken, beef, veal, pigeon, anything but Tofu. But ask a vegetarian and you will hear them talk about the variety of different tofu's, and how versatile of an ingredient it is. I tend to fall in the middle camp. As a meat eater, I would much rather have a dish made with meat than tofu, but I can appreciate tofu as a nice way to add texture and depth to a dish, or even to stand out on its own. Like chicken, tofu is very flexible and lacks in a distinct taste which is why it is often paired with strong flavors like chili, ginger, garlic and curries. Adding smoked tofu to pad thai is delicious, or mixing it into a vegetable curry works really well too. Many Japanese foodmarts will also sell marinated tofu with hot chili spices. Heck, softer tofu can even be used to make some desserts where you would never even know soy was being used.

So to those who say no to tofu, I say, give it a chance. It tastes like whatever sauce it's served in, and is quick and easy to make.

Favorite Preparation: Grilled tofu with a carrot ginger vinagrette at Rice

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Restaurant: La Taqueria

A good friend of mine is trying to get me to explore Brooklyn more, and thanks to my innate fear of the outer boroughs, and the denizens that lie within, I have been taking her up on it. Luckily, she's starting me off slowly with this great little Mexican place on 7th ave in Park Slope. La Taqueria when we went by on a Friday night had a line for take out (always a good sign) and a fun funky dining room with murals and and bright lively colors. The waitress was very friendly, and the free chips and salsa were on the table so quick I didn't even open my menu. The salsa actually caught me off guard, with a little more kick and flavor than your average run of the mill salsa that most Mexican places put out for you to fill up on while you decide if you want cerveza or margaritas. Despite the free chips, I had to try the nachos and wasn't disappointed. The chips, despite some reviews, were not soggy, and actually were nice and crisp. I mean, honestly who eats nachos slow enough to actually let them get soggy? The only thing I would have like was some jalapeno slices on top with the guac, sour cream, pico de gallo and cheese.

For a main course we both got enchilada's, mine a carnita's with a roasted tomato sauce, hers your standard green tomatillo chicken enchilada. My love of carnitas goes back to the really bad Desperado sequel, and this didn't disappoint. They were well cooked and tasty, and the sauce had a nice flavor too it. After a little hot sauce addition (it is Mexican after all) I of course cleaned the plate. The chicken enchilada's were also tasty. The only real issue I had with both was the tortilla's seemed awfully thick and felt like it was a bit much bread. But hey, after a few pacifico's and margarita's, your suddenly a lot less critical.

Overall it was a fun, funky little joint, and my one regret is that we didn't try the table side guacamole. Then again, we noticed on the way out that they don't use garlic in it, which always bothers me. It's not necessarily traditional, but I like the flavor that it adds. I will just have to save that for next time, when I also get one of their giant burritos.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beer of the Week: Stella Artois

Stella, as it's more commonly referred to, was never a favorite of mine. I think I had some really skunky bottle back in high school and have not liked it since. Recently, however, I was lucky enough to have a few bottles left in my fridge and I figured "what the heck, it's still beer" and gave it another shot. Apparently Belgium doesn't just make good chocolates and boy was I surprised. A very light lager, it actually tasted like other "imported" beers that are light and easy to drink heavily like Amstel Light. It has a nice crisp finish, and seems to be much much better when on tap. Personally I don't see myself drinking it too often unless i'm at a bar, it's a draught and I don't want a heavy beer, and I don't just want a $4 bud light. Damn imports can really run up that tab!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Condiment of the Week: Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Among the thousands of hot sauces Sriracha is king, and anyone who even remotely likes a little heat with their food will agree with you. Personally, I buy this stuff by the giant squeeze bottle because I go through it so quickly. Usually many people don't even know the name of this sauce they just refer to it as the squeeze bottle hot sauce, or the hot sauce bottle with a rooster. Sriracha goes best with Asian foods, like chinese, thai, and vietnamese. Personally I also use it with mexican food and in a lot of marinades. Heck in college we use to just squeeze it onto crackers like it was a dipping sauce. Plus, with it's bright red color, thick consistency, and distinct chili flavor it makes for a nice finish on top of many dishes. While most hot sauces are thin and liquidy, usually with a lot of vinegar and burn your mouth like someone lit a match inside of it, Sriracha bursts with flavor and just enough heat to keep you honest.

Favorite Use: Generous squirts poured over Chicken with Broccoli
Strangest Use: Casey on Top Chef used it to make ice cream. Oh yeah, and also used poblano's, dried apricot and potato chips. I love Sriracha, but come on, did she really think this would actually taste good?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Restaurant: Frisky Oyster

The Frisky Oyster is in Greenport Long Island, but when you sit down it's like your in some hot trendy place down in Soho or the Meatpacking District. The music is mainly house, the walls are covered with soft flowery fabric with not too much light and candles on the tables. All the waiters and waitresses are attractive, and are extremely attentive. Oh yeah, and they even serve food too. Getting a table there this past Sunday for Labor Day weekend is clearly not an easy task, there were tons of people waiting at the bar and up front. I managed to have a nice glass of syrah to start while filling up on some bread (which you probably could get better at a sports bar). The appetizer, however, was great. Shelter Island oysters with an apple mignette went really nicely, but then again, how hard is it to make an oyster taste good when they are fresh. The mignette was just the right amount of acid, but I didn't really taste much apple. Other people at my table had some of their salads, one of which I have to admit I wish I ordered. The country salad came with crispy pancetta, roasted garlic and gorgonzola over some nice mixed greens. The crispy big chunks of pancetta alone were delicious, but paired with the rest of the dish it made for a really good salad. Sadly 1 oyster only bought me 2 bites of salad, a very unfair trade in my mind!

For a main course I had prosciutto wrapped scallops with a corn & bean salad on top of a yellow heirloom tomato gazapacho. The prosciutto was almost impossibly thin, but one bite and you knew that it was enough with a great combination of a perfectly cooked scallop and the smoky fattyness of the prosciutto. It was like an italian surf and turf. The corn and bean salad was actually cold, as was the gazpacho, which made a nice contrast to the right out of the frying pan scallops. The salad itself had a nice crispyness, but didn't fight the flavor of the rest of the dish. I was really excited for the gazpacho, since anytime I see it I have to order it, but half way through the dish, I didn't even realize I was eating it. The taste was excellent, but it was more of a yellow tomato sauce than a gazpacho, lacking the garlic and other vegetables that normally make something a real gazpacho. Still, it was an interesting take on a classic, and I found myself trying to eat all of it. Then again, this is usually the case...

Dessert left a lot to be desired, the strawberry rhubarb cobbler being way too tart, and the creme fraiche ice cream tasting like cold and nothing else. It's not even really worth writing about. Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing, cause the "best ever" key lime pie was delicious, and made me feel like I was down in Florida.

Overall, I would highly recommend Frisky Oyster, just be aware that their menu changes daily, so you never know what you might get. Not many vegetarian options, if at all, but there are non-fish dishes (usually italian).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Beer of the Week: Newcastle Brown Ale

mmmm Beer. Ok, so I probably could say that about any beer other than Sam Adams (Sorry New England, but your taste in beer sucks). I order Newcastle anytime I see it's distinctive tap, it's like the sirens in The Odyssey even when I have decide to only have one. Newcastle for me is that perfect balance between a slight bitterness, and an aftertaste of sweetness that I love about a good beer. It is technically a "brown ale" although most people who aren't a bunch of beer snobs tend to group it in with other beer from England and Ireland like Boddingtons, Guiness, Bass and Youngs. Not to say I don't like the beers I just listed (maybe some future posts) but nothing compares to a well poured draught Newcastle, with some tasty "frosting". The slight hints of either chocolate or caramel nicely offset the bitterness, and although I don't know this for sure it seems to have a higher alcohol content than a lot of your average on tap beers.

Pair with Food - Possibly, but it is very filling and strong taste so not ideal
Average # drank on a night out - 3-4

Learn more about why you should let Newcastle get you drunk

Condiment of the Week: Salsa Lizano

This "salsa" is really more of a versatile sauce that I have fallen in love with from the moment I've tasted it. Lizano is the ketchup of Costa Rica, and you can find it almost everywhere over there, but hardly anywhere in the U.S. of A. In fact, I have yet to find a place in NYC or nearby that sells it, and have had to order it by the case from a Costa Rican mail order company.

Lizano has a very unique flavor, and describing it will not do it justice. Greenish brown and a smooth thick liquid, it has a very earthy and somewhat salty taste to it, most likely attributed to a variety of vegetables in it ranging from cauliflower to cucumber. Not spicy at all, as most people expect from a salsa, it is rich, and a very bold flavor that stands on it's own in almost anything.

Personally, I like to tell people once you use Lizano with Mexican food like a burrito you won't be able to eat it without it. I use it with any Mexican food or other latin food, particularly with rice and beans. I've also used it as a marinade for meats like chicken, turkey and beef, or for a sauce for meat. Vegetables and more starchy food don't go well with it, but I have mixed it in with chicken salad and tuna salad as a way to give it a different flavor.

Favorite Use: Poured generously on top of a chicken burrito.
Strangest Use: Chicken Salad sandwich, instead of oil and vinegar