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