My first lessons in making potato gnocchi were with my brother. He followed a formula that I think was from Auguste Escoffier. Ever since, I've loved the puffy dumpling(really a pasta) that marries well with sauce and garnishes, whether tomato sauce or classic sage and brown butter. Recently I decided to do a batch with butternut squash as a replacement for potatoes. To garnish, I browned butter with nutmeg, ginger and chili, then added a wilted radicchio, roasted red pepper and arugula as a vehicle for a grilled fish.
For a few years I passed a spot in New York's Astoria called Mezze Place. Initially I thought it was Turkish, but it turns out that the owners are Israeli. I finally visited this past weekend on Sunday, going at that time known typically as "brunch." I've never liked the idea of "brunch," as it seems neither-here-nor-there. Between breakfast and lunch, it strikes me as lacking the boundaries that can make eating so often a regular but deliciously satisfying ritual. Call me crazy but I just can't see eating eggs in the afternoon!
Well, Mezze Place transformed my sense of brunch. La Chaim! The brunch menu has the usual array of egg dishes, but that was just on one side of the offerings. The rest of the menu was gloriously dedicated to the restaraunt's name sake, mezze! Mediterranean goodies such as Israeli chopped salads featuring cukes, tomatoes, tahini, and mint. Octopus, falafael, lentil kofte, merguez, and cauliflower (the new power food!).
Everything was fresh, clean, and it was low on the salt content (even the salt shaker was tiny). Talking with owner Youad Keren,we kvetched about the state of neighborhood's culinary drabness - a virus that seems to infect too much of my home borough of Queens, quite the opposite next borough over, namely booming Brooklyn. Sadly Keren told me that due to the lack of business, he is selling the business. Even with good internet buzz, word of mouth and regular clients, Astoria is stuck in the twilight zone that celebrates food boredom.I guess are addicted to what they know in Mediterranean cuisine, namely souvlaki and Greek-sauced burgers. All to say that Mezze Place will be missed!
Multiple times I have passed by the East Village Japanese restaurant Ipuddo, but until now, never tried it. "Ramen noodles and a big crowd," I guessed, not quite interested. But wanting to go anti-Momofuku and find a new noodle shop, I decided to go to Ipuddo's Westside location, figuring it might be easier to get seated. I was wrong. It too was crowded. Something good is going on here. After waiting an hour for a seat, I ordered up a steam bun with chicken katsu, or what is known in Latin America as fried pollo.
Ipuddo offers a Tampopo ambiance, more homey than hip. And as you slurp the noodles, there's no hard rock soundtrack to down the din. Indeed, slurping is encouraged. But let's get to the food. The flavors struck me as more Japanese than New York noodle joints, with a bit of whimsy in both presentation and garnish, with a nod to east and west.
As for the ramen,the broth for me was spot on. You could discern the levels of flavor with each taste. The wait staff were well knowledged and friendly, shouting out each order in some unintelligible ritual.
Around the bar the communal atmosphere was enhanced by the ooh's and aaah's and smiles from our neighbors enjoying the meal and discussing food.
Since making pane di carasau with kamut recently, I decided to not just eat it as a flat bread to dip but as a typical Sardinian dish Pane Carasau e uovo. Simply served with eggs, onions, tomato sauce and grated pecorino cheese, the carasau is re-hydrated with boiling water and a bit of vinegar, then layered and topped. It's so simple but the flavors and textures are so satisfying and easy to prepare.
Craving merguez sausage for sometime now, and mindful of ever avoiding waste, I used a butchering opportunity at work to put together of a batch of these Morroccan treats. Not having casing, they ended up looking a bit like burgers. I used the fatty meat between lamb racks, as well as the tail end of a beef filet to make a 50/50 mix. To the meat, I added traditional merguez spices, fresh coriander, and harissa (made of ancho and other chilies. It led to a deliciously fragrant and moist mix. With no pita (or even tahini dressing), I opted to eat as a sandwhich with a grilled baguette, onion, tomato and some salad. Topped with olive oil, it was delicious comfort food.
M.Wells Steakhouse finally opened in Long Island City. In only two months, Chef Hugues Dufour and his wife Sarah Obraitis have managed to generate genuine buzz. The night I went, a few days before New Years, when the only seat was at the bar. Honestly, though I had lived in the area, finding it was not easy. Even my cab driver got lost. Thanks for the modern ubiquity of mobile GPS.
Anyway, the food, service and space was spot-on. The menu's laden with quirky-named dishes, full of comfort and lipids! I was impressed, especially when Hugues Dufour butchered my roast chicken to order! From the waiters to the the guy shucking my oysters and clams, the steak house delivers service and food that's worth the visit. Though I missed a look at the live trout tank, I got to see the lovely pearl like house cured roe! Here is some of what I saw and ate.
I love pasta. Recently tried a pasta dish known as ricotta cavatelli with broccoli pesto and salami. It sounded appetizing, but ended up a disappointment. It was just standard dry cavatelli, with a tasteless green emulsion of broccoli topped with cold ricotta and chunks of salami. Yikes! Sometimes anger can work in one's favor. This time it led me to whip up a batch of ricotta cavatelli dough. Eliminating the broccoli pesto, I charred some romanesco cauliflower, added some sliced garlic, a bit of tomato product with water from the pasta, and finally wonderful salami from my butcher. It was so much better. And the cavatelli were fresh and made of ricotta!