Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tuesday Link List: Comedy Edition

Do I smell a new tradition? Maybe.

1. Overheard websites. Always entertaining. Frequently Updated

Overheard in New York

Overheard in the Office

Overheard in College

2. Paper Street. The web archive of a comic from UVA's Cavalier Daily News Paper. Click on the "daily strips" link. Never updated, so savor them like a fine wine.

Paper Street Industries

(Thanks John)

3. Home Star Runner. Needs no introduction.

Home Star Runner

4. Is this video as funny as everybody thinks? Or has Will Ferrell brainwashed everybody. I can't decide. I guess a drunken, cursing, threatening two year old is pretty good. If you go to this site watch "The Landlord" if you haven't already seen it. If you have an opinion about it, leave it in the comments, I'm curious what people think.

Funny or Die

5. The East Village Idiot. I was just introduced to this Blog today. I can't decide if I love it or hate it, but here it is.

The East Village Idiot

The New Best Cookbook Ever

My wonderful mother gave me this cookbook for Christmas. It is amazing. If I was going to have one cookbook, it would be this one. The editors of Cooks Illustrated have compiled 1000+ recipes taste tested by America's Test Kitchen. The recipes are great, the illustrated techniques and detailed instructions are wonderful for even the most amateur of chefs.

Most recently, I made the Spaghetti alla Carabonara from the cookbook. It was by far the best carabonara I have ever had. Alex agrees. It taught me new techniques and explains the madness behind their methods.

This book will make you a better cook. I guarantee it. Seriously. If you buy it, use it, and don't like it, I'll buy it from you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blue Hill

Finally time for the Blue Hill post.

Alex, Alex's mom Meg, and I had a wonderful dinner at Blue Hill last Wednesday night. I've been out of town and really busy at work since then and my memory of the meal is fading. I've recently been wondering, "can I use a camera and a note pad in a nice restaurant?" I think the answer is no. The note pad, maybe, but the camera, no way. If I was out at a nice restaurant and the guy sitting next to me started snapping pictures of his food it would probably bother me. I also know that if I was eating with Alex (I always am) and I started taking pictures, I would come out of it with a bloody shin and some verbal abuse. So, next time I'll try to remember a note pad which will improve the quality of these posts.

Blue Hill is a small American (with a side of French) restaurant located in the lower level of a historic brownstone in Greenwich Village. The restaurant is known for using only the freshest seasonal ingredients, most of which are grown/raised on the owner's family farm (Blue Hill at Stone Barns) in Pocantico Hills, NY. Most of the chicken, pork, lamb, herbs, and veggies served at Blue Hill in New York City are raised on the farm. Because of the freshness of the ingredients, Dan Barber avoids overly complicated dishes or unusual flavor combinations, preferring for each dish to focus on the natural flavor of one individual ingredient. He does this with great success.

Each meal at Blue Hill starts with two Amuse Bouches served in shot glasses. One shot is always of a fresh fruit juice, the other is always a vegetable soup. Our combination for Wednesday night was a chilled ginger apple juice and a sunchoke puree soup. I really enjoyed the ginger apple juice as it was a combination of two of my favorite (non-alcoholic) beverages: apple juice and ginger ale. The flavor was very fresh and clean, not too sweet.

Following the amuse bouche was a seafood medley focusing on a single plump, perfectly cooked scallop complemented by calamari and clams. This dish was delicious, served with a touch of a light sauce. The scallop was absolutely delicious, incredibly fresh and perfectly cooked. I tend to not order scallops because so frequently they are gritty and overcooked, but not at Blue Hill.

The main course of the tasting menu was a trio of Berkshire pork. The thick slice of pancetta was incredible, bold flavor and a delicious crispy skin. There were two other preparations, but my memory fails me as to the details. This dish was delicious, but disappointing compared to the venison and short rib main courses from our previous two meals at Blue Hill.

To finish the meal we were served a fresh citrus salad consisting mostly of blood orange and grapefruit and a dab of sorbet. The dish was very refreshing and the tangy, sour flavors were a good follow up to the robust flavors of the pork, calming the palette for the dessert.

The dessert was incredible. The chef that came up with it is either a mad genius or made the most fortunate serendipitous discovery of his career. The menu read "steamed cheesecake with caramel and peanuts." I thought it seemed strange for Blue Hill to serve a slice of pie for the dessert of their tasting menu. I couldn't imagine that Blue Hill's cheesecake could be any better than other cheesecake in New York City.

I was wrong on so many counts. To my surprise, the waiter dropped off a small sealed mason jar, not a slice of pie. Inside of the jar was the most wonderful cheesecake I have ever tasted. Topped with a touch of chocolate, caramel, and couple peanuts. The cheesecake was light and fluffy, but not too light and fluffy, it was cheesy, but not too cheesy. It really was perfect. Crust? Who needs crust with their cheesecake? Not me. They really need to put this on their regular menu. I would be tempted to go sit at the bar and just order dessert.

So, go to Blue Hill. You won't be disappointed, unless you hate fresh flavorful ingredients, in which case, there is a McDonald's around the corner, you can't miss it. But you can miss Blue Hill. Find it on the North side of Washington Place between 6th and Washington Square Park West. Reservations are available a couple weeks in advance on OpenTable.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Really Old School

I said that the George Washington video was old school, this movie makes it look like an infant. I think this was made on an Apple IIe.

I'm a Slacker

So I'm a huge slacker and I've been really busy this week. We had a great meal at Blue Hill Wednesday night and out of the blue decided to get lobster rolls from Pearl Oyster Bar last night. If you haven't been to Pearl's and you like lobster with mayo on bread (who doesn't?), you are missing out. It is worth the wait I promise.

Since I've been such a slacker on the blog, I decided to post one of my favorite videos. It is a little bit old, but I think it is time to bring it back.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Post...sort of

I've had a pretty busy week and haven't had much time for posting. I'm going out to dinner tonight at Blue Hill, which has recently been given the incredible title of "My Favorite Restaurant in The City." Tonight will be my third trip to Blue Hill and I plan on giving a full report tomorrow or Friday.

Also, I really want to go to Blue Hill at Stone Barns...Anybody with a car and a credit card care to take me??

Read about Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns here, here (really good food blog btw), and of course here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Come on Fhqwgads

Don't you ever forget it.

Everybody to the Limit

I love Strong Bad. Seriously. I want to have like 10,000 of his babies.
I just wanted to let you know.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Biggest Steak Ever or You’re the Best Liz

My good friend Liz took the Widaalda crew out to a great steak dinner at BLT Prime. This was my third time dining at BLT (bistro Laurent Tourondel) Prime and every time has been a little bit overwhelming. I was going to tell you about the amazing meat locker where you can see huge pieces of cow dry aging, I was going to tell you about the great wine list and the great bordello that we drank, I was also going to mention the incredible potato dishes, especially the truffle oil potato skins and the blue cheese tater tots, but I think I’ll just talk about the steak.

Liz and I shared a Porterhouse rare. It was the biggest porterhouse I have ever seen. It was on the bone and about 3 inches thick. It was cooked perfectly with a nice seared exterior and a juicy raw interior. This is definitely one of the best steaks I have ever had. The only better might have been the strip that I had the last time I ate there.

The fillet that Alex ordered is also a thing of wonder. It must have been butchered from giant, tractor trailer sized cows. It was gargantuan. I have never seen a fillet so big and so expertly cooked. She was only able to eat about half of it.

That is about all you need to know about BLT Prime: great steak, great sides, great wine. Go there, but don’t have a bite to eat all day before and don’t plan on going out after.

A Great Cookbook or Make Your Significant Other Love you a Little More

My wonderful mother gave me this cookbook for Christmas. It is amazing. If I was going to have one cookbook, it would be this one. The editors of Cooks Illustrated have compiled 1000+ recipes taste tested by America's Test Kitchen. The recipes are great, the illustrated techniques and detailed instructions are wonderful for even the most amateur of chefs.

Most recently, I made the Spaghetti alla Carabonara from the cookbook. It was by far the best carabonara I have ever had. Alex agrees. So give it a shot, you won't regret it.

This book will make you a better cook. I guarantee it. Seriously. If you buy it, use it, and don't like it, I'll buy it from you.

Falafel Crusted Salmon or a Great Night at Aquagrill

Alex's mom was in town on Monday night and we were able to get a last minute reservation at Aquagrill, a wonderful seafood restaurant at Spring and 6th Ave in Soho. I've eaten at Aquagrill about ten times now and each time has been a pleasure. You might be wondering why I have eaten at this one restaurant 10 times in my two plus years in NYC. The answer boils down to simple geography and a family penchant for oysters. My sister lived around the corner from Aquagrill for 6 years and I subleased two different apartments nearby. I've been lucky to have such a great restaurant at my doorstep.

I love oysters. I really really do. Aqua grill has an amazing selection of oysters. I mean seriously look at this. They have 25 or 30 of these varieties on their menu at any one time. I don't think I've ever had a bad oyster there. The list can be kind of daunting, it isn't unusual that I'm only familiar with a handful of the varieties on the list at any given time, but thankfully their staff is knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to picking a selection of oysters. Monday night, the three of us ordered 18 oysters. We had 6 varieties, two of which I picked and the rest were left to the waiter. I chose Imperial Eagle Oysters and Carlsbad Blonde Oysters, purely because I liked the names, of course they were all of our least favorites. The Buzzard's Bay oysters and the Duck Island oysters (both the waiter's choice) were so good we ended up ordering another round of just those two. They are both medium sized, medium deep oysters from the north east US. The main difference is that the Buzzard’s Bay oysters are a little bit saltier and brinier than the Duck Island Oysters. Both went down nicely with the French Chenin Blanc that we were drinking.

For the main course I had the special Wasabi marinated Mahi Mahi which was strongly recommended by the waiter. He actually persuaded me to change my order from the Truffle Crusted Chatham Cod. Alex finally got her Falafel Crusted Salmon that she had been craving for months since our last visit to Aquagrill and Alex’s mom got the Bouillabaisse.

My Mahi Mahi was served with two large shrimp ravioli. I either missed it on the menu or it wasn’t there, but the shrimp ravioli might have been more accurately described as wasabi ravioli with shrimp instead of shrimp ravioli. My first large bite of the ravioli cleared my sinuses and made my eyes water a little bit. For non-sushi eaters or for people who don’t like wasabi, this would have been unbearable, but fortunately I’ve been known to put an absurd amount of wasabi on my sushi so this was just a little bit of a surprise, nothing unappetizing. Also if you don’t like wasabi you wouldn’t order this dish anyway, so I don’t think it is that big of a deal. My mahi mahi was well flavored with a nice wasabi kick from the marinade. The fish was tender and fresh, the flavor was great, but it was a cold night and it felt kind of like a summer, warm weather dish.

Alex’s mom’s bouillabaisse was pretty typical bouillabaisse with a tomato broth and a generous serving of shell fish and poached cod, including half of a lobster tail. The bouillabaisse was perfect for the weather and I think Meg enjoyed it. I’m not a huge fan of bouillabaisse in general, but I know for some (like my mom) it is just divine, so I’m not going to give any opinion about Aquagrill’s, I’m sure it is fine. I must say though, I did sneak a bite of the lobster tail and it was tender and flavorful. It seemed to have not taken on too much of the flavor of the broth, but maintained its integrity as lobster.

Alex’s dish, the Falafel Crusted Salmon, was the star of the show. I’ve had bites of this salmon before, but for some reason the crunchiness of the falafel mixed with the lemon coriander vinaigrette and the creaminess of the sauce is really excellent. After my first bite I wanted to steal Alex’s plate and run away with it. I finally understood why Alex had been pestering me to get reservations at Aquagrill. This salmon is probably the most talked about dish at Aquagrill and it is for a good reason. It is really an inspired dish. I’ve searched the interweb for a recipe and the best I have found is this. I don’t think it is going to compare. I hope the chefs and owners of Aquagrill, Jeremy and Jennifer Marshall, will someday write a cookbook, until then it is going to be trial and error in my kitchen.

So when you are craving some great seafood, head to Aquagrill. Make a reservation if you can, but they do take walk-ins.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

I'm Not a Psycho I Promise

Read this and this book and lastly, this.

Recipe of the Day: Roasted Ortolan


Anyway, enjoy the work of fiction - there aren't Ortolan in Central Park and if there were, I wouldn't eat them.

We had quite the feast for dinner last night, first, fresh chilled Blue Point Oysters, delicious, but nearing the end of the season. A wonderful Foie Gras Torchon and then for the grand finale, a rare Ortolan Bunting, the most savory of all foul. Though shucking the oysters and deveining the foie gras was quite a task, it did not compare to the two weeks of preparation that I put into the ortolans. I must say the effort was worth it, eating the ortolans was almost a religious experience.

The ortolan is a small migratory bird of the bunting family. It's native habitat is the wine-growing districts of France. Particularly in the south-western regions. The typical ortolan is 16cm in length and weighs 20 to 25 grams. Fortunately for those of us on this side of the pond, Francios Mitterand's father, Gilbert FĂ©lix Joseph, smuggled a colony of ortolan's into the United States where they found a suitable habitat in Central Park and the northern regions of New Jersey. Many New Yorkers mistake the delectable ortolan for your common Finch (or mistakingly group it in to the "not pigeon" avian family). The ortolan's main nesting area is around the Central Park Zoo where they feast on the corn, oat, and grain fed to the many animals who call the zoo home.

When I decided it was time for my rite of passage into the gourmet world, I knew that cooking and eating the ortolan was the only option. For instruction in this matter I consulted a friend of mine, a retired Gascon, who moved to New York after being persecuted for disturbing an endangered species of birds who had taken nest in his thatched roof cottage in south-western France. The following are the instructions he gave me for the capture, preparation, and consumption of the ortolan. As the ortolan is considered a rare and maybe illegal delicacy throughout Europe, please do not try this if you are reading this from outside of the United States. These instructions are for informational use only.

First you must capture the ortolans. To do this you need one large net and a helpful friend (the taller, the better). At the end of the summer months, find the Ortolan nesting and feeding grounds, climb into the tree and sit patiently with the net. Have your friend do the same at another nesting or feeding ground (as we were not allowed into the zoo property with the nets, we had to focus on the nesting areas). After 15 or 20 minutes the ortolan will return to their nests. In one quick motion, swing the net around the nest and the bird and capture the bird. Gently place the bird in a dark pouch. The dark pouch will instantly calm the bird and you can store it in your jacket pocket while you hunt for more ortolans.


Make sure you have your home prepared for your new guests. A thinly wired or screen cage, about one foot cube should hold as many as 6 ortolans. When you get them home, remove the ortlans from the bag one by one and use tweezers to pluck out their eyeballs. This will be painful for the ortolan momentarily, but it will quickly recover. Place all of your ortolans into the cage and feed with a mixture of oats, millets, and especially figs and other dried fruits. Feed the birds continuously for up to two weeks or until it has reached twice it's original wieght (whichever happens sooner). After the feeding, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Then remove the birds from the cage, drown them in a snifter of your finest Armagnac. This will infuse the birds with the wonderful sweet aroma of the Armagnac. The actual cooking of the birds is very simple, put them on a nonstick tray in the hot oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Be sure not to overcook.


The presentation of the ortolan is of the utmost importance. Place the ortolan alone on a plate. Present to the diner with a fresh white napkin.


(The following is an excerpt from Brandon Kiley's excellent tome on gourmet etiquette.)

[Place the napkin] over your head to hide your cruelty from the sight of God. Put the whole bird into your mouth, with only the beak protruding from your lips. Bite. Put the beak on your plate and begin chewing, gently. You will taste three things: First, the sweetness of the flesh and fat. This is God. Then, the bitterness of the guts will begin to overwhelm you. This is the suffering of Jesus. Finally, as your teeth break the small, delicate bones and they begin to lacerate your gums, you will taste the salt of your own blood, mingling with the richness of the fat and the bitterness of the organs. This is the Holy Spirit, the mystery of the Trinity—three united as one. It is cruel. And beautiful. According to Claude Souvenir, chewing the ortolan takes approximately 15 minutes.

We followed these instructions and I must say the experience was absolutely breathtaking. I would suggest it to anybody who desires the ultimate gourmet experience and is looking for something beyond the basic foie gras, caviar, or sashimi fugu.

Oh yes, and don't forget to wash it all down with a glass of your finest Bordeaux.

Monday, April 2, 2007

This Weekend's Theme Song or from Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

the ballad of tantivy mucker-maffick

oh italian gin is a mother's curse,
and the beer of france is septic,
drinking bourbon in spain is the lonely domain
of the saint and the epileptic,
white lightning has fueled up many a hearse
in the mountains where ridge-runner dwell--
its a brew begot in a poison pot,
and mulled with the hammers of hell!

Oh- Tantivy's been drunk in many a place,
from here to the uttermost isle,
and if he should refuse any a chance to booze,
may i die with an hoary-eyed smile!

he's been ossified in oceans of grog,
in the haunts of the wobbly whale--
he's been half-seas over from durban to dover,
wiv four shaky sheets to the gale.
for in london fog or sahara's sun,
or the icebound steeps of zermatt,
loaded up for a lark to 'is plimsoll mark
he's been game to go off on a bat!

repeat refrain

...Thanks John

Friday, March 30, 2007

Photohunt, Big Beers, and Party Platters, or "Getting Hosed at the Hosen"

Naked lady photohunt + big beers + lots of bratwurst = one of my favorite things to do.

Where can I find this magical combination you ask? Lederhosen, my friendly local beer hall and purveyor of fine German food and ales. If you want to learn about the food at lederhosen, here is a link to there reviews. I'm going to write about the other side of Lederhosen. Lederhosen is on the bottom floor of a typical West Village walk-up building. There is a cozy lounge area in the front with a couple couches and a fake fireplace (actually my favorite place to sit and eat), there is a long bar area with a couple of TVs and a single large table at the end near the photohunt machine (my favorite place to drink), then there is the "Beer Garden" in the back. The "beer garden" is a large double height space filled with picnic tables and people in Lederhosen sloshing their Large beers all the while surrounded by a mural, a 3 wall 15 foot tall mural of a German pastoral scene. This mural is amazing, not in an artistic way, but in a hilarious, kitschy, "I can't believe somebody put in so much effort for this" way. The over ambitious amateur artist clearly had a great vision for the beer garden at Lederhosen, but the realization of their vision has left a less than photo perfect rendition of the German countryside.
Have you ever seen a cow the size of a house? I have. And it is in the German Country side. If you butchered one of these cows you would have a enough meat to serve every dish Lederhosen has ever served since it has opened. There are flocks of mountain goats that if in a stampede would not even have been hindered by the Berlin Wall. There is a farmer couple standing next to their house, but would never be able to even fit in the door. There are mountain lakes that defy the laws of gravity. These are only some of the amazing things that you can find in Lederhosen. The only way to see this wonder is to visit the restaurant. This mural has been evolving since I started frequenting Lederhosen over a year ago I want to say this to the artist:

I can't imagine Lederhosen without your mural, I really appreciate it, not just for it's entertainment value, but also for the effort that you clearly continue to put into it. I think with some basic instruction, particularly in drawing in perspective, you could be a great artist. Also I think you may have started the mural with a strong head of steam (the snow capped mountains are almost photo-realistic) and worn yourself out with such an ambitious undertaking. But seriously, I think the mural is delightful and Lederhosen wouldn't be the same without it. I know it is easy to be a critic, but I'll say it right now, you have done much much better than I could ever do.

The rest of the walls at Lederhosen are coved with German paraphernalia: beer signs, items of the traditional german wordrobe, beer mugs, etc., but the strange thing is, plastered all over the walls are signs of warning not to touch anything. If you damage anything it will be added to your bill, if you so much as brush against the lederhosens pinned to the wall you will be escorted off of the property. Lederhosen is not a crazy place, there are not a lot of people trying to mess with the stuff on the wall. I can't imagine they have problem with people vandalizing the restaurant. It must be a preventitive measure...but it baffles me.

But nonetheless, go to Lederhosen, eat the sausage, drink the beer, admire the mural, and DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING. You'll see me and three of my friends surrounding the photohunt machine in the corner, feel free to point out that missing arm on the left screen.

Bleecker and Grove St, West Village, NYC

Oh yeah, "Long live widaalda"