Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gazpacho Done Wright

Gazpacho at the Guggenheim's restaurant The Wright

We're still in peak tomato season, so if you haven't picked any at one of the abundant local farmer's markets, get to it this week. Heirloom tomatoes are especially plentiful and delicious this year. And one of the perfect uses for local tomatoes is gazpacho.

The Wright
The most inventive gazpacho I've tasted lately is a work of art - really.
Chef Rodolfo Contreras of the Guggenheim's restaurant The Wright has managed to bring the dining room's striking art installation, titled "The horizon produced by a factory once it had stopped producing views," to life on a plate. Inspired by the vibrant orange and yellow hues of the walled structure by artist Liam Gillick, Mexican-born Contreras crafts a refined and striking edible creation. And with just a few expert shimmies, he creates the gorgeous swirl design. Go on, try it at home. And even if you don't get the swirls just right, the real beauty is in the taste. Superb.

The Wright's Heirloom Red + Yellow Gazpacho

Red Tomato Gazpacho

2 red Beefsteak tomatoes, blanched and peeled
1 cucumber, peeled
1 red pepper
1 shallot, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 liter San Pellegrino
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon raspberry vinegar

Roughly chop all solid ingredients then puree in blender until smooth.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

3 yellow tomatoes, blanched and peeled
1 yellow pepper
1 shallot, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 liter San Pellegrino
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

Roughly chop all solid ingredients then puree in blender until smooth. Simultaneously pour red tomato gazpacho mixture and yellow tomato gazpacho mixture into bowl. Shimmy bowl back and forth to spiral the red and yellow mixtures. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yields 6 8oz Servings

Note the heirloom gazpacho is featured on the current lunch and dinner menu at The Wright.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two New East Village Burgers with Bite

Two new burger joints have recently opened in the East Village. Black Market and Whitmans. Do we really need two more burger eateries? Sure, why not? Aren’t all carnivorous New Yorkers in search of the elusive best burger in town? These are worthy contenders. And strikingly similar on the surface. Both glass exteriors sport gold leaf signage. Both serve Pat LaFrieda beef (so do Minetta TavernShake Shack, The Spotted Pig). But Whitmans (nod to poet Walt) has a secret weapon...

This is Juicy Lucy
Meet the Juicy Lucy ($9). Lucy arrives alone on a plate. Thick and glistening beef short rib blend, fully dressed, but hiding a secret. Take one bite and you’re hit by a spurting explosion of flavor and hot gooey pimento cheese stuffed inside. Don’t ask if it’s good. How could it not be? Juicy Lucy is a burger star. Supporting cast includes an addictive, flash deep-fried ‘crack kale’ ($3), and crisp fries ($3).

The upstairs menu sticks to the basics: burgers, a free-range chicken sandwich ($9) and an intriguing sounding succotash Maide-Rite ($9). It’s tiny, homey and the kind of neighborhood place I love mid-week – humming with a friendly staff and chatty patrons. Whitmans just introduced a separate expanded menu for its newly opened downstairs dining room, including a blue cheese wedge salad ($4) and meat-hook sausage ($7) starter. Next time.

Black Market cheeseburger
Black Market is just plain sexy and a far cry from the former Pizza Shop. Located above 'secret' speakeasy Cabin Down Below (but no more direct access), it features dim lighting, dark leather banquettes and glass chandeliers. Oysters and burgers and a killer cocktail menu await. The staff is efficiently laid back. And while the burgers don’t have an exploding center, they are classic and delicious. The generous $11 cheeseburger is a bargain. You really can’t go wrong either way.

Whitmans on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hungry on a Fiver: Top 10 East Village Eats for $5-ish

Who doesn’t like a tasty bargain? I’m always getting asked for bargain bites in the East Village. But cheap is not worth it to me when the food is not exceptional or it’s skimpy. These tasty vittles (vegetarian options included) definitely make the cut. Plus they cover cravings from early morning to the late night munchies.

1. The ridiculously delicious and cheap lamb cumin burger ($2.50) and roast pork burger ($2) at Xi’an Famous Foods.

2. Signature sandwich ($5.75) from Baoguette. It blows the banh mi competition away. Ask for extra hot if you want it scattered with sinus-clearing Thai chilis.

3. Mouthwatering and generous chicken kebab sandwich ($5.50) from Café Rakka. Order with both white and hot sauce for a flavor explosion.

4. Five sensational seafood and tofu pancakes ($2.99) and pickled radish kimchi ($1.99) from M2M market. Check out the refrigerated section for an addictive array of kimchi, pickled veggies and noodle dishes.

Seafood + tofu pancakes with radish kimchi

5. Classic cheese slice ($2.50) from Two Boots Pizza. The cornmeal crust is the best in town.

6. Flavor packed falafel ($2.50) or shawarma (chicken or lamb at $5) sandwiches at Mamoun’s. Make sure to order with their famous homemade hot sauce.

7. Fresh and incredibly filling egg-bacon-cheese breakfast sandwich with coffee ($4.90) served all day at Little Veselka outdoor café.

8. Choco cupcake with peanut butter frosting ($3) from Butter Lane. Mmmm.

9. Classic currywurst + fries ($6) at Wechsler’s Currywurst, a teeny but wunderbar salute to German sausage and beer.

10. Sunday and Monday-only pad thai special ($5) at Cafetasia. All day and night. Delivery, dine in or carry out. A delicious bargain.

So what makes your top 10 list? Be nice and share.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fried Chicken Worth the Road Trip

Getting finger lickin’ good fried chicken has gotten much easier in New York as so many worthy competitors have popped up. Case in point: the excellent fried chicken plate ($11) at Pies ‘n’ Thighs in Williamsburg. I prayed on my first recent visit that it deserved all the praise it had been getting since opening this spring. Yup, it sure did. Homespun hospitality and a plate piled high with three juicy, perfectly crisp pieces of bird, the flakiest biscuit, and a rockin’ black eyed peas salad, left me completely satisfied.

 Commander Cody's, Shelter Island
But what happens when you go away for the weekend and the craving hits? If you’re headed to Shelter Island or North Fork, thankfully you’re covered. Shelter Island, the swanky, anti-Hamptons, is known for a handful of decent, overpriced eateries including Planet Bliss, Vine Street Café, and the notorious Sunset Beach. But wander off the beaten path and discover one hell of a dining experience at Commander Cody’s, where you’ll feast on some of the best fried chicken EVER. Chef Jimmy and his daughter Amanda lovingly prepare their famous chicken (expect to wait 20 minutes because it’s fried fresh to order), as well as their fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs. They also serve a wide array of seafood, but we came for the chicken!

Get in my belly at Commander Cody's
The enormous skillet fried chicken platter ($14) comes with 4 generous pieces (1/2 chicken) - hot, perfectly seasoned, juicy and crispy - seasoned waffle fries, corn bread and creamy cole slaw. Sit on one of the outdoor picnic benches, groove to classic blues playing in the background, and count down the minutes til your plate arrives. Go hungry. Save room for homemade dessert.

If you don’t make the ferry to Shelter Island, and find yourself by Greenport, you’re also in luck. Salamander’s General Store, a quirky gourmet market on First Street, also serves fried chicken worth a detour. Wander the tiny shop packed with international goods, as you wait for your order to be fried up. Cole slaw and corn bread accompany the $8 plate, but the star is definitely the chicken.

Note: I am always in search of great fried chicken, near and far, so tips are always welcome.

Friday, August 13, 2010

10-Minute Greek Salad for One

There’s nothing like eating a Greek salad on a Greek island. Something about those sunkissed tomatoes and tangy sheep + goat's milk feta...But if you can’t get there this summer, my simple version comes in handy when you want a quick, fantastic meal for one in under 10 minutes. I always make sure I have Kalamata olives and a slab of Athenos chunk feta in the fridge (the chunk has more flavor than the crumbled), as well as a can of anchovies in olive oil. Then on your way home, you can grab your veggies at any market.

A note about anchovies. They're a classic Mediterannean staple. I don't undertand how they can be so reviled. Please trust me in this recipe. They’re all mashed up with the lemon and feta, so you just taste the salty essence, and no fishiness. You can make the salad without them, but I don’t advise it. If you're really hungry, you can add sautéed chicken breast, cut in chunks, and marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This recipe serves one and can easily be doubled.

Place dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl:

juice of ½ lemon

1 T olive oil

1/2 t dried oregano

1/3” slice chunk of Athenos packaged feta

4 anchovies from jar or can packed in olive oil, adjust to taste

Mash feta and anchovy dressing with fork to make a slushy mix.

Chop remaining ingredients in uniform size and add to bowl:

1 juicy tomato, cut in ½” chunks

1 Kirby cucumber or ½ regular cuke, cut in ½” chunks

½ green pepper cut in ½” chunks

2 T chopped red onion

Toast ½ pita bread and break up pieces into 1” ‘croutons.’ Add to salad. Add handful of Kalamata olives. Add salt, if needed, and pepper to taste. Add sautéed chicken chunks, if desired. Incorporate all ingredients well, making sure croutons are covered in dressing. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meet The Mango Lady

Mangoes are my favorite fruit. In the summer I try to eat one almost every day – and especially champagne mangoes, which are on practically every street corner in the East Village. With their kidney shape and creamy, foolproof sweet flesh, they are completely addictive – and packed with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. The thought of adding anything to a mango for more flavor sounds silly. So the idea of smothering it in hot sauce, chili powder, lemon juice, and salt is just repulsive. But my friend Claire made me eat my words today as she introduced me to The Mango Lady at Union Square.

The unassuming stand, at the corner of University Place and 14th St, holds not much more than fresh mangoes in various stages of being peeled. Order a plastic container of cut mango and ask for the works – hot sauce, chili salt, and lemon (I like extra lemon) and you will discover one fine Mexico City specialty. It’s crazy good. Hot, sweet, soft, tangy, juiciness. All this fun for just $3. Tues-Sat, 10-4.