Thursday, July 29, 2010

NYC Health Dept Grades Popular East Village Restaurants

This is not an appetizing post to read or write. But as an avid restaurant goer, I feel we all take accountability for what we eat. And knowledge is power, so here goes. Hope you’ve already eaten before reading further.

The NYC Health Department has just launched its new restaurant inspection website. Grades range from A (0-13 points), to B (14-27 points), to C (28+ points). A quick review of the East Village 10009 zip code found both reassuring and upsetting results of many longtime favorites. Below is just a sampling. A full report can be found at:

The teacher’s pet list includes many of my regular go-to spots (phew): Luke’s Lobster, Caracas Arepa Bar, Café Cortadito, La Lucha, Butter Lane, Rue B and Giano. But guess which establishments were among the list of perfect scorers…McDonald's and Dunkin’ Donuts. Hmmm. Fortunately, Cafetasia and the adorable little Vietnamese shop Bahn Mi Zon also scored a perfect A with zero violations.

On the solid B list we find Il Bagatto, Mogador, Humus Place, Two Boots, Westville, Terroir, V Bar, Back Forty, Pylos, Minca, Northern Spy Food Co., Flea Market Café, Mama’s Food Shop, Sigmund Pretzel Shop, Black Iron Burger, Hearth, Porchetta, Buenos Aires, Lavagna, and Esperantos.

And waaaayyyyy down in third place with 30+ violation points are Desnuda, Bourgeois Pig (sob), In Vino, Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches and Cien Fuegos.

I can’t help thinking if McDonald's and Dunkin’ Donuts can get it right, surely it’s possible.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My (Current) Fave Cheap Eat in the EV

After having just inhaled my first bowl of savory cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles ($6) at the newly opened East Village branch of Xi’an (pron “she-an”) Famous Foods, I am now dreaming about how long it will take to eat my way through the heavenly menu. Come to me Liang Pi "cold skin" noodles ($6), savory cumin lamb burger ($2.50), and tiger vegetable salad ($4.50). And with prices so good, there’s nothing getting in the way.

The savory cumin lamb noodle dish is such a winner – spicy lamb in a rich cumin chili sauce. The dish is big enough for two meals, but I polished it off in one sitting. The noodles are incredibly delicious – chewy, homey comfort. Service is clean, friendly and speedy. And two monitors cleverly play a looped video of Anthony Bourdain raving about the noodles in a "No Reservations" episode. So your mouth is watering before you even order.

This week's New York Mag named the lamb noodle dish a top cheap eat, so go now. Right now. I'm not kidding.

Xi'an Famous Foods on Urbanspoon

Happy Birthday, S'MAC

There is nothing cheesy about this offer. S’MAC, the EV’s beloved mac-n-cheese joint, is celebrating its 4th anniversary with an amazing deal. On Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, the All-American nosh (gooey classic American + Cheddar blend) will cost $1.00. That’s one of the best foodie deals I’ve seen in a long time. And I will be more than happy to help super friendly owners Sarita + Caesar Ekya celebrate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meatopia 2010- My Kind of Nirvana

When I was about 7, I asked my mother if I gave her my allowance back, would she buy me more meat. So yesterday’s glorious, first-ever Meatopia: BBQ NYC on Governor’s Island was my idea of carnivore heaven. And not just because there was smoking grill after grill of amazing sights, tastes and smells, but because each of the 26 chefs and BBQ teams used sustainable meats. Many of the chefs paired up with local farms to showcase small-scale agriculture using animals that have been raised humanely and responsibly.

And oh what a feast it was. My friends and I deliberately arrived early to survey the selections. We carefully studied the menu online the night before. So day of, we were ready to compare the written descriptions with the actual dishes - analyzing the plate appeal and portion size. After all we had to narrow down which 6 tastings would make the final cut for our $45 ticket. Because nothing looked unappetizing, portion size almost always won out. These were not stingy portions. Generous hunks of meat, sometimes spilling off the plate.

My personal highlights in descending order were:

1. The grilled perfection of Abe & Arthur’s Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatillo Salsa (I could have eaten a vat of the salsa alone)

2. The wonderfully messy and juicy Waterfront Ale House/Fuhgeddaboutit BBQ’s House Cured and Smoked Brisket Pastrami, Stout Mustard, Pretzel Roll

3. The Harrison’s Char Grilled English Lamb chop smothered in herbs

For the first few hours, the atmosphere was ideal: manageable, friendly crowds, and live bluegrass music lulling us as we devoured plate after plate. But by mid afternoon, the crowds were so large that the food almost suddenly ran out. I sadly learned that pacing ourselves was a disadvantage. So I had to believe the unanimous rave reviews of The Hurricane Club’s Honey-glazed Baby Back Ribs with Thai Basil & Mint. I didn't queue up in time this time around. Never mind. Next year I'll be a pro at it.