Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Five Reasons to Hit Astoria's Butcher Bar

Thick smoked pork belly, aka BACON

Here's what's so compelling about Astoria's new BBQ joint Butcher Bar, aside from the obvious organic, grass fed, locally sourced meat selection. 

Meats by the pound
Meats can be ordered by the 1/4 pound.
For a table of carnivores, customizing is key. If I want a 1/2 lb of juicy double smoked burnt ends (and I highly recommend you do too) and my dining companions want the same amount of beautifully crisped smoked pork belly, we're easily accommodated.

The dry rubbed smoked pork rib platter is also worth ordering. Ribs are on the lean side and benefit from a squirt of tangy BBQ sauce made from scratch. Sides are all respectable, but the meat is the star.

Pick your own BBQ
It's a butcher shop as well, one that will actually cook what you buy on the spot.
Hello, pick-your-own-steak-option. The fresh meat selection rotates daily. But you can literally point to the biggest pork chop, or thickest bone-in rib eye to have cooked to order.

The food's so good, there are plans to expand across the street this summer.
With only seating for 20, Butcher Bar is crowded nightly. So this summer, the butcher stays put and the dining room takes a walk across the street to bigger digs. Everyone's happy.

There are no freezers on site.
Clearly freshness matters here.

Every meal ends with a slice of warm apple pie on the house.

37-08 30th Ave, Astoria
Mon - Thurs, Sun, 11:30 am - 11 pm
Fri - Sat, 11:30 am - midnight
718 606 8140

Butcher Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hooked on Baja Style Dorado Tacos

Fresh Baja fish tacos

Ensenada, Mexico. Famed port city. Plentiful fish. Home of the heavenly Baja fish taco.

It may be 2,500 miles from New York City, but thanks to the recently opened Dorado Tacos, the authentic street snack has landed just south of bustling Union Square.

I'm hooked. This is fast, fresh Mexican food at its finest. And the Baja Original fish taco, impossibly priced at $2.95, is a Cheap Eats triumph. Two freshly made corn tortillas cradle a meaty hunk of beer battered Atlantic pollock, shredded cabbage, pickled onions, salsa fresca (tomatoes, onions, cilantro) and crema. And a squirt of lime. Texture, crunch, a burst of flavor. Refined simplicity.

Spicy pickles include jicama and jalapeno
The grilled fish version ($3.25), topped with a tomatillo and avocado salsa, is a delicious lighter option. Meal sized quesadillas ($4.95-$6.50) are stuffed with gooey cheeses and fillings such as homemade chorizo, and spicy portabellas. Add a side of Mexican-style hot pickled veggies. And wash it down with a ruby red jamaica fresca, house infused hibiscus leaves, sugar and water. 

Tiny Dorado Tacos is the offshoot of the original Boston area hotspot. As owner Michael Brau reveals, the secret's in the prep. "We spend all day dicing tomatoes and onions, hand chopping cilantro and serrano chiles, zesting and slicing limes and oranges for marinades, shredding cabbage and jicama for tacos, grilling red peppers and zucchini, scooping avocado, and grating cheeses for quesadillas." It's paying off.

It also makes a welcome lunch alternative to Num Pang, the excellent Cambodian sandwich shop across the street, when the lines are unbearable.

28 E 12th St near University Place
Mon - Sat, 11 am - 10 pm
Sun, 11 am - 9 pm
212 627 0900

Dorado Tacos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Eating Beaver

I went to a fascinating lecture titled "Strange Meat" this week hosted by the always enlightening Brooklyn Brainery.

Here's what I learned. There's a world of strange meat out there. But 'strange' is relative. Case in point: when Charles Dickens made his first visit to the US in 1842, he was a minor superstar and heart throb. The grand City Hotel in NYC threw a lavish dinner in his honor. The third course of the sumptuous menu included roast bear. Bear was a common meat in the 1800s. Who would think of eating bear now?

For that matter, who would eat fermented, rancid shark meat? Or feast on moose muffle, the bit between the nose and overhanging upper lip? Or drink snake wine (with a cobra in the bottle, not a measly worm)? What famous French president wanted his final meal to be a fragile songbird, a delicacy now outlawed?

It's all relative.

During the event, we naturally got to sample Strange Meat. My friend Yasmin took the above photo, prompting me to ask on Facebook if people could name the meat. The responses were impressive: moose face, Rocky Mountain oysters, horse, Soylent Green (clever), groundhog, wild boar, elk, squirrel, sloth, porcupine and hyena. It was actually beaver.

It had been slow cooked and the meat was the consistency of pulled pork. But it tasted tinny, like canned beef. So there. I've now tasted beaver.

The next Masters of Social Gastronomy Series lecture will be on candy. Let's see what disturbing facts we'll uncover there.