The Sandwiches are Popular at The Grey Dog’s Coffee

On Friday, I met Kirk for lunch. We met down by Bleecker street. On the subway ride over I pondered, ever so slightly, where it was that we’d eat when I arrived. A few days earlier I’d taken Patty and Dan to Shopsin’s for their first time. Kirk’s already been to Shopsin’s so we wouldn’t eat there. And The Pearl Oyster Bar is too expensive, though I’ve yet to try their fried oyster roll.

When I came up the subway steps and saw the Kirk in question he said: “Hey, let’s go to Grey Dog.”

Outraged at the idea that this non-food blogger could tell me, a titan of restaurant choosing, where to eat I threw a tantrum and when I say I threw a tantrum I mean I simply said: “Ok.”

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The Grey Dog’s Coffee is down on Carmine, a block or two south of Bleecker, right near Deborah where I had a great meal last month or so. I’d passed Grey Dog’s many times and never went inside. This would be exciting. What would it look like?

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Who Needs A Taverna When You’ve Got A Snack?

Like most people did this Sunday morning, I woke up at 9:30 and made my way down to NYU to watch a screening of My Neighbor Totoro with my Animation class. [Ok, get it, that was a joke—cause most people didn’t do that this morning. (And by the way, the movie’s really great, if you haven’t seen it.)] Afterwards, Kirk and I decided to find lunch. [Kirk’s in my Animation class. (Am I overdoing the parentheticals? ::Yes, but it’s adorable:: {Who are you?} ::My name’s Gertrude!::})]

On a trek through the West Village, I tried to land us at Sushi Tomoe where we went once upon a time with James Felder. But as fate would have it we chose the wrong street (Sullivan instead of Thompson) and once we realized our mistake, we crossed over to Thompson and began working our way up towards Tomoe when we spotted this:

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Snack! This is the tinier, original version of Snack Taverna which is on Bedford Street and which I visited last year to the acclaim of my tastebuds and stomach.

“Let’s eat here,” I suggested.

“Ok,” said Kirk and in we went.

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A Weekend of Celebration: Meals at Mo Pitkin’s, August, Le Gigot and Beet

Ever since news of my book deal leaked its way on to the internet [Ok, so it was leaked by me, but still–there was leakage] the food blog media and my screaming fans are desperate to know whether I’ll still be the same old Adam or whether fame and fortune will change me. Let me set you straight right now: of course it’s going to change me! You losers are history. From this day forth, I’m sitting at the cool table and you nerds better do my homework or I’ll give you a wet willy and pants you in the gym.

Just kidding! It’s still sweet little ole me. Humble as apple pie. [And in case I ever did get a big head, I could go back and re-read this person’s nasty review of me at Blogratingz that says: “[Adam] can’t write about food to save his life. A recent post about a German restaurant was peppered with such evocative adjectives as ‘delicious’ (twice) and ‘funky’ (also twice). Add to this lack of originality his delusion that he is funny, and what you’ve got is probably the worst food writing since ‘Where’s the beef?'” That last line actually made me laugh. And though it’s nasty, it’s well written. Delicious, even, and funky. I give it a 5.]

Where were we? Oh yes. My big head. Celebration. This was a weekend of celebration (see post title). It involved celebratory dinners at:

Mo Pitkin’s!

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[That’s me and Diana out front with a stranger.]

August!

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Le Gigot!

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and

Beet!

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Won’t you join me as I reflect back on my weekend of binge-eating? Click the button to see all that was consumed.

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Don’t Look Back in Hunger: A Return to Da Silvano and Eli’s E.A.T.

The family was in town this weekend for a wedding. They came a little earlier than usual (Wednesday instead of Friday) because dad’s office has no power still (after Hurricane Wilma) and Michael’s college is similarly out of commision. Usually when the family comes I use my powers of manipulation to ensure that we eat at places beneficial to my website: interesting foodie havens that I can’t afford on my own, that I haven’t yet reviewed and that would be of interest to my large reading public.

But my parents like their comfort food. And nothing says comfort food more than “big Italian lunch.” Their favorite lunch spot in Florida is in Bal Harbor, a place called Carpaccio’s where they share Caesar salad, dad gets pounded veal and mom has a pasta with seafood in it. Thus, after taking them to Pearl Oyster Bar on Thursday (they loved the lobster rolls (“this bread is sick it’s so good,” said mom about the brioche bun); dad thought the clam chowder wasn’t as good as the one he had recently at L&N Seafood in Boston) we passed Da Silvano on the way to SoHo and mom made a reservation for the next day.

“But we’ve already been here,” I pleaded.

But it was no use. And so I set upon the idea of re-reviewing Da Silvano. Let me find the old review.

***Pause while Adam finds the old review.***

***Oh no! Adam realizes that he did write about Da Silvano the last time he went, but he didn’t document it—he simply told the story of a waiter who refused to give us balsamic vinegar for the mozzarella. Adam feels like a fool.***

I feel like a fool. So this is the first time I’ve reviewed Da Silvano. Look how pretty the outside seating is:

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The weather this weekend was mind-alteringly gorgoues. Nicer days have never been invented. So sitting outside was a real treat.

The menu wasn’t outrageously expensive (at least for lunch) and the items on it were varied and interesting. My new favorite game is to order things that make my mother gasp and say, “Oh Adam, don’t order that.” So I started with octopus and pumpkin salad with radicchio.

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Lovely presentation, no? And it tasted really good, really interesting. The octopus was tender, slightly salty; the pumpkin was cut in squares and roasted so it was sweet. The radicchio gave it all a bitter base for the other flavors to react to. I enjoyed it.

Dad and Michael each got a salad (dad had mozarella and tomato; Michael had mesclun) and they were presented with a spray bottle of balsamic vinegar, which I thought was a funny touch. Here’s Michael spraying vinegar on his salad:

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He then sprayed some under his arms and went about his day.

For our entrees, mom picked a winner with this clam spaghetti:

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And I picked a loser with this taggliatelle (sp?) and porcini mushrooms:

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It looks tasty, yes, but looks are deceiving. It just tasted like a big fat oily noodle with some oily mushrooms alongside it. I really didn’t enjoy it.

But dessert was nice. I switched seats with mom because the sun was in my face and I didn’t have sunglasses (she did.) (Isn’t she a nice mom?) Here’s my cappuchino (which you’re not supposed to drink after a heavy meal but I like to have a substantive coffee drink at lunch and an espresso shot wouldn’t really give me the umph I needed) with the obligatory Tiramasu for the table:

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Of course this was good: moist, rich, ladyfingers and fluffy marscapone. Those Italians: they know their dessert.

And so in conclusion, the last time I went to Da Silvano I thought it was just ok. That’s probably why I didn’t write about it. And this time I think it’s a little better than ok but still pretty much ok. It’s a scene. It’s good for a nice day. “It’s the closest thing New York has to The Ivy,” said mom, referencing the famous L.A. place to see and be seen. And if being seen is your scene then glean what I mean and order something lean.

***

Last time I went to Eli’s E.A.T. (I can’t find the link since Google dropped me), I thought it was way overpriced and only mildly worthwhile. This time I went with mom and she referred to it afterwards as: “A crummy lunch.”

We started with soup. She had chicken noodle. I had carrot:

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I liked my carrot soup. It tasted like something you might make out of a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. [And notice the mostly eaten raisin bread. The raisin bread is probably the best part about eating at E.A.T.]

Mom didn’t rave over her chicken noodle.

For our entrees, I had a swordfish salad Nicoisse:

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This looks like it might be an interesting salad but it really wasn’t. It felt like something I could do at home. I suppose the ingredients were really fresh, but if you don’t use them in a worthwhile way what’s the point of fresh ingredients?

But mom’s salad was really the worst. She ordered the roast chicken salad. All she got was a bowl of mesclun greens, pieces of chicken, and some dressing. That’s it.

She tried to be nice about it. “It’s just a little boring,” she said.

It was really boring. We barely finished what was on our plates.

Which, though, was lucky because our hunger allowed us to order not one but two desserts. Observe mom with her brownie:

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And observe my coconut cake:

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The brownie was rich and moist and the coconut cake was soaked in some kind of liquid that gave it lots of flavor. We enjoyed this part of the meal. “Let’s just come here for dessert next time,” said mom.

I think she has the right idea.

There’s a Store That I See, Where The Chocolate’s By Kee

On a beautiful day in New York City, it came to pass that two young souls journeyed down Sullivan Street after eating burritos and shopping for chessboards. These souls, yours truly and Stella truly, saw a mysterious vision in the horizon. The vision looked something like this:

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Kee’s Chocolates? What can this be?

We studied the articles taped to the windows. Gourmet Magazine! New York Magazine! This place has a reputation for great chocolate. Let us go inside.

Inside there were two women behind the counter. The first woman stood behind the glass case facing us. “Hello,” she said.

The other woman had her back to us. She was passing white chocolate through a strainer–or at least that’s how I remember it. She had long hair and a certain warmth about her. This, we soon discovered, was Kee.

And this, we readily observed, was her chocolate:

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“Wow,” I said, studying the case. “Look at these flavors.”

“Can I help you with something?” asked the woman behind the case (not Kee).

“Well,” I explained, “this is our first time here. What flavors are the most exciting and interesting and original?”

She directed us to the thai chili chocolate. “You bite into it,” she explained, “and it tastes just like normal chocolate. But a few seconds later you feel a burning in your throat.”

“Does it hurt?” I queried.

“No,” she laughed.

So we took one of those. Then Stella requested a blood orange and the woman recommended a black sesame:

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Our choices made–three chocolates purchased–I addressed the woman who must’ve been Kee whose back was still to us.

“Are you Kee?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, turning around and smiling.

“Well,” I stammered, “I’m a food writer. I have a website.”

“Oh,” she said and smiled and nodded a bit. “I’m making lemon basil white chocolate,” she explained.

“Wow,” I said, “I’ll have to come back and try that next time.”

“Please do.”

And so with that we said our goodbyes and made our way back out on to the street. Here’s Stella with our bag of chocolate:

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We approached our chocolate eating scientifically. First up was the thai chili.

I took the first bite because Stella was afraid. It was creamy and rich and wonderful. But where’s the heat?

“She said this was going to be spicy and I don’t feel anyth….umm…oooh…ahhh….I FEEL IT! IT BURNS! IT BURNS!”

Stella laughed and tried the other half. She said “mmm” at first and then waited and then her eyes twinkled and she said “Ooooh” and we laughed.

The blood orange was a soothing follow up with deep orange flavor but not over-powering. And the black sesame was nicely exotic. We ranked them: blood orange, black sesame, thai chili.

Stella and I concluded that Kee’s is a wonderful place to visit. Each chocolate is $1.75 which is a steal when you consider they’re handmade and unlike any chocolate you’ve probably ever had.

“I liked that place,” said Stella. “It was fun.” We walked off into the sunset savoring the final tingles of our chocolate high.

An ok meal at Little Havana

&uotI just IMed

Now it should be said right away that Little Havana is very cute and that the one-man-band host, waiter, (owner?) was very charming. The place was pretty crowded with people who looked like regulars. On the table were little containers of candy corn. The menu was slightly expensive but we were hungry. And so we started with ceviche:

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Ceviche, for those not in the know, is fish cooked in acid—usually lemon juice or lime juice. It’s really delicious. Here there were three large shrimp, though I thought there were four and wrongfully accused Kirk of attacking one of mine when there was only one left on the plate.

“How many did you have?” I asked.

“One,” he said.

“Oh,” I replied guiltily.

He cut the third shrimp in half and muttered: “I’m not the one whose religion forbids the eating of shellfish.”

My entree, I suppose, is where my meal entered lacklustre-land. I ordered the filet migneon because I haven’t had red meat in a while. [Ha, you can refute that when you scroll below and re-examine my meal at Craft.]

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Are you swooning over that plate? Probably not. The steak was well prepared. I enjoyed the onions. The plaintains were confusing: they were flat and crunchy but where was the banana? And the rice and beans were adequate.

It was the cost that makes me say this meal is just an “ok” meal. If we’d had the same food for much cheaper I’d say: “It’s a great steal at Little Havana.” But as it was, it was pricey and right across the street we could have spent the same money and eaten Batali-cuisine. But a certain someone hates bar stools. And steals shrimp.

The Smoke Shack Is A Little Old Place Where We Can Get Together (PLUS: Blintzes at Veselka)

Alas, on Friday night, I was without plans. How does a strapping young lad such as myself find himself alone and without plans on a Friday night; especially with his thousands of admirers hurling gushy e-mails at him on a daily basis, stalking him on the streets, throwing themselves at his feet? Well, the answer’s simple really: I have a cold. I was feeling un-well. I wanted to curl into a ball and die.

Then I logged on to the ole instant messager. Instant messager is to our generation what smoke signals were to our Native American grandparents’ generation. (I come from the Rothenberg tribe of East New York.) Sure enough, sitting there online, was Diana.

“Diana, what are you doing?” I typed.

“Nothing,” she replied.

“Do you want to see Capote?” I asked.

“Sure!” she typed back.

Then James Felder logged on. “Hey James,” I typed. “Wanna see Capote with Diana and I?”

“Sure,” he agreed.

“Do you want to eat dinner first?” typed Diana.

“Yes! Of course!” I answered. “Let’s ask James.”

“James, do you want to eat dinner with us?”

“No, I already ate.”

Ah, such are the stimulating conversations that take place on instant messager. If only we could bottle these talks and save them for future generations, they’d be really impressed with our penmanship. Suddenly the question of where Diana and I would eat arose.

“Where we will eat?” I typed furiously.

“I dunno!” she typed back eagerly.

Thankfully, James Felder came to the rescue. “You should try out Smoke Shack,” he suggested. “You have plenty of time.”

And so to cut to the chase: we did.

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Smoke Shack recently opened up on Bleecker Street, right near Carmine. I believe there’s another Smoke Shack somewhere and I will Google it right now to see for certain. [Pause while Adam Googles.] My research reveals very little. This may be the only Smoke Shack.

I think Smoke Shack may have had a cold too because it was pretty alone this Friday night. There were only two tables filled when we entered. The host/waiter guy sat at the bar reading a newspaper most of the time. Diana and I sat near a window and watched people strolling by.

When it came to the menu, we quickly agreed on ordering corn bread muffins.

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These were just the way I want corn bread muffins to taste even if it’s not authentic, though whether or not it is authentic is a matter of some dispute. See: I like my corn bread muffins sweet. These were very sweet, like cake. Stella–my Southern friend and Southern food expert (who joined us, later, for the movie)–says that real Southerners don’t make their cornbread sweet. When she cooked a Southern feast for us on her birthday, she made her cornbread not sweet. And becasue Stella’s sweet I pretended to love that cornbread as much as I love sweet cornbread, but the truth is I really do like sweet cornbread the best. Thank you.

Diana and I both had the same entree: ribs. We liked this entree choice because it came with any side we wanted. Diana chose greens (ugh, what are those greens called? You know: the southern greens you get with southern food? It’s slipping my mind right now) and I had maple whipped sweet potatoes.

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These ribs were nice and meaty and super-tender. Plus their flavor was unlike any flavor I’ve experienced with a rib: there was molasses, which made it sweet, and some kind of curry or spice that created an exotic undercurrent. They were almost like short ribs they were so saucy and moist—we started with our knife and fork but progressed to using our hands. And my maple whippe sweet potatoes were awesome.

So Diana and I enjoyed the Smoke Shack. Hopefully the business will pick up soon.

Then we caught up with Stella and James Felder and saw “Capote.” This is a knock-out movie: I hope Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins the Oscar. It’s really an incredible performance.

After the movie, we craved post-movie conversation. There’s no spot more popular in the East Village for post-movie coffee and conversation thatn Veselka, on 1st Avenue. And sure enough, on the way, who do we run into? John—you know John–from “We Eat Chinatown” and Carol Channing. He was going to meet Himkar who had just spoken to Kirk (who, incidentally, had just hung out with Mini Driver.) We all met up at Veselka and my quiet evening of solitude became a veritable party.

Veselka serves Ukranian food which, because my family is mostly made up of Russian Jews, is very familiar to me. I was torn between ordering a Veselka specialty–a raspberry blintz–or a banana cream pie. “Maybe we can share a banana cream pie,” suggested Diana.

“Oooh, I’ll share with you,” said James Felder.

“Wait she was asking me!” But I was too late. So here’s Diana and James with their banana cream pie:

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And here’s my delicious raspbery blintz:

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A blintz is (according to answers.com): “A thin, rolled blini, usually filled with cottage cheese, that is folded and then sautéed or baked and often served with sour cream.” My blintz was filled with ricotta cheese and it was really enjoyable with the raspberry sauce and the sour cream. “So much better than banana cream pie,” I insisted.

“I like it,” said Stella (who nibbled a little) “because it’s not too sweet.”

The night wore on and soon I was home feeling sick again. But a fun night was had and that’s all that matters.

A.O.C. is A-OK except for the loud music

There was a time, not too long ago, when I’d have to beg my friends to eat with me at interesting restaurants–to not do the Olive Garden or whatever restaurants most people our age eat at and try something different, new, and maybe more expensive than they wanted to pay. There was a time when they thought this web site was weird, that my infatuation with food was just a phase and that my taking pictures of food was a nuisance. But then, over time, as this web site gained in acclaim and as I was on CNN for making a breast cupcake, the tables turned a bit. Now my friends cater to my every whim. Well. Ha. No. But they’re more likely to defer to me for dinner.

So on Saturday night, when Lisa and I had plans, it wasn’t like I said, “We must eat where I want to tonight or the friendship ends!” It was more like we were figuring out what to do and I said, “Wanna try something interesting for dinner?” and she said, “Sure.” I suggested we go down to Bleecker street and walk around. (Reminder: Bleecker Street in the West Village is my favorite food zone in New York.) My secret destination was August but when we got there it was packed and the menu was too meaty for Lisa. So we ended up here, at A.O.C.:

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A.O.C. is a French acronym for…I defer to the world wide web which offers this definition via the A.O.C. L.A.’s web site: “The Appellation d’Origine Controlee or (A.O.C.) applies to wines, eaux-de-vie, dairy and farmhouse products. It guarantees that a product of quality has been produced within a specified region following established methods of production. The AOC is regulated by laws, the first of which was the Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin of May 6th, 1919.”

See the research I do for you people? The nice thing about A.O.C. Saturday night was that it wasn’t terribly crowded. We were seated (yay, I didn’t say sat) right away at a booth near the front. The menu is pretty big with lots of options for everyone at the table. The waitress asked if we wanted bottled water or sparkling water and we said tap water. She gave us a look. Then she asked if we were ordering drinks. Lisa ordered a diet coke, I was going to wait and order wine with my entree. Lisa’s diet coke came in a bottle and Lisa HATED that. “Ugh,” she said because she prefers tap, as most people do. This, I argued, was more European but that did little to assuage her.

We shared an awesome–and I mean awesome–appetizer: “Croustillant de Chevre: Phyllo Pastry Filled with Goat Cheese & Spinach over a Spinach Salad.”

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I told Lisa I thought this was an A+ appetizer. “It’s really good,” she agreed. I loved the crispness of the phyllo and the creaminess of the goat cheese and the greenness of the salad. It was a triumph of flavors! (They can put that on their billboard.)

But at this moment in time–and as is hinted at by the title of this post–the music was blaring in our ears. It was loud to begin with but it kept getting louder and louder. There must’ve been a speaker right over our table because we were drowned in noise. We totally couldn’t hear each other and, a bit fed up, we asked the waitress really nicely if they could lower it. “I’ll have to ask the bartender,” she said, “It’s part of the ambience.”

The ambience is death by sound? But it did, I suppose, get quieter over time. That was my least favorite aspect of the meal.

But the food was terrific, I’m not going to lie. My entree was “Cotes d’Agneau: Tender Lamb Shank cooked with Rosemary, Polenta and Seasonal Vegetables”:

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The meat was so tender I didn’t need the knife, just flaked it all off with a fork. And it had wonderful flavor helped by the winey, sweet and potent sauce. At this moment in time, I asked for a glass of wine. I wanted a red and chose a $7 Côtes du Rhône (like my fancy symbols?). The waitress said she recommended the $10 version. I said, “That’s ok, I’ll stick to the $7.” I’m not a wine maven and I felt pretty sure I wouldn’t taste the difference between the $7 and the $10. “The $10 is better,” she said. She wasn’t leaving. This was awkward. “No, thanks, just the $7 one please.” (We were actually using the names of the wines, not the prices, but that was what was implied.) She left reluctantly and I thought poorly of that experience. When the wine came, it was fine and I enjoyed it with my lamb.

Lisa had Risotto with arborio rice, truffle oil (I’m getting this from menupages.com), mushrooms, vegetables, paremsan, and aged balsamic:

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She enjoyed hers a great deal but couldn’t finish it because, as we all know, risotto is very filling. She took the rest home and I encouraged her to make arancini like I did last week.

The bill came and it wasn’t unreasonable for all the delicious food we’d eaten. Usually I like restaurants with adventurous unusual cuisine, but this was just standard French food (minus the risotto) prepared extremely well. We liked it. And next time I bully my friends into eating out, maybe we’ll go here again and sit away from the speakers, making sure to order $7 glasses of wine.