Journey To Chocolateland

Lauren, my beloved former roommate, was in town for one of her labor law cases (she’s a labor lawyer) and she called me Monday to go to dinner. I quickly whipped out my New York magazine and set upon the task of choosing a venue that would serve both our needs. My needs are very complex: Something new but not too trendy; something exciting but not too bizarre. Lauren’s needs are much simpler. They can be summed up in one word. Chocolate.

If I were a selfish person, I would ignore Lauren’s ridiculous need and focus on my superior need for serious food. But I’m a better friend than that. And so by the end of the evening, Lauren found herself face to face with this piece of heaven:

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But where was she? Where were we? Find out as you click ahead and learn the location of our night out in Chocolateland.

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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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Did We Go Ga-Ga At Megu?

Ok, enough with the excitement–redesign and book deals be damned–we need to get back to our roots: my name is Kunta Kinte. I take pictures of my food.

I had lunch last week with a professor who told me that if my mom likes trendy and my dad likes red meat, we must make our way to TriBeCa and dine at Megu. “They cook kobe beef on a lava rock,” he said, “your dad will love it.” So, because they were here this weekend for a wedding, a reservation was made for Friday night. My brother, who was staying with me, and I made our way down by subway. It took 10 minutes. Mom and dad took a cab and it took 45 minutes. I love the subway.

So here’s the evocative exterior:

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Since I get complaints that all these pictures make the site hard to load, to read the rest of this review: click below.

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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.

Do You Like American Cuisine? I Like American Cuisine: Eisenberg’s Sandwich & Philly Slim’s

My brain and I have a healthy relationship. I give him books and avoid drugs more serious than Flinstone vitamins and he rewards me with pretty constant inspiration. Take the idea I had today: what if I had cultural weeks here at the Amateur Gourmet? Like on different weeks I’d be like: “It’s Korean Week!” and then I’d cook Korean food and eat at Korean restaurants for a week. See: isn’t my brain generous? My brain likes Koreans.

So let’s say today was the first day of American Week. It’s not, but play along. Then the two meals I ate today would be in complete conformity with American Week. Let’s begin with Eisenberg’s Sandwich:

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Eisenberg’s is located right close to me on 5th Ave. I’ve walked past it many times. I’ve read the blurbs on the window. I read about it in Robert Sietsema’s book. It’s listed under Sandwiches and Comfort Food (but could very well be filed under American.) He writes: “Step into the past, when sandwiches weren’t made with faddish ingredients like arugula, pesto and ciabattas. In 1929 when Eisenberg’s was founded, New York City was paved with these places. A lonely presence on this stretch of 5th Avenue among fast-food emporia and pita palaces, it steadfastly retains the standard lunch menu of soups, sandwiches and sour pickles. Their egg salad is creamy and clean tasting and only slightly salty. Order it on rye, and strike a blow for heirloom eating. Add bacon and find nirvana.”

Strong advice! So how could I not heed it?

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Nirvana? I’m not sure about that. But deeply comforting, yes. And a terrific fusion of all America has to offer. From purple mountains majesty to bacon crisped on eggs—these are the foods of the farmer on the bread of the Jew. (Did Jews invent rye? Probably not. But we sure make good use of it in our delis.) And Eisenberg (who must be Jewish, with a name like that) makes good use of it with his egg salad. The best way to describe the sandwich is subtle with hitns of aggression: the egg salad, as Sietsema says, is “only slightly salty” and therefore doesn’t bop you over the head. Instead it’s a creamy base for that crunchy salty piggy bacon. Ah bacon. On the bread of the Jew. The Talmud might not approve, but the Constitution says it’s A-OK. And this sandwich makes me proud to be an American.

Wow: that last paragraph is an embarassing mess. But that’s my new philosophy as a writer: spectacular messes are better than drab perfection. Don’t you agree? [The ghost of E.B. White says: “Get a broom and clean up this pigsty!” “Pigsty, did someone say pigsty?” “Quiet Wilbur.”]

Anyhoo, a write-up of Eisenberg’s would not be complete without a description of the environment. So behold the environment:

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It’s like a movie set, isn’t it? An old time diner with the swivel stools and the hanging lamps and the paper hats and the old lady with her mouth open. This is what America is: a cramped room with narrow passageways and diverse groups of people eating egg salad near the Flatiron building. “I hear America singing,” wrote Whitman, but perhaps he meant eating. Egg salad with bacon makes a distinct crunch that might inspire epic poetry. Aren’t you enjoying America week?

Let us segue, for a moment then, to another token of the American experience: corporate greed!

My friend John–Generous John, we shall now call him, for his intense generosity–invited me to join him tonight for not one but two theatrical events. The first was a preview of the new musical “Lestat” based on the Anne Rice books with music by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin. The preview took place in the Winter Garden theater and Warner Brothers, which is producing the show, gave out little gift bags with Lestat diaries and copies of “The Vampire Lestat.” When the lights dimmed, out came a Warner Brothers executive, the show’s director (I forget his name), Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Anne Rice, the costume designer and the set designer. Here they all are leaving the stage in an impossible to see picture:

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If you look REALLY close you can see Anne Rice by herself exiting and in front of her is Elton and then Bernie. The music from the show (they played five songs) was pretty catchy but all in all it felt like a corporate endeavor: a paint-by-numbers assemblage of crowd-pleasing content that had less depth than the heel on Elton John’s shoe.

The crowd seemed to like it though. Well, mostly. The girl in front of us fell asleep. Afterwards, at a Starbucks, a woman approached us with a cane and spied our gift bags.

“I gave away my book,” she told us. “Because I’ve already been a victim of the dark arts.”

“Oh ya? What happened?” asked John. I skidded my chair away from the looney.

“Someone psychically attacked me,” she told us matter-of-factly. “I knew a secret about him and so he told me I knew too much and when I was walking up the aisle of a theater he waved his hand over my head and I fell and had extreme pain in my leg. The muscles are all in knots now. Even the doctors say someone must have attacked me.”

Where am I going with this? It’s a slice of life. American life. You love it.

But let’s get to the food. The second theatrical event of the evening was one I was truly looking forward to: the first preview of “The Color Purple.” So John and I made our way over to 9th Avenue to grab something fast. We spotted a place selling cheesesteaks–Philly Slim’s–and decided to go in.

The menu at Philly Slim’s is very straightforward. To wit: it’s cheesesteak, with few permutations. And so John and I both ordered cheesesteaks with few permutations.

Here’s John with his:

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And here’s mine up close:

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It looks like greasy heaven. And that’s what America is for many people: a greasy heaven. (Boy I’m stretching this America thing way too far, aren’t I.)

Here’s what New York magazine says about Philly Slim’s: “Despite this joint’s spirited devotion to the City of Brotherly Love and its various foodstuffs—Hank’s sodas and Tastykakes are on display—the cheesesteak came up short: bland meat, flavorless onions, and a stingy hand with the Whiz.”

I don’t fully agree with that. I didn’t think the meat was bland and I didn’t find the onions flavorless. But I would agree that it wasn’t spectacular: it was just a happy greasefest on a bun. Our arteries were properly clogged and that’s what we wanted. The fries, though, truly sucked.

“The Color Purple” (and I should disclose that the book of the musical is written by my masters thesis teacher) is truly awesome. I hope it’s a big hit—the crowd seemed to love it. And I’ve had the title song stuck in my head since I left the theater

Boy, this was quite a journey we took in this post. I included peripheral non-food information to provide joyous content for your day at work tomorrow. I have a theory: most people read me because they’re bored at work. That theory comes from my brain and my brain thanks you for indulging the first cultural week experiment. Should this experiment yield a bonafide concept, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime: God bless America.

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.