Purring in my Neighborhood at The Red Cat

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I shouldn’t look any further than my own backyard. Because it if it isn’t there, I never lost it to begin with.” – Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

When I read Frank Bruni’s review of The Red Cat (a two star review, interesting to note because the other two Bruni-inspired restaurants I recently visited–Cafe Gray and Cendrillon–were both, also, two stars) I was surprised and excited to read that this “expert utility player” of a restaurant was in my neighborhood. 10th Ave. and 23rd street: that puts it four avenues away, but it’s a happy walk down 23rd street past old tall brick buildings with lots of character. Lisa’s grandmother used to live in one of these buildings. Lisa was my companion, as per usual, for this escapade. I met her on 23rd after work and we made our way down. It was a bit windy out. When we got to 10th Ave. I spotted The Red Cat flag, making like a Bob Dylan song:

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Once inside, we were greeted by a warm professional-looking host who asked if we had a reservation. When we told him “no” he said, “Well I can seat you, but you’d have to be done by 8.” It was 6:20 and we accepted his offer. The place inside was really welcoming: bright enough to be homey but dark enough to be mysterious. I liked it.

Frequently when I suggest a place for dinner with Lisa I look the menu up online to make sure there are vegetarian options. Here, all the entrees were meat or fish-based but the appetizers and sides had some considerable vegetarian choices. We chose the most lauded vegetarian appetizer (lauded in Bruni’s review and on the menupages site): zucchini sauted with almonds and served with pecorino.

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At first it tasted really simple—too much of what you’d expect to taste like. But about halfway through the second bite, you start to appreciate the subtlety of the flavors. “I’m really starting to like this,” I said. “Me too,” said Lisa.

For my entree, I had the “sauteed muscovy duck breast with breakfast radish, anchovy, and orange segments.”

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It’s peculiar, one might think, to pair anchovy with duck, but I was grateful for it. Usually duck sauces are too sweet (like Chinese “duck sauce” which is supersweet) and the anchovy added a salty briny layer to the flavors. The duck was expertly prepared and the sides were intriguing—I’d never had radish prepared this way. I liked it.

Lisa had two vegetarian sides which was plenty. There was baked polenta with stewed tomatoes and parmesan: (blurry, I apologize)

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And totally awesome “light tempura of green beans with sweet hot mustard”:

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I declared these the best part of the whole meal. They were crispy, salty, and bright and the sauce was sweet and hot. I ate more of them than Lisa did.

Leaving the Red Cat, my primary emotion was one of possessive gratitude. This place is in MY neighborhood. I’ll come here someday to celebrate my first Broadway show or my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. (Did I mention I have a daughter? Her name’s Simcha and she’s imaginary.) But, like Waldy’s Pizza, I wouldn’t tell someone from far away to journey to Chelsesa just to eat here. It’s special enough for ME to return to, but not special enough for someone to make a pilgrimage. Well, I mean, you could make a day of it. Go to a gallery or something and then go to The Red Cat. But when I think of places worth journeying to—Prune, Peter Luger’s, Pearl Oyster Bar–they all start with the letter P. Red Cat does not. But it sure made me purr. [This is the worst concluding paragraph I’ve ever written.]

Feedback

Thank you everyone for your feedback. It’s good to know what the people want so I can make the people happy. I’ll certainly try to cook more–something I like to do anyway–and explore boroughs besides Manhattan. As for my pictures, I do take the time with each picture to go into Photoshop to auto adjust levels, contrast and color. It’s time-consuming but I think it does make a difference. (I learnt all that from James Felder.) Otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I do, shakin’ what my mama gave me.

In other feedback news, I never got feedback from my doctor who was supposed to call me with the results! Maybe my cholesterol is so bad he’s coming over tomorrow for an intervention? More to come…

The Amateur Gourmet Suggestion Card

For those of you who don’t live in the Tri-State area, here’s an opportunity to post some comments too. I may be opening up a big fat can of worms here (insert appropriate graphic)

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but I’d like to open up the floor for comments and/or suggestions regarding the site. More podcasts? Less movies? More nudity? I’m all ears. Or eyes, as the case may be. Ok, happy suggestion making!

Hypotethical New York Meet-Up

This is a hypothetical question raised to the New York/Tri-State area resident readers of the site. If I were to have some kind of get-together for everyone in the near future, how many of you do you think would be able and/or willing to come? Let me know in the comments by stating your:

NAME:

WHERE YOU’RE COMING FROM:

WHO YOU MIGHT COME WITH:

WHAT DAY OF THE WEEK AND TIME WORKS BEST FOR YOU:

HOW YOU’LL WEAR YOUR HAIR:

WHAT GIFTS YOU MIGHT BRING ME:

This is all just for my knowledge so that if one day I do plan a get-together I’ll have a general sense of how many people might show. But this won’t happen VERY soon because I start school next week!

Pound Cake and the 12 Hour Fast

After much fanfare, today I finally went to the doctor to have my cholesterol checked. An inept nurse weighed me first and told me I weighed 140 lbs which was shocking because I don’t weigh 140 lbs. Then I realized she had the marker in between 100 and 150 and the small marker on really high. I fixed it and revealed my true weight: 450 lbs. I prayed this woman wouldn’t administer the needle.

She didn’t. A nice much more competent nurse drew blood and caused me little to no pain. The results will be in on Wednesday. Stay tuned for that!

The hardest part of the ordeal came the night before (last night, to be precise). I was told not to eat after 10 pm in anticipation of the cholesterol test. That would be 12 hours of not eating. How might I endure this hardship?

I decided to race the clock and throw together a pound cake at 7 pm. If I could have the cake out of the oven by 9, I would have one hour to consume as much of it as I wanted. Plus, I had a nifty new tube pan that I bought at the Broadway Panhandlers near Union Square. I used a recipe from “The Gift of Southern Cooking” but you can use any old recipe. As Giada de Laurentis on TV taught me: the term pound cake comes from the old formula for it–a pound of butter, a pound of flour and a pound of sugar. Perfect right before a cholesterol test!

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So there’s the batter in the tube pan. It goes into a cold oven (this is Scott Peacock’s method) and the temperature is first raised to 225 then, after 20 minutes, up to 300 and finally, after another 20 minutes, up to 325. This lets the inside cook before the outside. Here it is out of the oven:

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I then prepared Scott’s lemon butter glaze which I spooned on to the warm cake after flipping it over.

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As you can see, I’d alreay cut myself a slice since–by the time everything was done–it was 9:40. I had 20 minutes to eat it.

The reason I made pound cake, really, is because it’s a great vehicle for various toppings. I saw Giada toast pound cake and then spread with marscapone, apricot preserves and amaretto. I decided to top mine with fresh raspberries:

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A delicious treat, just in the nick of time. And then 12 hours of pure deprivation: I barely made it through the night. But made it I did and the results will be in soon. Who’s betting it’ll be too high? Or who thinks I’m just fine? Wagers are encouraged.

The Grandma Proof Napkin Dispenser

Long time readers of this site will recall my classic post “On Napkins” in which I wrote:

“It’s my grandmother’s fault.

Back in the day, we would go to Wendy’s and she would say: ‘go get us some napkins.’ I would come back with two or three and she’d say: ‘No, no, no! Here, let me show you.’ She’d hold my hand and lead me over to the napkin dispenser. “Like this,” she’d say, sticking her fingers deep inside and yanking out 40 or 50 napkins. ‘That’s how we do it.'”

That (admittedly wasteful) method has served me to this day. Until the advent of this:

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Is it a coincidence that my grandmother spent two weeks in my apartment while I was in Europe and that now that I’m back I see these dispensers all over Chelsea? Ok, it probably is a coincidence. But these dispensers are brilliant in how they prevent you from grabbing handfuls of napkins. Go ahead, try to reach in and pinch a cluster of napkins, you won’t be able to do it. Believe me: I tried. There’s really no way to get napkins out except one by one. The grandmothers of the world have been foiled. But not for long. New grandchildren are being grown in labs with narrow pointy fingers for this very purpose. These are the Children of the Napkin Revolution. T-shirts available shortly.

Eating at New York Burger Co. in Chelsea is like going to Rome and eating at Pizza Hut

If there were no Shake Shack, I might have different feelings about New York Burger Co. Shake Shack is on 24th and Broadway in Madison Square Park. New York Burger Co., a chain, recently opened up near me on 21st and 6th. So you see one avenue behind this facade and three avenues up is the best hamburger in New York. How can it compete?

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The answer is: it can’t. I mean, it’s fine. Really. This burger, called the Chicago Burger, has Applewood smoked bacon, cheddar and 1000 island dressing. Perfect for the health conscious:

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According to their informational pamphlet, “New York Burger Co. is keeping it real: starting with Coleman All Natural Beef, we’re trailblazing and doing things the old-fashioned way. No artifical anything!…Our Idaho fries are freshly cut & prepared in cholestral [sic] free soybean oil.”

Well that’s their first mistake (and it’s the same mistake they make at Good Burger): what’s the point of eating fries if they’re healthy?! Please, bring on the cholesterol (or cholestral) and make your fries better.

As for the burger, it cost $7.75 and in combo with drink and fries $10.75. Shake Shack charges $4.16 for a Shack burger which is “ground daily from sirloin and brisket.” I realize I ordered a special burger at NY Burger Co. so, to be fair, a plain “New York burger” costs $5.75. But that’s still more money than a special Shack burger and a million times less good.

If you live in an area with a NY Burger Co. and without a Shake Shack, I don’t frown upon you if you eat there. You’re doing what you must. But for me, it’s basically sacrelige. NY Burger you are dead to me. Long live Shake Shack!

Food on the Boob Tube

I’d like to share with you several food-related moments from several days of TV watching:

(1) The VH1 show “Celebrity Fit Club” is strangely enjoyable. Yes, it’s got all the markings of a crappy reality show: the panel of judges, the challenges, the weigh-ins. But at the end of the day, it takes a certain amount of bravery for a celebrity, no matter how low on the totem pole, to get weighed in every week and to get chewed out by an angry drill instructor. The moment I’d like to point out, however, is a happy moment. It’s when the Snapple Lady got weighed in the other day—she didn’t reach that week’s target of 5 pounds, but she teared up and said that running in that large plastic ball (one of the challenges) against Jacque from 227 was one the highlights of her life. See now I’m crying. Someone get me a Snapple.

(2) Nothing better than old Roseanne and this particularly episode I caught, called “I’m Hungry,” (from the first or second season) was perfect for our Amateur Gourmet audience. Roseanne goes on a diet because her pants won’t fit. She starts throwing away all the junk food and Dan says, “Whoah that’s $40 worth of food you’re throwing out” and he hides it in a cabinet saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Some of the exchanges were priceless but now I forget them. Oh, like when Becky says it’s okay for Dan to get fat because “men are supposed to get fat when they get older, but on women it looks awful.” Roseanne doesn’t take that well. D.J. tells Roseanne he “likes her mushy.” I agree.

(3) Kathy Griffin’s show (which is hilarious, methinks) had her eating miniature tacos. “My nutritionist wants me to eat carrots, he says when I crave tacos I should have a carrot but let me tell you something, I’ve had a carrot and it’s no f*ing taco.” [What’s funny is I completely made that quote up from my vague memory of what she really said. I’m a horrible journalist but that’s the nice thing about being a blogger. I get to make everything up without penalty.]

Tune in next week for more Food on the Boob Tube.

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