Sunday, August 30, 2009

Maine

my family rented an amazing house in Maine (this year, Fortune's Rocks) and, of course, we ate a lot of delicious food. To celebrate my uncle John's 50th birthday, we had a mussels-and-lobsters fest that was amazing.

Thai mussels (made by my mom):


me eating lobster:


We all know what cooked lobster looks like, so I didn't really photograph it. Also, I was kind of predatory the moment it came out and didn't really have the wits about me to snap a picture. In Maine, we get the lobsters right from a lobsterman for $7.50 each ($5 per lb, 1.5 lbers). Even better, out of the 22 lobsters we bought, I got to eat at least eight bodies, because most of my family doesn't go for the delicious body meat. My sister does, though, and we had to fight over carcasses).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brazil, day 5

Saturday, so I had to have a feijoada lunch (when I ordered it, with a caipirinha on the side, the waiter gave me the thumbs up and said something about how I did the Brazilian thing). We just stopped in a random place in Copacabana--Flor do Inhanga, a sidewalk cafe.

Fried pork rinds, collard greens, black beans, farofa, chunks of pork, linguiça, pig knuckles...It was a sick amount of food for lunch, and it cost--R38 (around $18 or $19--but it was outstanding. I probably ate half.

Samir flew out, and Priya and I cabbed it to Santa Teresa for dinner at the well-reviewed Espirito Santa, which serves Amazonian food with a modern twist.


Bolinho crocante de queijo coalho (fried coalho cheese balls with açai chutney)



Mujica de piranha (piranha soup, thickened with mandioc flour)



Peixe de rolo (rolls of rockfish/dorado stuffed with shrimp, with tapareba--an Amazonian fruit--sauce over roasted hearts of palm)



Arroz do Peão (rice with oxtail and watercress).


The piranha soup was very good, but tasted like a very good fish soup--nothing insanely weird. The açai chutney made the cheese balls awesome, and the rest was great--but the thing that surprised me most was the hearts of palm. In the U.S., hearts of palm is one of the only foods that I boycott due to ethical concerns, and in the U.S. they're crappy anyway--canned, pickled, blah. These fresh roasted hearts of palm were amazing, and I'm glad you can't seem to get them in the U.S., because it would try my boycott.

oh, we also had a glass of cupuaçu juice, which was sour and sweet--I liked it fine, sort of passionfruity, but Priya did not.

Brazil, day 4

sandwiches at Cervantes in Copacabana for lunch. We went in the afternoon, but it's open 'til 5am and full of local prostitutes and pimps as the hour gets later.

I had the Cervantes especial, which is file mignon, pineapple, and pate (they say foie gras but it's definitely just liver pate).


Priya and Samir had other permutations--chicken, pineapple, and cheese, file mignon and pineapple and cheese, etc. Samir also had a "Russian salad", which is apparently potato salad with vegetables in it.

the table next to us had a crabby middle-aged American guy with a 20something Brazilian girlfriend who complained that he bit on a bone, swore a bunch, and stormed out while she followed, embarassed.

that night, we went to Lapa for some music--samba at Rio Scenarium. No pictures of the dinner, which was linguiça and onion pizza at a local bar/pizzeria that was supposed to be the recommended Encontras Cariocas, which unfortunately seems to have closed and been replaced with the place we went. The pizza had no tomato sauce--even the margherita just had some tomatoes dropped on it--and was cut into a grid, so there were dozens of 1-inch square bites of cheese on bread for us to eat. Bleh. Good fried bacalau (salted cod) balls for appetizers, though.

Brazil, day 3

walking through Centro, stopped at Confeiteria Colombo for iced mate and pastries--I had a fried pastry stuffed with smoked tongue, which was delicious.


Walked the Sa'ara Bazaar, where I snacked on a rosquinha (donut) before we stopped to eat at a Lebanese restaurant.


Beef kafta



Mujadarra



Falafel


It was all decent, but little did we know that one of these things would give Priya severe food poisoning that would strike her just as we arrived at dinner and keep her sick through the night before mostly disappearing in the morning. The water in Rio is fine to drink and I'd been having ice cubes, water, etc. all week, so we suspected improperly-washed lettuce.

for dinner, Priya & I went to the very well-reviewed Afro-Brazilian restaurant Yoruba, which specializes in Bahian food (northern area of Brazil). Surprisingly, it was empty--we were one of two tables there. The menu was full of moquecas (shrimp or seafood stews made with coconut milk and dende, or palm oil) and other delicious-looking things, and the food was great, but the food poisoning revealed itself and we had to finish up and leave.

Shrimp moqueca. We'd been worried that the dende would ravage our stomachs--it's said to be tough on those who aren't used to eating it--so it's ironic that Priya was felled by food poisoning before putting a spoonful of this in her mouth.



Caruru (okra stew, a bit like saag in texture but slimier--in a good way) and pureed/spiced banana (not sweet at all):


Plate, with farofa (mandioc/cassava flour):

Porçao Rio's churrascaria in Brazil, plus weird fruits

For dinner on the second night, we went to Porçao Rio's, an absolutely enormous rodizio-style churrascaria in a park in Botofogo. It's large enough that it's marked on all the city maps and there are signs off the highway for it. For R75 (about $40, a little more than we'd expected) we spent two hours stuffing ourselves with meat from proffered skewers--chicken hearts, ostrich, several different types of beef, ribs, lamb, sausages, pork, and more. There was also a gigantic buffet of seafood and other delicacies. The picture doesn't really do it justice, because of course stuff kept getting piled on the plate as the night wore on.


Any idea what this vegetable is? It came with a salad of shredded, slightly cooked carrots. Looks like a garlic scape a little, but it's not--very mild green flavor.


We also stopped in at a grocery store to buy some weird fruits:


Caju (the fruit of the cashew nut; you can see the cashews on the top of each; it's beautiful, but does not taste very good), atemoia (a cross between a chermoya and a graviola/guanabana/soursop--it was delicious!) and nespea (the little orange fruits; a boring sweet flavor).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Brazil, Day 2

The free executive lounge breakfast at the Rio Marriott is quite good, and we had it every morning--acai or strawberry juice, prune yogurt, various types of linguiça and other sausages, etc.

For lunch, we wandered into Garota Urca while walking around Urca after ascending Pão de Açúcar. It was a very simple bar/restaurant with a lot of locals taking advantage of the lunch specials, and turned out to be very good and not expensive.

Linguiça with onions:



Contra-filé (steak) with molho a campanha (salsa-like accompaniment) and mandioc flour to dip the meat in:



Arroz de polvo (octopus) with broccoli (chopped superfine):



Pork and pineapple sandwich:

Brazil, Day 1

Our trip to Rio de Janeiro began inauspiciously when the airline "forgot" my vegetarian meal (which I usually request because it tends to be so much better than airline microwaved meat meals) and instead provided me with 2 salads and 2 pieces of bread for our 13-hour trip. So the first food we ate in Brazil was a plate of cheese fries that Samir ordered in the Marriott restaurant right as we arrived and were sitting around drinking caipirinhas waiting to check in. As cheese fries go, they were pretty strange.


We did some snacking, eating a guava and drinking some Guarana Zero in the lounge, before heading to Leblon for a simple dinner at a friend-of-a-friend's house. Later that night, wandering Copacabana, we stopped in McDonald's to see what weird regional specialities they might have; Priya got a fried apple pie (which apparently don't exist in the States anymore?) and I got an "Ovomaltine" McFlurry (they also had catupiry--cheese--and fruit pies, as well as banana). N.B.: I think it has been about 15 years since I had McDonald's, and in the past couple of weeks I've had two McFlurries; just circumstance, I swear!

Gastronomically, a quiet day in Rio (which we would more than compensate for later).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Guess where Priya and I ate lunch yesterday

The General Greene

Ahmad's birthday dinner at The General Greene, Fort Greene's hotspot of "New Brooklyn Cuisine". It's not a "tapas" place, per se, but serves only small plates (hot and cold) for sharing.

Deviled eggs, created with mustard "and just a little mayonnaise". Believe it or not, I ate one (after being shamed into it), marking the second time I have eaten mayonnaise in like 15 years (and the second in the week). I did not spit it out, but honestly, it would've been better with Green Goddess tahini dressing or something instead of mayo. Everyone else loved them.


"Sugar beets," a bit misleading (they are not sugar beets at all, nor are they even particularly sweet), both raw (the ultrathin slices) and cooked (the not-really-visible-in-this-pic chips) over za'atar yogurt:


Green beans with pickled shallots and roasted walnuts. Barely cooked, like super al dente; so good we asked for a second order:


A special: heirloom tomato salad with microbasil, sprinkled with salt:


Macaroni and cheese, with very cheesy crumble atop. There was barely any white bechamel-type sauce; instead, the bottom of the dish was filled with oil and melted butter. I liked it well enough, but I prefer a cheesy sauce.


Flap steak with smoked garlic and parsley; outstanding! The review quoted above called this, at $11, one of the best deals in the city; the General got wind of this and had raised the price to $13 by the time we showed up. Still awesome (we ordered two):


Collard greens, pretty crunchy (almost Brazilian-style) rather than cooked to brown mush (Southern-style):


Chicken pieces braised in lemon with big green olives and gremolata, with a breadcrumb crust on top; some members of the party found it odd, but I thought it was delicious:

What Priya called possibly the best ribs she's ever eaten: salt and pepper grilled pork ribs with spiced yogurt sauce. I don't know what was in the glaze, but they were outstanding. Definitely order these if you go!


Dessert: salted caramel ice cream over a caramel cake with pretzel brittle on top (um, pretzels with caramel sauce drizzed on them, apparently) and Madagascar chocolate mousse. Both delicious, but the salted caramel ice cream is a standout.


Then back to Sam and Erum's for Dessert 2.0: a lemon meringue pie from Choice. I have to confess: I usually could take or leave lemon meringue pie (it's so often just, like, lemon pudding with little more than whipped cream on top), but this pie was amazing. The lemon curd wasn't too sour nor too sweet, and the meringue was almost like eating toasted marshmallows. I'm a convert.

I will be back to the General Greene to try some of the other dishes we couldn't get round to. And happy birthday Ahmad!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm

Brina & Priya & I walked over to Eagle Street Rooftop Farm on Sunday morning to check it out. After having heard of it from Jonny Meyer and sampling some of the produce at t.b.d.'s beer garden, we wanted to see what it was like (and it's only two blocks away).

it was rainy, but it wasn't far and we had umbrellas. it was crowded with people, but there seemed to be a pretty small amount of produce...two eggplants, one basket of greens...then I realized that as they sold an eggplant, they would go pick one more and bring it down! so it couldn't be fresher.

we toured the rooftop farm itself--beautiful setup, and the juxtaposition with the surrounding industrial cranes and warehouses makes it even more pleasing. then we bought two huge heirloom tomatoes for $6 (that's not bad; while it's no Co-op, heirloom tomatoes go for $5.99/lb some places) and left.

for breakfast, we had eggs scrambled in ghee (Kenny Shopsin's recommendation, and a good one--they don't brown) and sliced heirloom tomatoes with fleur de sel. delicious.



the Rooftop Farm wouldn't replace normal shopping, but it is a great place to stroll over to on Sunday morning to buy some just-picked food to eat right then for brunch.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fornino pizza on Bedford

needing a quick pizza fix, Priya & I biked over to Bedford Ave to try Fornino. Priya had never been because it had replaced a neighborhood favorite, and I had noticed a suspicious absence of talk about it on pizza/food blogs. It was mostly full, but it was 9pm on a Saturday night and we were seated immediately.

I immediately noticed that the menu was arranged exactly like the menu of the now-defunct Cronkite's in the LES, where we used to go after happy hour sometimes (pizzas classified as "The First Generation," "The Second Generation," etc.). I asked the waitress and yes, this place was owned by Michael Ayoub, the chef behind Cronkite's.

We ordered the special salad (superthin-sliced golden beets, thin-sliced peaches, goat cheese, greens, toasted almonds, lemony dressing), an anchovy pizza, and a soppresatta pizza. The dressing wasn't as sweet as it sounds--the peaches were, in fact, kind of crunchy and not very ripe. Nonetheless, it was very good, and I liked the toasted almonds/beets/cheese combo.

The pizzas were pretty good, but the sauce was a little runny and they were so hot the toppings also ran off when we picked them up--the very very thin crust couldn't stand up to them. Waiting five or six minutes for them to congeal made them better.

No pictures because of the dimness. It's not a bad place, but I understand why it's not on the top of anyone's list when compared with other Brooklyn pizzerias.

t.b.d. beer garden in Greenpoint

on the eve of my move to Greenpoint, with all my stuff in boxes, Priya & Brina & Katie & Annie & I walked two blocks to have dinner at the t.b.d. beer garden, where a friend of ours (Jonny Meyer, of I8NY) was grilling.

t.b.d. opened a year or two ago in the neighborhood, and I'd never heard much good about the bar--too slick, maybe. But in the past few months, they took the next-door abandoned lot and converted it into a very large beer garden, which is a nice outdoor space. When Jonny was tapped to make the food for the beer garden, t.b.d. got another big boost in our esteem.

okay, the food (apologies for shitty pictures; it was dark and we had to use flash). first, Jonny sent over some grilled fava beans with crumbled cheese (cotija?) and parsley. we ate them pods and all, pulling out the stringy spine.


I had a pork banh mi, hold the mayo (although Jonny did get me to try a lick of it on a fork, the first mayonnaise I have eaten in, like, fifteen years). It was, non-hyperbolically, one of the best banh mis I've ever had. Truthfully, I haven't eaten many--too often, they'll refuse to do no-mayo versions, so I pass--but still, the combo of the grilled, marinated pork with the fresh vegetables, boiled eggs, and sriracha....


Brina had a veg-heavy eggplant sandwich, with mint, harissa, and smoked feta cheese.


Priya had a burger, which was absolutely nothing like a regular crappy grill burger you get at a cookout, and more like one of the artisanal burgers pricier restaurants have nowadays.


We also shared a side of mac 'n' cheese, and I had one of Katie's smoked chicken wings. Earlier in the day, I'd been at a Long Island City bar for 99cent beers and 25cent chicken wings, and so had an immediate point of comparison. These wings were fully different from the crappy 25cent heated-from-frozen hot wings; they were a meal themselves.



Jonny also described how he purchased produce from Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, a rooftop farm a block away; we resolved to visit it soon and check it out.

great place, and not expensive! I'll be back, and recommend checking it out for anyone in the neighborhood.