Monday, April 07, 2014

Best Additional Conference Weekend Learning

Ah, General Conference weekend. Since I know I'm going to be in the house all day, I try to use it as an opportunity to learn a little more cooking. Two years ago (sheesh) this is when I cranked my first cavatelli. A year ago I roasted a pork butt (but I've done that a bunch before).This weekend I had two undertakings I undertook:

I've made Chicken Adobo a bunch before using a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. In that recipe you first poach the chicken in soy sauce and vinegar and more and then put it under the broiler. Bloomfield's recipe has you frying the chicken first and then boiling it in soy sauce and vinegar with ginger and garlic with their peels still on and whole peppercorns. It's rustic and beautiful and smells so good. I miss the tight skin of Bittman's recipe, though. Maybe my next Adobo I'll cook Bittman style but with Bloomfield's ingredients.

Lesson Learned: Instead of buying chicken thighs I found a good deal on whole chicken legs. When I found I couldn't cut them into pieces easily, I just cooked them whole and tore the meat from the bones as I ate them. I think smaller pieces of chicken would be better, more surface area to cover with sauce and have infiltrated by flavor. 

I'd been avoiding, or ignoring, the Frankies gnocchi recipe. I've also long ignored gnocchi on menus for worry of mispronouncing. But Sunday afternoon I learned something amazing: Gnocchi is super easy. Easier than cavatelli, that's for sure. The potato and flour and cheese and egg mixture was a lot easier to knead than any cavatelli dough I ever worked over and once you've kneaded it you're practically done right there. Just roll it out into snakes, cut, and pinch (helps to have a helpful pincher) and then drop it into your boiling water and it's dinner time. Feel like my first shot at gnocchi turned out nearly perfectly. I don't mean to sound cocky. But that's how it went.

Lesson for Next Time: Tell you what I cannot wait to start exploring other gnocchi sauces. In particular, would like to cook up maybe like a really hearty pork ragu with vegetables—like Italian stew all over gnocchis, you know what I mean? You with me? See you first weekend of October, then.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Best My Slow March Towards Fame Continues Ever Onward

A little while back I got an email from a friend of friends asking if I'd want to write something for the second issue of her rock and roll zine, "My Burning Eyes." The email went into more detail than that, but really all someone has to ask me is "Do you want to write somethi...." and my answer will be "Yes." So after some email brainstorming I settled in to write about my experience in January seeing a band that had been on the bill at the first concert I ever, ever went to back in 1994. (I'm not naming the band here for anti-Googling purposes and because I had a nice time once meeting their singer here in New York, so you could consider that a spoiler as to how the story ends. And starts.)

Just last week I received my limited edition florescent orange copy of My Burning Eyes #2.

Have to say I was impressed. Lots of good stories and some really nice photos, all printed on high quality paper. I know, maybe that sounds like some pretty faint praise, but I mean it. I stand by this product as being Good.

To not cheapen my art (as artitsts sometimes say) I won't be posting my piece online but here's a picture of the first page...can you believe there's THREE more pages just like it after this one? Well, not just like it, they have different words.

You can order My Burning Eyes #2 (and #1, if you're a completist) here. BUT I've also got a few copies I'm willing to part with for the right price (probably just an expression of interest if you live in New York). The zine is worth grabbing just for Shane Holmes' story of seeing Def Leppard and Whitesnake in Albania alone.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Best Rainy Day Trip

Saturday I bussed down to Philadelphia to spend the day hanging out with Jenica, Carol and Ryan.

The first stop of the adventure was Philadelphia's famed Federal Donuts (where, if you were wondering about the logo, you can also buy fried chicken—like it says under the logo).

The establishment's treasure are its fried-to-order fresh hot donuts.

But the room temperature donuts aren't so bad, either.

Philadelphia stuff:

Then we went to the Mutter Museum to see its famous collection of medical abnormalities. Photos aren't allowed inside the museum and I didn't even remember to take a picture of the outside of the museum, but here's the outside of the building around the corner from the Mutter.

Then I got to spend some personal time at that museum with the steps.

Later that day we'd be talking about movies set in Philadelphia and the only one I could name would be The Sixth Sense.

Wouldn't dream of it.

I actually didn't see the Korea exhibit. I felt like they over-sold it a little.

Some of the stuff I did see, though.

Then we reconvened for lunch/dinner at Los Gallos, a place Carol had researched up.

The mood struck me to try their Torta Cubana. I am grateful for that mood. It was a very, very good monster.

And, when unwrapped, discovered to be much larger than I had dared to fear.

The tacos al pastor weren't at all shabby, either.

Then we went and watched Ryan headline at the Helium Comedy Club. (No pictures allowed!) After his set we met with local Ryan fans in the green room to ask Ryan the questions he must be asked all the time.

Look at me, I'm in a green room! (And posing for my Presidential Portrait)

And then it was time to go wait for my bus and then ride on my bus home to New York. The bus entered the city through Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I've never had a Chinatown Bus approach Manhattan so sneakily. What an exciting way to end a good day.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Best Local Spot Worth Knowing About

In the shadow of Manhattan Central Booking, on a nondescript stretch (Walker to Bayard) of a nondescript street (Baxter), between a Vietnamese restaurant and bail bond businesses, you'll find the Breakroom, an unassuming little establishment just minding it's business and getting things done. After three visits (the first late at night during a snowstorm as it was one of the only places still open in the Chinatown, the second and third this Wednesday and Thursday) I'm ready to say this is a solid neighborhood spot worth a visit from other neighborhoods.

The Breakroom menu can basically be broken down into three categories: Burgers, Tacos, and Fries (with some salad and hot dog options in there, too). On my snowstorm visit, and on my return Wednesday, I tried their trademark "Breakroom Fries"—a mix of crispy french fries and tater tots topped with pork belly, bacon, a runny fried egg, and cheese.

It wasn't until my second visit that I tried their trademark Breakroom Burger, a lovely 6 oz patty topped with pork belly, fried onion halves, fried egg, lettuce and tomato.

On second visit I also sampled some tacos, Steak, Chicken and Fish. The fish one was especially nice.

The menu reminds me of Roy Choi's magnificent Chego and Kogi truck in LA and the food is the JV equivalent of Choi's cuisine (this isn't a slam, it's an endorsement of how stinkin' great Chego and Kogi are and good company for the Breakroom to be in). I think each dish just needs one more ingredient, something spicy or funky, like kimchi (which you can order as an extra) on the burger and in the tacos...I mean, as the tacos are flirting with Asian-ness, why not go all the way?

At Chego meal number two I noticed an add for their Happy Hour menu and, low and behold, found myself back on Thursday afternoon to give it a shot.

And on visit three I noticed this leftover from the Breakroom's grand opening. Even if there was competition, these would still be the best burgers and tacos in Chinatown.

As advertised above, 99 problems but a hot sauce ain't one. Seating in the restaurant is all around a bar and the bar is completely lined with hot sauces (as well as hand sanitizer an the occasional bottle of Italian dressing or A1).

The $2 portion of their Thai's really, really good. It hits the flavor notes that I wished some of the other dishes went for. I see there's a chili dog and chili fries on the menu, both might be in need of trying out soon.

Chicken tacos and pork belly tacos are also available for $2 a piece during happy hour. The chicken is all right but the pork belly taco is really, really good.

Also of note: Breakroom has one of the friendliest staffs around. Extremely personable, hip but friendly, and they'll never let your water cup go without a refilling. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Best Long Story Short

One more thing about my trip to LA.

My last night there I went to a taping of Doug Loves Movies, a favorite podcast of mine, where my Tacos hat was plucked from the audience and thrust into the spotlight by Kumail Nanjiani, a comedian you may or may not have heard of and may or may not have seen on TV but didn't realize his name was Kumail. This is a screencap from a Vine that host Doug Benson posted.

Kumail wound up winning the evening's Leonard Maltin Game, which meant my Tacos hat and I won the evening's prize bag...included in the prize bag was the DLM t-shirt (size "Totally Small") seen below. I tweeted it at Doug and Kumail, Doug retweeted, 21,000 views of my tweet followed (I'm not much of Twitter fiend so this definitely counts as the biggest dipping of my toe into those waters). With luck this means I'll see more new friends in new Tacos hats out in the world.

And if you want to hear the episode, you can download it here (look for the March 5th episode). Be forewarned that good-natured profanity abounds. Tacos hat becomes a star around minute 26.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Best Order of These

Up bright and early and on the Upper West Side Friday morning to visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. 

Because a couple of Phoenixes live there for the time being.

They are big, made of materials from construction sites, and Chinese.

There is a boy one and a girl one but you'd have to ask an employee which is which to really know the difference.

Item of Note: I have never been to or around St. John's without seeing a High School Choir Group there, even at 9am.

Things seen outside of the Cathedral