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Bacon of the Month: Vande Rose Farms

Posted January 22, 2009

BOTM: Vande Rose Farms

As a wedding gift, Jori and I were given a subscription to Grateful Palate's Bacon of the Month Club. Sure, the internet is overrun by bacon, but that doesn't make it any less delicious. In other words, we were excited.

BOTM: Vande Rose FarmsEach month you get a package of bacon shipped to you with a card that explains the bacon's flavor profile and its producer's origins. This card also had quotes from Danny Meyer and David Chang, extolling the virtues of Vande Rose Farms' bacon. Danny said, "My Favorite. Lovely appearance, exquisite balance, remarkable meat. All this needs is a fork and knife. 4 oinks."

Personally, I found the bacon to be delicious. It was salty, flavorful and super smoky. I also enjoyed the thick cut, which let you feel like you're really eating a piece of meat. My only complaint would be that it was a little too fatty. It made it tough to cook evenly. I don't know what scale Danny Meyer is using, but I'd probably give it 4 oinks out of 5.

Here are all the pictures I took of this batch and I'll be adding photos each month to this photoset.

Why Those Chicken Wings Were Good

Posted May 31, 2008

A month or two ago I tried David Chang's chicken wings at Momofuku Noodle Bar. They were second, and just barely second, to the wings at Dinosaur BBQ but they were far more interesting and complex. I finally got around to reading the profile of David Chang in the 3/24/08 issue of the New Yorker and I got an explanation of what made those wings so delicious.

Take the chicken wings, for instance. All you knew when you were eating them was that they tasted really good. What you didn't know was that they'd been brined in a salt-and-sugar solution for a whole day (but not longer, or they'd be too salty), then dried out and cold-smoked over mesquite for forty-five minutes, then poached in a vat of pork fat for an hour and a half, then browned on the flat-top, then glazed in a chicken-infused soy sauce combined with mirin, garlic, and pickled chili peppers. Each step, executed perfectly, was vital to the dish. This was what the cooks at Noodle Bar understand.

Dining with Bear Grylls

Posted December 22, 2007

20071222bear.jpgI'm a big fan of Man vs. Wild, the Discovery show about a survival expert thrown into situations that require, well, survival. While that's the gist of the show, my two favorite subplots (and potential drinking games) are Bear telling war stories ("I knew a man who lived on beetle fur for 12 years in this rain forest) and Bear eating gross creatures then describing what they taste like. My secret desire was fulfilled when a clips show entitled "Bear Eats" came on last night. I was squeeling with joy.

While I recommend you try to watch the show (here's a schedule and here's a DIY video montage), I've decided to compile some of Bear's cooking and eating tips I gleaned from this episode. First, here's some info on the flavor explosion Bear experiences.

On long horned beetles: "It's like a big prawn that's been sitting around for weeks that's all shell and rotting guts."

On termites: "They taste like...a little bit zingy..not very nice citrus." "But termites pack a surprising 560 calories in every handful."

On raw wild snails: "It's like a giant, cold, bogie."

Bear is also an expert in nutritional info and cooking.

On boiled sheep eyes - "Icelanders eat almost every part of the sheep...even the eyeballs. Sheep eyeballs are extremely nutritious. They're high in protein and rich in vitamins A and D. Usually they're the first thing to rot, but in this cold weather, these are still good." He boiled the eyeball in a hot geothermal pool. They're okay to eat raw, but he's just trying to get rid of the bacteria. "It's like chewing gristle full of cold gloop." MMmmmmmm.

On roasted turtle - "I've always cracked the belly, gutted it, scraped all the meat out and ate like that. But in the Everglades the Seminoles used to cook it straight in its shell, sort of like a pressure cooker. Just put it [on the fire], leave it for an hour." "Cooking time will depend on the size of the turtle. One way to tell it's ready is when the shell is brittle and cracks." He hammers it with the his knife to expose the flesh. There's less than a half a gram of fat and no carbs or sugar. "Mmm, this is one of those times you can say it really does taste like chicken."

That's just the half of it, but I'll make you watch the show to see the rest. I love Bear.

Hello There, Serious Eats

Posted December 4, 2006

20061204SElogo.jpgYou've know for a while that I've been writing for A Hamburger Today and you've known for a week that I've got a new job and know you'll know about the fantastic coincidence that joins these together.

Today marks the official launch of Serious Eats, a site implemented by all of us at Apperceptive. What's nutty about it is that Adam, my burger-lover in arms at AHT, is the managing editor. Yep, we both ended up with new jobs that let us work on food blogs for money (more him than me, though).

Coincidence aside, Serious Eats is looking sharp. It's backed by tons of awesome people (Ed Levine, Meg Hourihan and Alaina Browne to name a few) and has the makings of a great community. I'm always overwhelmed by Chowhound and put off by the pomposity of eGullet's members, so I'm ready for Serious Eats to provide all the answers I need.

Ordering Streetcart Food and Usability

Posted September 13, 2006

Tony Dragonas Food CartA month ago I went to Tony Dragonas' food cart to get a chicken gyro. While I knew that all of New York calls it a JAI-row, I insisted on calling it a YEE-ro, as I'd been taught that this was the correct pronunciation. When it was my turn I said, "One chicken yeero please." Before I could do anything about it I heard, "One chicken hero, coming up." Oops.

Today, I went for another one and my friend suggested I just call it a chicken pita. Hmm, good point. Then I realized that the word "gyro" is broken in the Mark Hurst This is Broken sense.

The most import aspect of ordering your food is properly conveying what you want. While I might impress a Greek man with a true pronounciation, saying "yeero with tzatziki" instead of "chicken pita with white sauce" will probably confuse the other 95% of servers. This seems especially true at a streetcart where speed and price are their two greatest assets.

Cultural heritage may be worth preserving, but not if I get my chicken on a hero instead of a pita. More broadly, it's often worth sacrificing something that benefits those in the know to help the general public. A parallel in web design would be the question of semantic mark up. In this case, <b> is to "yeero with tzatziki" as <strong> is to "chicken pita with white sauce". The first tag is more concise but could be confusing, while "strong" is more easily recognized by those who are new to HTML.

Really, how you order your food is a "know your audience" issue. Try ordering a hoagie outside of Pennsylvania and you'll see what I mean.

A Trip to Bamn!

Posted August 30, 2006


Last night, I made a trip to Bamn! with Adam of Slice and AHT fame. Bamn! is an automat, which means there are vending machines that provide hot food. The establishment also has a counter where you can order drinks, soft serve ice cream, fries and hot food made to order. Below is a very TGWAE-like photo recap of my trip. If you don't feel like following along, know that the food we sampled was average save for the fries and the mac & cheese kroket, but the experience was novel for the likes of me. You can view a flickr photo set here.


You can see it's a pretty typical automat. You put in money, open a small glass door and an edible item is waiting for you.


They also have a menu that you can order items from. As I said before, these are made to order.


The change machine is pretty self-explanatory. You put in paper money and you get quarters or dollar coins (they happened to be out of dollar coins during our visit).

At this point, we made our way to the food. To avoid clogging up my entire front page with this post, you'll have to click through if you're reading this on the homepage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Food Diary: Days 4-7

Posted June 26, 2006

Okay, so I got lazy. I kept the log, but I didn't bother putting it up until now (day 7 might be a little spotty; I think I missed a few things). So shoot me. Tien, you are far more regimented than I.

Day 4: Friday

8:25am HOME Banana
10:30am WORK Sesame bagel with cream cheese from street vendor
11:37am Start 32oz. of water
2:00pm 1/3 of my leftover Blockheads Burrito, small container of salsa, 1/2 of a small bag of tortilla chips
2:09 Finished water
2:17 Started 20oz water
4:18 12oz. Sprite
5:40 ANGELIKA FILM CENTER Medium bag of popcorn
8:25 BURGERS AND CUPCAKES Cheeseburger, 1/2 a basket of fries, carrot cupcake, glass of water, 2 bites of a vanilla cupcake
10:30 HOME Glass of water

Day 5: Saturday

10:28am HOME 20 dry Trader Joe's Frosted Mini-Wheats
10:44 Bowl of TJ's Raisin Bran with 1% milk
12:56pm AMC EMPIRE 25 Start 24oz. of water
1:28 2/3 of a box of Junior Mints
2:21 Finish water
4:27 Start 24oz. of water
4:37 The rest of the Junior Mints
5:46 Nature Valley Oats & Honey Granola Bar
6:10 Finish water
7:11 McDONALD'S Cheeseburger
8:57 FETCH 1 Glass of water, 1 Diet Coke, Blackened Salmon with Tomato, Avocado, Corn and Zucchini
12:04am HOME Glass of water

Day 6: Sunday

10:28am HOME Bowl of Honey Puffed Kashi with 1% milk
12:58pm Leftover Salmon from yesterday, 1 small strip of grilled chicken, 1 Fresca
2:26pm 30 pistachois, 1 glass of water
3:21 1 hot dog gummy candy
3:57 1/2 of a Spinach Pitza (yes, Pitza) from Bedouin Tent
5:24 McCARREN PARK Started drinking water
9:14 Finished water, drank 84oz. total
10:04 HOME Two Trader Joe's Corn & Bean Enchiladas, glass of water
10:31 1 gummy hot dog candy

Day 7: Monday

8:29am HOME Bowl of Honey Puffed Kashi wih 1% milk
10:06 WORK Begin 32oz. of water
1:12pm Turkey burger with fries from America's Burgers & Wraps, Diet Coke
3:39 Banana
4:14 Finished water
8:42 YEMEN CUISINE (Great place, could only find an out-dated Voice review) Chicken Galaba, Yeminite soup (no clue), Salad with carrot ginger-ish dressing, 2 glasses black tea
9:47 LAST EXIT BAR 1 fountain Coke
11:36 HOME 1/2 glass of water

Food Diary: Day 3

Posted June 16, 2006

The dam is starting to break...

Day 3: Thursday

8:28am HOME 1 bowl of Trader Joe's Rasin Bran with 1% milk
10:34 WORK Begin 30oz. of water
10:37 2 baby carrots
11:21 1 bing cherry
12:33pm 2 bing cherries
1:04 1 Two-thirds of a chicken burrito from Blockheads, 12oz. Diet Coke
3:14 Granny smith apple
4:34 Finished water
8pm TIEN'S HOUSE 1 pint of water
8:13 LOMZYNIANKA Vegetable soup (potato-based?), a bite of cucumber salad, a bite of kielbasa, a bite of stuffed cabbage, a plate of boiled cheese and potato pierogies
10:30 HOME 1 Choco Taco, the best ice cream snack around

Food Diary: Day 2

Posted June 15, 2006

I didn't eat quite as much, but I didn't eat as well. I have a feeling it's just going to get worse through the weekend.

Day 2: Wednesday

8:34am HOME Banana
9:36 WORK Everything bagel with cream cheese from local deli
9:54 Started 10oz. of water
11:54 Finished water, started another 32oz.
12:46pm Slice of cheese pizza from Mariella's, 12oz. can of Fresca, 3 salt and pepper soy crisps
2:11 1 rugalach, 1 small fruity cookie
3:37 A handful of unsalted/roasted cashews
4:18 Finished water
5:56 STREET 1 Butter Rum Lifesaver
6:58 HOME 15 grapes
7:12 Trader Joe's Chinese Chicken Salad
8:05 Banana
9:33 LAUNDROMAT Nature Valley Peanut Butter Granola Bar
10:27 HOME Granny smith apple

Food Diary: Day 1

Posted June 14, 2006

Having recently read and enjoyed New York Magazine's five food diaries and followed along with Tien's, I decided to do my own. I'm always curious about what other people eat, so I thought I'd start the dialogue. Feel free to give it a shot on your site.

Day 1: Tuesday

9:30am OFFICE Begin 30oz. of water
10:52 Sesame bagel and cream cheese from street cart
11:20 Banana
11:29 Finished water
1:55pm GRACE'S MARKET Swiss cheese cube
2:09 OFFICE Begin 20oz. of water
2:11 4 pieces of fresh salmon sushi, 8 maki tuna roll pieces (both with wasabi and soy sauce)
2:33 Golden delicious apple
2:56 Finished 20oz. of water
3:36 4 pretzels
4:19 12oz. can of Diet Coke
7:15 HOME Heaping bowl of rotini with pasta sauce and ground turkey, 1.5 glasses of water
8:36 About 40 grapes
11:05 25 pieces of Trader Joe's Frosted Shredded Wheat Cereal

Resolution #1: Cook at Least Once a Week

Posted January 19, 2006

The only conventional resolution I made this year was to cook more. It's healthier, it's cheaper and it's usually tastier. Since "more" is a little too amorphous for me, I decided I would cook at least once a week.

Cooking doesn't just mean microwaving a Lean Cuisine; I have to actually create a dish. In Week 1, I gave into my sister's praises and made Rachel Ray's Spanikopita Burgers. They were excellent. The spinach kept the burgers juicy, which is hard to do with a turkey burger.

Last week Jori and I had some people over for a dinner party, which meant serious cooking. Our menu was lime and honey glazed salmon on a warm bean and corn salad from Rachel Ray 365 (good recipes, annoying girl), asparagus and goat cheese quesadillas, red-skinned mashed potatoes and baked apples by Alton Brown, my favorite. The entire meal was fantastic and we managed to get everything out on time and hot. I was happy.

I haven't decided what to cook this week, but I'll certainly keep you posted and will start talking some photos.

In honor of my newfound dedication, I decided to splurge on some new cookware. I was going to just get a nice saute pan, but I found an amazing deal on Amazon for a 10-piece set of Calphalon One cookware. The entire set, with an extra 12 qt. stock pot and a 6" cleaver, was $375 with shipping. The deal has expired, but I couldn't pass it up. It's scheduled to arrive on Saturday (Fedex Ground does Saturday deliveries?) and I'm eager to get cooking.

Update (1/23/06): My pans have arrived!

Russell's Barbecue

Posted December 1, 2005

Like most people, I have a variety of traditions to attend to each time I go home. The best ones involve seeing my friends and family, but my favorite restaurants are next in line. For lunch, I hope to get a sandwich from Potbelly Sandwich Works. I highly recommend the Wreck. If I'm craving sushi, we go to Sushi Kushi Toyo in Lake Forest. When I'm near my dad's work or grandma's house, I love hitting up Russell's Barbecue in Elmwood Park.

To be clear, I don't go to Russell's for ribs or chicken, I go for their BBQ sandwiches and that is all. Their other stuff is probably good, but it's of no use to me. These sandwiches are delicous. Come to think of it, their barbecue sauce is what's really delicious. Yes, the meat is tender and shredded, perfect for soaking up liquids, but I come back to spread that sauce all over the sandwich.

Russell's is definitely an institution. It's been around for 70 years and it's the kind of place your parents or grandparents introduce to you. If you don't have either in Chicago, you can go anyway. I recommend splitting three sandwiches between two people because I just can't leave having eaten only one sandwich.

Hitachino Nest White Ale

Posted November 17, 2005

white-ale_1105.jpgOn Friday I visited Momofuku Noodle Bar for the first time. It was excellent, but that's another story altogether. While eating, I took a chance on a beer called Hitachino Nest White Ale and it was the most exciting beer I've ever had.

Hitachino Nest White Ale is a Japanese beer brewed by Kiuchi Brewery. Their brief description calls it, "A refreshing mildly hopped Belgian styled beer with a complex flavor of coriander, orange peel, nutmeg." It was definitely the spices that grabbed me as the flavor was quite memorable. I'm no beer connoisseur, but I know this was tasty. If you don't trust me, check out its Beer Advocate profile.* Now if you don't trust them, know that the White Ale won a gold medal in the 2004 World Beer Cup. That should do the trick.

The other thing I loved about this beer was its label. It has a decidedly Japenese aesthetic, but is very inviting to me. I probably would have bought it based on the packaging alone.

It seems that you can get Kitachino Nest beers at a Park Slope beer emporium called Bierkraft. The Kiuchi Brewery makes about 10 varieties of Hitachino Nest beer, but I'm not sure how many are available stateside.

* In addition to rating the beer (it currently has an 87), Beer Advocate offer good pairings with food, glassware selection and ideal serving temperature for beers in the Witbier family. Good site.

An Open Letter to California Taqueria

Posted May 24, 2005

Dear California Taqueria,

Your "Outrageous Burrito" used to be pretty good. It wasn't fantastic, but it filled me up and it helped me hit the $8 delivery minimum. Lately, it's been pretty crappy. About half of the mass is devoted to the tortilla and there's way too much sour cream. What's up with that?


p.s. Are you guys voting for Bo Bice?

My Birthday Dinner at Grocery

Posted April 15, 2005

Birthday dessert at GroceryLast year, Zagat's gave Grocery a 28 food rating, which is crazy for a 30-seat Brooklyn restaurant. Grocery is a mere 15 minute walk from my place in Brooklyn. Knowing these two facts, I knew it was only a matter of time before I tried it out. Last night, Jori took me for my birthday.

The restaurant is completely unassuming. The outside is painted gray and the sign is slightly difficult to read. The decor inside is equally tame. Even the dishes aren't anything completely crazy. The quality of the food, on the other hand, is outstanding. It has as much to do with the preparation as it does the quality of the ingredients. And now, the blow by blow.

The meal starting out with a taste of their excellent potato leek soup. It was dense and had poignant flavors. Jori and I shared two appetizers. She had an asparagus salad topped with a poached egg, creamy lemon vinaigrette and shaved parmesean. I would never have thought to include a poached egg there, but it was delicious. I had grilled cuttlefish with fingerling potatoes on a bed of romaine lettuce. I had never tried cuttlefish before; it's like a fleshier version of squid. Jori thought it tasted like shark, which I've never had. Either way, it was tasty but nothing special.

For our entrees, Jori had a striped bass with crispy potatoes and assorted vegetables. She said, "it was very good; light and not too fishy tasting." I had the special, which was pan-fried chicken with ramps*, spetzl and romaine lettuce. The chicken was amazing and the spetzl, which I'd never had before, was a salty delight.

For dessert, we decided on a rhubarb cobbler that had a walnut-centric topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Being a big rhubarb fan, I loved it. It was like a rhubarb stew. The best part about it was the candle and the birthday message on the plate. Very sweet (get it!?!).

As I've made abundently clear, the dinner was fantastic. The co-owner, Charles Kiely, said in the NYT piece, "I don't think we're doing earth-shattering food. We're just a really good neighborhood restaurant." That hits it right on the head. If you like eating delicious food without all the frills, this is your place.

To see more blurry photos from the meal, check out my flickr gallery.

*As you'll read if you follow the link I posted, ramps are only in season for two weeks a year and are fairly unusual. They also took part in the best meal I've had in my life.

Finally, Soup Burg Gets Some Credit

Posted December 10, 2004

This week, Time Out NY lists the top 100 burgers in NYC. At number three on the list is my all-time favorite burger, Soup Burg. For as long as I've been reading lists about the best burgers in the city, Soupburg seems to be left out. This time, it's all the way at the top.

Their burger has nothing quirky about it -- it's just a flat-out great tasting diner burger. I highly recommend the Bacon Swiss Burger. Also, Soup Burg has a distinct charm. Hidden away between Madison Avenue's fancy shops is this wood-paneled diner that has been around for 55 years. It's one of those places where you see rich folks dining alongside construction workers. I just love it.

Here is the rest of the top ten, which I'm dying to check out:

1. Donovan's Pub
2. P.J. Clarke's
3. Soup Burg
4. Pastis
5. J.G. Melon
6. Rare Bar & Grill
7. Fanelli's Cafe
8. Paul's
9. Blue Ribbon
10. MetroCafe & Wine Bar

Perfect NYC Meal #1

Posted August 25, 2004

Sunday night I had one of my favorite meals in New York City. What's better is that both locations are next door to one another.

The first half of the meal began at John's Pizzera on Bleecker Street. Unlike it's midtown brother, the original location uses a coal-burning oven, which provides a different flavor. I much prefer the downtown location because of this. In fact, it's my favorite pizzeria in the city.

While there, we got two small pizzas. One had onions and sausage while the other had onions, peppers, mushrooms and olives (the last two only on half). The pizza was fantastic. Their toppings aren't as good as Grimaldi's, but the rest of the pizza easily makes up for it.

Afterwards we walked next door to Cones, the best ice cream in the city. It's not your traditional ice cream it's not hard-frozen. As a result, the ice cream is very soft and the flavors stand out a lot more. If you're into sorbet, this method works quite well.

While there I had one of my favorite combinations: dolce de leche and banana (truthfully I like anything and banana). I definitely recommend getting two flavors, even if that means sharing with your dining partner(s). The juxtaposition makes everything exponentially better.

While this is my favorite, I'm sure tons of other people prefer the Grimaldi's and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory combo. This is definitely a safe bet and I highly recommend these places as well.

A Seinfeldian Rant on Bagels

Posted August 23, 2004

What's up with bagels? Seriously, no one in this city can seem to spread on the right amount of cream cheese.

When I go to a high quality bagel place they tend to give me an unbelievable amount of cream cheese. I end up wiping off 3/4 of it. When I buy one on the street, it is not spread on. Instead it comes in a square that doesn't quite cover everything. Today I went to Dunkin Donuts and there was barely any cream cheese at all. Why can't someone get this right?

At least Einstein's Bagels hasn't arrived in NYC yet. Their so-called bagels taint the whole industry. Instead of an actual bagel, it's more like a round roll with a whole in the middle. And what self-respecting bagel-lover would get a cranberry bagel with jalapeƱo salsa cream cheese?!? I mean, come on! Keep away from New York, Einstein's.

To end on a positive note, I highly recommend Bagel World on Court Street in Brooklyn. They make a good bagel and have a few locations throughout Brooklyn.

Down with Carb-Counting: Part 2

Posted July 11, 2004

This week an op-ed piece discussing the Italian diet appeared in the New York Times. It questions the reasoning behind Americans disdain for carbs when Italians are generally skinny and eat four times as much pasta per capita. As you'd guess, they have smaller portions of pasta in a meal and exercise is imbued in their daily lives.

It reminded me of my mom's super-secret, highly conceptual diet. Here is a step-by-step guide:

STEP 1: Burn more calories than you consume.

That's it. That's all you have to do. Okay, so it's not that easy, but if you do this and use common sense (balanced diet, regular exercise) then you're guaranteed to lose weight.

Like I said, it's not easy. Losing weight is a difficult proccess and I'm not intending to poke fun at those who are having trouble doing this. Americans have been trained to eat huge portions very quickly, which I think is our biggest problem. I could go on about how we need to slow down so you can more accurately tell when you're full, but the author of the op-ed piece is more convincing than I could be.

So, for the last time I hope, I ask you to reconsider your gimmick diet. By all means, find something structured that works for you, but if you're going to spend money on a new diet then I suggest you head to a nutritionist and ask for some help. It might be a touch more expensive than the South Beach book, but they know what they're doing.

Homogonized Dairy Beverage

Posted July 1, 2004

Carb CountdownMan those chocolate chip cookies were fantastic. Now, if I only had something to wash them down with. I know! I'll have some low-carb homoganized dairy beverage!

I think anyone can admit that this sounds ridiculous. Of course, not every low-carb food has to have such a ridiculous name, but it is a god segue into my thoughs on this carb madness. For those who don't remember, between ten and fifteen years ago the world realized that eating too much fat was not good for you. Consequently, thousands of low-fat and no-fat products flooded the market. Now, the same thing is starting all over again, and it's annoying.

We have low-carb soda, low-carb chips, low-carb bread, low-carb yogurt, low-carb cookies, low-carb ice cream, low-carb wine, low-carb candy and God knows what else. Most of these products just lower the sugar and market it as low-carb. I'm sure all of the naturally low-carb stuff is rebranding as we speak.

Personally, I feel bad for the wheat and rye products of the world. Here they are, not harming anyone, and they are considered to be deadly. It's sad, but this isn't a post about the craziness of some current diet trends. This post is to remind you that there will always be a health fad and it will not work magic. In another fifteen years we will be talking about the problems with protein or fiber and we'll go through this again. Guaranteed.

For now, I encourage you to chuckle at all of the ridiculous low-carb products available today. Marketing is funny.

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