Lesa and I went to Cole’s in the West Village a couple of nights ago. Amazing drinks, but terrible food. Really bad. The kale in the Tuscan Kale Salad tasted as if it had been marinating in dishwater all day, the White Shrimp with its avocado and citrus squarely plopped me in a chair across the table from my grandparents at their country club in 1987 and the Hot Flashed Squid blew serious chunks. So we cancelled the entrees and had more drinks. And more. And then we went back to the East Village and had a couple more at The Third Man. Big thumbs up. After all of that, we went home and ate lasagna. And then we went to bed. And THEN I was woken by the sound and sensation of water dripping on my pounding fucking head. Awesome! Needless to say, the morning after sucked. Kids to school in the driving rain, dogs walked, in the shower, dressed, out the door….appointment cancelled. Sigh. I could have slept for another hour!!! Oh, well. Must get food. God blessed greasy fooood! Still raining, through Tompkins. Odessa? No. 7A? Can’t do it. Walking west on St. Marks, I’m thinking Silver Spurs. Terrible, but perfect diner food for right now, but then I remember a surprise meal I had years ago and loved. The Middle Eastern Breakfast at Café Mogador. Score!I settled in at a table looking up onto the street and ordered a big fat fresh squeezed orange juice and the previously mentioned breakfast with two eggs, poached. Five minutes later, I’m on the road to recovery. I have to admit that I usually go for grease in situations like this, but los dos huevos with the hummus, tabouli, salad and zahatar pita was going to be my smack on this particular morning. I’m pretty sure that it was the perfectly fluffy and herbed pita that tied everything together, but the gooey yolk from the eggs and the sweet little oasis of olive oil and paprika in the hummus didn’t hurt either. Round those elements out with a bit of green and some zippy sliced grape tomatoes and I had myself a full belly and happy head. I’m not giving you a scoop or anything here because Café Mogador will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, but please let this serve as a reminder that it is in fact possible to cure a mean-ass hangover with something at least sorta-kinda healthy.
When and where I grew up, we had Spring Break. One of them. Between New Year’s and the end of the school year. Our kids now have Winter Break, Spring Break, and about a million days off in between before they get to summer sometime at the end of June. And because my wife and I were raised with that one break, we always find ourselves the week before winter break with a huge gaping hole in our calendar and no plan in place. But, alas, not this year! We planned months in advance this time around (and we were very self congratulatory about the whole thing. Yes, this year we were to be good parents). Seeing as Lesa and I were relatively fresh off a solo, sans kids jaunt to Mexico we were definitely up for more of the warm, but at a place where the kids could lose their minds and have a blast. Preferably a place with a kid’s club or sitting service so Mommy and Daddy could hit the proverbial town on a night or three. We surfed and chatted and looked a little more before we dimwittedly booked a “fun-filled” family vacation to Atlantis.I want to be clear from the start that there is nothing wrong with the people who actually work at Atlantis. They could not have been more helpful and kind in every respect, but the place is just too bloody huge. And that is, unfortunately, Atlantis’ greatest downfall. We were impressed on the first day (65° and blowing 25 knots) by how easy it was to get a snack and a drink at the poolside food huts. No line. Everyone knows your name and your drink of choice. Amazing. Switch that six to an eight in the temperature and you have some serious beach and pool weather. You also have a shit show backstage with lines a half-hour long to get a fruity rum something and a donkey dick-sized chili dog that’ll set you back almost as much as a couple of appetizers at Per Se. Now, call me crazy, but if you’re gullible enough to pay the kind of money that Atlantis charges at any of its six hotels, shouldn’t you at least be spared the indignity of spending an indecent fraction of your day waiting in some interminable line simply because the weather is cooperating? And God help you if you haven’t booked your Mesa Grill reservation at least a month in advance because mealtimes around this place become a survival-of-the-fittest type exercise complete with running (yes, running) and sheer anxiety. And once you’ve secured your lowly spot at the bar (and your heart rate has returned to normal) don’t for a second be fooled into thinking you’ll be rewarded with a tasty morsel or two. Unfortunately Atlantis’ second greatest downfall is that the food is one step above completely inedible.Now, maybe I’m bitter because the weather didn’t turn out to be the best and Lulu brought with her the remnants of a nasty cold and cough that kept us imprisoned in the suite a time or two. But, if you go ahead and splurge for the ocean view suite, it should at least be tolerable to go on the balcony and read while your little one takes a nap and battles a fever. That ocean view suite we booked? Yeah, you see the ocean, but you mostly see, through the bars of your balcony, the tower of the neighboring hotel with its four thousand balconies. Call me nuts, but staring at all those things with all those people behind them is in no way, shape or form relaxing.But there are upshots to the debacle that was winter break this year. Ten year-olds don’t particularly give a hoot about waiting in lines, freezing their pellets off or eating really crappy food. They do, however, love to run around in a new and different environment tailor made just for them with water slides, a cool aquarium with sharks and a bunch of other kids who are just as bananas. And our 10 year old is no different. The kid had a blast and that certainly softens the blow for us grumpy grownups. And in spite of the #epicfail we consider this vacay to be, we did, at the very least, learn to always plan in advance. We know we cannot control the rain or the wind, but we can control how large or small our future destination will be and ours will be little. Tiny and intimate. And this one is for certain. The three-year-old who, will be four, will not be sick. She will not be sick. God, please, she will not be sick.
We’ve been fascinated for several months about the strange entrepreneurial magic that’s been brewing on Third Avenue in Gowanus. Formerly a sleepy crawl of vacant storefronts and assorted social clubs; of late, there have been several really excellent restaurants, cafes and small shops that have taken root up and down the strip. The latest place is called Runner & Stone. I had to look it up, but the name’s origin refers to the two stones used to grind grain in a traditional mill, the runner stone and the base stone. Wikipedia aside, what’s more interesting is that the kitchen is manned by a fairly dynamic duo: the former chef de cuisine at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn and the head baker from Per Se. I knew I wanted to try it but I’ll admit to being confused: What the hell is it? A bakery? A restaurant? A café? We went last weekend for brunch, and as it happens Runner & Stone is all those things. The interior of the restaurant is bright and minimalist, which is perfect because there’s little to distract you from the first thing you see when you walk in: the baked goods. Jesus, dude. I’m not a big sweets guy but what was on display looked so over-the-top we decided to be fatties and order what we decided to call a “pastry course.” We had an apple turnover, an almond croissant, and a cheese danish. They were honestly all varying degrees of perfection, but the almond croissant was hands down the most ridiculous thing ever. Please order that. But we expected them to be good, so no surprise. The surprise was the remainder of the brunch. I had the eggs Benedict over fish cake wrapped in pancetta. Take a gander at this plate. The eggs were perfectly cooked, the hollandaise was light and frothy and the fish cake/pancetta thing was crispy, salty and amazing. I sopped it all up with their fresh baguettes and creamy house-cultured butter. Pure friggin’ breakfast joy. One other note– get their hash browns. Courtney had them with her fluffy omelette, but I coveted them. Go ahead and double order them. And three cheers for Runner & Stone, we’ll be back next time for dinner!
I have a theory that if a sandwich possesses a name – The Godfather, the Costanza, The Dagwood, etc., – it is surely worth eating. It seems inconceivable that someone would take the time to name a sandwich that was not worthy. Naming is an act of love. So there was not much thought needed this weekend at Court Street Grocers when I spied Little Shonda on the menu.And if the name didn’t get me, the ingredients list did: Eggs, pastrami, swiss, pickled green tomatoes, and Lincoln administration favorite Durkee’s famous sauce on toasted pumpernickel. If the person who came up with this combination did not twist the ends of their moustache in devilish glee, I’d be very surprised. The pastrami was salty and tender, the eggs were fluffy, and the briny tang of the tomatoes provided an amazing balance to the fatty deliciousness of of the meat and sauce. Unique and utterly devourable. I metaphorically was licking my fingers after I finished the sandwich. Yes… metaphorically. It rocked so much I really want to declare this thing the winner of our contest. A round of applause for Little Shonda, and hats off to Court Street Grocers! I think this contest is officially a wrap.
The Great Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown is underway and already the competition is getting fierce. According to our incredibly willing and highly reliable taste tester (me) a very serious contender for the title can be found at the East Village outpost of Back Forty. The Housemade English Muffin Sandwich is the brainchild of chef/locavore Peter Hoffman who was an early pioneer of the farm-to-table concept at the (sadly) now shuttered Savoy.
This incarnation of the brunch staple consists of what I consider to be the four basic food groups: bread, eggs, cheese and, of course, bacon. Oh, and with a little bit of honey butter to round things out. The sandwich is served open faced, and, at first glance, you might wince at the sight of two (only two??) small pieces of bacon. But fear not my porcine, I mean, pork loving, friends. You will not be disappointed. Upon assembly (i.e. delicately smashing the two halves of English muffin together) the perfectly prepared, over easy egg erupts into a yolky volcanic dream. The texture of the housemade muffin, with its crisp cornmeal crusted outside and soft, spongy inside, is the perfect complement to the crisp strips of bacon and it does a fantastic cleanup job on the egg that runneth over.I’ve been to Back Forty twice in the last month for one of these bad boys. You know, just for the sake of the accuracy of this review. I may not be ready to declare it the ultimate winner just yet, but I will say it’s neck in neck with the current frontrunner. Four out of five eggs.
They tout themselves as having the best friend chicken in Brooklyn and I’m inclined to agree, but goddamn if Jimmy’s Diner in Williamsburg doesn’t have some of the best comfort food anywhere.
The burger I ordered came out thick and juicy on a soft bun with good old American cheese. Those are buttermilk onion rings in the background that are delivered with Jimmy’s delicious homemade ranch. I love onion rings and eat a lot of them and these perfectly crispy monsters are absolutely NOT to be missed. Also try their ridiculously sinful homemade tater tots, any one of their hang-over helping breakfast bowls or anything fried or pork.
And to wash it all down, they make nice tall cocktails properly poured. If you’re not in a drinking mood or you’re 10, try one of their milkshakes. This one was the black and white and the whole family spent the better part of two and a half minutes devouring it. Jimmy’s is open everyday from 9:30 in the morning until 10 a night and they only take cash. Give it a shot. Jimmy’s rocks!
The new (and old) restaurants on Bond and Great Jones Streets have been sucking me in to sample their tasty offerings lately. This morning, it was The Smile at 26 Bond Street.
Stepping down off the sidewalk into the basement of this old Noho loft building, you are taken by the herb-adorned entrance and old word charm of this rustic restaurant/coffee shop/general store. I grabbed one of the window seats in the front and decided to keep it simple…scrambled eggs with Gruyère, sourdough toast and a salad. Great way to start the day.
For lunch, The Smile has a great choice of fantastically prepared salads and sandwiches and the dinner menu, while short, focuses on amazing fresh selections such as whole roasted brook trout and seared flank steak over sautéed sweet corn. The Smile perfect for a low-key lunch meeting or glass of wine and an appetizer after work. Cool place.
I love a breakfast sandwich. Egg, meat, cheese, roll: so simple, so delicious. Raise your hand if the $3.50 corner deli-variety of bacon/egg/cheese on a Kaiser got you through the rugged alcohol-soaked mornings of your mid-twenties. Raise ‘em high! It is with this reverence that we at On the Real announce our hunt for New York’s greatest breakfast sandwich, or ”The Great Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown.” You’ve already heard about the fantastically diabolical Breakfast Burger from Mile End. Next up: an entry from newcomer Smith Canteen, in Carroll Gardens.Born from the same culinary minds that created the refined southern delight Seersucker, the foodie folks at Smith Canteen offer up Berkshire ham, organic eggs and NY Cheddar on an everything croissant. The ham is thick, salty and delicious, the cheddar is flavorful and gooey, the eggs are fluffy… but what really puts this over the top is the everything croissant. Buttery, flakey, and with the savory crunch of your favorite everything toppings. The croissant is pure genius. I’d be hard pressed to think of something that would not be improved by sticking it in this croissant. Is this the best breakfast sandwich in the city? I’ll give it 4 out of 5 eggs.
The folks at Mile End have been wowing taste buds in Boerum Hill since late 2009 with their incredible (and incredibly priced) Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches. In May, they hopped over the river and opened a spinoffon Bond Street in Noho.
A serious danger to my health as it is on my route to the office every morning, Mile End Sandwichis open for breakfast. It has sucked me in twice in the last week with their preposterously good Breakfast Burger.
That’s a veal sausage patty with a sunny-side-up fried egg, cheddar cheese, apple butter and maple syrup on an English muffin…a wonderfully gooey and heart-stopping combination. In the interest of at least appearing that I try to stay healthy, I had their surprisingly crisp and tasty celery soda to wash it down. Madness for the mouth!