Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of a burger that I perceive fussy or fancy. That is to say that any burger going beyond properly cooked beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard or mayo on a decent bun is likely gonna be lost on me before the words on the menu make it past my eyeballs and into the old frontal lobe. (Notice I deleted ketchup? That’s on purpose. I hate ketchup.) So on a trip to Edi and the Wolf yesterday for brunch, it surprised me that there was an audible ding ding ding ding ding in my head when I saw their burger being delivered to another guest on a thin slab of black slate with roasted potatoes and pickled cucumbers. It looked a little swanky…but something told me I had to go for it.And, oh my, was I delighted I did. First of all, this thing is just frickin’ gorgeous. But looks, as we all know, aren’t everything. However, the minute you chomp down on this baby, your taste buds are doing backflips over the perfect sextuple of flavors working together to leave you smiling in contented bliss. Let’s start with the meat. Pat La Frieda, grass-fed Black Angus hanger cooked perfectly medium with just the right amount of salt. Off to a good start! The cheese is Gruyère melted dreamily over the previously mentioned mouth-wateringly-mighty meat. On top of this is a manageable pinch of pickled and caramelized onions with a nice little mound of baby arugula dressed with Edi’s chipotle-mayo based special sauce which adds just the right amount of zing to this already-over-achieving take on an American classic. Cram all of this in between the delicious brioche bun and you have, my very good friends, my favorite burger in New York City. Yeah, I just said that. And it took a lot. I seriously can’t think of one that beats it. Shake Shack? Love. But, no. BareBurger? Not. Corner Bistro? Not even close. Minetta? Great, but uh-huh. The Wolf Burger at Edi and the Wolf takes it, folks. It surprised the hell out of me too, because burgers are not what proprietor and Iron Chef champ Eduard Frauneder and co-chef/owner Wolfgang Ban are known for, but these guys have entered the ring here with some of New York’s best and are going toe to toe in one helluva bout. I highly recommend you put a weekend brunch trip to Edi and the Wolf on the calendar now, because you can only get the Wolf Burger on Saturday or Sunday from 11:30 to 3:30 at this Avenue C insta-classic establishment.
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.
I spied a fish out of water on East 5th Street this morning. It was a Citroen DS. Lovingly referred to as the ‘goddess,’ it was first introduced in 1955 at the Paris Motor Show and must have been at least part of Hanna-Barbera’s inspiration for The Jetson’s which didn’t air until 1962. Somehow, this 1972 version has managed to make it a full 41 years after being one of only 38,000 to hit these shores out of 1.5 million produced worldwide in their 20 year run. The DS was incredibly innovative in that it used a full hydraulic system to run everything from the power steering to its clutch.It also sported the hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension system introduced the year before on its big brother, Citroen’s Traction Avant. That’s why when these babies are parked, they look like someone chopped a foot out at the knees. Don’t let that droopy look fool you, though. The Citroen DS took home 1st at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1959 and 1966 as well as a 1962 victory at the 1000 Lakes Rally. Automobile Magazine put it at #5 of the coolest cars of all time and it ranked as the most beautiful car ever by a renowned panel of judges at Classic & Sports Car magazine. This one is pretty banged up, but I’ve seen it parked around the East Village for a while now. I love its guppy-like design features and how it so seamlessly blends in and contrasts with the turn of the century tenements of Alphabet City. These Citroens were considered to be some of the most luxurious executive cars of the time, so if any of you know who owns this one, please let them know that Jesse and Greg want a ride. Maybe we can muster up a donation for them to take us to the First Annual On The Real Gala we’re planning to hold at Donald Trump’s mecca of gold and poo on the Fifth of Never! Here’s to you, Old Frenchman. We love having you in the neighborhood.
It’s no secret that life in this town is stressful. Add a wife, 2 kids, a coupla canines, a hamster named Roberta and a whole pile of green things that need to get watered and…Holy Shit! That’s my reality, and as amazing as it is, you’ve got to take time every now and again to rediscover what got you there in the first place…a fantastic helping of thrown caution to the wind and one helluva woman. Lesa and I pulled that time out of our hats last weekend with a carefully coordinated visit from Grandma and a check-in to the oft-dreamt-about Bowery Hotel for a much-needed STAYCATION.
Ever since The Bowery Hotel opened a few years back, we’ve been meaning to book a weekend away from the everyday to actually enjoy our city as tourists… and it is completely embarrassing when I think about how many times we talked about it or intended to book it and did not. So, last weekend we made it happen in celebration of our anniversary. I checked in early on my way to work and dropped of a bottle of Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Reposado to enjoy after the workday ended just down the street. At five, we met in room #1003, kicked off our shoes and poured ourselves a drink in front of this huge window overlooking the streets we’ve called home for the last 20 years. It was a bona-fide treat to catch up about our day, our week, our lives without the constant “Mom! Dad! Mommy! Mom, Mom, Mom! Daddy!” It was so quiet. We could hear each other think and laugh and actually get through a thought without the aforementioned chant of the children. For the entire weekend, people waited on us instead of the reverse. We ordered room service, slept in, read the paper (the real paper with ink on it), we got massages, we walked around the city, we went out to dinner without worrying what time we had to relieve the sitter…we enjoyed each other and New York City. It wasn’t a trip to Mexico or the Swiss Alps, but what a fantastic trip it was just a few blocks from our stoop (and without the headaches associated with getting there.) This year, over 50 million tourists will travel to New York City to enjoy its personality and eccentricities. Last weekend, Lesa and I were two of them and what a fine town it is to visit on a balmy January weekend.
For years out and about in the East Village, I’ve noticed this curious little florist hanging off the side of the magazine and smoke shop at the corner of East 6th and Second Avenue. I’ve seen it open during the day as well as when I’m coming home pretty late into the night. Like midnight late…which is not really that late. BUT, what florist stays open until midnight?!? Sunny’s Florist does and its proprietor, Sun Ja Hwong, is kind of brilliant at what she does. Lesa, Lu and I were walking home from dinner at Mermaid (fail) Saturday night and, for the first time, we picked up this bundle of loveliness for a whopping 10 bucks. Score!According to The Times, Ms. Hwong sees herself as the “mother of flowers” and it shows. This lady isn’t about the over-the-top ridiculous floral concoctions you’d see at your cousin Gino’s wedding in Cliffside Park. Nope. She keeps it low key and super tasteful with exquisitely put together arrangements of roses, hyacinths, hydrangeas and tulips mixed in with some gorgeous and green leafy things. And the kicker is she plants a few buds in each bouquet, so while other batches of flowers you’ve picked up for your darlin’ over the years would be rotting in the trash after a day or two, Ms. Hwong’s remain a stunning, week-long reminder to your sweetheart of how goddamn excellent you are for choosing a gift as ridiculously beautiful and smart-looking as this. So next time you’re close, go buy something at Sunny’s Florist. Totally worth it, even if you have to sidetrack for a block or three.
Everybody knows that Luke’s Lobster makes one of the best, if not THE best lobster roll in NYC, but last week they rolled out something a little different. The Lobster Grilled Cheese. I was in there to grab one of those sweet and amazing rolls when I saw a fellow patron’s basket with something grilled and cheesy inside. I politely inquired what it was only to find out that they had just put this looks-like-mom-made-it creation on the winter menu earlier that day. I went for it.Oh man, this sandwich was amazing! They take Luke’s succulent lobster meat and some Gruyère cheese then grill them up between two good old-fashioned buttery slices of white bread. This decidedly low/high brow combination makes for one hell of a party in your mouth. I had mine with a cup of their delicious seafood chowder and a Maine Sarsaparilla Soda and I’m seriously craving that combination again as I write these words. I’m not going to trade the Lobster Grilled Cheese every time for my cherished Lobster Roll at Luke’s, but I am certainly going to alternate while it’s on their winter menu. And if you haven’t tried Luke’s Lobster, you must. They keep it simple, fresh and so damn good in everything they do. And, goddamn! They are up to nine locations now! Seems like they just opened their first on East 7th Street yesterday.
The best place in the East Village to grab your stocking stuffers is certainly Exit 9. They have everything from stuffed animals to iPhone cases to headphones to fake moustaches to PanAm Skybags to bike bells to whoopee cushions to funny-looking colanders……to cutting boards to wallets to socks to Gummy Bear lamps to alarm clocks to Kido Tug Boats to magic sets to garlic rockers to Pig Poppers to pocket microscopes to table ping-pong to chopsticks to squishables to head massagers to Bacon Mints. They also have a glockenspiel. We love Exit 9.
For your lady or the little ones, go to Pink Olive in either Park Slope or the East Village. They have a fantastic mixture of cards, books, bags, art, jewelry, stuffed animals, kid’s clothes, candles and soaps. It’s the perfect one-stop-shop for smaller, more thoughtful gifts with a lovable sense of humor.I really like the “Anatomy of Love” print, but the vast selection of Jellycat stuffed animals have put so many smiles on and wiped so many tears off my three-year-old’s sweet face that I just have to shout out a huge “THANK YOU” to the good citizens that run sweet Pink Olive.
I don’t know why, but The Cardinal and I have been like two opposing magnets since it opened a while back on East 4th Street near Avenue B. Every time we planned to go, something else got in the way and a down-home southern meal at this simple and warm charmer got thwarted. Well, we finally connected late last week.Lesa and I headed there early with one of the kids and bellied up to the window seat that looks out over the neighborhood’s minions coming home from a long day’s work. It’s a great seat if you can get it. To start we tried the Pimento Cheese on crispy toast and Blue Crab Hush Puppies. They were both insanely good and plentiful. Between the three of us, we were basically full when we got done with those, not knowing what was in store. Just as we were all mentally cramming our downed food into the corners of our bellies, the massive main courses arrived with the oh-shit-we-over-ordered sides. The 10-year-old had a damn good lookin’ cheeseburger with hand-cut fries and bubbly mac and cheese in front of him. Lesa had a smoked-last-night pulled pork sandwich with a pile of creamy slaw on top and a bowl of swiney greens on the side. Both served perfectly…on a Martin’s Potato Roll. Delectable!I just about got cow shock when my plate arrived. The Strip Steak was perfectly cooked medium rare with a fabulously crunchy and tasty dark crust on the outside. I’m guessing it was about 24 ounces. I ordered the mashed potatoes and corn and tomato succotash for my sides and both were just as they should be at a joint like this one…straight up, simple and wonderful. We rolled out of the Cardinal after about an hour of stuffing ourselves figuring we over-ordered by about $75. Oh well, it was worth it. Next time we’ll skip lunch before we go.