Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Examining!

Some semi-delayed news -- I've finally branched out my food writing beyond the scope of this blog. I am the official Brooklyn Brunch Examiner for! I started towards the end of August so I only have a few articles at this point. Check me out if you get a chance, and keep checking back for more updates. Brooklyn is a big place and brunch is more or less a universal restaurant thing, so if anyone has any tips or ideas to share, please pass them my way!

Also, if there are any writers out there, Examiner hires all sorts of people to cover sports, fitness, animals, etc. I can hook you up!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Creepy Jello Salads and More

I was blog-surfing a few weeks ago when I came across something hilarious: Weight Watcher's diet recipes from the early '70s. Take a look.

Warning -- You WILL lose your appetite.

A Sandwich and Gelato; Perfected

This past weekend I found myself wandering around a winding street fair in the West Village. It's impossible for me to shop without getting hungry, so Rob and I began searching around for something quick yet quality to eat. He suggested we hit up Faicco's Pork Store, next to Murray's Cheese Shop. I thought it was an odd suggestiong seeing as how I didn't even know they provided quick meals like sandwiches. But they do. And it is amazing.

There are tons of fantastic meats to choose from here, and they aren't just limited to pork. There's housemade roast beef and frozen pastas and other fantastic looking treats. But mostly pork. Cured meats, bacon, sausages, even a pork roast, which is a juicy little slice of porky heaven. I know because I came back to try it.
We finally settled on the hot sopressata with fresh mozzerella and artichokes, drizzled in olive oil and topped off with lots of pepper. Wow. When they handed us each a fresh piece of meat right off the slicer, we knew we found a quality place. The sopressata had the right amount of lean and fat, the perfect amount of spice that gets you in the back of the throat. We get to eat a whole sandwich of this stuff?
This quick meal sparked a sandwich obsession that has lasted all week. I constantly wanted meat and cheese on a baguette, or something equally crusty yet hard to bite. After a few lame deli sandwiches, I finally caved and went back for my second visit to Faicco's today. I ordered the same exact thing, except unfortunately they forgot the artichokes this time. That's okay. Still amazing, even though the artichokes lended a good amount of moisture and a subtle taste that complemented the fresh cured pork and cheese well.
I don't think the sandwich obsession will stop here, although I sort of hope it will. There aren't enough good sandwich stops in midtown or Greenpoint that cut the bill, especially now that I have been spoiled by Faicco's.

After the sandwich today I stopped for some gelato at Grom. I've had gelato here a couple of times now but nothing has stood out as much as the caramello -- carmelized sugar with pink Himalyan sea salt crystals. I thought the sweet/salty combo would be a bit overpowering, but it was actually quite creamy and mellow, with a soft aftertaste that was maybe vanilla or egg yolks. The pink salt wasn't visible, but that's ok. You have my heart anyway, Grom.

Faicco's Pork Store
260 Bleecker St. (between Cornelia St. & Morton St.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-1974

Grom Gelato
233 Bleecker St. at Carmine St.
New York, NY 10022
(212) 206-1738

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Westville: Not Your Typical Diner

Last Wednesday, Rob and I met up with a few friends for dinner at Westville East. I did some quick research before heading out the door that evening and saw that Westville (and its Avenue A branch, Westville East) was perceived to be a sort of health food diner with salads, sandwiches, and lots of vegetables. We went in with fairly low expectations, and were pretty amazed with what we found.

We had to wait about half an hour at 8pm. On a Wednesday! And people were still waiting for our table at 10pm. I think this speaks pretty loudly about Westville's loyal following.
Luckily for us, they'll give you your wine or beer in a paper cup so you can take it outside while you wait for your table. This definitely makes standing outside a little (ok -- a lot) easier to do.

The atmosphere in Westville East's corner spot is simple, with white walls and a few decorations. It's the people that give Westville its true bustling, hearty feel.

Now I'm not crazy for vegetables or anything, but their list of market fresh sides was almost overwhelming. I tried the chicken, mostly because it came with two sides. I finally settled on fennel with parmesan and green peas with shallots and bacon (their "Add Bacon" sign in the front must have gotten to me). I was a little sad that I had to pass up on the lemon grilled asparagus, beets with goat cheese, snopeas with sesame and ginger and cucumber dill salad. Next time. At least, I hope next time -- they switch up their listings every day based on what's fresh at the market.

The grilled lemon herb chicken was thin and unmemorable, but the sides were pretty fantastic. Luckily they didn't skimp on the veggies in the least. Rob had the porkchop topped with onions and mushrooms and chose the cauliflour dijonaisse for his side. The cauliflour was fairly plain tasting and the porkchop was a tiny bit overcooked, but the smothered topping was pretty tasty.

All those healthy veggies set off my sweet tooth, so I had a bowl of "world famous Bassets" mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. It was nice and creamy and they gave me a lot, like the kind of dish I would scoop up for myself if I were home. I still do not know who Basset is.

Exciting news for them -- they are currently in the process of opening up a new branch in Chelsea. Now they'll have a Westville East, West, and.... Northwest?

Westville East
173 Avenue A (at 11th St)
New York, NY 10009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wine 101

The other night I did something I've been wanting to do for a long time: I took a wine class! I learned a lot about the things you'd expect to hear about (acidity, tannins, etc.), but I think the biggest takeaway, for me at least, was learning how to detect different flavors in wines. Did you know that wines are made up of chemical compounds that actually match up to organic matter? So while there isn't actually any lychee or smoke or pepper or any of that other stuff in your wine, the chemical compounds mimick those flavors, so its pretty close. Definitely more scientific than I ever thought.

We got to try ten different wines (4 whites, 6 reds), and a cheese was paired for every two wines. These cheeses were stinky and flavorful and my mouth is watering just looking at this really bad iphone pic.

From the top going clockwise:

1) Vermont goat cheese, pared with 2 different kinds of Sauvignon Blanc. Very goaty, very good!
2) Sheep's milk from Spain, paired with 2 aromatic whites. Too gritty on the tongue for me.
3) Cow's milk cheese from the Netherlands, aged 4 years. This one was my favorite, slightly carmelized, sort of like cheddar. Paired with a Pinot Noir and Domaine de Montrieux.
4) Raw cow's milk from New York, paired with a Merlot and part Merlot, part Cabernet Sav. Savory, matched the oak-y Charles Smith Merlot. Yeah, oak, which is supposed to taste like "smokey, toasty caramel." Another thing I would have never known otherwise.
5)Sheep's milk from Spain with a quince paste, which is sort of like an apple jam. I kept really good notes on all the other cheeses but by the time I got to this one I was ten wines in and just wrote "YUM." Paired with a Shiraz and another red. I was skeptical, but the quince paste actually worked really well in the wine-cheese equation and had a great texture -- more solid than the jelly I was expecting.

What a great class. Learned a lot and got to meet some wonderful people as well. Can't wait to go back and try their more advanced classes (especially their 16 Wines, 18 Cheeses one).

NYC Wine Class