Friday, February 27, 2009
Hey Hard Grubbers. As the other contributors know, I have a particular affection for wine(and it pays my bills!). I have been fully convinced of the European model that wine is not just a beverage, but a foodstuff. Part of the meal and more so a part of the mini celebration that every meal is. Obviously in these fast paced, instant gratification, on-demand times not every meal can be joined by a bottle, and not every bottle a meal, but.....
On Thursday morning I was privileged to meet and taste with Mathieu Deiss, third generation winemaker at Domaine Marcel Deiss (Marcel was great grandpops) in Bergheim, Alsace, France. A young man about your age who explained the domaine's firm commitment to expressing terrior as opposed to varietal charecteristics. Terrior, of which there is no perfect English translation is essentially the coming together of the soil, climate and grapevines in the bottle to suggest a sense of place and perspective. I realize it sounds like some kinda flowery prose, but sometimes tasting a wine, it absolutely smacks you over the head with richness of flavor, texture, amazing aroma, crisp fruit and a togetherness that suggests "there's NO WAY someone could figure out how to make this! It's gotta be a splendid, sublime accident of the highest caliber..." and that's just it..the non-interventionist techniques used by producers such as Deiss are merely the vessel to put forth wine that sings about its origins.
The wines were impressive across the board, but the Premier and Grand Cru's are really the superstars. The entry level stuff is all single varietal (one grape) and covered the traditional Alsatian grapes: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Muscat d'alsace. Each was from a different vintage (2004-2007) and each was varietally correct, but not in a loud in your face kinda way. More of a TLC situation to preserve the delicateness and freshness. These are all delicious and affordable, but on the big guns...
The nicer wines are the ones named after their place of origin. No distinction is made to quantify the blend for the public, as these are wines whose character is totally a product of a specific vineyard site. Much like Burgundy, the quality production sites in Alsace have been well known and locally documented for hundreds of years (Shout to Carthusian and Benedictine monks for starting that trend) and so these aren't simply stumbled upon names. They are carefully chosen and the best fruit goes in to the blends (using numerous varieties apiece just as traditional Alsatian field blends were).
Englegarten 2003--(from the Angel Garden, get it?) Super young for a white wine that's already 5 years old. Has the color of dark hay. Seriously fruity, but with a richness that danced on the tongue. And then the finish: amazing. A hint of acid to confirm structure but just tons of peach and lychee and apricot... Please sir. A bit more if you don't mind..
Schoffsweg 2002- whoa! Seriously looking like liquid gold! Plush and full of delicate fruit (getting some riesling here..) but with more citrusy acid than the Englegarten. Crushed minerals lingered on the tongue and it smells like acacia and wet stone. A bohemoth that probably has YEARS to go until it's at its' finest. Unfortunatley this one's pretty much outta the market. Too bad, but it's too expensive for most Grubbers everyday wine needs, but there is such a thing as a special occasion...
Anyway, the point of this first wine post is just to let you know where I'm coming from in my wine preferences and hopefully suggest places you might want to try adding to yours....
W 116th and Malcolm X Blvd
If you're anything like me you've probably found yourself wandering the streets thinking to yourself, "what am I gonna do about chicken?" It's a frustrating mindset that can drive you insane. I found myself in that state of mind earlier today so I decided to swing by Amy Ruth's on W. 116th in Harlem. Amy Ruth's is one of those popular Harlem soul food places all the critics write about and all the celebrities visit. There's even a picture of George Bush posing with the chef. I have to say when I first walked in I was highly skeptical. Seemed very touristy.
When we ordered our chicken the waitress informed us the chicken comes either as a thigh and leg or breast and wing. This immediately sent fear into my hard grubbin heart, believing there wasn't going to be nearly enough chicken. Luckily, when the dish came out, all my doubts and fears were put to rest. This chicken was GOOD. The skin was light and crispy with a delicious flavor. The chicken was moist and wonderful. The piece itself was huge and easily enough food for your hard grubbin pal. The collard greens had an interesting sweet flavor to them but doused in hot sauce, they too were delicious. Mac and cheese tasted great while the steamed okra was highly satisfying. All in all a very tasty experience. I look forward to trying more of the unknown soul food spots in Harlem but for the first time ever, HG agrees with the critics...and George Bush. I'd like to return and try some of the other menu items like the barbecue chicken or the country chicken and dumplings. It'll be hard not to just re-order the fried chicken.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I decided to visit this place due to a recommendation from Clay's boy Anthony Bourdain who came here in the first episode of his Hard Grubbin-sponsored television program. This is a totally unassuming place on a really crowded street in a nice area of Paris. It is tiny, with only about 6 tables, and two dudes cooking in the back. The menu conforms to the ideals set by Hard Grubbin, all meat and meat related dishes. They had a lunch special which included blood sausage and some sides, but we decided to have the steaks, a fillet of beef and a ribeye, with a side of roasted potatoes and salad. The steaks were absolutely delicious. They are cooked in a real old school lookin fireplace (see photo). Sprinkle on a little coursely ground sea salt, and you are all set. Finished off with a nice coffee, and it was a great lunch. Clay's boy really hit the mark with this one, highly recommended for any Hard Grubbin fan who finds themself in Paris.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Steinway and 25th Ave
Kabab Cafe is this little Egyptian spot all the critics love. It's one of NY Magazines top Critics Picks calling it "a singular experience well worth the pilgrimage." I first heard of it when I saw Clay's boy Anthony Bourdain and Mazen's boy Andrew Zimmern have a meal there on No Reservations. They spent twenty minutes going on and on about how amazing the food was and how this chef was a genius. Kabab Cafe's main draw is all the "other" meats, cooking up all the parts of the animal so you can enjoy brains, cheeks, kidneys, hearts, glands or as the chef puts it "whatever part you want we cook."
Last night was the second time I've been here after a pretty positive first visit. We started out with the sweet breads (see pic), lamb glands sauteed with vegetables in lemon sauce. Actually quite good. I'd never had any part of an endocrine system and was pleasantly surprised. We then had lamb chops with sauteed vegetables and a half chicken with vegetables in a pomegranate sauce. Unfortunately both dishes were average at best. The lamb was overcooked (although that is sometimes the case at Middle Eastern restaurants as that's their style) and the pomegranate sauce was too sweet and overtook the entire dish. My favorite critic, Gail Simmons, would have had a lot to say about these dishes. In general, just not unique or flavorful and Hard Grubbin does not recommend.
A couple more warnings, this place has no menu. He just asks what type of meat you want and then asks what part of the animal you want, then describing how he cooks each part. Some might like this and it's probably great if you come here a lot and the chef knows you. This place is also really expensive, probably because they have no menu and the chef clearly makes up the price for every table. He obviously knows he's gotten critical acclaim for his eclectic cooking and assumes he can charge as much as he wants. The dishes just did not stand up to what he charges.
Ultimately, I should have ordered the more adventurous dishes rather than the traditional middle eastern dishes. I had assumed that if this guy can make kidneys taste good imagine what he can do with a lamb chop. If you're looking for standard, good middle eastern food there are a million better places in the city. Its a nice little place that serves all the parts of the animal you can't get anywhere else and you should only go if you're looking to hard grub on these parts. But then again there are probably several other places in the city that serve this fare for probably much less.
Stay tuned to HG as I'll be sure to report back the best place to hard grub on a lamb's heart or a chicken's face, as soon as I find it.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
down to prevent later situations (see The Adventures of Skip.) A brah
is well aware of the calories one should consume before a night of
beers and Friendship.
Tired of my usual fare, I went to hang with my Irish pals at The
Phoenix Landing in Central Square, Cambridge MA, USA.
A last minute decision, post ordering, I sent fair Molly to the back
to get this gravy boat filled with curry for my 'chips.' This is
always recommended at Hard Grubbin if you are in an Irish pub.
Sadly, this was the best part of my pre-beer grub fest. "What's that
wrapped in a picnic gingham wax paper?" you ask.
Well, true believers, I had ordered a buffalo chicken 'Warrior
Sandwich.' It looked great on the menu, with it's promise of it's blue
cheese and fresh bun. This was a clever deception, as this chicken was
fried so hard I nearly cut my mouth on it.
The worst part if this sandwich was that it was the consistency of a
dog chew toy. I felt like I was trying to get the ball out of this
red, hard, rubber ball.
I give this meal a Sad Batman.
Off to see Zim, Paul, Dennis, Danny, Damien ('Oh Hey Skip'), and the
unflappable Christian Brat back at the Middle East. I had best avoid
the Jägermëister this evening, or there will be chew toy all over the
floor. And that will be 'nasty!'
Having won Time Out's 'Best Brunch in Brooklyn' award for 2008, it is impossible to get brunch at Brooklyn Label without having to wait an hour. Which is surprising considering the location involves a trip on the G train (please refer to Skip's post for further information concerning the G train).
9th Ave & 16th St
I know everyone's got their favorite bagel shop but if you find yourself in Park Slope at 7am swing by Terrace Bagels. They make their bagels on site and are as fresh as can be early in the morning. Nice and crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. Hard grubbin strongly recommends this spot for your early morning light grubbin.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Since Skip's first cocktail, he had met up with his fellow boozebags and properly ripped it up for several hours. It was a bud/jager kind of night. It is now 3am and the crew of boozers has started to go their separate ways. Foolishly refusing a ride back to his neighborhood several miles away, Skip ordered another drink special.
Skip and his pal Moe were the only ones left standing. Moe suggested that they hit up Kellogg's Diner.
Kellogg's Diner, (located on the corner of Metropolitan Ave and Union Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) is your standard shitty diner. Open 24/7, at anytime you can get anything from a corn muffin to a broiled 2lb. lobster.
Apparently, Skip started with the french onion soup along with some gravy fries and possibly some sort of chicken sandwich. Some serious late night Hard Grubbin was taking place.
When finished, Skip stumbled to the infamous G train which is located right in front of the diner.(#1 on below map) Riding the G train is always an emotional roller coaster for young Skip. Over the years, he has love and lost on the G train. Laughed and cried on the G train. Lived and yes even died on the G train. Little did he know, it would be the G train that will begin this weekends incident or journey if you will.
Amazingly, Skips ride on the G train was uneventful. Reaching his transfer to the E train (#2) and just 4 stops from his house, Skip decided to rest his eyes for just a moment. When Skip opened his eyes, he was very confused. The E train had stopped and he did not know where he was. He got out of the station and realized he was at the last stop on the E line. Jamaica Queens.(#3) He looked at his watch and it was 7:30am. Feeling as if he were hit by the E train, Skip mumbles, "Dear God". He is trying to figure out how long he had been on the E. It was several hours since he left the diner. He figured he must have been back and forth from the World Trade Center site(#4) to Jamaica (#5) at least 3 times. "I must get home" Skip whispers and makes his way to the inbound E train. The train begins to move and Skip decides to rest his weary eyes for just a minute. When he opens his eyes this time, he looks out the E train window and realizes he is in Times Square, midtown Manhattan. (#6) Skip mumbles, "What? No.". He sees a sign for the familiar and usually kind R train and makes his way through the station. It is a long walk through many tunnels and up and down stair cases to get to the R train from the E train. It felt like 5 miles for young Skipper as he audibly moaned in agony and marched through the early morning crowds.
Skip finally made it to the R train which will take him directly to his house. Relieved, Skip settles into a seat and decides to rest his pained eyes, just for a minute. When he opens his eyes this time, the train is between stations. Skip hears the conductor announce something that is barely audible. "Next stop Elmhurst ave." Skip mumbles, "Elmhur...? Mutha FUCK". Elmhurst ave (#7) is 4 stops past Skips house. With no money for a taxi, he has to leave the station and get on the other side to wait for an inbound R train. After waiting for what seemed like 2 hours, the inbound R finally arrived and Skip boarded trying desperately to keep his eyes open.
Saturday. 8:18am. 46th Street at last.(#8) He made it. Unrobbed and apparently unmolested. Not wanting to even think about the scope of his journey, Skip crashed on his couch with sweet relief. Resting up for the next inevitable situation.
74th St. and Roosevelt Ave
Jackson Diner buffet truly represents the spirit of Hard Grubbin. An amazingly endless supply of quality Indian food. Every time I go I worry I'm missing out on some smaller, more authentic Indian restaurant in the neighborhood, but the Diner never disappoints. The tandoori chicken is always right on and they always have tons of options. The real challenge is trying everything. For the fiercest of grubbing fanatics I recommend four trips to the buffet. Round 1, load your plate with as much as possible. You probably won't be able to get to everything unless you bring your own bucket. Round 2 is the lightning round. Pick up everything you didn't fit in round one and put it down as fast as possible. Make sure to swing by the Indian Pancake guy, indian pancakes cooked to order by the guy on his blue tooth wireless phone. Round 3 is the all star round, go back and load up with your favorites of Rounds 1 and 2. Really savor Round 3, you've deserved it. Round 4 is dessert round. Grab some nice cooling rice pudding to complete the meal.
When you're finished, make sure you have a bed, or couch in front of a large TV. Block out the rest of the day because you won't be going anywhere.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
priced bar food. Fresh salad and veggies. Simple American fare, great
place to go with your family of some pals for tips, burgers and cheap
drafts. I got a $4.50 draft Magners in a 20 oz. glass.
Astoria, Queens, NYC
This place is awesome. Huge portions with a ton of options. You get so much food. I rolled with the Bistec a Caballo seasoned beef and fried egg. Kenny and Dave hit off the Pechugo de Pollo Asada, a grilled chicken cutlet. The rice and beans were the best i've had in a while. Gotta try the house hot sauce when you go over there.
I hadn't grubbed on Columbian for a while so it was a welcome grubfest. Check this place out.
Huge piece of thin seasoned steak with fried egg, cassava, potatoes and some sort of red sauce. See the pepper shaker for perspective on how big the meals are. A necessity for any hard grubbin fan. Medium price range. The meal to the below was $15. I'll definately be back to try the rest of the menu.
Niani recommended I go for the mixed vegetables along with the chips. I hear tell that this is just the regualar fried chicken batter at Zuzu. Chips were best out of that kitchen that I've had in a while. The whitefish was light and fresh. I added some salt (a bad habit, I know) and lemon
for the whole traditional meal. This was my work meal, but believe me, I had a Stella Artois and a Knob Creek neat soon after, as a digestif.
I had a long commiseration about how delicious this meal was with a kind Zuzu waitress.
I danced well into the evening at SOLID! with Flave, Jessica, Chrissy, Rob, and Mike until I decided to turn my attention to the ladies (and Red Bull vodkas).
Will "Hard Grubbin'" be the new 'Hanger That?'
Well, this meal and my night gets an overwhelming 'H-G'.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Centre and Walker St/Chinatown/NYC
Went back to this place today after two solid experiences. Pretty standard vietnamese/pho restaurant that had really good pho last time I went. This time, not so good. Summer rolls were loosely rolled and served with only shrimp (rather than the regular shrimp and pork). Pho came out and when I asked the waitress for a spoon she grabbed a jar of spoons from the next table and yelled in my face "THEY TWO SPOO HEE" Bitch. Automatic low tip situation. Bowl of pho was too small, probably good size for a normal person but not for your hard grubbin boy.
Then I found a long black vietnamese hair in the bottom of my soup. Fuck this place. Never going back. Makes me miss pho grand.