Bites & Pieces

El Quinto Pino

A little self indulgence these days is not such a bad thing. Whole lot going on. And churros with a fabulous dulce con leche may just be at the top of the don’t-fuck-with-me-I’m-going-all-out heap. Brunch here is so good anyway. These just make it ridiculously so.

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El Quinto Pino

401 West 24th Street


Open daily: Monday – Friday dinner only / Saturday – Sunday for brunch & dinner

Little Breakfast Idea Courtesy of Sullivan Street Bakery…

Sullivan Street Bakery

I’ve already mentioned Sullivan St Bakery in an earlier post and my complete adoration for anything that comes out of its rustic oven. Particularly that Truccio whole grain bread. Well, in need of an easy meeting place with a friend the other morning, we went for a latte and maybe some toast. But our Prima Colazione ended up being something so simple and so good…chopped up Truccio toasted bread, Vermont creamery salted butter with two poached eggs on top. Served until 11am.

Of course it’s tres easy to make yourself with any favorite bread to toast. I added some sauteed spinach and a little parmesan.

It’s perfect however and wherever you have it.



Sullivan Street Bakery * one of several locations
236 Ninth Avenue between 24/25th street
Mon – Sun, 7:30 AM – 9 PM

You’ve Seen The Difference & It’s Getting Better All The Time…


Valley Girl was always a guilty pleasure movie for me. Who doesn’t get caught up in Romeo and Juliet? So Cal style. Plus I do love a good pop song so Modern English’s hit theme made it all the better. I’ll stop the world and melt with you. With love or cheese. Smooth transition. Ha. Grilled cheese sandwiches are an equally righteous pleasure. And in this healthy diet conscious world we live in, a bit guilt inducing. Yet lately they reign supreme in the zeitgeist so I say – if you can’t beat ’em…



If you’re going to partake, Melt’s (there’s that connection!) newest branch in Chelsea does them up proud. Dine in or dine out on their little terrazzo. Take it to go and relish in privacy. Throw in some shop tots (the tater variety) and choose among several home made dipping sauces like bbq, pesto or truffle mayo. Maybe complete your retro indulence with chips, tomato soup, a specialty shake or go whole hog and tie it up with a root beer float. It’s comfort at its gourmet finest. There’s a breakfast melange of truffled scrambled eggs, a melted cheese wrap with all kinds of trimmings, a lovely light cheese and mushroom filled frittata and more – then the menu takes you straight on through lunch and dinner.



You have your classic choices and then there are the classics with a twist or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride versions. The 24 hour pork – pecan and oak smoked all natural pulled pork with aged cheddar, dill pickle and homemade bbq sauce, The Sweetness made with brie, carmelized onions and cranberry jam or The Award Winner, with blue cheese, cheddar cheese, thick cut bacon and more cranberry jam. The decision factor overrides any dairy guilt since you burn anxiety calories what with having to choose only one.


Order. Wait for your name to be called.


I went semi simple. Just a quick stop by. The Shroom! A havarti and goat cheese combo with roasted wild mushrooms and the deal sealer – house made parsley pesto on multi-grain bread. There was tang, musk, creaminess, and a hint of sweet. There was crunch. There was love.




I left with a light heart and a plan for next time. No point in regrets. Especially when something is really really good. Right? “There’s nothing you and I won’t do…”


Get The Bite On Autumn

Sullivan St Bakery

There’s no question that carbs – particularly the kind that come dressed as any kind of bread product are fantastic every time of year. But nights with a trace of chill grant permission for something extra cozy and maybe illicit. Even to devotees of low carb eating.

So, after a meeting in West Chelsea I thought I’d check in on the newest location of my favorite carb palace, Sullivan St Bakery. Not just because I’m a fan of their take away breads, dine in paninis and the oh so Roman pizza squares but for the seasonally offered flavors that come with. And Autumn? Knocks them right out of the park.

By now anyone interested in NYC food knows of Jim Lahey and his wonderful pizza haunt Co. (aka Company), his no knead dough recipes and for his long-time trend setting bakery called Sullivan St. (of course the great Grandaisy Bakery owned by his ex partner/wife is an independent offshoot).

There are a few pastries, bomboloni (Italian doughnuts filled with jam or vanilla bean custard), canotto dolce (mascarpone fruit crumble) but you can also have a seasonal pickled vegetable salad, a panini that might include prosciutto, mozzarella or a chickpea fritter with citrus yogurt. To that you can add wine, beer, a sensational strawberry lemonade. The atmosphere is ultra spare and modern but comfortable. Easy to hang out and get some work done or chat with friends over soul satisfying pizza.

In any case, on to my siren’s call. Dough. And in the best possible incarnations. I walked out of there with a loaf of one of the best breads I’ve eaten anywhere ever…the medium whole wheat Truccione Sare. I bow to thee crusty-chewy-light-dense-soft sourdough oval with “irregular crumb structure”.

And it freezes well so sublime toast is in your future. If it lasts that long.

Then it was time for the true autumnal Tuscan tradition, Pan Co’ Santi (bread of saints). It’s a little sweeter but works well for a snack, a breakfast, any meal really. I had it with some fresh, sweet green figs. Holy bread balls. It’s studded with walnuts, raisins and a touch of cinnamon. Trust me, buy two loaves.

But the best of the best of the best is the Romani style pizze squares. They will cut it in custom sizes from the long rectangular sheet but it’s offered at the counter in squares. All except the only-available-for-a-few-weeks in the fall Schiacciata d’Uva (squashed grape thing) a pizze/bread made with champagne grapes, raisins, and anise seed atop the salty Pizze Bianca dough to celebrate the grape harvest. It has its own shape. Pops of tangy sweetness that comfort your tongue with bits of saltiness.

Then my personal superstars. The zucchini with gruyere and breadcrumbs and another Autumn only treasure, the Cavolfiore, cauliflower slice with parmesan, chili peppers and olive oil. Sometimes prepared with fennel. Simple and succulent. Eyes rolled back in your head kind of simple.

Many other finds – the legendary patate slice, the pizze bianca with pecorino or without, green olive breads and the like. You just can’t beat the long standing taste treats here. Jim Lahey started this small bakery in 1994 after studying sculpture and then bread baking in Italy. That artistry is evident in the look and feel of everything that comes out of his kitchen and in the inspiration of every bite that goes into your mouth. Especially in the Autumn.

Sullivan St Bakery
236 Ninth Av

Naka Naka Who’s There?

Naka Naka

I’m such a rabid seeker of new adventures that sometimes I forget to return to calmer waters. Old favorites. Not just for comfort though that’s a perfectly good reason for choosing a restaurant but because there is some fabulous food out there offered in an arresting ambiance and like a good potato chip – no reason to eat just once.

This chelsea Japanese is such a place. But Japan in another century. Pry open the oyster to find a luminescent pearl and you have arrived in Naka Naka. About 18 seats, some of which surround an elevated platform, rice paper screens and a kimono clad staff who quietly explain the evening’s menu brought to you on a chalkboard. Your chopsticks are resting on a beautiful origami crane, the music ranges from twenties Paris to edgy alternative but only as a zen backdrop and one cup of unfiltered sake later, paradise on a plate is not far behind.

The uni is briny and sweet and the portion generous. I’m a sucker for lotus root in any form but their sauteed version in a light shitake sauce rivals my favorite chinese classic. The sweet and salty oshinko works beautifully as a companion with the brilliantly fresh sushi and I do love a tasty hamachi collar. Their rice is seasoned well, toothsome and never vinegary. Then there’s the course that rounds out the meal..zaru udon or zaru soba served as you like, hot or cold. Combined with their signature duck, tempura vegetables or just a minimal spray of scallions makes a very satisfying dinner all the more delightful. The udon is plump, the soba a buckwheat dream and though not in need of anything more, I can’t leave a drop of the broth.

So now sated with food and outrageously good sake we all push the envelope just a tidge more because…well, because there’s mochi! I can’t love a dessert more and the Naka Naka mochi is everything one wants pounded sticky rice coated with a dusting of white (the sweet kind!) and wrapped around a ball of sweet ice cream to be – in case that was a goal for you. Talk about score.

And if a more private affair is required, there’s a charming enclosed area that seats up to six shoeless people on tatami mats, though there is a ten dollar per guest room surcharge.

Naka Naka
458 West 17th Street btwn Ninth/Tenth Avenue
open Tuesday through Saturday 6pm-midnight

Goo Goo G’Joob…or Ko Foo Yourself


Itty bitty Korean take out in Chelsea packed with a big bite. And crazy portions. Buy one – feed the family it seems. Perhaps it’s not the best, the spiciest, the most brilliant but being true Korean comfort food, it goes a long way to making it just fine. Quite fine.

Loving the Kimchi Fried Rice, all kinds of mix-ins available from avocado to seafood to bulgogi. They do a more than decent, dare I say, good version of Soon Doo Boo Ji Gae, the spicy tofu stew that rivals great grandma’s chicken soup to cure what ails you. The Spicy Tuna Kimbob is only kinda spicy but you can definitely add some of their salty, sweet, spicy sauce usually served with the baked tofu and you’d be happy, snorting from the heat, plus would likely have enough food for three meals. Plentiful and filling only loosely describes the amount. Chewy Noodles, Vegetable Pancake, Pork & Wasabi Shumai are all bona fide good choices. I have much left to explore here, just on a project in the neighborhood for a couple days and I became a moth to the light. Might have to move.

It’s clean, it’s cute, it’s brightly colored. Friendly and helpful owners. Will the food dazzle you? Probably not. Will you want to order again on your way to a Highline picnic, or late work night, lunch etc…sources say yes.


334 Eighth Avenue between 26/27th Street

Monday – Friday 11am-10pm
Free delivery within ten blocks

Good Things Come In Weensy Packages


A late evening repast at the Basque Tapas Bar Txikito in Chelsea was an all around fine escape in this humidity but there were two standouts that brought it home. Two itsy bitsy teeny weeny bites that I’m still thinking about this morning.

A toothpick is the vessel for a zing of flavor, a delightful Basque bar snack called Olibak. Two little olives, one wrapped in an anchovy and the other cloaked in a pickled pepper. I hope Peter Piper picked enough for my next visit. Our idea was to future pair this with a martini, Basque or no. The anchovy/olive would float in the martini and the pickled pepper combo would be a nibble on the side. They were a smash as an amuse but Basque meets Bond would be dynamite.

However, the two inches of pleasure that I’d like right now are the Kroketas, more small salted things. When the menu says “crispy creamy croquettes”, I can stop reading. Bechamel, bacalao and mashed potatoes hook up with garlic, parsley, flour and bread crumbs, add the glories of deep frying and there we are. A little pop in the mouth of fried heaven. Kind of wish there had been a little acid, a squeeze of lemon would be perfect but I didn’t take the time to ask for that, the bite was already a memory etched in my annals of favorite tiny things.

Interesting that the best dish for me was also the cheapest on the menu. Five bucks of fun. The sparkling Rose was another pleasure as was the spicy cod roe mayo served with another dish. But seriously, if not a full languorous Spanish dinner of tapas galore, at least stop by and treat yourself to a mini mouth festa. Oh, it’s the little things in life…

240 Ninth Avenue between 24/25th Street
closed Monday