Bites & Pieces

Fairfax

Even though it’s the same crew as the previous resident, this is no Perla 2.0. Longer review soon but suffice it to say – it’s pretty great and very chill. Half Woodstock living-room, partly regular restaurant, and a lot lounge-y.

This Bite is about the completely scrumptious soft boiled egg. They got this. An auspicious soft boiled egg with the meltingly best soldiers I’ve come across. Herb splashed butter with parmigiano on sourdough toast. Sublime. Sun filled windows, comfy chair. Almost like everything is just fine with the world.

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Fairfax
234 West 4th Street
NYC
212.933.1824

Open daily Sunday-Monday 8am-10pm, Tuesday-Thursday til 11pm, Friday-Saturday til midnight Breakfast til 11:30am and Weekend Brunch til 3pm

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

212.206.6900

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

“Double Double Toil & Trouble…

Little Pepper Hot Pot

…fire burn and cauldron bubble”! And bubble it does. My pot bubbles over with love. There’s no bubble like hot pot bubble, like no bubble I know. Because I have to say – everything about it IS appealing. Little Pepper has long been my temple (as noted way below in an earlier post) and having gone day 1 when it was on Roosevelt Avenue and followed its move to the shiny new space in College Point, I was thrilled to return to the original shop for straight on hot pot. The basement dining is gone, you now enter through the infinitely more elegant street level entrance, where the old kitchen used to be. And it’s bright, simple and festive.

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Each pot of broth can be ordered as a whole or one pot divided in half between the two house broths, the Sichuan spicy pot or the House original milky non spicy broth. They also do a vegetarian version of either so anyone can Chinese fondue it. You automatically receive one plate of mixed vegetables like wood ear mushrooms, corn on the cob (surprisingly great) and cabbage as well as thinly sliced fatty beef. That alone would probably be more than enough food for two people but there’s no way you’re going to go and not partake of the parade of enticing offerings. It would just be foolhardy to resist.

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Dunk, swirl, scoop, dip and dine. You get little metal nets and long prongs, a much more interesting than normal table setting. Healing…satisfying. And frigging fun. Four of us sampled far too much. The tofu skins (called bean crud stick here!), the fatty lamb, the parsley pork meatball, lotus root, 4 of the 7 varieties of mushrooms, fried tofu, fresh soft tofu, frozen spongy tofu, house made citrus flavored sausage, sliced pork belly, fish fillets and snow pea leaves. A Chinese friend loved the spam. Go figure.

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To this feast we added two favorite appetizers from the list brought over from the main Lil Pep. Didn’t need them but just had to have them. Szechuan noodles like no other and cucumbers in garlic sauce. They were actually a nice respite from the bites of hot pot wonder. And an unneeded reminder of why it’s so glorious to dine here.

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But all of this is brought home to that sweet spot in your mouth with the condiments. I worship the spicy green chive sauce but not more than the jar of thickly fermented soy from the sauce service station. There are pockets of delight to be discovered there that serve to beautifully enhance all that cooking you’re doing! It’s a necessary field trip from your table.

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It’s interesting that it’s not just how good the food is, how it touches you at the very very bottom of your soul, it’s the scent, the vibrant colors of the broth, your plate, the spirit of the place. That joie de vivre is at play in your hostess with the mostest, half of the couple who own the restaurant and the one with maybe the most welcoming smile ever…Jacy Wu. She welcomes you into this enchanted Sichuan kingdom and you dine under the spell.

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My pot at the end of the rainbow…

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Little Pepper Hot Pot
133-43 Roosevelt Avenue
Flushing
718.690.2206
** Cash only
Open daily noon-midnight

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.

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Sullivan Street Bakery * one of several locations
236 Ninth Avenue between 24/25th street
212.929.5900
Mon – Sun, 7:30 AM – 9 PM

Figs, Oil and Yum. Oh My.

Fig Fun

Whether fresh or dried, figs say September to me. I was given a present at dinner the other evening – small dried white figs from Croatian fig trees. They are splendiferous. You get that leathery tug as you bite through the skin and then you’re hit with a fruity, moist and oh so figgy inside. Bay leaves are a tradition and included for the aroma. I have to say – it works as that herbal floral scent infusion pops that earthy fig flavor.

And for extra fun we had a plate of sweet cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and fresh figs drizzled with the smooth version of Chilean olive oil, herbaceous with a zing.

A Dish To Build A Dream On…

Estiatorio Milos (a particular dish)

In the best of all possible dream dining worlds, I would love to jet around town (though since it is a dream, let’s say around the world) and stop in as I may for a favorite dish. Could be so unique that nobody else anywhere can make it happen that way or it could just be a terrific rendition of something well known. I’d be happy to include any dish I’ve heard about and have on my master list to try sometime soon as well.

The other day a friend called on the later side of the evening to see if I’d be up for a glass of wine and a favorite vegetable dish at the venerable, always excellent, if not rather pricey Greek palace on West 55th Street. Sure thing.

Milos is so civilized. Very Aegean. Perfect canvas for a delicate slice of sunlit, white-washed cuisine.

So we plunged in. A lovely Rose and several glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and the Tower of Love. A thirty three dollar tower of lightly fried zucchini (sometimes eggplant) and saganaki cheese. But I mean lightly fried. Each chip tastes as if the zucchini had just been pulled from your garden at twilight, playfully scorched by golden sunlight. Well okay, let’s say that it wasn’t greasy, heavy or breaded. It was really what you want something fried to be – itself but better!

Ready and set…

Takedown…

In the center you find a yogurt dill dip which wonderfully enhances the vegetables and adds a little bit to the virtuous take I have with these fried beauties. It’s healthy!

The cheese bits taste of the open fire, softly burnt edges with oozing tangy cheese running amok in your mouth.

Truth be told we also had a few additional nibbles, a beautiful tomato salad that was very July-at-your-beachside-taverna, a mini appetizer with fava bean spread, one grilled shrimp and a small but fabulous crab cake, followed by a loup de mer that was Skiathos on a plate. Sunshine and sea with a bit of deep green loam as a base. Lovely.

But this didn’t stop us from playing a second hand. Hit me. One mo’ tower please.

Indulgence is just that. Probably too much. Sigh. But too good to not go for it. Then, in for a penny in for a pound, we shared some intensely moist walnut cake accompanied by lavender ice cream. Mostly to prevent us from round three I fear. Plus a spoonful of delightful sugar helps the medicine go down.

Spare and pure in its Mediterranean way, their light hand with oil, sweet and especially with fried anything is to be lauded. The extras we had were absolutely great but it’s the Tower I still think about. Definitely a return on my one dish stop by tour.

Estiatorio Milos
125 West 55th Street between Sixth/Seventh Avenue
212.245.7400

* Header photo by Angela Carbonetti / http://www.angelacarbonetti.com

A Whale Of A……

Carvel

Come on. Impossible to say no, yes? Even after a fantastic and more than satisfying meal at my all time favorite Sichuan temple – Little Pepper. But then… there’s soft serve. Oh I had to go there. In every sense of the phrase. By the way, this includes having had the ultra french fry dish Chinese style. Fries covered with Sichuan peppercorns, cilantro and crushed chilies! However I digress. Now we’re here to whoop, Viva La Carvel and it’s very own whale of a…Dasher. Wha??

Cool and creamy is such a perfect follow to heat infused food, so on the way home driving through Queens, we decided – in for a penny, in for a few more pounds. Found a local Carvel (only one still exists in Manhattan) and saw the following sign saying limited time only, get your Girl Scout Cookie Dasher!

I asked our server, a kind of female Rocky Graziano what a Dasher might actually be, to which she replied, “well…it’s a name!!” Okay then RG, two can play this game. The sign specified Samoa cookies or Thin Mints and as it had been decades since a beloved Thin Mint crossed my lips – I went all in. A friend snapped to and immediately ordered the Samoa cookie version with vanilla soft serve, whipped cream and butterscotch sauce. Very tempting.

Layers of crushed cookie, thick, strong butterscotch and soft serve. Not half bad.

I was a tougher sell. I had questions. Mine came with mint marshmallow sauce. Not my thing though my pals and Ms Rocky G thought I was nuts. I asked for some chocolate crunchies instead, no whipped cream and thankfully Rocky (who’d been treating me like I had two heads) was finally on my team.

Ahhhh!

It was practically bedazzling. Thin Mints for days.

Normally I have a few bites and give it away to a hungrier companion. But not this time. I never even got a bite of The Samoa version though two people said it was off the charts. I didn’t care. I had crunchies and soft serve chocolate and Thin Mints and Rocky G smiled.

It gets better with age!

Carvel
Wherever you can find one

Fried. Rolled. Pierced. Poured.

Calde Calde at Eataly Stall
Mad Sq Eats

They say calde calde because essentially they are barking – come and get it while it’s hot. And I did. I’d do it again if this damn festival would last longer. And I hope you can! But I’ll track down the bomboloni to the depths of Eataly if I have to. Holy Smokin’ Tobacco! A chocolate hazlenut bomboloni, an Italian donut is like eating sin. SIN. It’s that good. Or bad depending on how you look at it.

The adorable Italian baker fries the dough, rolls it in sugar, pierces the hot pocket and makes a slit.

Then he holds it under the chocolate fountain (kind of like a hormone fed kitchen faucet) and lets the dough fill with chocolate hazlenut cream inside while dripping onto the outside.

He calls out your name and you can’t grab that piping hot box fast enough. Dive in. It really is eyes roll back in the head time with chocolate dripping down your face, sparkling with sugar crystals, practically blind from the bliss and who the F cares??

It’s like a baptism of all that life should be, a promise of heaven realized at last or maybe it’s just the devil smiling. But for a few moments while downing this sticky sweet melting chocolate infused dough, no matter what you believe, things could not be better.

Chocolate Hazlenut Bomboloni / Calde Calde
Eataly stall at Mad Sq Eats and hopefully at Eataly.
Or maybe hopefully not!
Fifth Av at 25th st / Worth Square

Neighbor Larry’s Perfect Hummus

Lemon Dill Hummus and Cumin Hummus Recipe

Being a huge Greek and Middle Eastern dip fan, I was intrigued when my neighbor Larry casually mentioned that his hummus is legendary. I offered to bring him some of my favorite taramosalata from International Grocery on 40th and ninth avenue (mentioned several posts down) in exchange for some of his handmade, homemade, well honed lemon dill hummus (and cumin hummus!) It’s good. It’s excellent. It’s right. His theory is less tahini than many others use. This version was developed through trial and error (his not mine!) and the recipes are all in his words.

Here it is looking almost like coffee ice cream…

Now you can be neighbor Larry too! He said – and I agree, that you may want to add more lemon or soy etc to balance out your flavors. And he usually starts with dried chickpeas. His cumin hummus is also a super nova. That’s included here as well.

Lemon-Dill Hummus

4 medium cloves Garlic, peeled

1-1/2 teaspoon dried Dill

2 tablespoon low sodium Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

juice from 4 Lemons, strained

3 cans (15 oz.) Chick Peas

1/2 cup Tahini, well mixed

In a food processor, combine garlic, dill, soy sauce, olive oil & lemon juice until emulsified

Drain chick peas (reserve liquid from 1 can), add 1 can at a time to mixture in food processor, combining until smooth

Add in tahini, mix until uniform

Add additional lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, dill, garlic to taste

Add reserved chick pea liquid, 1 Tablespoon at a time if the mixture is too thick

Cumin Hummus

8 medium cloves Garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon ground Cumin*

1/8 teaspoon ground White Pepper

2 tablespoon low sodium Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

juice from 2 Lemons, strained

3 cans (15 oz.) Chick Peas

1/2 cup Tahini, well mixed

In a food processor, combine garlic, cumin, pepper, soy sauce, olive oil & lemon juice until emulsified

Drain chick peas (reserve liquid from 1 can), add 1 can at a time to mixture in food processor, combining until smooth.

Add in tahini, mix until uniform

Add additional lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, cumin, pepper, garlic, to taste

Add reserved chick pea liquid, 1 Tablespoon at a time if the mixture is too thick

* The taste and strength of pre-ground cumin varies a lot, particularly with age. It’s better to lightly toast cumin seeds in a frying pan and pulverize with mortar and pestle.

General Notes:
Refrigerate for 2 hours; even if you like it at room temperature you still need to refrigerate it first.

Don’t lick tahini from fingers or utensils; it will foul your taste buds, making it impossible to determine whether or not or how much additional ingredients to add.

Canned chick peas vary in taste; Hanover is the best I’ve found so far.

Variation in size/strength of lemons, garlic, spices, requires taste adjustment; each batch is different, experience helps.

If you need to add more garlic, pulverize it (garlic press) separately before adding to the mix.

Makes ~ 5 cups

Oh You Salty Pimp!

Big Gay Ice Cream (truck or store)

Sometimes you need to get a little down and dirty. So what with Times Square being all shiny and new these days, truck on down to the east village (or find the actual truck!) and grab yourself a salty pimp. The kind that doesn’t take from you but gives joyously. Ha.

Soft serve vanilla hand covered in dulce con leche, chocolate and chunks of sea salt. You get sweet, toasty, salty and satisfied. It’s the simple things…

Big Gay Ice Cream
125 East 7th Street between First/Ave A
212.533.9333

* Header photo by Angela Carbonetti / http://www.angelacarbonetti.com