Tried & Oh So True

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop

It’s nice to have a buddy. Someone you really trust, feel comfortable with no matter the circumstance, has a great sense of humor and still surprises you with delight from time to time. No acrimonious conflict ever. Okay, maybe that one time they accidentally packed the take-out bag with chocolate cake instead of the cheesecake. But that didn’t turn out too badly. :0)

I go way back with Eisenberg’s. It opened in 1929 and though it was decades later until I had my first legendary tuna sandwich and chocolate egg cream, I feel like we’ve been best pals for eternity. There have only been four incarnations of proprietors (family to family, then 25 years of a new owner) but now it seems as if Josh and Bonnie have been there always. They took over in 2005 but Josh had been dining there for at least 15 years prior. They greet you at the door, calling out your name when your order is down, along with the ever charming staff members Kim and Kelly. It’s deli-diner Cheers.

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They’re famous for food and ambience but more specifically for the whipped tuna (on Pechter’s rye bread delivered in wax paper sleeves), egg salad, matzoh ball soup, (some vegetarian soups too!), pastrami sandwiches that rival Katz’s, sour pickles, fountain sodas including the egg creams and…a perfect lime rickey. Plus let’s not forget mac n’ cheese fridays, albeit crustless but old fashioned creamy comfort. Stellar? Perhaps not everything but it’s food infused with old school tradition and a big hug. And you can’t tell me that the side of cole slaw isn’t worth jockeying for a stool.

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I always forget to photograph the food! I think oh, this time I will, as soon as it comes. Then I look down and find it’s all been inhaled rather quickly. Sigh. Next time. Mostly I stick with old favorites but lately there’s been a move in a slightly modern direction, Josh introduced burgers (the Eisen-burger!), wraps may not have caught on but the off-menu (on the mirror) empanadas are pretty popular, especially the pastrami version. Maybe it’s the influence of the longtime counterman Victor, chief maker of the egg creams.

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The thing about egg creams, as any true New Yorker knows, is ice cold milk, seltzer and only, only, only Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. Tricks of the trade are thankfully followed by Victor. He mixes the syrup with the milk using the high intensity stream of soda water by pushing the handle back, not so available in modern fountains. The coup de grace is running the final low intensity stream down the back of a spoon. Simple strokes that equal perfection.

A back dining room was added several years ago bringing the overall seating to 62. And you sure can’t avoid that close knit family feeling at the 24 stools packed in along the original marble counter. It’s fun. Instant camaraderie. Complete insanity. There’s your major CEO having matzoh brei rubbing elbows (literally) with meatloaf loving neighborhood regulars. My favorite spot is the area marked by a small sign that pays homage to Hawaiian counter man Phil. He was there for 33 years, being your best cranky tough guy with a heart of gold.

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Eisenberg’s is there for you. Reliable, loyal, through thick and thin. Holidays and every day. It’s been well represented in videos, newspapers, blogs and sometimes in movies. (keep an eye out for it in the next Spiderman movie!) but I still had to have my say.

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It goes beyond the food here, and the people and the celebrity photos. It’s nothing you can quite put your finger on. Or your lips. The flavor is in the walls.

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Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop
174 Fifth Avenue at 22nd Street
212.675.5096
Monday-Friday 6:30am-8pm, Saturday 8am-6pm, Sunday 8am-4pm

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

Melt

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…

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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.

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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.

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Order. Wait for your name to be called.

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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.

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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…”

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Sometimes You Just Wanna Be Held…

Tacombi /Fonda Nolita and Puddin’

There is nothing like comfort. It comes in many forms of course and we all have our go to panaceas, but tried and true late night dining that coddles, soothes, tells you that you’re compelling, funny, gorgeous is still available on the mean streets of NYC. (Okay – they’re not so mean, but they are frustrating with people texting as they walk every which way.)

So, the other night, along with some out of town friends looking for inexpensive, tasty and late-ish, we swung through a zocalo, NYC style. The still compelling and amusing Tacombi and the gorgeous Puddin’.

Tacombi has been rock steady on the taco and tamale front for about 2 years now. Much has been written so no need to sound forth. Real masa, open kitchen, taco prep in a vw bus fresh from its Playa Del Carmen beach home now parked inside a big garage, huge skylight, crazy early to late hours, and finally offers sake / sangria spiked Mexican drinks, beers and table service. Phew.

My all time favorite will remain the Corn & Poblano Taco. Sweet, spicy, a beach in a cornfield. The tacos aren’t huge but 3 seemed to be more than satisfying. The Baja Fish Taco is perfectly crisped but the fresh sea breeze still shines through. I do wish they’d use less sauce and let me add from the table assortment of spicy and sweet squeeze bottles if I’m so inclined. The Corn Truffle Tamale is redolent of musk and a campfire. Loved. Friends had the Corn Esquites with toasted corn, lime & chipotle mayo – a french kiss in a cup. The Al Pastor De Puerco, the Pork Belly and the Short Rib Barbacoa are beautifully put together and bring forth the essence of Mexico.

Hard to believe you can be taco sated, infused with a south of the border spirit, feeling this good as you sit around rickety metal tables in NYC and on metal chairs that seem inches away from collapse, but you can.

While we were still enjoying the guacamole and excellent chips, someone at the table said, if I could top this off with butterscotch pudding, I’d be a happy man. Done. Can’t vouch for permanent happiness but for that night, a last bit of solace – it worked. Off to Puddin’ on St Marks.

I’m an old My-T-Fine girl. Chocolate pudding on the stove, skin forming across the top. Heaven. As my tastes developed I learned to make the real thing, appreciating more sophisticated versions but I think somewhere in my heart remains a soft spot for my six year old palate. Well now, boy howdy to Puddin’.

Creamy, pleasure, childhood, all wrapped up in a glass case filled with house made puddings. Butterscotch, Banana, Coffee, Vanilla, Rice, Coconut etc and the Classic – layered butterscotch with a whipped cream center and chocolate pudding base. I could go six feet under happily if I could bring the Caramel Machiato with me, a combo of Chocolate and Coffee puddings with brownie pieces and a salted caramel sauce. Buh bye My-T-Fine. Or I could make do with the Banana Cream Dream made of real banana pudding, graham cracker crumbs, fresh banana cake and a soupcon of whipped cream. I’m open.

One spoonful of anything and it’s Calgon take me away time. It’s just you and warm puppy love. Plus they have Stumptown Coffee (yay!) so you can stay awake to have more pudding.

Tacomba / Fonda Nolita
267 Elizabeth Street
917.727.0179
open for breakfast through late night cravings

Puddin’
102 St Marks Between Av A/First Av
212.477.3537
open til 1am M-W and then til 2am

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

Great Balls of…

Teriyaki Balls

I might be behind in cute Asian girl food world but there seems to be much happening. Luckily for me I’m in the process of catching up with my personal discovery of Teriyaki Balls – as cooked and served by Mimi and Coco at the Madison Square Park Eats Festival.

Balls of dough are ever irresistible and these somehow manage to be incredibly satisfying but not make you feel like you did a bad, bad thing. I’ve had the tasty takoyaki/octopus balls from Otafuku on 9th street, complete with bonito flakes but haven’t been back in years. Stumbling upon these stuffed balls, along with their creators (and built in cheerleading section) was a treat.

Mimi and Coco seem quite excited and very proud of their product. It all has a bit of a Hello Kitty feel but only because of the pop style and genuine enthusiasm. These balls are crispy-esque on the outside but definitely have the gooey factor with soft dough and creamy filling on the inside, all made possible by a specifically designed cast iron grill pan.

On offer are country sausage, shrimp or potato. I ordered a mix of the last two. Toppings include roasted slivered almonds, a seemingly random ingredient but I appreciated the warm, crunchy nuttiness. A sort of counterpoint to the chewy. Something I may have thought of had it been the old days and I was high. But then there are corn flakes too. Now you may as well be high. Their teriyaki sauce is multi layered and you can choose to have the whole raft (I did!) or pick and choose among the flavors and textures. Mayo, pepper, chili sauce etc. It’s food as fun. Pop the whole ball in your mouth, follow it with a sip of one of the great ales at the market and a great afternoon is now on point.

Teriyaki Balls
Mimi and Coco currently at Madison Square Eats Festival in Worth Square at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street.
http://www.mimiandcoco_ny.com

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
212.929.5900

Because You Really Want One

City Sandwich

You’re in midtown. God knows why but you are. Need some lunch, something not as pricey as the elite haunts of publishing magnates and talent agents? Maybe you want it to go, maybe you’d like to dine in but sans time intensive service and let’s face it – maybe you want the lunch of yesteryear, of childhood comfort, just a tastier better bread version of it. You want a…shhh…sandwich.

City Sandwich has been a mini mecca for almost two years. Sandwiches by way of Naples and Lisbon with a NYC edge. A culinary pedigree if there ever was. Luckily the lineage includes interesting fresh salads and soups as well. And if you think lunch is the thing, nuh uh – wake up and smell the bacon! The breakfast sandwiches deliciously relieve post slumber despair.

Part of the wall art is the menu and it’s divided by sandwich/salad name as well as by color. Red is meat, yellow is egg and green is vegetable/fish. It’s like a color war flag for Team Italy and Team Portugal it seems.

The atmosphere is a cozy brick-walled art filled spot, with no table service but a cheery staff and food is packed to go whether you dine at one of the six or so tables or not.

Chewy, flaky, crispy bread made for them in Newark, our domestic version of Portugal. White flour be damned, the bread is the perfect foil for all manner of fillings. Olive oil keeps that dense interior beautifully moist. The chef prides himself on no butter and no mayo, preferring instead a yogurt based herb infused dressing. Nice.

I had the ‘Auntie”, (all of the salads and sandwiches are named for those near and dear to the chef/owner). Homemade Portuguese pickled sardines with sauteed onions, tomato and cilantro in olive oil. A very cooling, briny, fabulous mediterranean choice for a sticky summer’s day.

But the entire role call is first rate. The “Pavia” is a wonderful combination of egg whites with melted brie, spinach, sauteed onions and tomatoes and then there’s the ‘Dave” with sausage, broccoli rabe, tomato, peperoncino, melted mozzarella, garlic and oil. Yum. It goes on. Twisted, intriguing, carefully considered combinations that fit brilliantly into their lovingly named crusty homes.

My friend had the delicately flavored simple salad of fresh mozzarella, tomato & onions in a basil pesto yogurt.

We both started with the chilled spicy cucumber and chickpea soup. Refreshing but a bit bland and not the zingy thick puree I had imagined. More like chickpea gazpacho.

An energizing house made lemonade rounded out a delightful and easy lunch.

In a town filled with crazy cool breads and killer fillers – the era of Sandwiches 2.0, City Sandwich doesn’t disappoint with its revitalized retro lunch. It’s kind of a calling card to a euro-newyawk crusty delight.

Wear the T-Shirt, eat the sandwich.

City Sandwich
649 Ninth Avenue between 45/46th Street
646.684.3943

* 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