Sunday, September 28, 2008

Give me some good RUB: A review of NYC’s RUB

Barbeque has always been good. But it hasn’t been until recently that it's had such fame. Its' peak came last year when Saveur Magazine named it’s top 100, #1 being, oh yes, you guessed it Barbeque. And since this southern specialty has been blossoming in the North, I have had the opportunity to gobble up this smoky meaty goodness. When I first came to New York, there was one place for Barbeque: Dinosaur Barbeque (which is simply incredible.) Since then, barbeque joints are sprouting up, Rub, Daisy May, Blue Smoke and many others. But this begs the question: are they any good? Are they as good as their Southern (to some more authentic) counterparts? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you whether these NYC barbeque shops match up to the south, since I haven’t visited the South. I know, don’t be upset Southerners. It has been long overdue and I cannot wait to go.
But for now, I have to settle for NYC Barbeque. I decided to try one of the most highly rated barbeque joints in NYC: Rub. The name is slightly deceiving because, it really is about two things here, there giant red smoker and their deep fat fryer. In all honesty their rub wasn’t the most impressive part of this barbeque equation. The red smoker is where all the action takes place: where cheap tough cuts of meat are turned into succulent, deeply flavorful, tender pieces of meat. The pulled pork reigns supreme, moist and slightly smoky, un-sauced, so you can add sauce or simply enjoy the pure flavors of the hog. The pulled chicken is also pretty tender yet less smoky. Their pastrami is not as moist at Katz, but is still fresh, warm and seasoned with a nice crust of pepper. The brisket was the only disappointing meat. It lacked all moisture, wasn’t able to fall apart (a tell tale sign, that 1. It could be old 2. It wasn’t cooked long enough.) Whatever the case, it needed some barbeque TLC.
The deep fat fryer provided amazing fried wonders. Crispy, slightly sweet and salty onions rings were highly addictive. Licking my lips after each bite allowed me to collect the salty particles left on my lips, while the sweetness of the onions dissipated on my tongue. The fried Oreos were equally sinful. Donut battered enveloped warm gooey chocolaty Oreos. I never had these before and it was quite an experience. Warm, soft and just plain delicious.
With Barbecue’s status comes a rightfully overdue appreciation for the craft. One that Rub accomplishes for the most part. I wish I knew how to make my own…to learn the craft like the barbeque masters. But for now I will leave it up to professionals. My adopted blogger father (oh yes…I have been adopted by a blog--- finally I have a home) is a reigning champion at home smoking specialties. He has the grill, the pictures and the know how to show you how to accomplish all your barbeque dreams. (Ok to be honest, if your barbeque dreams involved smoked dinosaur…I am not sure he can be of help.) Check out his blog which contains delectable recipes from a true southern gent: Mr. Orph’s Blog.
What is your favorite Barbeque restaurant or recipe? Let me know....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pickle Me

Ok...well maybe don't pickle me...but can we please pickle everything else.

The other weekend I just pickled myself out. It started when I decided to make homemade pickles for my boyfriend. I used the recipe from Dyln Blog, which was easy, quick and delicious. Click here to get the recipe. To be honest, I loved making the adorable labels for the jars. I used fresh dill stuffing it into each jar. It came out with that great herb flavor, a nice crunch and an oh-so cute presentation.
Wait, there’s more. A pickle weekend doesn’t stop there. I then went to the Pickle Festival that is held annually in the Lower East Side. Many pickle purveyors showed up along with their samples. I tried a variety of pickles (including the pickle on the stick). The pickled lemons and plums were so acidic; they made your tongue feel funny. The spicy pickled okra was tangy, not slimy and just the right amount of kick. In addition to the pickle stands, food stands were set up outside LES restaurants. After seeing sauerkraut whiz by me, I knew where I was going: to the food stand with the home made pretzels (soft and salty). I munched on sausage, home made sauerkraut and a delicious potato salad (made with vinaigrette – not mayonnaise based.) To learn more about the pickle festival click here.

Well, with all this pickle love going around, my mother, on the opposite coast, got the urge to make pickled cauliflower with peppers. Sadly, I haven’t tried her pickled veggies. But, in this case I will live vicariously through her. Click here, if you would like the recipe.
Overall, it was pickalicious. I have been a long time lover of anything pickled, similar to my love of confit (but that is a different post). I like those funny feelings on my tongue and I like the crunch of a cucumber that has been swimming in briny goodness. Pickle Lover for Life….

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Long Awaited Most Beloved Madeleines

I lot of you have been waited for this post. And if you haven’t, you just didn’t know you were. Too be honest, there is nothing difficult about madeleines, if anything they are pretty versatile, orange, lemon thyme, lavender honey, chocolate. You name it. What is difficult is making sure to purchase the right pan and grease the pan in a way so the madeleines don’t stick. (This way they come out looking like gorgeous shells, not mutilated cookie specimens. I mean we need to make Proust proud…)
I use the recipe off of epicurious, but I like them a tad bit more lemony, so I add just a little lemon juice, like a teaspoon. It brings out the flavor of the zest. These one’s are not too sweet, highly addictive and the perfect accompaniment with tea, or just fresh from the oven (for some reason they hardly ever make it to tea.)
As I mentioned before, the pan is important. The pan really is the reason for these cookies, they create the shape, and equally attribute for the light fluffy texture. Do not use the silicon pan; it will be hard to remove the madeleines. I used a French tin pan that I picked up from Broadway Panhandler’s. This means I had to butter and flour for each batch. But I think a non-stick pan would work quite well. Just remember: if they stick, this can be a big problem, the shell imprint will not appear and the cookie can fall apart.
Click Here for the Recipe

My Side Note of Madeleines: Oh Proust!

Proust gets a lot of credit for the success for this cookie. And to be honest, I am not sure he deserves it. Why do I say this? Because Proust divulges in many things, not just French cookies. For Proust, many seemingly insignificant objects, food items, art can “déclenche” (to spark in French) a memory. Not just madeleines. So why has the food world harped so much on these few pages? Maybe his oh-so French idealism or his page long sentences intricately weaving food, memory and perception. I would just like to say, Proust is much more than this darling edible golden clam…
But if Proust can make the Madeleine some French fantasy you want to literally eat up, I say, why not? Divulge!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches: Asian Interior, French Exterior

I love Vietnamese sandwiches, crunchy French baguette, fresh cilantro, pickled carrots, thinly sliced spicy peppers, crisp cucumbers and (for me) grilled chicken. Nothing has topped Paris for a delicious grab and go sandwich. A tiny little mom and pop shop was our daily lunch spot when we visited. Cheap and delicious, it demonstrates not only the quality of French bread but also what occurs due to factors of colonization. The Vietnamese sandwich is a by-product of what happens to food ways when one culture is subjected to the influence of the other.

Ok, so enough colonial talk, let’s talk taste. In Paris, they used some kind of animal fat instead of mayonnaise, which made it decadently tasty. But in order to get my fill here, I head to Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwich Shop in the east village. Like the one’s in Paris, it is tiny with a limited menu. For the traditional sandwich, they combine ground pork, ham and of course pâté with the usual, cilantro, pickled carrots, cucumbers and mayo (which I never get, because I have always hated it.) The meat was tender and flavorful and the bread was fresh and French making it the perfect late night snack (or any hour you see fit.) The spring rolls fall flat, in both dipping sauce and flavor. But if you stick to the sandwiches, you are sure to enjoy.

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches
150 E 2nd St
New York 10009

What's your favorite place for Vietnamese sandwich shop?

Monday, September 8, 2008


I don’t eat much lobster, not because I don’t want to, but because I like it super fresh, right from the ocean. So I wait. I wait all year if I have to. Rhode Island is where you go to claim the lobster prize. It doesn’t hurt, that are next door neighbor introduced us to a secret lobsterman. Very undercover. We call him up, request some lobsters, go down to his house, which is on the breach way, and collect freshly caught sea crustaceans. A little transaction goes on, and we receive the booty, in this case, my lobsters.
I love my lobsters done simply, no fuss. I want to eat lobster, not stuffing, not overly rich sauces (even though that is nice), just the wonderfully tender sea flavored meat. So, my cousin (the chef), takes a bucket of sea water (from the ocean one I just swam in) with some sea weed, puts it in a large pot, over a wood burning fire and cooks the lobsters to perfection. (Before this happened, my little cousin fretted over the lobsters, a common reaction when looking at these sea monsters…see picture.)
They came out delicious, tender, with a sea flavor. All you need is a little drawn butter and some good hands (so you can search and dig for all that meat). I spend a really long time eating lobster; no crevice or part goes untouched. I suck each leg, dissect the body, crack each claw, and savor the tail. (Maybe that was too much detail.) If there is any lobster left over (which is hardly any, not from me at least, some family members aren’t as patient and determined to get all the meat), lobster salad is essential. But this time I made a lobster salad that was different from the traditional. A combination of thinly sliced fennel, corn and tarragon is the perfect complement to the succulent meat. Just chop up your lobster, thinly slice fennel, shave the corn off a cooked cob, and add some chopped tarragon. Simply dress with red wine vinaigrette and you get one amazing lobster salad. ENJOY!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Caracas: A Little Arepas Haven (or Heaven)

Arepas: Savory Handheld South American Wonders

After seeing a just horrible movie, ( I mean, if I didn’t pay soo much, I would have left…I won’t disclose the title---I am not here to bad mouth movies), I needed to redeem the evening by gorging on some beloved comfort food at one of my old haunts Caracas, in the east village. Despite its quaint and intimate size, Caracas can' be missed. Just look for the hoards of arepas lovers munching and waiting outside. Caracas specializes in Arepas, a corn based sandwich stuffed with lots of different goodies such as shredded beef, avocado and cheese. They are simply delicious. My favorite is the de Pabellon, which is shredded beef, queso fresco, black beans and fried plantains. The sweet and savory play very well together and the shredded beef is oh so tender and moist. I have tried a few others which all seem to lack luster in comparison. The chicken is a little dry, but that shouldn’t deter you from trying the other vast combinations.
The guacamole is superb, highly seasoned with a secret combo of herbs and vinegar served with a side of chips (yucca, taro and other south American tubers) sliced thinly, fried perfectly, and sprinkled with salt. In addition, they have the assortment of aqua frescas and loads of south of the border beer.

Caracas ToGo
91 E. 7th Avenue
NY, NY 10009
Phone: (212)-228-5062

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Poppyseed and Tarragon Crème Fraîche Dressing

Recipe for Dressing from Fresh by Fine Cooking

I am back from a wonderful labor day with my family on the Rhode Island shore. I disconnected from the Internet and connected with my family and cooking. With an abundance of great seafood and summer’s bounty, I will have some great post in the upcoming weeks. As for now, I just got back home where I must read for cooking school tomorrow and unpack. But I won’t leave you empty handed. Here is a delicious dressing I tried this weekend. It is refreshing and pairs nicely with a heavy main or hearty chowder.

Poppyseed and Tarragon Crème Fraîche Dressing

¼ cup crème fraîche
2 Tbs. plain yogurt
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tbs. poppyseeds, lightly toasted inn a dry skillet
2 tsp. minced garlic
Pinch of cayenne
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche, yogurt, chopped tarragon, popyseeds, lemon juices and garlic. Sir in 1 to 2 Tbs. water to thin the mixture to a creamy salad-dressing consistency. Season with salt and cayenne to taste.
Use a local variety of lettuce, dress and enjoy!