October 15, 2007

King's beer: I'm lovin' it

Kings Beer 3A very dear person just returned from Goa, bearing the sweetest of all gifts from that lush land... King's Beer. As I noted in this post, King's is one of the nicest beers I've ever tasted. Kautilya and I, were in Goa on a college trip, sometime in 1995 or so. We left our classmates to go have a gander at this island thing. As luck would have it, he and I arrived at the ferry literally minutes after the one we wanted to catch had pushed off, headed for its umpteenth trip across the lazy Mandovi. With not much to do, we found a run-down shack near the jetty and ordered a beer. He only had local brew – Kings. I am happy to state the forty minutes (or was it an hour) were spent in a happy state, tasting a really, really good beer, enjoying very good company and great scenery in lazy, lovely old Goa.

Of late, though, King's has become really hard to find. This person, evidently, spent a fair while searching for my five bottles worth (heck, I even love the shape of it, now echoed by the almost equally elusive Kingfisher Stubby).

Well, I'd like to thank her for taking the time to look for it. Oh, and I just wanted to let you guys know that I'm going home to five super-chilled bottles of the stuff. Yippee!

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October 12, 2007

Haywards Black: I like it

Haywards Black PintsWikipedia says stouts and porters are dark beers, made with roasted malts or barleys. As would be the case with anything that's so old (1677!), it now has varieties and flavours.

SAB Miller, the chaps who brew Haywards 5K & 2K, Royal Challenge, Knock Out and Castle Lager (international brands include Miller, Peroni Nastro Azzure (Rossi's ex-sponsor) and Pilsner Urquell (quite nice, The Wife purchased some for me from Prague, not so long ago) recently launched Haywards Black, which is India's first stout beer.

The taste is a bit strange to start out with. Especially if you're beer-lover and beer-novice rolled into one. So unlike my friend Kautilya, I haven't been intimate with old Guinness so far. Please, please hold those collective groans, I'm working on that. Anyway, there's a strange taste I found hard to identify, but after reading through SABMiller's site, I think yes, it is that hint of caramel. The beer is just a tiny bit more viscous than normal beer and hence, tends to sit a bit heavy. It's no Guinness class meal yet, but you will notice the extra weight at the end of the pint. There is some extra alcohol, but again, it's not like the extra pint is going to knock the steadiness out of your legs or anything. On the whole, I like the beer a lot. That's why my fridge is now equally divided between HBs and Buds (Yes, I like the Indian Bud a lot too.)

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August 10, 2007

Red Box, Bandra: Good food... iffy music

A few friends and I went to Red Box on Waterfield Road in Bandra for a bite one night. Just wanted to let you guys know that it's quite nice. We had a Squid Marengo starter (bacon and squid combo) which turned out to be delicious. As did The Wife's Lemon Thyme Chicken and my spare ribs. They serve Indian Bud too. It's a cheery, bright and inevitable noisy place with the oddest music. I couldn't escape the feeling that I was having dinner in a discotheque. Which should give you an idea of the volume and selection being played at the establishment. That said, I plan to return soon and give the menu another going over.

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August 07, 2007

Budweiser in India

Budweiser Indian Pint

The first time I had Bud(weiser) I was at Delhi's TGIF and it sucked. Big Time. It tasted more or less like diluted water and I was left wondering at what Bud Light would be like – as in would I be able to taste it at all? So when a colleague told me that Bud was in India, I was wondering if it had made Anheuser-Busch wiser or not? Well, it has. I've just downed my fifth (I think) pint of Bud in the last four days, and I think I like it. I still don't think it topples my favourites (in order) – Kalyani Black Label, London Pilsner, Royal Challenge and Kingfisher – off their respective pedestals, but it is nice. It has a nice flavour, tastes like beer should and yes, I'm going to be drinking some more soon. Other faves? Corona (minus lime), Heineken (original German import only), Carlsberg, Stella (you can call her by her first name if you know her well enough) and Modelo Negro Especial (strange but true).

No, I haven't had Chillingtons, Guinness and other stalwart brands yet... but there's always tomorrow, right?

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Shwarma: try this one

The Wife and I were heading home when she spotted a doner kebab maker at Hotel Sanman. [I don't know if the phone number in the link is the right one... but it sounds right] Having pulled over after the Shivaji Park petrol pump, I walked back to the man and asked what the damage would be like. He said, 'Fifty bucks. But you wont regret it.' So I ordered and watched in amazement as our man loaded a lavish amount of sizzling chicken into the nicely warm pita bread, with an appropriate slathering of hummus added in. Whoa! When we bit into the shwarma...
best effing one I have had since the ones at Arabian Nights in Priya, Delhi. And those are more fond memory than an actual taste. And it is gigantic too! You gotta try it...

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Update: Since this post, the chap at Sanman has evidently been fired. Sigh.

July 14, 2007

Book Review: Heat, by Bill Buford

A friend of mine, who works in New York, purchased a copy of Bill Buford's book, Heat, for me recently. We were out walking the Manhattan streets, and had just walked into Strand, which advertises its 18 miles of books, before continuing to the Titanic memorial thingy and then to Pier 17 (we were going to end up more or less walking all the way up about halfway into Central Park... but didn't know it yet). Anyway, a food lover beyond compare, the other book he purchased was A Cook's Tour, by Anthony Bourdain, and more on that book in another post.

Heat, turned out to be a surprisingly good read. Well, coming from Kautilya, I wouldn't expect anything less. But what I mean is that instead of being a foodie-oriented great read, the book is almost an action-adventure located in a busy restaurant kitchen. There's blood, heat, tension, pressure and good grub, just a little bit more than the average thriller provides. Buford was a Fiction Editor at the NYTimes before he quit and embarked on the journey that is Heat.

It all started with Mario Batali, a genious cook and Buford's inspiration, and his restaurant Babbo (at which I ate, thanks to Kautilya; post coming), which drove Buford into this rather strange journey. Buford offers a very colourful, action-packed read. You should try it.

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May 23, 2007

Pop Tate's Powai Review

I went there last night en famille to grab some grub. Given how good the food at Juhu Pop Tate's is, I was expecting a stellar meal, slow service, a slight wait for the table and a noisy, boisterous ambience... nothing like it. Tables were empty (you'll see why in a minute), service was prompt (though the waiter was like totally clueless), and meal was crap. The Wife and I tried to remember when was the last time we had a meal this bad. The question stumped us. My squid was as thick as a stack of coins, and about as edible. The chicken she had was pliable like rubber, and tasted roughly the same (do not ask how I know that). We also ordered some Arrabiata – a six year old given some tomatoes would have made it better. Basically, a giant, unwavering, totally disgusted thumbs down. We were so unhappy about the meal that we refused to accept any offered discounts, paid the amount in full and vowed never to return. You've been warned.

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March 20, 2007

"Soul in Yo Bowl"

I make a good Jambalaya. I know this because most of the friends who have eaten it have lived to tell the tale. Some have even returned for seconds. And responding to a groundswell of popular demand, and for the greater common good, I feel that it is time that I should share my recipe for a Jambalaya. Vox Populi; Vox Dei and all that sort of thing, don't you know.

Ok, so the popular demand consisted of just one person but if you saw this populus, you'd know that she was all Dei.

Anyway, Jambalaya...

Jambalaya is a Cajun-Creole dish similar, in some ways to a Spanish paella or the Indian pulao (as opposed to the biryani). It originated in the swamps and badlands of Louisiana and according to
Wikipedia, the Jambalaya dates back to at least 1872. Jambalaya can be made with beef, pork, chicken, duck, shrimp, oysters, crayfish, sausage, or any combination thereof or indeed from any other meat as well. If you want to throw in some 'gator in your Jambalaya, go right ahead! I make mine with a combination of chicken, Andouille sausage, Chorizo and shrimp.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. You have to start at the very beginning, which as Maria von Trapp assures us, is a very good place to start.

And in the beginning, there is the
trinity - equal parts onion, celery and bell peppers, chopped into a fine dice (about a half-cup each). The traditional trinity calls for green bell peppers but I find that just a tad too bitter and use red bell peppers instead (which also adds to the color of the dish, of course). I also throw in a few Jalapeño and/or Serrano peppers to add a little kick, but that is completely a matter of taste. The trinity should be sautéed in a dutch oven or any deep heavy pan , till the onions are transparent but not brown (deep so it can accommodate the rice and the meats without overflowing and heavy so that it retains heat. Do not use a non-stick pan, the reason for which will become clear in a minute). I prefer to use a combination of rendered bacon (pork fat rules!) and vegetable oil as the cooking medium but in these heart healthy times, use whatever oil you're comfortable with - vegetable, canola, peanut, olive; any one will do with two exceptions - extra virgin olive oil and mustard oil - because they have powerful aromas that will overwhelm the dish.

Season aggressively with crushed black pepper, cayenne pepper and Creole seasoning. If you are up to making your own Creole seasoning, here is a great basic recipe, but one can also buy this stuff pre-mixed and some of it is actually edible!

To the sautéing trinity, add the chicken and the sausages, each cut to about half-inch cubes/ slices/ dice - whatever floats your boat really. They should just be the approximate same size. It helps to use just one cut of chicken for e.g breasts (what can I say - I am a breast man!). Figure on using one chicken breast for two people. Season again with the Creole seasoning and sauté on medium heat till the chicken is browned evenly, some of the fat has rendered off the sausages and there is a good bit of 'frond' - the brown sticky bits at the bottom of the pan. The frond is critical to develop the brown color of the Jambalaya and to intensify the flavor; it is virtually impossible to develop a good frond in a non-stick pan. Enameled cast-iron is best, stainless steel is also ok, even hard anodized cookware will work in a pinch.

When the chicken has browned, add the rice (figure about a third to a half-cup per person - long grain rice works best, parboiled rice is fine) and move it around till the grains become sort of translucent. Add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, move it around till it becomes fragrant and immediately add the cooking liquid for the rice (it happens fast in a hot pan - 30-45 secs - so watch out otherwise the garlic will burn). I like chicken stock but if you prefer fish/vegetable/ beef stock, that's fine. You can use water if you absolutely must but, be warned, it will dilute the flavors of the Jambalaya. You will need more liquid than if you were just cooking rice, so depending upon the type of rice grains you chose, you will need 2-2.5 times liquid. Use the liquid to also de-glaze the pot - scraping around the bottom to release all the frond and color and flavor contained therein.

Cook the rice as you normally would and about five minutes before the rice is done, add the shrimps (about a half-cup per) and some diced scallions. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp - when they turn pink they are done. Adjust seasonings while the Jambalaya is still liquidy and when the rice is done, so is the Jambalaya.

Eat. Enjoy.

Original post

February 13, 2007

February 08, 2007

The Art of the Omelette

In my Pantheon of superstar foods, the omelette has pride of place in the front row. It can be street food in India, an elegant supper at a French bistro, a hearty lunch in Spain and stuffed to overflowing at an American brunch. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and when you need something to soak up the excesses of a night on the town, the omelette can hang right in there with the fried chicken and the cold pizza.

According to the
Larousse Gastronomique (Robuchon, J., et al (ed), 2001, Clarkson Potter, New York, P.808), "the word [omelette] comes from the French "lamelle" (thin strip) because of its flat shape; previously it was known as alumelle and then alumette, and finally amelette." (So the Indian pronunciation is actually pretty close to the French original!) The French have been making omelettes since the 16th century and the pinnacle of their painstaking effort is the classic recipe known as L'Omelette aux Champignons - Omelette stuffed with Mushrooms.

Making a French omelette is a lot like making tea or making rice. It is very easy to make but very difficult to make well. And just like tea or rice, when an omelette is good it is sublime, when it’s bad, there are few worse abominations on the face of the planet.

I know because I had the misfortune of eating a particularly bad version a couple of days ago, which is what prompted this post. Here are a few critical things to keep in mind when making an omelette. Follow these simple rules of thumb and you will have French bistro quality omelettes - guaranteed.

First, the stuffing. If the omelette is to have a stuffing, make sure you cook it
before you make the omelette. The residual heat of the omelette will reheat the stuffing but if the omelette gets cold while you're making the stuffing, it's all over. For a mushroom stuffing, stick to the middle of the road - you don't want white button mushrooms which are pretty flavorless and get soggy but you don't want shitakes either which will overwhelm the flavor of the eggs. Creminis, in my experience, work best - they will stand up to the eggs with just enough earthy flavors to compliment them. Salt the mushrooms while they are sautéing to draw out the water - you don't want that moisture running out when the stuffing is in the omelette!

Now for the main event -
  • Make sure that the eggs are at room temperature. Eggs straight out of the fridge tend to coagulate and don't mix as well when beaten, leading to dense and heavy omelettes.
  • Speaking of beating, the eggs should get a thorough one. Beat the eggs for at least 10 minutes. Don't be shy (or lazy) - I've gone so far as to use a mixer on the eggs but if you have any experience in hand mixing a latte, you can do this with a fork. The more air you can incorporate into the eggs the lighter and fluffier they will be.
  • This one is optional, but instead of just adding milk, try adding a teaspoon or so of cream to the proceedings too (for three eggs. Adjust the amount of cream for fewer or more eggs). Also add a teaspoon or so or water.
  • This one is not optional - use butter as a cooking medium! Not vegetable oil, not olive oil (not even the good stuff) - butter. Say it with me - butter!
  • Cook the omelette slow and low. Well, ok - medium to medium low. But you don't want to crank the heat 'cause that will only burn the outside before the omelette cooks through.
  • This leads us to – non-stick skillets. This is one of the very few recipes where I would recommend using a non-stick skillet over a regular one. Since you don't need to fire up the afterburners, the safety issues with non-stick pans can be overlooked. You can slide the omelette off more easily, the calorie counters can use a little less butter and since non-stick pans generally don't sear very well, you get a nice even golden color on the omelette.
  • And finally, do not cook the omelette all the way through in the pan. Residual cooking will continue after you take the eggs off the heat and you must account for this. If the eggs are completely cooked in the pan, the by the time they get to the table, they will be overdone, dry and stringy. The trick is to take the skillet off the heat when the edges of the omelette have set but the center is still slightly moist and runny. Fold in the stuffing, thus giving that a little time to warm up too. Plate.
Now, there's a good egg, what!

Original post

January 27, 2007

Brio: restaurant review

Hidden behind the Juhu Shoppers' Stop (Chandan Cinema) is a little nook of a Bistro Cafe called Brio. Owned jointly by Shoppers' Stop and Blue Foods, it's almost impossible to spot it from the front of the mall, especially if you didn't know it existed. Even if you were inside the Shoppers' it's hard to spot. The entrance is a hole in the wall with a glass door and guard. Hidden behind the Ladies Western Wear section.

Which is sad, because it is a great place to eat. The Wife and I went there for dinner last night and had the best Bruschetta I've had the pleasure of inhaling so far. It was so good, we had two of those. We also had a non-Hershey's choc syrup Chocolate Shake, a nifty Cold Iced Coffee, a brilliant, fresh Spicy Chicken Paprika & Cheese Crepe, a great Focaccia Sandwich and a so-so Tiramisu. For 600 bucks. Good job, yeah?

It's a nice place. It was crowded yesterday (table wait was forty minutes!) and that gave us time to head into the Crossword and pick up some stuff. We ended up buying Rang De Basanti DVD, Jamiroquai's High Times (greatest hits) and Andrea Bocelli's superb Amore. All in all a great evening. Try it, you won't regret it.

Original post

January 21, 2007

Wise Man Say... 07.01

"My favorite animal is steak."
-Frank Lebowitz

Original post

New York Top Ten: Food - Part Deux!

Here is the second half of my New York food list Once again, in no particular order, I give you:

The Tasting Menu at Babbo: I’m sure there are those that think Babbo (110 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011) is not the best Italian restaurant in the city, but I am damned if I can find even one of them. Babbo is the flagship restaurant of Chef Mario Batali – he of the famous shorts and orange crocs – and traces its pedigree to the now almost mythical, Po restaurant on Bleeker St., where Mr. Batali perfected his craft. And while he owns numerous other fine establishments in the neighborhood such as Otto, Del Posto, Esca and Lupo, it is obvious that Mr. Batali’s heart is really at Babbo. If, on the day that you dine there, Mr. Batali is in the kitchen, consider yourself twice blessed. For Babbo doesn’t so much surpass one’s expectations as shatter them and leave them lying in the dust. From the fennel pollen (!) in the goat cheese tortellini to the hot chili flakes in the linguine with clams to the guinea hen with pumpkin to the ricotta based cheesecakes, there is absolutely no shortage of wonderful surprises at Babbo. Even the choice of music – 70s rock for the most part – is surprising.

And the tasting menu is where the creative brilliance of Mr. Batali and his staff really peak. A roster of food and wine pairing that is in a word, sublime. There are things like ducks and venison and pink peppercorn honey on that tasting menu! If you have to visit only one restaurant in New York, this should be your destination.

Coq Au Vin at Tout Va Bien: Tout Va Bien (311 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019) has been in its present location for more than half a century and it that time it has become a favorite of French sailors in town for Fleet Week. So you know that they must be doing something right. It is the classic bistro – loud and informal, especially when the sailors are in town. The, very good, house wine can be ordered by the pitcher as can the sangria, the wait-staff is friendly yet knowledgeable and the tablecloths have red and white checks. In short – a happy place. Their take their coq au vin very seriously though and most of the times it is cooked to perfection – the chicken just barely hanging on to the bone and the sauce thick with the aroma of the wine it was cooked in. Equally good is the bouillabaisse (available only on Fridays). It is also one of their most popular dishes so if you get there late at night or when the theater crush is the heaviest, you order it at your own risk. But one worth taking as most of the time they get it right.

Chinese at Grand Sichuan International and Wu Liang Ye: Having grown up on “Indian Chinese” as perfected by the Tibetan cooks in Delhi and the Tangra chefs in Calcutta, the transition to the more authentic Chinese food available in the city was a bit difficult in that everything tasted slightly bland. Then I discovered, almost simultaneously, Grand Sichuan International (745 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10019) and Wu Liang Ye (338 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016). Both of them specialize in the Sichuan style of cooking and the food at both places is the make-your-eyes-water-and-your-nose-run kind of spicy. Which is all to the good I say. Although both places make half-hearted stabs at Cantonese cuisine, if you stick to their core competence when ordering, you won’t be sorry. Either the green tea, which is gratis, or a Coors light will go a long way in assuaging your protesting innards. Grand Sichuan even features freshly slaughtered chicken and it makes everything that it is put in better. For spicy Chinese food, especially on a night when serious drinking is contemplated, there really is no better place than one of these temples to the chili-pepper.

Brunch: A meal that I discovered after moving to the US, brunch is already one of my favorite American food traditions. Not least because after an, um... busy Friday night, steaks and eggs in the morning with a Bloody Mary really hits the spot, if you know what I mean. In a place like New York, there are literally zillions of places where you can eat brunch of course but two of my favorites are Joshua Tree (366 West 46th St, New York, NY 10036) and Candela (116 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003). Joshua Tree is open till 4 AM Thursday through Sunday and till 2AM Monday to Wednesday so it’s a one stop shop to get both the hangover and the cure! It serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday till 4PM and for my money makes the second best eggs Benedict ever (other than my own, of course!).

Lit up almost entirely by a multitude of candles and with a number of nooks and crannies where people who don’t want to be disturbed can retreat, Candela is a rather beautiful restaurant near Union Square. If there were such a thing as a romantic brunch, this is where you would bring your date (and be reasonably assured of a happy ending, if you know what I mean). And the food is good too. The brunch menu (served only on Sundays) has a seriously good frittata stuffed with sausage and spinach and a banana French toast that hits just the right spot. They have burgers too which, while they are not the best in the world, come on a toasted brioche bread that soaks up the juices from the patty without turning into a soggy mess. And for 20 bucks, you get all the Mimosas and Bloody Marys you can drink. What could be a better way to send a Sunday afternoon?

Cheesecakes: And finally, dessert. The subject of cheesecakes is another one of those issues that is sharply divisive and on which people have rather strong opinions. There are number of places where one might get really good cheesecakes including at the aforementioned Babbo which does a ricotta and robiola cheesecake that is out of this world but for authentic melt-in-your-mouth New York style cheesecakes, it is (almost) universally acknowledged that you need to go to Junior’s (386 Flatbush Avenue Extension at Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11201) or Elaine’s (17 Cleveland Place, New York, NY 10012). Junior’s is justifiably proud of its “World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake”. Around since 1950, Junior’s cheesecakes are certainly not for the weak of heart. Packed with cream cheese goodliness and crisp and crunchy crust, Junior’s cheesecakes can be the downfall of just about any diet known to man. But as the song goes, “what a lovely way to burn.”

A New York Times described Elaine’s cheesecakes as “ethereally light” and having then tried it, I agree completely. It almost seems impossible for a cheesecake to be that light. But don’t be fooled – it still packs a punch and will leave you feeling sated like only a cheesecake can. A word to the wise – don’t try this after downing a 20 oz. steak dinner. You will do justice neither to the steak nor the cheesecake.

So there you have it, the ten not to be missed food experiences in
New York City. Once again – the usual disclaimer: these are my favorites, not the favorites. Watch this space for the next list.

Original post

January 19, 2007

January 15, 2007

New York's Top 10: Food!

Of course, the first list was going to be about food. What did you think?!

Actually, even as I was writing out this first list, I realized that it was going to be a tougher job that even I had anticipated. So this first post is only five of the ten eating places I was going to write about. Even with the truncated list, this is one long post (hence the smaller font), so be warned. The next post with the other five will probably be as long so be warned again.

Anyway, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the ten (or so!) absolute must-eats in New York and where to eat them:

Steaks: For the true carnivore, there is really only one place to eat steaks - Peter Luger's Steakhouse in Brooklyn (178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211). Things are really simple at Peter Luger's - they only serve porterhouse steaks for 2, 3 or 4 people and they only cook them up to a medium, if that (if you like your meat cooked more than that, you really shouldn't be eating steaks anyway!) and they only take cash. If you are dining there alone, they'll give you a steak for one, but why would you go alone to Peter Luger's?!

For those who want a little more variety and/ or a more traditional steakhouse, there is Keens Steakhouse (72nd West 36th St, New York, NY 10018). Keens has been around since 1885 and other than its steaks, is famous for its ‘legendary mutton chop’, which is actually a gargantuan 26 oz. lamb chop cooked to perfection (i.e. stuck over a candle for a minute). They even have a ‘pipe club’ and have pipes that once belonged to Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt amongst others. Whatever.

All-You-Can-Eat Meat: A churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse with a concept as almost as simple, and as brilliant, as Peter Luger’s. Each diner gets a disc one side of which is red, the other green. As long as the green side of the disc is up, the servers keep bringing you meat – prime cuts of beef, pork, sausages, even the odd chicken or turkey – and carve it right at your table. When you are ready to give up, you flip the disc over to the red and they stop. When you get your second wind, you flip it over again – you see how it goes.

There are a number of churrascarias in New York but the Churrascaria Plataforma (316 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10019) has pretty much perfected the genre, as it were. You can wash down your food with a cool Guarana (a Brazilian soda sort of like a cream soda) or something stronger like a Caipirinha (any one of a variety of cachaca based cocktails). Your meal comes with sides like rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, fried plantains, etc. and they even have a buffet salad and appetizer bar. But, really, who gives a damn?!

The one thing they don’t do well at Churrascaria Plataforma is feijoada, Brazil’s de facto national dish – a stew of any and every kind of meat you can think of and black beans. For this, you need to go to Via Brasil (34 West 46th St, New York 10036), where they make the best feijoada I’ve eaten in a restaurant. Both places have live music and atmosphere and whatnot, but like said before, who cares?!

Pizza at Lombardi’s: New Yorkers take their pizza very seriously and have very definite views about what it should and should not be. Not for us all the deep-dish nonsense. The quintessential New York pizza is street food, meant to be eaten on the go. As such, you want the crust to be crispy on the outside so that the toppings don’t seep through, chewy and soft on the inside so that the toppings don’t slide off and they have to be thin and large so that they can be folded vertically, like a sandwich. Et voila! (Or Mamma Mia! as the case may be), you have the famous ‘Brooklyn style pizza’. It’s all form following function, baby.

But, when you want to kick your pizza up a notch as Emeril Lagasse would say, you head on over to Lombardi’s (32 Spring St, New York, NY 10012). Opened in 1897, Lombardi’s is, by their own admission, the ‘best pizza on the planet’. They make only two kinds of pies – one with marinara sauce called the Original, and one with mozzarella called the White Pizza. There are only two sizes, you can’t buy slices, they don’t reservations and they only take cash (it seems like there is a theme developing here). They also have calzones but all the times I have been there, I’ve never actually seen someone order one. Their pizzas are sublime though, loaded with as many toppings as you want, perfectly foldable and the crust is almost graham cracker crunchy. Wash it down with some of their house Chianti and for about $50 two people can stuff themselves silly.

Hot-Dogs: When it comes to hot-dogs, there are two schools of thought – the Chicago school and the New York school. Not to disparage the Windy City but their hot-dogs come with a neon-green onion relish that tastes just like it looks. ‘nuff said.

In New York, we eat our hot-dogs with some mustard, a bit of relish and a dab of sauerkraut. Never ketchup! Even though the friendly guy at the hot-dog cart will have it, as soon as you ask for ketchup, it marks you as an outsider, a tourist! But getting a hot-dog ‘with everything’ from a street-cart is definitely on the must-do list, as is a visit to Gray’s Papaya (2090 Broadway, New York, NY 10023) where the hot dogs are nor the best in the world (but at 95 cents they’ll do) but the papaya drink is really the reason to go there. Then there is the Nathan’s Famous hot-dogs at Coney Island, which is where it all started in 1916 and which is the site of the famous hot-dg eating contest. But the king of all hot-dogs in New York is the ‘guaranteed 15-bite’ nearly one pound monster at The Brooklyn Diner (212 57th street, New York, NY 10019). At nearly $16, it is frikkin’ expensive for a hot dog but it is worth every penny. The hot-dogs come with a giant mound of onion rings and the hot-dogs themselves are really delicious – all-beef, kosher – and their sauerkraut has juniper berries in them. Take it from someone who has done a lot of primary research on hot-dogs, the Diner’s the real thing.

Burgers at the Burger Joint: The Burger Joint at the Park Meridien hotel used to be one of those insider places that only a few people knew about. Unfortunately, those days are long gone and now the lines and the wait for the burgers are long. Fortunately, the burgers are still the best in the City. The Burger Joint only serves two kinds of burgers (here we go again) – hamburgers and cheeseburgers, and the easiest way to order is to get one with ‘everything on it’. They also have awesome milkshakes and pitchers of beer (Sam Adams only). Definitely a place with attitude (what place in New York isn’t?), they proudly proclaim, “If you don’t see it, we don’t have it.” One of the few places that will still do a burger medium rare, the Burger Joint has extraordinarily succulent melt-in-your-mouth ½ lb patties and really good fries served the old-fashioned way in paper cones. If it’s burgers you want, and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t, the Burger Joint is the place to go.

Original post

January 07, 2007

Food for Thought

So I am back in the City after a couple of weeks in the old country. It was a bittersweet trip. On the plus side, I met an old friend after three years during which she had to deal with some nasty shit. I remembered her as a beautiful, if slightly flighty girl, impetuous and given to impulse. She was as beautiful as ever but more poised, calmer, more put together. Most definitely the highlight of my trip to the city the Lutyens built.

On the downside, this was probably the worst trip I had foodwise. Usually, one of the best things about going to Delhi is the chance to hit up my old favorite haunts, eat the food of my youth and generally reminisce about the flying habits of ol’ daddy time.

This time round I realized what has probably been apparent to Delhites for a long time now – Nathu’s in Bengali Market should close. The place is filthy, the ras malai is inedible and the chhole bhature – omigod, the chhole bhature, they were perhaps the worst I’ve ever ha! I was in such shock and so terrified of what I would discover next that I actually hit the Haldiram's in Chandni Chowk just before going to the my favorite chhole bhature place at this shack across the Town Hall. Thankfully, they hadn’t yet lost their touch and their rabri-falooda did much to assuage my feelings.

Not for long however as I discovered that the momos at the Nagaland stall at Dilli Haat and the usually dependable Punjabi-Chinese at Chopsticks have both gone rather rapidly to hell in a hand-basket. Add to that the fact that this year, for the first time in living memory, my brother and I failed to make it to Golden Dragon for our traditional Double Fried Pork and beer and you can see how this was turning into a disaster.

He made up for it by taking me to one of his favorite Italian restaurants in Mumbai, Da Vinci, but they were obviously having an off-night as well because they managed to screw up my risotto and his wife’s Caesar Salad (which needs talent, believe me. I mean, the thing had no garlic, I don’t think they had even heard of anchovies and the fucker had drowned in the dressing).

We followed that up with an eminently forgettable meal at Delhi’s Lodi Restaurant comprised of nothing-to-write-home-about lamb shanks for me and the bro and a completely bland overdone steak for his (it was billed as a fillet, but I seriously doubt if it was even beef!).

Oh well, I suppose this means that one the next trip, I will have to find me some new favorite eating places. It will be tough job requiring extensive field research but I guess someone has to do it. Watch this space!'

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