August 28, 2006

I'll take my fried chicken dirty, thankyouverymuch.

I've been thinking of a title for this post for about a week and couldn't come up with anything that would be even remotely acceptable for the connotations inspired by The Dirty Bird To-Go, the NYC's newest take-out free-range authentic double-dipped buttermilk-fried chicken shack.

The Bird has gotten an incredible amount of press since its opening earlier this year (some of the most hype/square foot I've seen; pretty much on par with the Shake Shack). Perhaps the best recommendation for it came while I was speaking with some Southern Living editors; I mentioned New York soul food and they immediately started prolificating about DBT-G. And the best part was that none of them had even been there (for all you non-Southern Living readers, the mag is based in Birmingham, Alabama). Anyway, so hearing Southerners completely rapt about fried chicken, fried chicken from the godless North no less, they hadn't even tasted, I knew I needed to head down to 14th St. and partake.

Two weeks ago a Southern friend of mine and I gave it a shot and DAMN it was mighty fine. After some chicken fingers v. 2-pc fried debate, my friend decided on the latter, with a side of mac 'n cheese, and I myself went for the 4-pc fried with two sides - mac 'n cheese and the napa cabbage cole slaw.

Each basic element of fried chicken was not only having a party in my mouth, they were all examples of how fried chicken is done. Every bite had the perfect crunch and aroma of buttermilk dipped batter, the salty juiciness of brine, and a most tender chicken-y texture. The scallion cornbread was good, the mac 'n cheese fine, and the napa slaw got an unenthusiastic 'yeah whatever'.

Four pieces was way too much, but if I'd only gotten two I never would have picked any white meat Typically dusty, dry and tasteless, I was not about to spend my 14 hard-earned dollars on a longshot. To say that it was incredibly moist and tender would be an understatement, so I'll just say that I may only get white meat there in the future.

There's no feeling in the world quite like being stuffed with fried chicken. Mmmm fat.

And here are some synopses of what some other people have said Bird:
We love it, we hate it - New York Magazine
Greatness in the making - Eater
And of course, everyone else at eGullet.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

August 21, 2006

Can you ever eat too much Asian food?

Like the jet-setter I am, I've been wandering the north for the last two weekends in Boston and Toronto (my first Canadian expedition!),interviewing for jobs in Japan. Yes, Japan. I can still blog there, what?

Travel, of course, means eating in the world of Anharchy, because who the hell can possibly miss out on the opportunity to try new foooooooods?? While most of my experiences in consumption weren't terribly impressive (alas, disappointment!), there were a few stand-out things:

In Boston:

Given my love for all things fresh-market, imagine my joy at discovering the Copley Square Market right outside my interview stop! Aaron and I didn't really get a chance to fully explore it, but it looked terrrrribly promising. And there was a kiosk with fresh pastries. I looooooooove pastries.

Also, I don't think I've seen many markets that beat the Haymarket for cheap and fresh, greens-wise. I was seriously badgered by a tiny Italian man into buying a POUND of jalapenos. Granted, that pound only cost me a dollar, but still! A full pound! I wasn't even in Boston for four days...what the hell does one do with a pound of jalapenos? Very noisy and great deals on produce. Eight ears of sweet corn for a dollar? I'm so there.

The Copley Square Market can be accessed from the Copley Square T Stop. Likewise, you can find Haymarket at the eponymous T stop there as well.

And, in the vein of "I loooooooooooooooooove pastry," Aaron and I took a long walk up Beacon Street to Finale, where I promptly spent thirty dollars on cake. Purchased: one 8-inch Mocha Espresso Cake (which Aaron consumed half of in about ten minutes), and individually-sized tiramisu, Whoopie Pie, raspberry chocolate tart, and uh, something else. I can say that I firmly approve of a restaurant centered around dessert.

Other than that, Aaron and I dined at a rather middling Korean/Japanese restaurant for lunch, a very good Thai hole-in-the-wall on Boston U's campus (right by BU Central Streetcar Stop), and cooked dinner as a thank-you to our hostess.

The other thing I discovered is that in NO CITY is Pizzeria Uno "good eats." Not at all. Just don't do it. I only tried under duress, as in flight was on the day of the terror plot round-up, didn't get in 'til late, and I was BEYOND STARVING. It boggles me that any large city (especially in University areas!!!!!) would not have more restaurants open at 11...

In Toronto:

Side-note: Our interviewer looked like a slimmer, tan-er, glasses-less Alton Brown. It was very distracting.

Instead of staying with a friend in Toronto (we have none...), Aaron and I booked a private room at The Planet Traveler's Hostel, which ran us about $60 CAD per night. If you enjoy hosteling, I'd definitely recommend it. It's super-close to the middle of Kensington Market (what, more markets???), right off Spadina Avenue, so very convenient. And (major bonus), it's SMACK DAB in the middle of Toronto's Chinatown, which is one of the very biggest Chinatowns in North America. Dumplings and duck, I'm so there!

Suffice it to say, Aaron and I ate at a few hole-in-the-wall Chinese joints whose names we couldn't understand, got excellent Vietnamese sandwiches at the Dundas Street West location of Banh Mi Ba Le, tasty Pho on Spadina, and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. Unfortunately, over the course of both the Boston and Toronto trips, we overdosed on bubble tea. It's too easy. But to make up for that, joy of joys, on the layover on our way back to Dulles the Cincinnati airport Auntie Anne's Pretzels was handing out Cinnamon Sugar pretzels for free. So, I consider that a suitable ending to the travels (as the Cincinnati Airport Qdoba was not. Not that all Qdobas are bad - most of them are quite good. But that one was not tasty, albeit full of character.)

That's about it. I'll be back with more tales of foodery soon!

Special thanks to Automania over at Flickr for the fortune cookie.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

August 15, 2006

Caffeine, however tasty, devistates my fine motor skills.

All right, so it was about 9pm. I had an hour before work, had just eaten some salty delicious Dumpling Man fare, and my stomach wasn't taking it well. My night job, disassembling computers and extracting various bits and pieces, certainly takes a toll on my daytime comfort.

Anyway, in my dumpling-induced haze, I figured a nice cappuccino would set me along a happy path for the evening. Since I was already down on the Lower East Side, I set out looking for a cool crepe place that Meg, Joanie and I found earlier this spring but instead found MUD.

The Arcade Fire was on the radio and a very drunk FOB (friend of the Barrista) was lobbying for a switch to Abbey Road (She's so Fine, in specific.). It felt more like a campus coffee shop than a hip New York one and that fit me just fine. Back to the coffee. A few months ago, I read somewhere that there are a number of things you should look for when you're evaluating well-made espresso and cappuccino. It would be awesome if I could remember where, but my mind is more like a blender than a tabbed file system. But I digress.

When the milk is getting steamed, it should hardly make any noise at all. The writer likened screaming Starbucks steamers to the milk getting noisily killed. Ceramic cups are a must. Crema, the delicate coffee foam on top of an espresso. And, finally, milk art. The ability to make neat designs in the steamed milk and the attention to detail that it imparts is the final touch.

Mud had all of this. I drank it without sugar (unheard of for me).

Unfortunately, since I drink caffeine so infrequently it kicked the crap out of me. I was incredibly jittery for hours. My stomach did feel better though.

[Earlier that day I had an entertaining lunch at the Nice Matin with the current executive editor of The Flat Hat (you knew I had to link that one) and then visited some ex-coworkers.

I felt some serious pressure to get the Five Napkin Burger (complete with sauteed onions, comte cheese, and aioli), while my colleague got the croque madame. While I needed only one napkin to complete the burger, it was nonetheless quite impressive. Not stellar, but far above standard.]

Special thanks to mcmrbt over at flickr for the photo.
Technorati Tags: , , ,

August 14, 2006

a little light reading

Gourmetro readers - all 3 of you - I have a favor to ask. My subscription to Food & Wine is about to lapse, and while I enjoy F&W, I don't absolutely adore it (see Chow, demise of). I've been looking into some mags, particularly Saveur, Intermezzo, and Fervor. Any recommendations? My budget really only has room for one foodie magazine (to complement my chick mag and nerd mag), so think carefully.

Technorati Tags:

August 9, 2006

Custard does a (hot) body good

If you've been living on the East coast, you've probably been sweating profusely or haven't left your apartment in the past week. The only remedy for such heat, besides more cowbell, is ice cream.

I'm kind of an ice cream snob, as I used to work at Graeter's, which has been named by USA Today and Oprah as the nation's best ice cream. (Yeah, that's right. And I was employee of the month - twice. Booyah.) For those non-purists that like to mix fourteen different kinds of candy into their vanilla bean...I scoff at you. Cold Stone just doesn't cut it when compared to hand-churned ice cream with chocolate chips the size of your face. So let's just say I have high standards when it comes to sweet things of the frozen variety, mmkay?

Tuesday, my roommate and I headed to the Dairy Godmother, a frozen custard shop in Del Ray. I had heard good things about the place from friends and food critics alike. Custard is a little bit different than ice cream - basically, it has more egg and less air. Somehow it's healthier for you than regular ice cream too! Custard as health food - whodathunk? Flavorwise, they always have vanilla & chocolate, plus a daily flavor which changes....daily. Tuesday it was "Summer Pudding." Also known as "We Wanted to be as Vague as Possible." It ended up being a mildly berry-flavored custard, pink with bits of (fresh!) berries scattered throughout. I went for a Summer Pudding hot fudge sundae, with slivered almonds, whipped cream and a cherry on top. I had forgotten how good hot fudge and ice cream are. *drools thinking about it* Phew, anyway...slivered almonds are not my favorite sundae nut - I'm more of a toasted walnut girl - but they got the job done.

Katie opted for a root beer float - perhaps because I went apoplectic when I saw the cases of Sprecher root beer (and cream soda, and orange soda, and ginger ale) lined up around the store. Once upon a time, my family and I went to Madison, Wisconsin and had some Sprecher root beer. Let's just life has never been the same since ingesting that flavorful, zingy root beer. We brought two cases of it home (to Ohio) with us because it was so good. I have since hoped to find Sprecher in some of the gourmet shops I frequent, but to no avail. Until now!! YAY!!! The Dairy Godmother herself is from Wisconsin, and I'm guessing she realized that she had to spread the Sprecher glory to DC in order to produce a truly awesome root beer float. And awesome it was.

In addition, you all should check out Cookthink - thanks to metrocurean for the link - very cool foodie blog focusing on "unrefined" cooking and eating. Their manifesto makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Thanks to Flickr user mzn37 for the picture of deliciousness. Looking for food pictures is extremely hard work, as it makes you very hungry. (Look, Skip - I can use Flickr too!!)

Technorati Tags: ,

August 8, 2006

Holy sweet tomato

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, I was only a little bit nauseous for lack of sleep, and there were tomatoes. Oh there were tomatoes...

That was how a post I started three weeks ago began. Get yourself to a Farmer's Market and get some heirloom tomatoes. Get them.

I'm sorry for the month-long hiatus; it's been a crazy one. I'll do my best to synopsize.


Restaurant week: Indochine (6/10 - solid food, fun atmosphere), Terrace in the Sky (7/10 - good food, awesome view), Osteria del Circo (7/10 - probably a good intro to Maccioni's style)

Other: Ivo & Lulu (8.5/10 - lovelovelove French Caribbean, BYO wine), Cubana Cafe (6/10 - fun, sweet sangria, good pulled pork)


I got into salads. Steak salads, chicken salads, pasta salads. They were all pretty damn good and cheap. You'll see recipes an soon as things calm down (September?).


At least you get some pictures from the Union Sq. Greenmarket.

Technorati Tags: , , ,
Special thanks to my camera for the pictures!

August 6, 2006

I gain five pounds every weekend.

Why? BECAUSE I KEEP EATING AT NEW RESTAURANTS. Seriously, can TheGourmetro pay my gym dues? :P

ANYWAY! This weekend's been a bit of a randomness party, in terms of fooding. Yesterday, Aaron and Debbie (my usual partners in food crime) hit Minerva Indian Cuisine in Fairfax for a pretty delicious dinner. I hear mixed reviews from actual Indians, but I will say that I myself generally enjoy it. It might have a little bit to do with the gimmick, which I'll explain in just one second.

Minerva has a giant purple sign in a dingy strip mall on 29 in Fairfax, next to a snowboarding shop (snowboarding shop? WTH?). Inside, it's pretty cavernous, with what looks like an extensive buffet setup in the back. I assume it's for lunch, as I've never seen it in action during dinner hours. The menu's pretty enormous, and I could be entirely misquoting, but it appears to specialize in "Hyderabadi" cuisine, in addition to favorites like (Meat Name) Vindaloo.

Debbie and I both ordered mango lassi (mmm, smoothieeeee). Normally, I'd head straight for chai, but given the ridiculously intemperate weather, adding liquid heat seems a bit stoopid. Aaron's generally content with water at Indian restaurants...largely due to an incident at Nawab in Williamsburg in which he ordered something "AS HOT AS POSSIBLE" and uh, got it. (God, I LOOOOOVE Nawab by the way. LOVE.)

Entree-wise, I ordered Chicken Vindaloo (wasn't feeling too lamby, but I loooove Vindaloo anything) and Debs ordered Chicken something-something. It had almonds in it, and that's all I remember. Aaron ordered Guthi Vankaya, which was eggplant in an interesting, kind of peanut-y savory sauce. He gets points for adventure, but none of us liked his dish, so we ended up splitting ours. Here's where the gimmick comes in: When you order the Dinner version (as opposed to the a la carte) of any particular dish, it comes with six little side dishes, including corn chowder, mulligatawny soup, dal, and something else. Dessert, two pieces of naan, and raita are also included. Dinner orders average 12.95, and so for 13 bucks, you end up with a significant amount of food. Plenty ends up going home with you. So, Aaron ate all his side dishes and naan with my sauce. Still worked out.

Afterwards, we headed to U St, where I was hoping to get some Crunchy Feet at the previously mentioned CakeLove before hitting the Black Cat for the Depeche Mode Dance Party, but alas, no go. However, at 1:15 on the Metro, we realized we were hungry again and hit the Fairfax IHOP, which I'm sure we don't need to discuss ::foodie guilt::. My only comment is goddammit, COOK YOUR EGGS IN BUTTER. Thank you.

And then today, lunch led us (at Debbie's urging) to the inestimable Turcuisine in Herndon. So. GOOD. Very friendly and attentive service, for starters. We ordered the dolmas as a starter (rice pilaf wrapped in grape leaves, served with tzatziki and lemon)and they were SO. GOOD. Well, assuming you like them to start with...Aaron doesn't. Some people object.

Then, Adana kebabs in pita for Aaron and I, and a Kofta for Debs. I have to say, they were some of the best kebabs I've had. I've had some issues with kebabs being heavy and food-coma inducing, but these were light, and well-spiced, with some of the fluffiest pitas I've had. with two Turkish coffees sweetened to taste, lunch ran approximately $35 for three people. I highly recommend you try this restaurant if you're in the area.

Cue another break, and it was time for dinner with friends at Harry's Essential Grille in Tyson's Corner. I have to admit, I was biased towards loving this restaurant for starters, as it supports some causes near and dear to my heart: organic, local, and inexpensive. I was just waiting for it to live up to being delicious...and it did. I ordered the Basil Gazpacho and the Pointe Calamari (I'm a major sucker for fried squid bits, in all its variants). The gazpacho had excellent texture and was super-refreshing. The calamari's frying was excellent, but the cilantro aioli could have used more punch...maybe more tartness? and the marinara could have been more generously portioned and spicier. But, I have very distinct feelings on how fried food should be balanced, condiment-wise. Aaron ordered an organic beef burger, which came out slightly over-cooked, but still delicious, and served with RIDICULOUSLY good Yukon Gold steak fries. Mark ordered the rib-eye, which was also somewhat overcooked, but judging from the eye-rolling and moaning, I assume he enjoyed it. I can confirm that his garnishes were delicious - one was an ENTIRE CLOVE of roasted garlic. As a complete garlic devotee, I was very happy. Other members of our little party ordered the trout, Moroccan chicken, and two chocolate souffles.

And, as a bonus, bread to the table is a delicious sourdough laden with walnuts and other nutty bits, served PIPING hot from the oven with organic butter from a farm in Pennsylvania. It totally brought little bready bits of joy to my little treehugging-proto-ecoist heart. :P

All in all, from what I can tell, Essential has a few tiny kinks to work out, but it's VERY GOOD right now, and I think it's worth trying for all concerned. Also, their claim to "popular" prices is pretty true - dinner for Aaron and I was still only around 35-40 dollars, and we were both quite sated. Mark's rib-eye was probably the most expensive thing on the menu, and that was $26. It's a perfectly viable venue for dinner for a couple of postgrads.

Anyway, those are my food adventures for the week. Stay tuned - I'll be making excursions to Boston and Toronto for interviews in the upcoming weeks, and I'll be happily posting from both locales.

Technorati Tags: , , ,