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Don’t Mess with the Bull, Young Man. You’ll Get the Horns.
Dec 15th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

My friends Ellie and Jessica were visiting two weekends ago and wanted to eat some NYC finery, so I showed them a good time first at Tocqueville and then at Momofuku Ko.

The dinner at Tocqueville included sweet shrimps, creamy winter squash soups, succulent chickens, truffled grits, and so many desserts we had to leave whole scoops of ice cream behind. It’s one of my favourite restaurants in the city, and I thought the reasons why were pretty clear to my friends.

But the next night at Momofuku Ko, we were making smalltalk with our chef and mentioned that the girls were visiting from out of state. He asked where we’d been to eat, and when I mentioned Tocqueville, he scoffed. He said he’d never actually eaten there but implied that it was somehow beneath him. Not only was I offended for this restaurant that I love so much, but I was embarrassed that my friends would somehow think I’d led them astray and wasted one of their few NYC meals.

Well, I was vindicated this past weekend when a couple of my other friends went to 15 East, which is owned by the same couple who owns Tocqueville. And who was there eating alongside them? David Chang, owner of the Momofuku restaurants.

IN YOUR FACE.

Underfed and Cranky
Aug 25th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

I’m still in a food coma from my trip to Southern California last week, but if you’re bored this afternoon and want to be amused, check out the ever-expanding comments section on my post about Eleven Madison Park over on Chowhound.

Here’s my favourite thus far:

I like the “not to slight her or her blog” part especially. Ohhhhh, foodies.

The Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011
Jul 28th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

After our 1 hour, 42 minute wait for a souvlaki earlier this year at a similar event, I was understandably a little hesitant about last weekend’s Great Hot Dog Cookoff. Not only do New Yorkers notoriously flock to food happenings like that, but it was also supposed to be the second-hottest day of the year. Luckily, there were a few factors working in my favor:

1) Only 600 tickets were being sold.
2) There were 23 different hot dog concoctions to choose from.
3) It was the best-organized food function I’ve ever been to in NYC.

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

After showing our IDs to a first line of volunteers, we were then shown to a series of tables where we could check in by last name. We donned our wristbands, grabbed our souvenir cups, met up with our friends Eric and Christine, and went to town. The entire block was filled with tented tables, two kinds of hot dogs to a table, with the respective chefs doing all of the dirty work–from grilling to bunning to dressing–right there:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

We picked a table at random to start, and wouldn’t you know it–it ended up being my second-favourite dog of the day: the Snap, Crackle, Dog!, which was mole poblano with “a super-special bun” that turned out to be a Rice Krispies treat! Of course the one that doubles as dessert would be tops for me:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Next to that was Crepes! Doggie Style that used a crepe instead of a bun:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Early Riser, with cheese and bacon on a muffin:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Dr. Boyfriend clearly has no idea what to do with this thing, which is how we felt about most of the well-appointed dogs. But we weren’t complaining!:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Conquistadog on Portuguese sweet bread with manchego and a cherry and port wine reduction:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Cracker Jack Daniel’s Dog, with whiskey caramel peanuts on a pretzel bun:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Hot Dog Experiment, a chili cheese dog with a side of melon juice:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Panuchos Perros, with pickled onions wrapped in a tortilla with black beans and avocado:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Frat Boy Dog, with potato chips, onions, jalapenos, and . . . Easy Cheese?:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Soul Slider, with baked beans, collard greens, pulled pork, and a pickle:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The Fat Hog, with pulled pork, relish, and Fritos:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Corn Dog Mini Jack Muffins with Sweet Heat, with shredded jack and sweet/spicy mustard:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

This is the one I actually voted for to win the whole shebang. The 8 Fat Fat 8 Lucky Dog, with garlic, ginger, onion, cilantro, hoisin, and daikon:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Perros Banditos, with cheesy Frito pie (although mine only had one Frito chunk):

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

There was also a table making Sodastream beverages on demand in ginger, hibiscus, cream soda, and lime. They saw a lot of me, but it was their fault for using the tiniest plastic cups instead of letting us fill the large cups we got with our wristbands at the entrance. It was also their fault for being delicious:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

There were shockingly tiny samples of ice cream from SoCo Creamery (It was 100 degrees, SoCo! Give me at least a spoonful!):

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

and raffle prizes that these hopefuls didn’t even come close to winning:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Mostly, it was like a giant block party with way better food, and a DJ, and a totally-famous host we recognized but couldn’t name, and a sprinkler:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Since it was held at the Kelso of Brooklyn brewing company, unlimited beer was also included, and they were more than happy to fill our big plastic cups aaaaall the way full of pilsner or ale, yet there was so much to do that somehow, I never saw more than a handful of people waiting in line:

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

The line for the two portable toilets was always just as short, and at the end of the day, there were still plenty of hot dogs to be had (Except, of course for the one that ultimately won, the hot dog with lobster on top! Learn from our mistake and show up right when the event starts.):

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

See what a good time this young Ph.D. was having?

Great Hot Dog Cookoff 2011

Overall, and despite the heat that made me just want to gobble up a bunch of dogs and leave, it was an awesome experience. I tried 13 different dogs, two kinds of beer, four kinds of soda, and one pitiful spoonful of ice cream and never had to wait for any of it. I had thought the $45 price tag might be a little steep at first, but just the sheer joy of being able to walk up to a tent and have a full tray of hot dogs waiting for me was well worth that. I’ll definitely be returning next year, and in fact, I wish there was another round this year!

Macaron Day NYC 2011!
Mar 23rd, 2011 by plumpdumpling

I missed Macaron Day NYC last year and had to read about it after the fact, so you can bet I was on top of it this year, watching the website and following the planner of the big day, @francoispayard, on Twitter.

When the website revealed the date, it happened to be the very weekend my boyfriend and #1 dining partner would be out of town, celebrating Persian New Year in California with his family. I was distraught! He encouraged me to go with someone else, but I couldn’t think of anyone who’d be able to keep up with me for an entire afternoon of meringue-chowing.

A few hours later, though, my good friend Ash’s chat status changed to “I want French macarons!” It turns out she hadn’t even heard about Macaron Day but was just feeling the craving. How serendipitous! We consulted the map and decided to hit the four stores just below Central Park.

Sunday afternoon at 1, we met in front of the Time Warner Center to sample the fares at Bouchon Bakery. As it’s owned by Thomas Keller of Per Se and The French Laundry fame, we had both been wanting to check it out, anyway. And from all I can tell on the website, it does function as a bakery somehow, but when we approached, all we could see was a café area full of people and a line outside waiting to get in. There was a coffee bar, but that didn’t appear to have any bakery items, either. So call us cowards, but time was a-wastin’, and we left without hesitation.

The FC Chocolate Bar at The Plaza Hotel was a completely different story. When we came down the escalator into the concourse, there was a table set up outside the café where a woman was handing out macarons to everyone who passed. It was super-orderly and impossible to miss.

Macaron Day NYC 2011

I got a cranberry macaron that was so delicate it started falling apart in my hands and actually did fall apart upon first bite. The veeeeery outside of the cookie was crusty, but everything farther in was moist and slightly chewy. The filling was creamy and helped hold the cookie together once it decided it wanted to crumble all over my plate, and the flavor was intense without being bitter.

Basically, for me, this is the ideal French macaron.

Macaron Day NYC 2011

While there, I also decided to sample their George V, a baseball-sized disk of dark chocolate and vanilla mousse, filled with caramel and peanuts and covered in even darker chocolate. I took it for a three-bite dessert at first glance, but it was so rich it demanded grandma-sized bites (not the size of grandma but the size grandma would take). All of the textures–the creaminess of the mousse, the stickiness of the outer shell, the crunch of the peanuts–and the different chocolates made it a pleasure to eat. At $6.50, it was half the price of most of the desserts I’ve had lately and twice as delicious.

Plus, we got to see François Payard himself there! He came in with his motorcycle helmet, shook hands with the employees, and made trips back and forth from the counter to the kitchen. Not that we were, like, creepily watching his every move or anything.

Macaron Day NYC 2011

Next, we were excited to try Macaron Café to experience an all-macaron restaurant. And it was glorious! Rows and rows of macarons in every color and flavor filled a display case, and friendly employees lined up to offer suggestions. I ordered the three above–pumpkin on the bottom, grapefruit in the middle, and pineapple on top–and chose the almond one to the right from their selection of smaller Macaron Day giveaways.

I absolutely loved all of the flavor choices (that was one thing lacking at FC Chocolate Bar), but the macaron texture was a little less successful for me. Ash had told me that in her experience, French macarons in France are very chewy and firm and not so moist. If that’s the case, Macaron Café is making authentic macarons, but I guess I’m not as much of a fan of authenticity. I like my macarons to melt in my mouth.

Macaron Day NYC 2011

However, the decor at Macaron Café was very cute, as modeled by Ash here. The high-backed leather booths and marble café tables reminded me of dinner at Serendipity 3.

Next, we walked one block to the Park Avenue Mad Mac, but try as we might, we couldn’t find it. We had the building number and Google Maps on our phones, but even after walking all the way around the block and trying various locked doors, we never located it.

Instead, we decided to walk down to Rockefeller Center amidst the throngs of tourists and try the Jacques Torres in the lower concourse of 30 Rock. But they had run out of macarons! So I ate a super-melty chocolate chip cookie warmed on their burner, and Ash bought a bar of chocolate creme brulée she said was fantastic, and we were plenty happy.

Macaron Day NYC 2011 wasn’t quite as successful as we’d hoped between the confusion at Bouchon and not even being able to locate Mad Mac, but hopefully the kinks will be worked out before next year’s. And hey, five French macarons and a mound of mousse isn’t bad for an afternoon.

Black and White Cookie CAKE
May 27th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I’ve already told you how much I like the ubiquitous New York black and white cookies. But look what we found at the grocery store!:

black and white cookie cake

It’s a black and white cookie cake! I was a little worried that it wouldn’t be as delicious as the cookies, because it’s not like I eat cookies because I like dough; I want icing. And lots of it. So the icing-to-bread ratio had me skeptical.

But no! It’s moist, almost sticky with sugar, with a slight lemony flavor. The fact that the bread is so NOT dry made me feel like maybe I could even eat it (gasp!) without the icing at all. But I obviously wouldn’t, especially since the icing was about twice as thick as it is on a regular black and white cookie.

I bought mine at the Amish Market on 45th Street, but I’ll bet they’re available at the other locations, too, and maybe other places in the city? Let me know if you’ve seen ’em!

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

Amish Market East
240 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017 (map)

Douchebags at Dinner
Feb 17th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Let me make it clear that I’ve only been eating at gourmet, celebrity-cheffed, critically-beloved restaurants for a couple of years now. Before I met my boyfriend, I enjoyed a lot of macaroni and cheese at home, and the most extravagant restaurant item I allowed myself to splurge on was the $14 guacamole at Rosa Mexicano.

So what I’m saying is–I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, really. But on Saturday night, my boyfriend and I were at Colicchio & Sons enjoying a lavish dinner when the table next to us was seated with douchebags. We were able to immediately recognize them as douchebags by the way two of them sat down, spread their knees about eight feet apart, and put their elbows up on the back of their booth while they surveyed the place. I wasn’t able to see the legs of the third one, and his chair wouldn’t allow him to put his elbows up on its back, but I knew he was a douchebag by association.

The first thing out of the mouth of the one next to me upon looking at the menu was, “Oh, sweetbreads. I love sweetbreads.” First of all, NO. No, you don’t. Nobody loves sweetbreads. They are cow pancreas, and they are not delicious. And second of all, you are a douchebag.

The thing is–I wouldn’t say I dislike sweetbreads. I think they’re interesting. I think it’s interesting that chefs are using them, and I think it’s interesting that we pay money for them, and I think it’s interesting that a really good chef can make them not-gross enough that we don’t feel stupid paying money for them.

But you know that’s not what this guy meant. What he meant was, “I’m trying to impress you by pretending I have some super-advanced palate that picks up the sweet delicate nuances of organ meats.” I hate eating next to people who are there to enjoy their status more than the food.

I know that once you get to a certain price point, the only people who can afford to eat at those restaurants are douchebags. (Except for my boyfriend, who worked hard and got his PhD and deserves what he has.) Everyone else is mostly finance types, you know, who got bachelor’s degrees and got to work making $100k their first year. And I know that a big part of being a douchebag is keeping up with and outdoing your douchebaggy friends. But still.

I expect to feel out of place at almost every restaurant we go to, but these guys looked at us so hard while I took pictures of my food and then passed my camera across the table to my boyfriend so he could take pictures of his for me. And then–AND THEN

They had the audacity to order the gnocchi. And they pronounced it NO-key. Please do not judge me for being a food blogger and then kill simple Italian pronunciations, thanks. I know how to pronounce orecchiette, too, ya jerks.

When we left the restaurant, I immediately went on a tirade about how much I hate it when fellow diners make me feel stupid about how much I’m enjoying a meal, especially when they’re cultureless a-holes. I said, “I know I’m new money, too, but . . .,” and my boyfriend said, “The worst part is that you’re snobby new money.”

Domino’s New Pizza Recipe: a Review
Feb 12th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I love chain pizza. In order of preference, my favorites for years have been Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Donatos, Uno’s, and then Domino’s. I’m not embarrassed about it, nor do I think it indicates an inferior palate. In fact, my problem with pizza in New York City, which is held up as some sort of bastion of flavor and structure, is that it has neither. The sauce never has any spice*, the crust is always limp, the dough is either too moist or too dry, and the toppings are always sparse.

As a person who loves pizza–I mean really loves pizza–and could probably eat it for every meal every day , I was seriously disappointed when I moved here from Ohio and found that I actually preferred to eat chain pizza and that it’s very hard to find here and almost impossible to get delivered.

Luckily, there’s a Domino’s around the corner from my office, and luckily, all of my co-workers and I were curious about this new recipe they’ve been touting that supposedly includes:

• Buttery, garlic-herb crust
• A robust, spicy sauce
• Real cheese (hmm?)

So we had 20 medium two-toppings pizzas delivered last Friday, and here’s how mine looked:

Domino's New Pizza

That’s pepperoni and bacon, which I realize means there was no way this pizza could be bad, but I’m convinced this would have been a delicious pizza even plain. Let’s break it down:

• Buttery, garlic-herb crust? Check. The butter and herbs are actually visible on the crust and are evident in every bite. The crust wasn’t soggy, but it wasn’t so hard you had to rip it apart with your teeth. The garlic was very present, so I didn’t even need any of the dipping sauces it came with to give it a kick.

• Robust, spicy sauce? Definitely. Not spicy as in hot but spicy as in full of spices. And there was plenty of it, too, which is another complaint of mine when it comes to New York pizza.

• Real cheese? I didn’t notice a flavor change, to be honest, but there was definitely a lot more of it, and that’s important to me.

The toppings were abundant, the crust was thick on the end and thinner underneath as it should be, and . . . oh, yeah, did I mention it cost $5.99 for the whole medium pizza because we did the 3-for-$5.99-each deal? Like you’re going to resist that, no matter how you felt about Domino’s before.

I’d still probably list Pizza Hut as my favourite chain pizza, but Domino’s is certainly #2 for me now. If you can get past your elitist feelings about not dining at some local pizzeria that’s been serving the same flavorless crap for 150 years, I think you’ll like it, too. (Although you’ll note that I’m posting this on a Friday, when no one reads blogs, so fewer people will see how non-elitist I am.)

*Except for Two Boots, which was founded by people who love Cajun food and is therefore not normal.

Guess Who’s Going to Colicchio & Sons Before You Are, Suckas
Jan 22nd, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I know the saying goes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but it’s true for the ladies, too. Or this lady, at least. Which is why my wonderful boyfriend allowed me to book us a reservation at Colicchio & Sons, the new Tom Colicchio restaurant where Tom Colicchio’s actually the one cooking, for Valentine’s Day.


Photo by Nick Solares

I was excited enough just having the reservation, but then I saw the Serious Eats slideshow. And then I saw the menu. Gnocchi with chestnuts, bone marrow, and black truffle?! Spice-roasted duck with sauerkraut, licorice root, and kumquat chutney?!

I’m also looking forward to 21 Club, Métrazur, and craftbar for winter Restaurant Week. What a wonderful, fattening world.

Get It Together, Gristedes
Oct 14th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

My personal blog, Unapologetically Mundane, is basically all about how despite all of the myth surrounding it, New York City is basically super-janky at its core. Or maybe it’s super-extraordinary at its core but has a thick shell of jankiness surrounding it.

Either way, I should be used to incompetence and laziness by now, but I was still surprised to notice that almost everything I buy at the grocery store down the street from my boyfriend’s apartment is entirely mislabeled.

Yep, dairy soda and frozen condensed milk. Although, the fact that I can buy anything for 99¢ in Manhattan is pretty amazing, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

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