LdG's big, shiny, new Houston Street location was scooping the sorbetto over the weekend, but not today. I was planning on a black-sesame gelato for lunch on my way home today, only to find the lab closed. There was much activity involving ladders and a large bag of either insulation or cotton candy on the floor.
Over the last few nights, I have been overly elaborate, filling the sink with dishes and our plates with, well, some dinners that didn't live up to the hype. On Friday, I made boeuf bourguinon from a NY Times recipe recommended by a friend. What I forgot was that her mother cooks this for her, and all she has to do is swan to the table and chow down. Me, I went through three hours of blood, toil, tears, and sweat for what was, in the end, a very expensive, quite nice--nice? after all that!-- stew. (There are no photos of the boeuf, I collapsed in a swoon as soon as it was done.)
Next up was a quiche Lorraine, to use up some of the bacon that I bought for the boeuf. Just fine but another recipe-following experience. Trying to track a recipe down was quite a trip. Every cookbook spitefully told me that, of course, a real quiche Lorraine involves no cheese at all. No cheese? No thanks. Experts be damned, I threw a ton of Gruyere in that sucker and topped it with some grated Parm. This brings us to last night. After a couple of sort-of French meals, I woke up (yes, I think of dinner the moment I awaken) with a craving for spice and pork. Looking up a recipe in 600 Curries, an exhaustive and intelligent cookbook, I found an off-beat Pork Vindaloo that resembled in no way the vindaloos that I have had on what remains of East 6th Street. That's when I should have realized that what I was craving was an inauthentic vindaloo and just winged it.
But no, I made a paste out ten or so ingredients, cooked that to dryness in the pan, added the pork and coconut milk and cooked it for the requisite time. It tasted raw and harsh--not spicy-good, just harsh. I added more coconut milk, cumin, and curry leaf, and had to cook it for ages to reach a level of acceptableness before serving. I'm sure the fault lay in me, as I had to do a last-minute substitution on the pepper front, but I was bummed nonetheless.
Tonight, I'm using the beef leftover from the stew, and making a pasta sauce out of it. And I won't be opening a single cookbook to do it.
There was risotto that was a bit too dry, as I tried a new method. Dumb move, perhaps, but lots of butter and cheese saved the day, as it so often does.
There was more chicken salad.
There were chicken and rice patties.
And there was, and is, an enormous amount of stock. So, ten or so meals thus far out of a $5.30 bird. Not too bad.
Will catch up with you guys tomorrow, have been buried in endless--and strange--copyediting, but I have been doing some interesting eating both in and out. Lots to catch up on, starting tomorrow.
Pork vindaloo tonight.
After dealing with the pan in which I roasted the big fat chicken, as well as myriad other dishes, I decided that day 2's dinner should involve a minimum of cleanup. So, into the bowl goes mayo (light okay, nonfat revolting, don't even think it), grated ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix and taste and add and taste until you like it. I added a good shot of hot sauce.
Chop up a good handful of cilantro, a few scallions, and the contents (well, of course) of a small can of water chestnuts. Yank some chicken from the carcass, and shred with your hands. If you're squirmy about such things, a knife will do, but pulling by hand is the way to go for the best texture. Stir all of the foregoing into the box and mix thoroughly. To serve, top with some pomegranate seeds that you happen to have lying around in the fridge. Ring with a crown of slightly broken chow-mein noodles. Unnecessary, I know, but I'm from the if-a-little-is-good-more-is-better school. You should see my clothes.
Since the Rangers were playing last night, I wanted to make something for dinner that would require little attention. Like takeout. Since I'm trying to be fiscally responsible for at least the next year, I didn't want to go down that overpriced road. Ah, but what did I espy in our local Key Food? A seven-pound chicken for $5.31. Game on.
I'm not going to elaborate on roasting a chicken; if you don't know how, you probably don't want to know how, and what brought you here anyway? (Rubbed with oil, filled with shallots, dried cherries, spices added to all surface. Start hot, finish lower. Ta-da.) What I am planning on is recording, for however long it takes, what we do with the rest of that chicken. We finished off our favorite bits, the legs/thighs last night, and are now confronted with a great deal of white meat to use up. I'm planning some kind of pseudo-Chinese salad (complete with chow mein noodles from Streit's tonight.
In the meantime, here's the shredded chicken I had for lunch, with mayo, hot sauce, and cumin, on the amazing Magic Pop Cracker, topped with yellow Peppadews. (I had popped the succulent oysters into my mouth some time before noon.)
And after all that, I should've made something complicated, like risotto. The Rangers were awful.
Found the two items above at Trader Joe's the other day. The pumpkin spread is creamy and mellow, redolent of warm spices; the cranberry-apple butter is bright and sassy. While each is yummy on its own, using them together with a little seasoning creates a little foretaste of Thanksgiving, not to mention the other face-stuffing holidays.
Follow closely: This could go terribly wrong in inexperienced hands. Spread a cracker (or toast, or a buttered English muffin) with the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with some Cranberry Apple Butter. Dust with poultry seasoning, preferably Bell's, or use a little crumbled dried sage. Consume while being thankful that, unlike on that Thursday in November, there will only be a knife to wash.
Summer is morphing into autumn extremely slowly this year. Corn and squash are costarring right now, while choruses of cherry tomatoes sing out from baskets in every corner of the market. Tourist and New Yorkers alike form an appreciative audience sitting in Uncle Mayor Mike's popular little plaza on the northern edge of the market to enjoy the bounty of this overlapping harvest. Oh, wait...
On Monday*, I made what was most likely the best burger I've ever made. What troubles me about this--aside from the fact that from now on, everything is downhill--is I'm not at all sure why it was that good.
1. I don't usually buy ground meat from Key Food unless it's for something that's going to be cooked well done. This time, I had no time, told myself I was being silly in the first place, and bought a 1 pound package of ground chuck, making for burgers at around 1/2 pound each. Bigger than that is kinda revolting, not to mention hard to handle; smaller can be way too easy to overcook. 2. I'd been doing a lot of cooking lately on a nonstick grill pan. Love it, but it doesn't quite deliver the char you want surrounding that rare, beefy-red interior. Since I also wanted to fry some onions for topping the burgers, I used a well-aged cast-iron skillet, which retained a bit of the oniony flavor to pass on to the patties.
3. Used a splash of Worcestershire along with salt and pepper, nothing else. I also remembered to add the crucial dent, using my knuckles, on top, so that patties wouldn't puff up.
4. Placed them on the searing hot pan, making no attempt to turn them until they released from the surface. Too soon, and they will leave their crusty goodness on the pan. I've done that once too often.
5. The cheese, ah yes, my most frequent downfall. I love cheeseburgers. I love them so much that I've tried every which way to make them work. The usual way, that is, throwing on the cheese at the last minute, either resulted in half-melted cheese or overcooked burgers. I spent a year or two messing around with other methods, like stuffing the cheese inside the burger, a la Minnesota's Juicy Lucy. It didn't work for me: the cheese either leaked out, making an unholy sticky mess on the pan or I didn't use enough cheese, suffusing the burger with a vaguely cheesy flavor and oleaginous feel. Too much cheese? A blistered mouth.
The solution was so obvious that I'm almost embarrassed to mention it. A minute or so before the burgers are done, slap the cheese on, the cover with a pot lid or metal bowl. Perfectly melted cheese every time. I've used aged cheddar, blue, provolone, pepper jack, and quite a few others but I always come back to Kraft slices. So sue me.
6. English muffins? Okay, but a bit coy and brunchy. Standard-issue burger buns? Pap. My answer is the wondrous Big Marty's sesame roll. Sturdy enough to hold up to burger juice, cheese, and onions, coated with so many sesame seeds you can barely see the bun. Roll royalty. Toasted on the inside only, using my toaster, the world's slowest, on the bagel setting.
What did the trick: One, some or all of the above? Or, was it, as the ineffable Irma said, a kismetburger? I won't know until I try again, which should be sometime soon.
*Not this past Monday, or even this past part Monday. Started writing this about a week ago. Lousy fall cold left me disinterested in food and life in general.
Eataly is in the eye of the beholder: In the past couple of weeks, it's been called an indicator that the recession is ending, a sign of the apocalypse, and a doomed celebrity showcase. Given that I'm neither an economist nor a soothsayer, all I can tell you is this: Eataly is a damned fine grocery store. It may be fifty times larger than the Italian groceries that my mother sent me to, but it is a grocery store all the same. (My mother refused to go into one herself because she thought that the Parmesan smelled like baby puke. I thought it smelled like heaven.)
Yes, Eataly is sprawling and somewhat oddly laid out. The center of the store is filled with tables--served by a variety of restaurant stalls that I hope to investigate on a further visit--occupied by diners and winers chatting and observing the passing scene. Charming enough, but stick to the perimeter, where the actual food departments live. It is sometimes clogged with tourists and gawkers; as with Dean & DeLuca and H&M, weekends are best avoided.
While there is an unending riot of Italian soft drinks and beer, not to mention the more obvious olive oils, pastas, cheeses, and spumoni (how did I miss that?), a lot of what you'll encounter is just fine foodstuffs. There's nothing intrinsically Italian--or French, or Moroccan--about a lovely nectarine. Or oysters, or lamb. Or a crunchy, just out-of-the oven loaf.
The prices don't seem unreasonable to me, or perhaps I am still startled after paying over five bucks for three onions at my local grocery yesterday. The seafood prices seemed in line with, say Citarella. I got a gorgeous mozzarella ball for $3.50. You will notice more strollers than shoppers, which should make your trip to Eataly relatively easy--I was in the cashier line for less than a minute.
I have a sad history with coffee shops, at least as an employee. My first job, at an independent joint on Kings Highway owned by a fat, pig-eyed man of indeterminate Mediterranean ancestry, lasted something under an hour. My boss pushed me against a wall while I was donning my pink polyester uniform in the dank icy refrigerator room in the back. I managed to escape, but not before tossing several racks of freshly iced doughnuts into a shopping bag as I raced for the door and the B2 bus.
My next--and last--doughnut-related job was also on the three-hundred year old thoroughfare, but in a far more pleasant and emotionally salubrious place: Chock Full o' Nuts. I worked for a very different kind of boss there: a fifty-something woman with violently dyed black hair, who told me that she had eaten a Chock Full o' Nuts hamburger for lunch every day for the last twenty-five years. Alas, I would not approach her record. In fact, I wouldn't even make it until lunchtime. My astonishing incompetence in calling orders to the kitchen (perhaps I should have joined my high-school debate society, mentored by the future scourge of Manhattan, John Sexton) led to the delivery of six toasted corn muffins to one very surprised old lady. It was then I decided that my parents were correct, and that high school should remain my sole job for the present.
I didn't hold my short-lived cakery career against Chock Full o' Nuts: I was pleased to see a Chock in Hoboken but, alas, it was a scaled-down Chock Full o' Nuts Cafe. When I read that a full Chock would be opening on West 23rd Street, I was delighted.
I didn't venture into the dining area--all I wanted to score were those legendary whole-wheat doughnuts and a date-bread cream cheese sandwich. The scene was a bit chaotic, which is understandable for a place that will not be officially open until mid-October, but the decor hit every high note in my nostalgic Brooklyn soul: bright yellows, dark wood, and lots of black and white photos of a working class New York. (Not to mention black and white cookies!)
When I opened my mouth to order, a man behind me requested a cup of coffee. When the counterman turned to pour it, I sputtered angrily, "Do you just pick people at random to serve? I was ahead of him!"
He replied, "That's the owner." Oh. I wasn't sure if that made matters better or, worse, but when I turned around to meet Joseph Bruno, a big bear of a Brooklyn native whose accent was redolent of home, all I could say was, "I'm so thrilled to be in a Chock Full o' Nuts again!" Bruno thanked me, and we chatted for a bit. He had often gone to the Chock on Kings Highway, although not during the morning I worked there. He told the counterman to "take good care of her," and to toss an extra doughnut in the bag, "from me."
The doughnuts--cake, by the way, not yeast--were exceptional, with a crisp outer shell surrounding a light, slightly nutty, interior. Two for ninety-nine cents. A great deal, for sure.
Due to the large demand from date-nut sandwich obsessed customers, the place was out of cream cheese, but that's okay: I couldn't have grinned any more than I did as I walked downtown, knowing that sometimes, even in Manhattan, a place can still come along for us. Not the tourists, not the hipsters, not the SATC girls, just us. And that's more than enough for me.
(Sorry about the single crappy picture. I ate the doughnuts before I remembered to take their portrait.)
The first time I had Bruce Cost's Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale, which contains actual bits of fresh ginger as well as pure cane sugar, I thought that it might make an interesting glaze. I didn't have that thought quite immediately--at the time, I was sampling the spicy-hot ginger ale partnered with rum and rum peppers. It did, however, come to me some weeks later, and I decided to give my idea a go on chicken thighs.
Start by grilling your chicken thighs--4 to 6, depending on their size, which should be relatively uniform. If you're doing this outdoors on a charcoal grill, I hate you. If you're grilling indoors on a grill pan, you might want to check out the method used here, sans the spices. While the chicken is cooking, dump a bottle of Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale into a medium pot. Add 2 or 3 chopped seasoning peppers (You may remember my mentioning seasoning peppers a while back. If your mind wandered at the time, let me remind you that they have the fruit and spice of habaneros with the merest fraction of the heat.). Drained and chopped Peppadews [yes, it's a brand name] would make a fine substitute.) I used the peppers' ribs and seeds, as well.
I added salt and pepper, brought the lot to a boil, then turned it to a medium simmer to cook down to a syrup. Tasting it after five minutes, I found that the innocent little peppers had a lot of heat in those ribs and seeds that only needed a little poaching to emerge. If I left them in the glaze, the result would have been mouth searing, so I scooped them out and set aside to use as a garnish. Five minutes later, taste again. Meh. Something missing. When what's in your pan (or on your plate) tastes flat, what's usually lacking is acid. A good squeeze of lemon brought the disparate parts together into a balanced whole. As the soda cooks down, keep a close eye on it, and stir frequently. Cook it down to about 1/3 cup and remove from the heat.
When the thighs are 17 seconds away from being done to perfection, brush them generously with the glaze, turning frequently, until the chicken is, well, glazed (or well glazed). Keep turning that chicken! Keep turning that chicken! (Warning: Not safe for work...) Remove to a plate and top with the chopped peppers. Some cilantro would have been nice, too, and I thought I had some, but the some that I thought I had had been eaten down the shore last week. I'll try it next time, though.
In another step toward the complete hipfantilization of this once-sophisticated city, a Pop*Tarts store will be opening in Times Square. [Eater] Nothing against Pop*Tarts, but everything against giving all those recent and not-so-recent college grads flooding Manhattan yet another reason to stumble through the streets in their jammies.
What next, a Pedialyte cafe? With free WiFi, of course.
Clinton Street, before nine a.m. Onto the block they march, driven by their hive mind. From Brooklyn, from Japan, from Iowa, they gather here, their temple of "in-the-know" New York, which they surely read about in an inflight magazine or Shecky's New York. Has this joint started selling postcards yet?
There are at least three hundred other brunch spots within five blocks but, no, only this one will do. They just have to eat there, so they can say they have. I ate there myself, once or twice, long before the lemmings swarmed in. I had pancakes. They were pancakes...they didn't do backflips, read my palm, ride to my table on the back of a disgruntled badger, or do anything that would warrant waiting in line at all. Particularly with that crowd.
I don't want to be in the kitchen, and neither do you. It's hot, it's sticky, and I ain't making risotto, or anything that requires me to hang around the stove. And I don't have a yard and I don't have central air and I hate anyone who does. There, that feels better.
At the end of the day, though, we must be fed. In the summer, preparing food more often involves assembly than actual cooking, but that gets old fast. How many Haas avocados stuffed with Maine crab can you eat? Okay, wrong question, because any sane person's answer to that would be: Try me. I'll ask another: How many times can you face tuna salad on Triscuits? I love them both, individually and together, but I reached my limit some time last week.
One answer is to cook food that doesn't require much attention. Corn on the cob, potato salad with dill, and grilled chicken thighs with barbecue sauce. Heat a grill pan, which I wrote about on the NYDN site a while back. Follow the same procedure for the chicken, except, in the initial seasoning, use salt and pepper only. Slather thighs (the chicken's, not yours) with barbecue sauce when they are just about done. Turn them every minute or so until they've reached your preferred level of crispy char. You'll probably spend a total of five minutes tending to them. Not bad.
I make my own bbq sauce with ketchup, grade b maple syrup, brown sugar, Coleman's mustard, and chipotle. Twice as much ketchup as maple, after that, it's all to taste. Cook it down a bit, then let it cool to allow the flavors to meld.
The potato salad is a breeze, and god knows we could use one. Halve as many new potatoes as will fit in a basket steamers. Steam until tender, which will be a lot quicker than you might think. Let cool, and toss with chopped dill, chopped pickle, minced shallot, mayo, and mustard. I like a little hit of pickle juice, too. Don't stint on the salt and pepper.
All I'll say about the corn is that it had better be fresh, as in picked today, and that you'd best not shuck it until the water is boiling. Into the pot and out in 3 minutes or so. Butter, butter, butter.
The fine fat chicken thighs were a bit over three dollars. The dill was four bucks. Staggering.
Florence Fabricant has been a respected New York Times contributor for nearly forty years. She is now writing a weekly food-related advice column for the paper under a truly dreadful title: Dear FloFab. Is the Times looking for ads from iPad?
I was in a lousy mood yesterday, so I was yearning for a comfort-food dinner. I was thinking mac and cheese, but Bruce was thinking a big hunk o' meat. Since I wanted to take my mind off my ailing cat, I decided to cook something that I never had cooked: veal chops. I've had them at restaurants, and loved them, but assumed they would be daunting to prepare. Not a bit! (And, yes, it was sustainable, cruelty-free, uncrated veal, okay?)
Of course, with meat, potatoes are de rigueur. The first step, then, was to get the baby Yukon Golds in the oven. Wash, dry. Place on a baking pan, then coat them with olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt.
Roast at 425 until the skins are wrinkly and the insides tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. (Meanwhile, take the chops, which should be about an inch thick, out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature.) Pull the potatoes from the oven, and turn it to broil. Rub the chops with garlic, then salt, pepper, and rub with olive oil. The broiler rack should be on the highest shelf. Broil 4 1/2 minutes per side, then let rest for 5 minutes or so. The inner meat should still be pink. If you are, heaven help you, a devotee of well-done meat, cook for 5 minutes per side, but I won't answer for the consequences.
I served the meat and taters with delicate little fiddleheads on the side. It wasn't mac and cheese; in fact, it was far less time-consuming to make. And pretty comforting, at that.
Perhaps not quite the hardest, but it is frequently massacred by people who should know better. Sorrel is pronounced like the color, not Rob Petrie's writing sidekick, Buddy Sorrell. To confuse matters further, sorrel the leaf is not related to the chestnut-horse sorrel, but to an old German word for sour, which is more than apt.
Last Saturday, when I was planning on making cream of sorrel soup, I got to the market too late; all that was left was a bunch of tender baby leaves, not nearly enough for me. This week, at the same stand, the sorrel was all grown up, sporting huge coarse leaves and a rather insolent air. Perhaps I would not be chiffonading this bunch, but wrestling it to the ground.
Sorrel soup is tartly refreshing, and can be served anywhere along the heat scale from steaming to icy, generally in inverse to the weather. The day was relatively warm, so I decided on a lightly chilled soup.
First, peel a medium baking potato and cut it into smallish chunks. Next, chop about 5 good-sized shallots, totaling about 1/4 cup. While that was going on, melt a lump of butter (2 tablespoons or so) in a large pot. When the butter starts to bubble, turn down the heat a bit and added the potatoes and shallots.
While they're heating, chop up five large bunches of sorrel, discarding any thick stems or brownish leaves. Add to the pot, stirring as they soften. Bite into a leaf: You'll get a real citrus punch! Once the leaves are wilted, pour in about five cups of chicken or vegetable stock, bring to a simmer over medium to medium-low heat, and cook until the vegetables are quite soft, from 25 to 40 minutes, depending on your, stove, your pot, and how you chopped the vegetables. Soup is very forgiving.
Remove from the heat and let cool a bit, so that you don't burn yourself during the next step, which is pureeing the soup using an immersion blender or food processor. Leave it a bit chunky , if you'd like, which is better for hot soup or puree it more thoroughly for cold. Return to the heat, add a cup of heavy cream, bring it to almost, but definitely not, a boil, then turn off. If serving hot, season and serve. If serving cold, season more vigorously (cold turns down the temperature on spices), and chill. Don't shove it in the fridge right away, though, as doing so can quickly bring your fridge's temperature down to an unsafe level.
I like to garnish this soup with very thinly sliced young radishes, and serve with popovers.
Since when did cupcakes become a major food group? Since Sex and the City, that's when. I've nothing against a cupcake a year or two, but these seemingly insidious little snack cakes are marching over the landscape like little frosted storm troopers. Two cupcakes stores in Chelsea Market? I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the food mall's name changed to Cupcake Market any day now.
I was going to further document the phenomen, but then--mirabile dictu!--Alan Rickman strolled by, and my mind instantly turned to thoughts of a very different sort of treat.
Eddie Huang, owner of Baohaus and the impending Xiao Ye, clearly doesn't like older people, or plan on getting older himself. His statements are vile (not to mention discriminatory); I will never go near an establishment of his again. [Eater]
I'd been planning to go to Baohaus for some time, but kept putting it off due to a sense of unease. Frankly, I was shying away from it, because Baohaus's pork bun was being cried up as the only pork bun now worth eating, and, oh, how deluded, nay, misguided we had all been before this charming little place came along and led us to the light. Really?
It's a Taiwanese style bun; that is, it's more like an open-faced sandwich that the jelly-doughnut style pork bun that most of us are accustomed to. Yes, the place is adorable, the people are charming, and the quality of the ingredients in the pork bun is impeccable, even though the tasty pork was so chewy that I had to shred it with my fingers. But $4.50 for a two-bite bun? That's one expensive little snack.
I'll stick with the likes of Mei Li Wah, where I can get a super pork bun that serves as a meal...for about a buck. Or stay closer to home, where I can get two plain slices for $4.50. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the changes in the neighborhood, but I'm altogether tired of being offered tiny things for big bucks.
Sam Sifton reviews Nello, a restaurant that most can't afford, at which the food is inedible. Sign me up!
Our friends at Serious Eats talk about Pylos, one of my favorite EV restaurants. Don't miss the fries, which are redolent of oregano and cheese.
Now that spring has come to NYC, you should be checking Lucy's Greenmarket Report at least three times a week--she'll tell you what's new and who has it.
A 135 year tradition ends, as Maine's last sardine cannery closes its doors, as reported by the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Another rural way of life ends. Sad.
This peachy, gingery (she said, stating the obvious) sorbet, is riddled with chunks of ginger. Breakfast of champions, particularly with the rather good California strawberries now coming into market. There are tons of other intriguing flavors on the Ciao Bella website that don't seem to have made it to local stores; I hope that this one is the first of many.
I truly wanted to like the zeppoles at Led Zeppole for couple of reasons: First, I was raised on a diet of bad puns. Second, I was a child at a time in this country when the Campbell's Soup kids were the physical ideal: I was considered underweight, and thus was allowed a bag of zeppoles from a Nostrand Avenue pizzeria a few times a week, after I'd already burned off twenty million calories in the adjacent playground. I love zeppoles.
On the other hand, I love pizza, and I had earlier found the eponymous pizza at LZ's companion joint, Artichoke Pizza, to be a gloppy mess, tasting as though cream of artichoke soup had been dumped on chewy, chewy mozz. (In fact, when I realized that I had been chewing the same piece of cheese as though it were Bazooka for two avenue blocks, I gave up on the whole enterprise.)
Fitting right in with the current notion that more is better and too much is fantastic, the zeppole were coated with so damn much powdered sugar that, when I pulled one from the bag, my poor camera was showered with so much sugar that it looked like a tiny snowdrift on a strap. The inside was doughy and heavy, likely in part because they were so supersized (see more is better, above) that they couldn't cook all the way through.
Since this place is positioned (open until 4AM) in large part to fill the bellies of drunken revelers, not only with zeppoles, but fried Oreos and fried cream puffs, I'm sure they will do more than fine without .my approbation. Me, I'll head back to Brooklyn to find the ideal zeppole, and maybe have another go at that seesaw.
[Having a hard time trying to balance this blog, the NY Daily News blog, and copy editing cookbooks. I'm trying to come up with some kind of rotation by which none of them is neglected for too long. We'll see. One good thing for With Leftovers is that I can't barrage the News with stuff from lower Manhattan without end, so I think a lot of that stuff will wind up here, which is largely read (read? really?) by people hereabouts.]
I really miss Thai on Clinton. It was our go-to on nights when I was in too bad a mood to cook, a rare thing, or there was something super important going on, like the Rangers playing the Ducks. (That lamest NHL team name ever, except for collectivenames like the Colorado Avalanche. The Rangers had a t-shirt a while back that said I Am A Ranger, translated into all the different languages spoken by the guys on the team How do you do that with a collective? You don't, that's how).
ToC was bought out by a chain, which promptly dropped my favorite, peanut dumplings. Soon, the food went altogether slipshod, and we stopped ordering. This was followed by Eastern Parkway or Road or Bypass; it was not open long enough for its name to register. There was a fair bit of blog chatter about it, but it sank without trace in less than a month.
Now, we have Pa-Plern, which opened last week. Ordering was a struggle, as the phone-order taker had little English. She called us back three times to explain things about our order that I might not have understood that I had already explained I understood. Repeatedly. It was rather entertaining, but it won't be next time.
We ordered three apps from the Appetizer Sampler menu (3/$13, 4/$16. 5/$15): peanut dumplings (yay!), curry puffs, and crispy basil duck roll, as well as beef satay and summer rolls from the regular app menu.
The entire order, save the summer roll, was jumbled together unappetizingly in a single takeout container. The sauces were thoughtfully labelled to indicate what went with what, though, a nice little touch.
Peanut dumpling was first up. Smaller, sloppier than ToC, but still quite tasty, with that wonderful glutinous mouthfeel. I could eat a double order of these for dinner, and probably shall quite soon.
The beef satay ("satae" on the menu) was two large strips of beef with the usual peanut sauce. I would have preferred four smaller strips, and wound up tearing them in half, but the meat itself was tender and not overcooked. A bit more char would have bumped it up.
Curry puffs were tender and mild, with a delicious (but perhaps not altogether appropriate) hoisin-ish sauce topped with peanuts.
The crispy basil duck roll looked more like a Turkish sigara boregi than a roll. It was nice and crisp, the duck a bit dry, but reasonably well flavored, except for the curious muteness of the basil.
The vegetarian summer rolls were a mess. They were poorly wrapped and flavorless, and their primary component was iceberg lettuce. One contained tofu, the other didn't. They fell completely apart at first bite.
Throughout the meal, I tried to keep in mind that the place had been open less that a week, and that it had returned peanut dumplings to my life. I look forward to Pa-Plem passing through the usual new restaurant growing pains, and turning into a regular go-to to go.