"" What's She Eating Now?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

No Eats 'Til Brooklyn

I often feel conflicted about sharing my favorite sleeper places because I want them to be successful and popular but also always want to be able to go without having to wait until midnight 30 days in advance and hitting refresh a million times in a hopeful attempt at getting a table. That said, I have two spots that deserve some real props, both in.... Brooklyn.

So why Brooklyn, there are literally thousands of restaurants in Manhattan. The answer is a few fold. First, value. With dining costs continuing to increase driven by all sorts of external forces, there is still good value to be found in Brooklyn. Also, as a Manhattan dweller, there is something about going to Brooklyn that feels a little bit like a field trip which adds a touch of excitement and if I want to exaggerate a tad, it is like taking a 4-hour vacation. Despite actually being from Brooklyn myself, it is rare I go there these days without consulting a map and if I am consulting a map I am by definition going somewhere unfamiliar. A lot of this has to do with gentrification and great spots being located places that I associate as body-dumping sites from my short-pants days. And lastly, there are some really good places there and the Brooklynites are selfishly keeping them under wraps like a younger sibling who has a really cool toy they are worried their older sibling will steal if he knows about it... not that I ever had that feeling or anything.

So here goes my reveals. First is Bricolage in Park Slope. I note the block it is located on would not have been considered Park Slope when I was a tyke but it is now and I am glad this restaurant is there. The owners, both Slanted Door alums from the Left Coast, bill their restaurants as a Vietnamese gastropub but since that might not be exactly clear to all I'll try to expound. Imagine going somewhere warm, inviting and homey and having some of your favorite most comforting dishes -- now imagine them with fish sauce. The place is an exceptional value given the high ingredient quality and culinary sophistication with no menu item over $34 and the rest of the entrees averaging $23 with two right now under $20. Apps sides and snacks present similar value. For readers outside of NYC this may seem expensive, but trust me, this is a bargain in these parts for what you get. Some don't miss items: Vietnamese Crepe, Sriracha Butter Wings, Grilled Pork Chop, Unshaking Beef, Nom Nom Beef Chips and the chocolate dessert with blue cheese is surprisingly delightful. Cocktails are also on point at $13.

Spot number two, Bistro Petit in Williamsburg. If you look down to the map on your phone to see if you're close you may miss it. This place literally has 12 seats and those are packed in pretty close together. That is to leave room for the open kitchen where Chef Sung Park cooks every single dish himself with the help of only one cook. I should mention also, they do a healthy delivery business on top of their dining room and these guys don't miss a beat. The food is French with a distinct Korean influence. Scratch your head if you want but it totally works. When you're starting to feel like a lead weight from eating rich cassoulet imagine cutting that with a little bit of kimchi. Portions are generous and somehow no dish even hits the $30 mark. Some don't miss items: Anchovy Frites, (pan-seared) Foie Gras, Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Cassoulet, Kimchi Bouillabaisse. Oh, and in all my excitement I almost forgot a great feature, this joint is BYOB playas so to add value on top of value you don't have to pay a huge restaurant mark up on your wine, just a modest $10 corkage fee. And if you forget to BYO two nearby wine shops will deliver to the restaurant in minutes with a courtesy 10% discount for Bistro Petit guests.

I should also mention the service at both these places is solid. Warm and casual but exact. So load up your metro card and go explore. No mustache or ironic T-shirts required.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Too Far, Whey Too Far

Dear Hipsters,

I am often amused by your creative facial hair and fashion sense which can sometimes look like a strange mash-up of Mad Men and LL Bean with a small hat on top but seriously, WHAT IS THIS? I have no issues with you invading the beverage aisle with your small batch gluten free fair trade craft beer made by employing rescue animals from the outer boroughs but this is really an absurd and unnecessary product. 

Brines are super easy and inexpensive to make yourself and they definitely should not be radioactive in color. And why just for turkeys? This makes me concerned hat they have a separate SKU for every type of poultry in development. And why is this liquid? I doubt this was on anyone's shopping agenda and am not sure who makes a heavy 1 gallon impulse purchase of whey turkey brine as they check OJ off the list. Why not sell a small packet of dry ingredients you add water to that doesn't require refrigeration, a giant in-store footprint, high distribution costs, and lots of plastic packaging? I know whey comes in powder form, all those infomercials with greased-up body builders wouldn't lie to me, though I can't say I am sure why whey is the way forward with brine in any event. I have never met the Wholefoods buyer for this category but if I had to guess she wears a wool beenie indoors in the summer and is getting her boyfriend new suspenders to add to his collection for Christmas. 

Despite my snark, I actually love supporting local food entrepreneurs. I am just not sure brine was an area begging for disruption.

Grouchy McGrouchersen
WSEN Gen-X Curmudgeon-In-Chief

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tip Tip, Hooray!

With Danny Meyer's bold pronouncement this week that he will end tipping in all of his restaurants, the subject of gratuities has become particularly topical. So let's talk about tipping in counter-service establishments. You walk up to get your coffee and the cashier makes a suggestive downward glance at a mason jar with change and some dollar bills in it as he processes your transaction. Out of guilt you dump whatever change he gives you back in the jar and might even pull an additional dollar out of your wallet and somehow this makes you feel better. But do you tip the guy at the deli when you pay for your soda and New York Post? Even if he makes you a breakfast sandwich? How about the poor salesman who had to scour the stock room for the shoes you want in your size? If you think that is absurd why is it not absurd to be solicited for tips when you belly up at the Starbucks counter? Are all these question marks too Carrie Bradshaw...?

But seriously, let's break this down. Some people argue that when you tip at a coffee house, for example, you're giving a little extra because your co
ffee order is complicated and someone had to put a lot of work into making it. OK, when was the last time, then, that you asked your server in a restaurant, "Which way to the kitchen?" so you could run back and slip the cooks some cash? Making a fancy beverage or assembling a sandwich is sort of akin to what cooks do, yet they are never tipped. You're tipping when someone asks you for it right in front of you. Think about it.

I hesitated for a while to write this post because as an industry person I was worried what my hospitality brethren may think about my suggesting this tip is unnecessary and uncalled for. It may amount to some sort of treason or at least lack of solidarity. After all, when we go out to restaurants we are the biggest tippers in the room, particularly on an an income to tip ratio. 
So I asked some peers what they thought of this counter service tipping phenomenon to test the waters. Most took a quick look around and then said they actually don't agree with it but they pony up. One said in his charming British accent, "Aw, it's absurd," hard "r" added by me. But do you do it? "Of course, I do, they are right there, staring at you." Then he leaned forward in his chair, "The worst is at Sweetgreens, I walk up to pay for my $11 salad and the cashier spins around an ipad for me to sign with boxes for different tip levels. All of a sudden I am in for $14. How can you not when you know they see it when they turn the screen around."

I myself was in a cab last night that audibly called out your tip amount as you entered it on the screen, starting with loudly shouting out measly percentages until you type in enough numbers to make it to a customary double digit rate. I can only imagine the pressure this would instill if counter-service establishment ipads also had this sound feature. People would probably prefer it yell out their weights than their tip amounts.

Some places put a funny message on the tip jar to simultaneously cut the tension and also encourage you. It is surprising how may of them suggest that every time you tip, someone punches Justin Bieber in the face. Those places probably have pretty flush employees. Another common one is a PSA encouraging you to tip the employees instead of cows (I am sure urban cows are grateful for the reprieve). Then there is the contest format where there are two tip jars that pit rivals against each other to tempt you to support your favorite: Tupac v Biggie, Mets v Yankees, Betty v Veronica, Tastes Great v Less Filling - you get the idea. I guess I at least appreciate the smile, and occasional laugh, to brighten the day but, as Danny Meyer is now emphasizing, shouldn't hospitality be included?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Easy Peasy Japanese-y

Anyone who knows me can't help but suspect somewhere way far back in the Schupak lineage I am somehow part Japanese. For starters, I love every type of Japanese cuisine, think cat cafes are an amazing idea, abhor clutter and a movie about my life could easily be called Like Water for Sake. So as to the first part about Japanese cuisine, I sometimes tried to make Japanese dishes at home but more often tended to go out to enjoy soba, yaki-tori, ramen, tempura, izakaya, kaseiki and so on because I imagined I couldn't possibly make the representative dishes nearly as well. Until I found this amazing website, Japanese Cooking 101. This website contains tons of great Japanese recipes and instructional videos brought to you by Yuko and Noriko, two Japanese women living in California who want to show you that Japanese cooking isn't as hard as you think it is and can be a great comfort food.

I made this recipe for tempura last night. Follow the instructions to a T and you will have delicious tempura. For example, use only chopsticks to stir the batter, only stir it 10 times and make sure it is very cold. She is very stern about the 10 times in the video, listen and don't improvise. Don't stir it 9 times or 11 times, 10 times. Their videos are short and helpful and will have you cooking delicious Japanese recipes in no time. WSEN highly recommends!
Tempura Recipe
This is their tempura, not mine, but mine was indeed pretty delicious following their recipe.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fun Link Friday

Sometimes I find fancy plating sort of silly. It seems this chef, who goes by the Instagram handle @chefjacqueslamerde, does too. Take a gander at his spoofs on fancy plating using candy and junk food with a sweet example below: "Raspberry Poptart parfait w/ Vanilla Snack Pack and Grape Crush scented gel and enhanced with Mike N Ikes, Cry Babies and Fruity Mentos." I think its the Snack Pack that elevates this one to a whole new level. TGIF!
instagram chef jacques la merde Plating Junk Food Like High End Cuisine (4)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kitchen Tool Corner: Something Old, Something New

In 2010, I encouraged investing in a Le Creuset saucier. Some years later, I stand by that endorsement. Here is that same vessel practically making my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce for me. This thing has never let me down. If you haven't gotten one yet, you may want to start dropping hints to Santa.

In the something new department, I have a two-fer for you. The first is a fluted bundt pan. I recommend the Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt, depending on where you buy it (or which catalog you dog-ear and leave on the coffee table as a powerful suggestion), it will cost somewhere from $30-$40. Its heavy construction cooks like a dream and the non-stick surface will release your sweet creation with perfect definition certain to impress. For some reason most people don't realize these shapes are actually made by the shape of pan you use and I find the oohs and ahs that come from using this one yield a pretty good kitchen tool ROI.

Now you need something to carry your cake in. I recommend this collapsible cupcake and cake carrier. After you took care, or your pan did anyway, to make sure each peak came out perfectly, do not risk ruining your cake in transit by wrapping it in saran wrap and shoving it in a bag.

This carrier has the flexibility to transport small cakes, large cakes and cupcakes and has a handle for easy carrying. And for those living in New York shoe box apartments, the collapsible feature is a nice bonus, or in some cases a must. This carrier will run you around $30 but there is something that lets party guests know you mean business when you show up brandishing this case like the hope diamond is inside.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blue Plate Special, Devil Style

Look what just hit the (virtual) press! A new issue of the Polycam featuring Chinese food impresario Ed Schoenfeld of Red Farm (who knew we were fellow Blue Devils!), the Schnipper brothers of the eponymous Schnipper's Quality Kitchen, me, and fellow classmate and barbecue bad ass Ken Hess, who I featured on this blog way back when. I don't know about the hot dog with the fried egg on top but am very excited to see Poly alums taking the food world by storm! Bon App├ętit!