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The Middle Ages: “Younger”

younger

There is a new TV show on Nickelodeon (or is that nick@nite, asks the grandma?) called Younger, based on the premise that a 40-year-old New Jersey woman recently left by her husband for a younger woman natch (kids say that, right?) can pass as 26 to get a job in publishing.

Nine minutes in, and it’s already surpassed all expectations.

Liza meets her bestie, a lesbian played by Debi Mazar, at Matchless and peak Brooklyn humor ensues: “Excuse me, I moved to Brooklyn because I couldn’t afford Manhattan. And now thanks to all these bearded cheesemongers and chicks that look like Macaulay Culkin, I can’t afford Brooklyn.”

younger2

A tattoo artist, Josh, who looks straight up 1999, orders shots of bourbon–skinny margaritas be gone!–and cracks a Lena Dunham joke before putting his number in her phone.

Liza gets made fun of for saying tattoo “parlor,” which Josh calls a lounge and reinforces his 1999-ness and conflicts with the olde-timey Brooklyn shtick being made fun of minutes early. Liza does not know who Lena Dunham is (there’s a Matchless connection). She also thinks Mumbai is still called Bombay, has an AOL email address, and no idea what Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, or any social media are.

I’m not sure if I can handle the remaining 51 minutes.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Deer Dumplings, Deep Dish, Cold Beans

cooklyn duo

Cooklyn There are two types of New Brooklyn restaurants: those that bore and those that deliver the goods. (Also, I’m patiently awaiting the emergence of the New Queens restaurant). Cooklyn, perhaps even in spite of its name, falls into the latter camp with the assist of a few unexpected Greek touches. Yes, there’s octopus. I never order pasta but those I sampled, from a squid ink cavatelli to a lobster mac and cheese to a new-for-spring beef cheek fusilli with fontina, dried cherries, Kalamata olives and mint were strong. Notable small plates (no, they’re not going away) include two of the most un-Chinese versions of buns and wontons I’ve encountered in recent memory: lamb, dill and feta like a mini gyro, and venison dumplings (pictured) served with stone ground mustard.

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Pizzeria Uno Like many fleeing obsessions, I don’t recall how or why I became consumed with hitting up an Uno for the first time in over 13 years (thanks to a history of documenting the mundane, I know exactly when my previous and first visit took place even if it’s embarrassing reading old missives). In that decade-plus span Uno added farro, artisan a.k.a. non-deep dish crusts, and arugula and prosciutto as toppings. What? No. I’m pleased to see that the chain is ditching the pseudo-upscale healthy trends and getting back to doughy basics. Sure, deep dish is kind of an abomination. Yet if you think of it as a lasagna with a tart-like buttery crust, it’s reconcilable.

maravillas chicharrone

Maravillas I naively assumed that a dish called chicharrones en salsa verde would contain a strip of crispy pork, all crunch and contrast, not soggy, soft skin rolled around the meat. I did not hate this, mostly because the sauce was great and that level of fiery where you begin feeling a tingle creep through your tonsils up into your ears, and perfectly tempered by corn tortillas that I’m pretty sure weren’t store bought. The chips made from these tortillas were light and flaky, but the nachos they were a part of? My gringo punishment. (I’d just had an exchange with the guy replacing a window in my apartment upon seeing my last name: “Can you make Spanish food? You look like someone who cooks cabbage.”) They were cold, not just cold like food delivered carelessly and slow–the pork was steamy–but never warmed in the first place. Chilled beans and solid squares of Munster beneath hte guacamole and sour cream. And I still want to return in person despite all this.

pampas parillada

Pampas Argentinas If you find yourself hopped up on tiki drinks at End of the Century (and maybe a surreptitious puff on a silent residential street) and aren’t up for Danny Brown Wine Bar next door and it’s too late for a sundae at Eddie’s, Pampas is a fine enough choice for splitting a parrillada for two three ways and still being barraged by meat. It’s also a little pricier and a lot weirder than the better known Argentine/Uruguayan steakhouses of Jackson Heights/Elmhurst/Corona. You’ll get chicken, not intestines, which is more accurate for Forest Hills. You will also hear a lot of ’70s soft rock, some deep cuts even, Gerry Rafferty plus much Steely Dan. White sangria might come wine-free but tasting like rum. Um, I guess none of that is so weird in retrospect. I did accidentally tip over $100 and had to fill out a new slip, then walked two miles and spent nearly two hours getting the four miles home, none of which was Pampas’ fault.

Dreaming of a White Easter

white chocolate easter candy

C-Town (and even the block-long Rite-Aid up near me that takes the normal amount of stuff crammed into a Manhattan Rite-Aid and spaces it out ever slightly so) can be useless for gauging seasonal candy trends and shopping in general unless you’re in love with Krasdale products. If you want suburban normcore (none of this ’90s kids Applebee’s-shunning urban posturing for me) you need Target. End of story.

Savory white chocolate has yet to trickle mainstream but based on what my eyes witnessed in Elmhurst, white chocolate is very much the clear 2015 Easter trend beyond the usual cocoa butter bunnies and Lindt balls. The divisive pseudo-chocolate enveloped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup eggs and hid inside both M&M’s pastel candy shells and Cadbury’s far superior Mini Eggs, all matte white for this reboot. There may have been more examples, but I had to get out of the candy aisle before I ended up with more than I could carry home on foot.

white chocolate

Mini Eggs are one of Easter’s most perfect candies and swapping the creamy milk chocolate for a hyper-sweet buttery wax interior doesn’t improve them, I’m sad to report. The white chocolate works better in smaller doses as with the fatter than usual M&Ms that seem to contain a disproportionate amount of yellows.

The obvious omission is the Cadbury Egg. I’ve yet to see any derring-do outside of caramel and chocolate centers, and clearly, the confectioner has the means to make white chocolate. 2016 dreams.

cartwheel easter

Because I feel compelled to post similar sentiments–and sometimes the exact same photo–all over social media platforms, as one does, I received various reactions to my Target bounty from trigger warning pleas on Facebook to Cartwheel shoutouts on Instagram. Oh yeah, Cartwheel. You might not know it, but I’m a retail analyst 10:30am-6:30pm during the week so I’m well aware of Target’s app from a marketing perspective, I’ve just never bothered to use it–until tonight in the bathroom, and ugh, Cadbury white chocolate Mini Eggs are/were 25% off. I’m going to seethe all week about the 72 cents I could’ve saved.

The Middle Ages: Billymark’s West

touch of gray

When: Wednesday (St. Patrick’s Day), 9:26pm.

“Why did you come here?” asked a drunk man who wasn’t possibly yet born when “Touch of Grey,” the only Grateful Dead song I know despite being raised in Oregon, was on MTV rotation. Now it was someone’s jukebox pick at Billymark’s.”We were looking for shittiest bar in NYC,” I was told before I could reply.

One man’s shithole is another’s salve. I’d just escaped Porchlight with a friend. Wrong color for St. Patrick’s Day, but I wanted to experience that much-Instagrammed $14 blue drink for myself. Porchlight could be summed up by the long wooden table seating eight women ranging in age from 28 to 29, all with Patti Stanger-approved lady manes, one particularly platinum. Their server asked our bartender for a check. “The one in the blonde wants it,” she said. So blonde that she ceased being blonde and became consumed by blondeness.

“Bland,” was the friend’s assessment.

“We need to go to a dive,” said me, always seeking counterbalance.

Billymark’s was the closest contender. And it delivered in spades. Blue curacao was suspiciously absent, and most of the liquor brands were deeply bottom shelf with an unusual amount of double consonants: Du Bouchett, Llords.

9:30 seemed early enough to avoid trouble and I assumed that all of the revelers who’d started drinking at 10am would be long passed out by now. Not so. We witnessed two verbal altercations, one which involved a young woman stumbling into me while trying to run out the door without paying. Caught, she attempted to turn it around by screaming about her ID being stolen by the bartender and threatening to call the police. Mark, whose brother Billy was wise to stay home this evening responded unsympathetically. “Retard does not even begin to describe you. You’ve got a terrible problem, miss, because your life sucks. I don’t know what your problem is. Bring a cop because I will press charges and have you arrested.”

While invisible at Porchlight, at BillyMark’s we were the recipients of two rounds of Brooklyn lagers from two different men, just for being unaccompanied women, exchanging names and chitchat. And best of all? Being gifted with bodega crackers even after insisting “I’m good.” Danny Meyer has his hospitality, sure, yet the dive has its own beauty, and there aren’t a lot of strings if you feel like engaging.

Despite three drinks, two more than I’d intended, we never did hear our songs on the jukebox. No complaints about two Duran Durans, “Night Moves,” “Take Me Home Country Roads,” and unexpectedly, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” which will always imprint itself on my psyche and convince me of a bar’s favorability.

Was I carded? Despite ribbing that we couldn’t possibly be old enough to have lived in NYC in the ’90s and a comment on some exposed cleavage–“I’d like your ID”– no one truly asked for IDs. There was a whole lot of carding going on, though. The second dust-up was a result of a fake driver’s license. No amount of arguing could save the guy in a leather jacket and bleached hair from getting the boot. “Put it on Yelp. That’s what you kids do,” Mark cracked.

Age appropriate? Women-wise, the scene was unexpectedly young. Two middle-aged-plus female solo drinkers did eventually appear. “Are you getting off work?” one was asked with familiarity. No, on her way.

 

 

Tawa Food/Dhaulagiri Kitchen

threeshovelTechnically, I had experienced a taste of Tawa at an across-the-hall neighbor’s dinner party in the form of freshly griddled (or should I say tawa’d?) chapati. But I finally got the full in-person steam table treatment thanks to Joe of Chopsticks + Marrow after confessing my inexperience with Nepalese food.

Dhaulagiri Kitchen is the not-obvious name of the restaurant–if you could even call it that–sharing space with small bakery, Tawa. It’s not a place I would typically stop in–not because the menu especially intimidating but because there’s really only one table, with four seats, and those seats are often occupied with hungry lurkers in the wings. And a thali to go just doesn’t make sense.

tawa goat sukuti

If you do score a seat, though, thalis, which very much remind me of nasi lemak in presentation, are the smart move. Of course I’m going to get goat jerky (sukuti) if someone’s offering. The dried meat, cooked down like a rendang (yes, all of my references are Malaysian) concentrates the spices in the curry and softens the flesh while allowing some chew. The fun really comes from the condiments, a spread of daal, saag, and achars made from bitter gourd, daikon, dried anchovies, and fermented greens. Something with pumpkin also showed up unexpectedly.

tawa sel roti

Roti sel, deep-fried circles of rice flour, resemble a giant onion ring, have a slight natural sweetness, and are snacky enough to be an appetizer or a stand-in dessert.

tawa momos

Chicken momos, juicy and gingery. I have completely forgotten what the orange and yellow-ish chutneys contained despite it being explained to me, though I think sesame, turmeric and tomatoes played a part in one.

tawa lunch

One of our friendly Nepali tablemates encouraged me to take a photo of his food. He was also curious if we could handle the hot sauces. Sure. It’s always a concern with Americans. I threw out my speculative estimate that half of Americans are probably into spicy food.

And like that, real hot sauce research appeared to me shortly thereafter. According to NPD, 56% of American households are in possession of some form of hot sauce (likely Tabasco not sriracha) and DINKS are the most likely to eat hot sauce because apparently families with only one income prefer their food free of punishing heat.

Tawa Food * 37-38 72nd St., Jackson Heights, NY

 

Millennials Get the McDonald’s Mascot They Deserve

Jeremy Enecio/New York Times

Jeremy Enecio/New York Times

It’s quite possible that hipster Ronald McDonald was celebrated over the weekend and I missed it. The existence of a lithe, tattooed version with a french-fry thin moustache, pouf of dazzling red hair peeking out from a jaunty knit cap, and fitted v-neck layered under a pop-collared jumpsuit was just brought to my attention last night.

Haunting. I’ve heard that after McDonald’s adds kale to the menu, if you say “Ronnie” three in times in front of a mirror, this jerk will appear and hand you a shamrock smoothie.

The Week in International Intrigue: Chalupas, Chicken, Coffee

Minutes ago Taco Bell Japan posted its first photo–just a teaser–to Instagram. Practically no other cuisine seems less Japanese to me than Mexican (or Ameri-Mex) so I eagerly await which concessions or inventions appear on the menu.

For now, I’m more curious about the Denny’s that’s been threatening to open in Dubai since September 2014.¬† Of course it will be in a mall, though not one of the big touristy ones. The Al Ghurair Centre is in Deira a.k.a. the Queens of Dubai. Denny’s will be in good company–this shopping center already has a Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling chain, as well as a Wendy’s, KFC and Pizza Hut. Baconalia will probably not be a thing, I’m guessing.

The latest in Eater’s “Life in Chains” series revolves around Starbucks in China.

KFC is encroaching upon Starbucks’ territory in China. Why not try with lower-priced coffee? The QSR has a huge presence in China with roughly 4,500 locations (four times the number of Starbucks). It’s still not clear why the UK is getting edible coffee cups, not only first, but at all.

KFC does well for itself abroad. Even with only 395 branches, the brand was just ranked as the “most trusted” QSR in India, according to The Brand Trust Report.

 

 

 

Little Tibet, Late Night

Party-sized. The Tibetan burger will be bigger in practice.

Party-sized. The Tibetan burger will be bigger in practice.

Though most reports indicate otherwise, gentrification isn’t a given in NYC. At the very least, it’s not always predicable. When I briefly lived in the far northeastern reaches of Clinton Hill in a new construction penthouse any notable restaurant or bar opened on Fulton Street, still technically the neighborhood but a full mile or more away, or somewhere in the burgeoning Bedford Avenue/Franklin Street strips of Bed-Stuy, locations with two separate advantages: proximity to established wealthier brownstone districts or where young tastemakers were taking over.

Then there are the obvious neighborhood trickles: Crown Heights because Prospect Heights and Park Slope are too expensive and Ridgewood with its Bushwick overspill eager to claim new borough status. There will be mixology and food halls and gastropubs to satisfy these newcomers.

Jackson Heights is none of this. (The other resistant neighborhood I have a connection to is Sunset Park–with the exception of those businesses moving into Bush Terminal, amenity-wise it’s the same as it was in the early ’00s.) I’ve read–and even deigned to participate in–threads on local message boards about why we can’t have nice things. And by nice things, I mean brunch and negronis. No one has called specially for negronis (and I don’t want to be associated with team brunch) but you know.

My theory is that the neighborhood is made up of a lot of older people and families, groups not known for being adventurous or free-spending, and the transitory residents aren’t recent graduates looking for fun before settling down in the suburbs but Latin American men, similarly aged, whose idea of fun translates to spending time with the likeminded at Romanticos or True Colors, not ramen burgers and wild ales at communal tables.

What is starting to happen in Jackson Heights, though, is an organic transition that respects tradition while nodding to changing tastes. Little Tibet, one of the many Himalayan restaurants supplanting the once Indian stronghold, has started differentiating itself by creating a late night (9pm till close) menu of snacky foods like fried momos, mozarella sticks swapping the usual cheese for paneer, and what is surely the break-out star, Tibetan burgers. The patties are formed from the beef filling used in momos, garnished with spicy mayonnaise, cilantro and crisped Durkee-like onion rings, then stuffed into a steamed and griddled tingmo.

little tibet beers

Drinks? The Budweiser and similar brands are being phased out for South Asian replacements like Lion Stout and Kingfisher, as well as shareable bottles of Queens-brewed Transmitter S8 rice saison and Pretty Things Jack D’Or. Maybe the wine is next?

In a slightly strange twist, the only other place I’m aware of in the neighborhood serving microbrews is Unidentified Flying Chickens (R.I.P. East Village location) just one block away. Craft cocktails may be a ways off, but one more venue less reliant on Corona and we’ll have a trend.

Little Tibet * 72-19 Roosevelt Ave. Jackson Heights, NY

Color Me Bad: Shamrock Season

It’s Shamrock Shake season (I think? Also, I just remembered I given a promo McDonald’s gift card to try one two years ago and never redeemed it–could is still work?) which for me just means more pretty green food and drink to ogle.

These two images, neither related to St. Patrick’s Day, showed up in my life in a single scroll and now all I can think about are green desserts.

Key lime cake. #soulfoodgram

A photo posted by Kat Kinsman (@katkinsman) on

Pandan paste makes the #tresleches #cake green at #houseofinasal. (Photo: @anrizzy) A photo posted by NYT Food (@nytfood) on

I don’t see South Carolina in my immediate future. Woodside, though? Oh, yes.

The #pandancake hashtag is killing me.

A photo posted by Josie Anne (@whorledpeas) on

Natural…

A photo posted by Nur Anis (@nuranisalias) on

and not so much.

Newborn: City Kitchen

Hopefully, this will not be the state of affairs in practice.

Not indicative of actual lunch crowds (I hope).

I’m pretty sure that I recently said 2015 was going to be about embracing the personal, not the service-oriented. How does a new food court, more Gotham West/Berg’n than Riese Organization, fit into this rubric? Well, City Kitchen is two blocks from my office in Times Square’s sad lunch zone. So, yeah.

Imagine these full sized

Imagine these full sized

Open to the public today, the second floor collection of stands includes established favorites like Luke’s Lobster, Dough, Sigmund’s Pretzels, offshoots like Ilili Box and perhaps most notably, Kuro Obi, an Ippudo spin-off with noodles that are supposedly resistant to take-out.

Whitman's Upstate PB&B (bacon and peanut butter) slider

Whitmans’ PB&B (bacon and peanut butter) slider

Also, there will be breakfast tacos (at Gabriela’s Taqueria) which I would be willing to trade for my usual hard-boiled egg (I know) every now and then, as well as beer, wine and sake, for lunch hour tipplers. (Though if you’re a serious day-drinker, you’ll probably be better suited to Smith’s across the street when it re-opens courtesy of Hayden Panitierre’s dad.)

 City Kitchen * Eighth Ave. & 44th St., New York, NY