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Joy to Behold

Limealmondjoy_1 I thought those pina colada Almond Joys I found awhile back were as wild as it got, but at a friend’s birthday party I was treated to miniature key lime versions. Classy. Well, no one seemed to be eating them except me, as the consensus was that they were gross. The yellowish, off-white chocolate was slightly off-putting. So, of course I stuffed handfuls into my purse like the desperate bag lady that I am. I only regret not taking more.

According to their less than exciting website, passion fruit has also been given the limited edition treatment. Who knew?

Elite Turkish

Despite visiting Sunset Parks Chinatown on a fairly regular basis, I've
never been inclined to eat Turkish food. Now that I think about, I hardly
eat at any of the neighborhoods restaurants. If I'm ever anywhere near the
area it automatically becomes a Ba Xuyen banh mi occasion.

Ill admit that most Middle Eastern cuisines blur a bit to me, its not my
strong suit. So I'd forgotten that Turkish food isnt thin pita oriented but
bready. I love the fluffy pide, but it might be better as an accompaniment,
not as gyro (I love testing the NYC propensity for the word gyro,
specifically when its pronounced jie-roe. James ordered the doner kabob,
which was written as such on the menu. Of course the waitress said,
“Ok, the gyro”) wrapper because it upsets the filling to starch
ratio. I ended up resorting to knife and fork to tear into what felt more
like a chopped lamb burger hidden in an enormous bun.

I'm sure the food is better than I'm portraying, we only sampled the
sandwiches. But the overall impression was so-so, if only because of little
missteps having nothing to do with taste. The space wasn't air conditioned
despite the outside heat, I was expecting real iced tea, not a can of Lipton
Brisk, and the waitress unnerved us with her pacing and hovering.

EliteTurkish Restaurant * 805 60thSt., Brooklyn,

Soft-Shell Buns

I’ve been meaning to try Momofuku Noodle Bar for as long as it has been open (two years tops, likely less) but I no longer have any friends or loved ones in the East Village, it’s not on my way to anything and I’m weird about sitting on stools at counters. And this Peking duck-like sandwich isn’t what the restaurant is known for, but after seeing this intriguing recipe in New York my mind forgot all about the pork belly and ramen I’d been missing.

The gist of the dish is sauteeing soft-shell crabs in bacon fat and stuffing them into Chinese buns along with hoisin sauce, scallions and lightly pickled cucumber slices. Easy. But I’m not sure about the buns because I haven’t eaten the original (which I definitely intend to now). They’re not char siu type buns, they’re more like super puffy tacos shells minus the crunch, doughy rounds folded in half to make a fluffy pocket. The buns, or steamed rolls like the package read, were also larger than I’d expected (I used a brand called Juans, which always cracks me up. Maybe on Staten Island, where the company is based, Juan is an Asian name), so you could realistically fit a whole crab inside, where the recipe called for halving the crustaceans. Or maybe my crabs were smaller. Either way, the end result was still satisfying (and I went wild and included some of the bacon, which is only intended for fat rendering). Pork and seafood get along better than many people think.



Green Means Go

I was tentative at first, but I'm really starting to dig Stop & Shop. In many ways it's the anti-Western Beef, one of my favorite NYC grocery stores. The prices seem a little high (though not Manhattan high, and if you get a Stop & Shop card, which takes mere minutes because the staff is fairly competent and there aren't Eastern Bloc long lines, discounts abound) and the vibe is bizarrely suburban. And therein lies its charm.

The aisles are the widest I've seen in the area, they have parking garages, it's not agoraphobia-inducingly crowded and the selection is borderline bountiful. It's not like you're relegated to two or three brands per item. I wanted oatmeal and there was at least 30 sq. ft. devoted to my breakfast staple. And it's the little touches like the florist section with mylar balloons, the automated bottle return section, free ranging toiletries not imprisoned behind a customer service counter. Classy, you know?

I can only vouch for the Queens locations, so far I've tried Glendale, Maspeth and Long Island City. Unfortunately, there aren't any S&Ss nearby, the closest being in Kensington, which I have doubts about. I don't believe the Kings County hype, there?s nothing remotely cool or hip about the borough's sorry grocery stores.

(Super) Stop & Shop * Various outer borough locations, New England is their base

Walking on Air

Okay, I'm coming clean. I have a perverse love of Aerosoles even though it's slightly shameful. It's not like I'm fawning over Easy Spirit, right? It started innocently when I was temping in midtown two summers ago. A pair of purple suede d'Orsay pumps caught my eye from the window. And even with my painfully pathetic $11 hourly wage, I could sort of swing the $19.99 price tag. These shoes were actually borderline stylish and crazy comfortable.

I've since picked up a weirdo pair per summer at DSW. 2004 induced me to buy strange gold-silver'70s slip-ons with a squishy fake cork heel. They're garish, gauche and middle aged, but they're a great go-to lazy shoe. This year's version has the same sole, but in bright fuchsia leather with vertical cut outs all around. People frequently stare at my feet when I wear either pair, maybe because they're baffled, maybe because they're wowed (I actually did get a compliment from a door person on the pink clodhoppers). Neither of these styles are online, and likely for good reason.

Yesterday I went wild and purchased my second summer 2005 (well, technically spring) pair. A brand new Aerosoles storefront recently appeared one door down from my office, just on the other side of one of the last remaining Pret a Mangers. This time I chose metallic emerald green sandals that aren't half freaky, though they might be a touch too spindly and high heeled for comfort (2" is my max for everyday use). So I'm weighing the necessity of owning them. Plus, they cost a whopping $59. Yeah, yeah, we're not even approaching Jimmy Choo territory, but I?m still not blessed with much disposable income. 

Aerosoles * Various NYC locations, primarily 293 Madison Ave., New York, NY

Black Pearl

I don't think Black Pearl is here any longer. And the Black Pearl in
Brooklyn is not related.(3/06)

People always seem to make a point of pointing out that Black Pearl is a
mini operation inside a dive bar, Julep. I don't get the big deal (though I
had the feeling it was the sort of place where you would get barged in on
while on the toilet, despite locking the door, and thats exactly what
happened). I have zero experience with authentic clam shacks, but I've never
been under the impression that theyre rarefied affairs. Ave. A might as well
be coastal Maine to me.

While waiting for my dinner date as I usually do (it doesnt matter how
late I try and force myself to be, I'm always the first to arrive with
friends and loved ones and inevitably sit solo like a doofus for long
stretches) I was entertained by an antsy wound-up waiter who reminded me of
the volatile death-obsessed mailroom clerk on Seinfeld who Elaine
accidentally promoted to creepy copywriter. The server wasn't scary,
however, he just liked to chat and had a mildly mercenary quality that I
prefer to read as passionate. His mention that his girlfriend preferred the
cod over the haddock forced me to ponder how she might possibly look, but I
didnt dwell too hard.

I don't think I'm a real New Yorker because I rarely eat out on
weeknights. But when I do, an urge for alcohol always hits. Strange, because
I never drink at home after work. Being half restaurant, half bar, I was
able to take advantage of the two-for-one special (twice). But the point
wasn't stumbling around the East Village, it was to get reasonably priced
lobster rolls and the like. I went for the clam roll, a simple bun bursting
at the seams with little breaded nuggets. Traditional tartar sauce, a
spicier diablo rendition and cocktail sauce were offered. It was diablo for
me, since I suspected the pinkish dip would make a fitting fry condiment in
a ketchup/mayo/mustard secret sauce vein. I was right, the fries, which
would be just as appropriate piled next to hanger steak or a bowl of
mussels, were fine naked, but the dip added fatty panache.

The only down side is my short term memory where battered, fried seafood
is concerned. Crispy, oily crustaceans, mollusks and finned creatures, while
delectable, always give me post-prandial trouble. Maybe its just best to
live in the moment, and worry potential stomach cramping and nausea later.

Black Pearl * 14 Ave. A, New York, NY

World Tong


I imagine that dim sum can be civilized, but in my experience it has never
been a tidy orderly affair. Thats OK, ordering from a menu kind of takes the
fun out of it anyway. But you do have to be in the proper frame of mind to
deal, particularly with World Tong. We might not have been up to it this
Sunday. It was just too hot for all the crowding. And being first-timers we
had to pick up procedures on the fly.

It quickly became apparent that numbers were not being called in English
when countless customers who arrived after us began taking spots at tables.
I'm still not sure how youre supposed to get seated if you don't know your
number is up, you have to pester the host if you can even get close to him.

Order is luck of the draw, and the women with carts tend to keep the
lids on the metal steamer containers so mere glances arent telling. I tried
taking cues from the two groups at our round table. If they seemed
interested in what was being hawked, I would wait and see what they were
handed then make a split second decision. We managed to amass shrimp
dumplings, shrimp in bean curd skin, sweet and sour spareribs, turnip cakes,
mini pork chive buns sprinkled with sesame seeds, a chile popper affair
filled with a seafood paste and a large plate of suckling pig.

Dim summing can be frustrating if you fear disorder (and sitting with
strangers), but as far as risks go, dumplings are on the low end. I've never
had any major duds. Not even the tripe, which I've learned not to order
because I'm the only one wholl eat it and the portion is too generous. While
good, you don't want to fill your stomach with anothers. All in all the meal
only amounted to $28, which is amazing considering the pork was a $10.95
special. That averages out to around $2.50 per plate.

Next I would like to attempt weekday dim sum. Maybe Ill finagle it soon
and get the kinks worked out at a more leisurely pace.

World Tong * 6202 18th Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Oversea Asian

It's strange that I have such a S.E. Asian food fixation—I'm visiting
Singapore for the second time next month—but never eat that cuisine in
NYC. I think its because this isnt the city for doing that style right, not
that I'm an expert by any means. But vegetables, herbs and fish just arent
the same half way around the globe. It's not like Manhattan is teeming with
pandan, coconuts, rau ram, and Sri Lankan crabs (preferred species for chili
crab). Regardless, I needed a restaurant near F train Chinatown (because its
super hot out and after shopping at Hong Kong Super market on Allen St.,
there was no way I was heading to the heart of Canal St. for dinner) and
Oversea Asian fit the bill.

When I arrived shortly after work, the room was primarily filled with
guys drinking BYOB Heineken and Guinness. I don't know if they were staff
just kicking back because it wasn't busy or if they were just hanging out. I
wasn't sure if the fact that none of them were eating was a good sign or

James finally showed up (it goes without saying that whenever I meet
anyone for dinner, I will always be the one kept waiting. I'm not sure if
this says something about me or the company I keep) and we ordered a roti
canai to share, which Ill admit is odd since its really no more than one
serving, but we also wanted chicken satay. The skewered meat was right on,
slightly sweet and charred around the edges, the peanut sauce oily, rich and
slightly spicy (though James preferred dipping his poultry pieces into the
leftover roti canai curry, which wasn't a half bad idea).

We then moved on to mee goreng (I was just reading an account on a
message board how someones mother got food poisoning in Malaysia and when
they asked the doctor what ailment she had, he replied, “mee
goreng.” I don't know why I find that anecdote so amusing, but I hope
I don't catch any mee groeng while I'm visiting), which you never know what
is going to be stir fried into the mess of egg noodles. Shrimp and tomatoes
seemed like okay additions, but there was also bean curd, possibly potato
and flat crispy shards, kind of like scallion pancake pieces. I didnt mind
the mish mash. Sambal shrimp, a little heavier on the onion and green pepper
than shrimp, was more of an accompaniment. We probably shouldve ordered a
more proper entre, but its not like we left starving.

Oversea Asian Restaurant * 49 Canal St., New York, NY


Quintessential burgers.  Ultimate pizza. I'deal BBQ. I'm neither purist, nor aficionado. I honestly cant distinguish uber patties, slices and ribs from the fray, though many Americans purport to. Donovans often gets the best burger kudos (though it seesaws between them and Corner Bistro). I've never had the opportunity to decide for myself because if I'm ever in Woodside, I'm waylaid by Sripraphais siren song. But this Saturday afternoon I happened to be just hung over enough and in need of good old fashioned grease and meat stomach padding to check the Irish pub out.

I like the stained glass and dark wood dcor. It's almost like a castle and would tend towards hokey if it wasn't original details. We were seated in a romantic little nook in the back corner, not that burgers necessarily induce amorous behavior. I opted for a medium cheeseburger, James the same but with bacon. We also ordered a side of onion rings that never appeared. That mightve been for the best because the fries werent prime specimens. I suspect frying isnt their forte.

The burger–it was in the simple camp, as wed expected. Bun, meat, cheddar cheese with tomatoes and lettuce on the side. It was very juicy, of the type that soaks the bottom bun, but not so much as to fall apart and make a complete mess. It was very likeable, a classic bar burger. James wasn't as impressed as I, but hes the kind of person whod put onion soup mix and eggs in his ground beef (though not milk and ketchup like his moms version that induced vomiting during a Christmas vacation viewing of The Aviator).

Donovan's Pub * 5724 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, NY


People always lump Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill together. Perhaps its the
blur of homogonous residents (the minor exception being the freaky front
yard, social club, right leaning, elderly Italian contingent, whom I happen
to share a neck of the woods with). But even only being one subway stop
south of Bergen, I'm still out of that more bustling loop. To me, Gravy
popped up out of nowhere, I had no inking. But it's kind of hard to ignore
(and dislike) a giant neon gravy boat. Gravy is now the cornerstone
(literally), connecting Pacifico to La Rosa in some labyrinth-like near
gimmick. I don't have issues with the whole Alan Harding empire, La Rosa
pizza tastes good to me, Schnack is fun and cheap. Pacifico supposedly
sucks, and thats why I've shied away.

Gravy falls into the affordable and light hearted camp. No new ground is
broken with the updated diner concept, but thats okay (it certainly beats
the hurl inducing Sonnys). The interior is bizarrely vast, even by Brooklyn
standards. A Friday night table for two was no problem.

Unfortunately, the operation wasn't completely up to snuff yet. Not all
menu items were available, for instance the vegetable muffaletta I'd wanted.
After striking out, I changed my second choice Monte Cristo to the more
routine Rueben just to preempt any additional disappointment. It was a
perfectly respectable rendition, skewered with toothpicks bearing a black
and green olive. The fries, sprinkled with shredded parsley, were also nice.

The entrees include what you might expect: chicken fried steak, meatloaf
and macaroni and cheese, which every table of white guy/Asian girl duos (to
be fair, there was one table with the reverse ethic combo, but they were
both wearing flip flops so my initial positive impression was soured) in the
room seemed to have a plate of.

Mac and cheese is one of those gross comfort foods that I don't get, but
everyone seems to love (I also dislike hotdogs, so maybe somethings wrong
with me). Noodles and cheese just don't thrill me, but perhaps thats not the
point. I noticed a lot of faces being made, complaining and picking at food
by the women, which was kind of baffling. But the men werent much better,
the gentleman next to us didnt know what chicken fried steak was, and he
didnt even touch his vegetables, which appeared to be fresh picked and
decent looking not frozen.

The desserts, however, were not freshly made as I'd been hoping. The
adequate choices, which included Reeses cheesecake and apple pie, came boxed
and ready to slice. I know because the woman prepping them with sliced
strawberries and whipped cream was stationed mere feet from us.

When I originally heard that Gravys stayed open until 2am I got excited
because there's nowhere for late night dining in the neighborhood. I was
super thwarted on a recent Sunday when I wanted dessert after 10pm and we
walked blocks and blocks of urban ghost town. I had visions of eating
homemade lemon meringue pie in the middle of the night, but it looks like my
sugar fix might more along the lines of a defrosted cheesecake slice.

Gravy * 102 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY