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Carl’s Steaks Downtown

Tony Lukes let us down a second time. The first time I attempted a sandwich it was too late and they were closed. This time it was a Saturday afternoon and the gate was down. It's not looking too good, I'm afraid. We were driving home empty handed, heading down Chambers St., just about to get on the Brooklyn Bridge when I remembered Carl's other branch. To the rescue. Phew. And they do a pretty good rendition too.

Carl's Steaks 79 Chambers St., New York, NY

Empanada Mama

I'm still not sure what the connection is between Empanada Mama and Papa's Empanadas, but they practically have the same menu. Only their prices separate them. No matter, more details from my New York Post taste taste can be found here.

Empanada Mama * 763 9th Ave., New York, NY

Empanadas del Parque

Definitely the best of the bunch of empanada places I tried for a New York Post article. The
empanadas were made with care and delicacy. And while they get a little
creative with fillings–banana and Nutella or ham and pineapple–they don't
go overboard with novelty. Plus, they have a freezer case filled with
amazing fresh fruit helados.

Empanadas del Parque *
56-27 Van Doren St., Corona, NY

Papa’s Empanadas


Papa's was by far the craziest of all the empanada places I visited for a New York Post
. They're needlessly multicultural with pastries dubbed Polish
(sauerkraut and kielbasa), Lebanese (ground beef, pine nuts, tomatoes) and
of course, USA (apples and cinnamon). The owner said it's his wife who comes
up with all the wacky flavors like cheeseburger and peanut butter and
banana, a.k.a The Elvis. I would totally go here all the time if it were in
my neighborhood. Carroll Gardens is pretty humorless when it comes to
dining. (7/30/05)

Papa’s Empanadas
* 25-51 Steinway St., Astoria, NY



I only sampled the empanadas because I was researching a piece for the New York
They were the fanciest of the bunch I tried and probably the least
satisfying, kind of mushy and bland. Not that that's necessarily a
reflection of the rest of the menu. (7/30/05)

Gauchas * 1748 1st Ave., New
York, NY

Wonka & Whoppers

I killed two sassy limited edition birds with one stone, and served both Chocolicious Wonka Cakes and Vanilla Milkshake Whoppers (they also had strawberry, but I had to draw the line) at my birthday. I think guests were more scared than enticed. Not everyone is a slave to short lived snack items like I am. That’s fine.

I thought they did a nice job with the purple icing and filling. It’s hard to get the purple dye right for some reason, the same goes with paint and eye shadow. Instead of brilliant and pretty it tends to end up dull and grayed-out. When Peeps put out purple marshmallow cats a few years ago, the results were unintentionally spooky.


The Three Faces of Mazzola

First I started out on a highbrow roll with this heirloom tomato white anchovy salad I’d made last week out of the current Food and Wine. It was a little wet from sitting around a few days, but all the better to soak up with a nice slice of crusty French country bread. Cheesebread But then I broke into the cheese bread (I stopped in the local bakery Mazzola only to pick up a loaf of French bread, but then went crazy when the girl asked “anything else?” Oh, the pressure, the upselling) which is insane and pure fat. The loaf is so stuffed with aged provolone that it soaks through the paper bag with oil. And I’ve eaten almost half the damn thing in the three hours I’ve been home from work.

At least I refrained from also picking a lard bread. Yes, lard bread. I’m not sure that it’s laced with actual lard (ok, it is), but there are big chunks of salami strewn throughout. Funny, I just found a reference to this bread from this exact bakery on a librarian’s blog from Eugene, OR. And it must be good because based upon the stuff this person seems to usually eat they verge on vegan.  At least by NYC standards. Organic, animal product shunning is way more mainstream in Oregon.



I don't know why they have so many different bags.


Yumcha is closed for good. That was quick. (10/10/05)

I had an Australian email pal that would use the term yum cha instead of dim sum. New Yorkers (or Oregonians, for that matter) never say yum cha either. I always figured it was a regional thing like saying jye row for gyro (to pointlessly include Aussies again, they spell this sandwich yiro and eliminate all pronunciation confusion). But I've discovered that dim sum refers to the food while yum cha is the act of sitting down to tea and snacks. Of course none of this has anything to do with the newish Chinese-esque spot in the West Village.

My birthday tends to fall on the most painfully hot days of the year. Just making it from Carroll Gardens almost induced a heatstroke that even a chilly subway car couldn't curb (even on special occasions I rarely resort to taxis). This isn't the best state to be in while trying to maintain an air of moderate attractiveness. Because of this poor timing my drivers license photo is always a sweaty atrocity and I feel like a swarthy animal while trying to enjoy a relatively fine dining experience.

I tried to cool down with a green tea martini garnished with a cucumber slice. Strong and refreshing, and staved off the sometimes tough decision of what wine to order with Asian flavor. The list was surprisingly affordable, and I ultimately ended up choosing a gruner veltliner by the glass, which came in one of those trendy stemless Riedel numbers.

The clientele was easily divided into two camps: the middle aged with reservations and young happenstance couples who were seated at the bar. While another year older, and having booked ahead, I'd prefer not to be lumped in with the staid folks. We were bridging the gap, neither twenties nor forties (which yes, I realize isn't quite middle aged).

Despite the humid weather, I never go for light flavors. Instead, I went for the rich and meaty, so not suited for the close your eyes and pretend you're in S.E. Asia stickiness. But they're the ones that put pork belly and duck breast on a summer menu, so I was only doing my duty as a diner and ordering the offerings. The pork belly was shaved into slices, atop of a tangle of spicy-tart shredded cabbage and garnished with a delicate peppery tri-leaved green.

My entrée of sweet and sour duck breast was lightly striped with hoisin sauce, while postage stamp squares of jicama and fat cubes of papaya surrounded the poultry pieces and perhaps four or five cashews. Shanghai shoots, which I swear is just bok choy, also made an appearance. The top of the plate was reserved for a dramatic swirl of papaya puree. For some reason I'd imagined green papaya, not ripe sunshiny flavors, which verged a little too close to melon for comfort (one of my few personal food biases). I was picturing more tangy than sweet. We shared a side of egg topped fried rice, runny yolked, which didn't bother me, though James found it to be discomfortingly Filipino. Hardly, it's not like there was a duck embryo inside or anything.

For dessert we shared a green tea, white chocolate crème brule, which took an awfully long time to show up at our table. This tardiness was due to an unexplained "debacle," according to our waiter. One could only imagine.

It struck me while meandering down the street for a nightcap at Blue Mill Tavern that a disproportionate number of special occasion meals end up being in the West Village. In my daily life I never set foot on those aggravatingly angled streets. Off the top of my head, I can think of past excursions to Do Hwa (before I started pointlessly keeping track of where I ate), Annisa, Jefferson…ok now I'm completely drawing a blank. Kittichai, Spice Market, Megu (and Meigas when it still existed) merely border the West Village. Maybe I should just say we end up eating special occasion meals on the west side.

Yumcha * Bedford Ave., New York, NY

Who Knew Dracula Was a Cashier

Against my better judgment, I do end up at Key Food maybe once every other week. Unless I feel like walking ten blocks or more after work when I'm usually beat up, KF is the only option. A few months ago, though obviously still fresh in my mind, I had a check-out experience to end all. I couldn't even tell you the handful of items I was attempting to purchase, except that there was a head of garlic in the jumble. I thought KF was just employing super incompetent teens, but apparently they're now hiring vampires, too.

First, I couldn't get anyone to acknowledge my presence, which isn't out of the ordinary. Then, one of the women decides to saunter over, she starts scanning my stuff, then screams bloody murder like she's been stabbed or something, and then declares "I don't touch garlic" and storms off from the register mid-ring up to go wash her hands. Then, I got to wait some more for another lovely cashier to take her place like nothing weird was happening.

I almost lost my shit, and not even figuratively. I'm so sick of this store that doing something incredibly foul like defecating in the aisles is actually starting to sound attractive. I mean, if they have problems with touching garlic, just think what fun a pile of poo would create.

Key Food * 395 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

James has a great Key Food story, it's too bad he's not one for the written word because I only know it second hand and that it involves a frequently quoted (by him) dialogue between cashier and customer that starts something like, "what the fuck you lookin' at bitch"!? and ends in an equally charming fashion.


1/2 Funny, there was a story in todays NY Times about WWF (I know its WWE now, but it just doesnt look right) style wrestling Cholitas in Bolivia. Cholita, one of Cobble Hills Peruvian restaurants, wasn't as amusing, I'm afraid.

On a sickeningly steamy Saturday I decided try either Mancora or Cholita since I'd never been to either and Peruvian sounded like a random good idea. We opted for the latter, primarily because it was less crowded. In fact, the entire dining room was empty. I would normally take that as a bad sign if it werent for the full-to-capacity back patio, which we wanted nothing to do with. Maybe were freaks for sitting alone in air conditioned comfort, but humidity combined with a slew of strollers and the new mommies accompanying them, is the antithesis of a an enjoyable evening.

Even being the only diners in the room (at least temporarily), we still had trouble with our scatterbrained bed-headed waiter. They were out of Jamess original choice, something involving lamb, so he went for a basic hanger steak with chimichurri, medium rare. It ended up rarer than rare. I went for the paella, which I'm not the biggest fan of in the first place, it was a spur of the moment urge. But their bizarro addition of a frozen vegetable combo (lima beans, green beans and corn–isnt that succotash? I have a severe hatred of those mixed vegetable packs. The only time I tolerated them was way back in 91 when I got my first apt. and the only place that did Chinese delivery [which wasn't even in my S.E. Portland neighborhood, but downtown] had this sweet greasy pork stir fry that was full of frozen corn, machine cubed carrots and green beans that I'd frequently order even though I was well aware that it was so not Chinese) in the rice and seafood fray certainly didnt help change my opinion of the dish. Do they even eat paella in Peru?

It wasn't a heinous experience by any means. The Pisco sours were nice, the fried pork appetizer wasn't half bad, but I'm in no hurry to return. It's not like I'm in an early '90s Oregonian culinary wasteland; now choices abound. I think Cholitas back garden is the draw, much the same way nearby Pacificos open air seating trumps their cuisine. For me, al fresco atmosphere doesnt hold enough sway.

Cholita * 139 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY