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Short Months are Still Too Long

I must be paying the price for staying home Fri. when I was only mildly sick. Now I'm sick for real and already used up a valuable day. That'll teach me. I'm sure you are all dying to know what I did for Valentine's Day. James took me out to Pampano, which was perfectly nice (though I had issues because it's just down the street from my office and I'm very anti-midtown east these days). But it was kind of overshadowed by our impromptu dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the Sunday before President's Day. My short notice Tarrytown excursion was totally fun, and I took lots of pointless photos (I'm going to turn into one of those annoying photo bloggers, even worse foodie photo blogger, if I don't watch it) but I haven't had a chance to write it up (ha, but I did manage to find the time to blab about Cosmetic Show, this crazy mess of a store I just found. Priorities you know). I know that's older than old now, but I'm just here on Tues. getting a chance to sort out what I did nearly a week and a half ago. I will say that I ate a shit load of Cuban food last week for an article I turned in today. Phew. I think I'm free to just write about minutiae and myself for now. Feb. was all like that. March had better not be or I'm going to end up doing something rash.

El Sitio

I was just about Cubano'd out at this point in my fake vs. real research. But El Sitio is a classic, I couldn't pass it up. Though I have physically passed by countless times and never stopped in. This is a perpetual problem with Roosevelt Ave.–too much choice and when it's a Latin-Asian toss-up, I almost always lean towards the Thai or Filipino options.

We sat in the restaurant half, which has personal jukeboxes at each table, fake ivy climbing the ceiling, and no cubano on the menu. Oops, I guess you're supposed to sit at the lunch counter for more casual fare. But I still got my sandwich, I had to. You get garlic bread while you wait and little croquettes the size of olives. Maybe you don't get those in the diner. James ordered a pork plate with yucca, and rice and beans, of course.

The sandwich was perfectly crisp with a soft melty interior. Swiss cheese, roast pork, ham, pickle and yellow mustard–all standard and all good. And very flat, it'd had the hell pressed out of it, which is a good thing. I hate it when everything's busting out.

El Sitio * 68-28 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, NY

Chain Links: Good and Bad

In my book there's no such thing as a bad chain–I have room in my heart for them all–but clearly not everyone agrees.

New2_1 New Yorkers have been crapping themselves over the soon-to-open Trader Joe's. Part of me can't blame them. $2.99 vegan pad thai? Amazing (I guess), though I'm more of a discount Niman Ranch bacon and Total Greek yogurt shopper.

The new Bed-Stuy Applebee's isn't being met with so much love. What kind of foolish freaks line up for honey bbq Riblets, they ask? Well, these people, apparently. There are worse crimes than Applebee's fascination. I'll admit that a new chain in a formerly chain-less area can be weirdly thrilling.

I'm just excited to hear that the Applebee's is housed in a former Lerner's. If they'd only create a two-in-one concept.

Tehuitzingo Deli

People in the know go all nuts for Tehuitzingo Deli. I think it's because the bulk of Manhattan is taco deprived. Don't get me wrong, they churn out an authentic item (I included them in a real vs. fake article I recently wrote) but it's the sort of place that humorless foodies might bandy about as a badge of honor.

Behold tacos filled with barbacoa, carnitas and cecina. They all taste distinct, but it's hard to discern which is which from this pic.


I went to the Belle and Sebastian show with Heather, who had a friend (that I won't link to because it's more fun to blog behind backs) that wanted to grab a bite before the concert. He had mentioned Tehuitzingo to her, but I had already put in a convincing vote for Olive Garden. This was majorly vetoed by this friend of a friend. It was ok, I wrangled two souls into going to The OG.

It was funny because after the show, my pal tracked down this guy and introduced us and mentioned that we both did food blogs like that would be a bond. But it never is. That's why I don't hang out with any food freaks (most of my friends are vegetarian or meat and potatoes). If someone can't eat at Tehuitzingo and Olive Garden in the same week, then it's just not going to work. God created tripe tacos and neverending pasta bowls to both be enjoyed.

Tehuitzingo Deli * 695 Tenth Ave., New York, NY

5 Ninth

1/2 Jeez, how does someone manage to spend $86 on lunch for two? I've had a $5 lunch limit for the past few years, which is pretty lax considering previously I was a staunch brown bagger.

Well, the secret to running up a hefty tab is simple: order a couple drinks each. That's all. I owed James for his generosity at Blue Hill and anticipated at least being able to get reimbursed for the $15 Cubano that I was using as an example in an article I was writing. Plus, I was using a sick day (I really was sick, I swear, but not too sick to eat, duh) and wanted to make the most of my precious freedom.

But no cubano. They were suspiciously out, and it's certain that they didn't run out since there was only one other table occupied in the entire downstairs room where we were seated. So, I went to the suggested $12 skate sandwich, which was a battered and fried riff on a po' boy, but with aioli, strong green leaves/herbs I couldn't identify and topped with roe. Thick shrimp chips came on the side, which only made me wonder what would've accompanied the cubano (which for the record is a Berkshire pork, prosciutto, aioli [they love their garlic mayo] gouda and pickled jalapeo affair).

James ordered a $18 duck leg curry, which prompted the waitress to recommend a $5 side of rice, which we discovered was completely asinine as the dish comes served over rice. That's the sort of thing that ought to be complained about, but I steer away from. She really shouldn't have indulged in price gouging since they'd already failed to meet my sandwich expectations. I think I should hold Zak Palaccio personally responsible (and I hear the guy is opening another restaurant–didn't we just get Fatty Crab?). I do recall my first and only foray into his "Brooklyn global cuisine" as a frustrating experience.

So, the redundant rice, two Johnnie Blacks and soda and Gruner Veltliners killed me in the end. Now it'll have to be sack lunch for at least week. At least I had a nice cold medicine-wine buzz to last me through the afternoon.

5 Ninth * 5 Ninth Ave., New York, NY

Son Cubano

I can honestly say that I practically tried everything on the menu. I can also honestly say that I probably wouldn't have visited Son Cubano of my own volition. It's interesting seeing restaurants from a journalistic (I use that term loosely) perspective versus a personal one. You might enjoy the food or respect the chef, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you'd pick the place for an impromptu Thursday night dinner. Clientele and location are also big factors for me, and well, the meatpacking district doesn't need any explaining, does it? I did dig the restaurant's location, smack against the increasingly out-of-place Western Beef.

The chef was beyond generous and wanted to give me a taste of everything Cuban. And I do mean everything. I just expected a couple quintessential dishes, so I could get schooled on what makes Cuban cuisine Cuban for a NY Post article not an encyclopedia entry. Not that I was complaning.

But during at least three points during the evening James and I cried culinary uncle and hoped the procession had come to an end. And then more plates would come out. Four or five appetizers including empanadas, fried pork, a mushy polenta thing with crab, croquettes, then three kinds of rice and beans, a roast pork leg, ropa vieja, boiled yucca, four desserts: a regular flan, a tiny super rich milkless flan, a crazy dulce de leche sweet made from curdling the caramel in lime juice and bread pudding. I know I'm missing a few items.

It was almost like a cruel joke or social experiment–how much free food will a person take before "oh no, I couldn't eat another bite" turns from politeness to terror. But I'm the type who can't bear to waste food, so it was painful to leave so much behind. We didn't pace ourselves in the beginning, not realizing this was a marathon.

I can say that I feel smarter about Cuban food, and that I might not have a craving for Cuban food any time in the near future.

Son Cubano * 405 W. 14th St., New York, NY

Fruitless Venture

Ok, I've already lamented about the lame food situation in my new work neighborhood, and now I'm having second thoughts about the shopping scene too. Inititally, I was wowed by the strip on and around 57th and Lexington with Aerosoles, New York & Company, Daffy's and Strawberry. Of course Bloomindale's is also in the area, but that's a horse of a different color (green).

So, despite three floors and a plus size section, the Grand Central location still beats all because I've always looked to Strawberry primarily as a source of cheap shoes. And this one has a pathetic little pocket in the basement that's always crammed with like four workers sitting around and socializing while pretending to stock the ten items on display.

And to add insult to injury I happened to buy one of the smallest X large shirts in existence (I've never seen poly-blend tee shirt fabric with so little stretch) and somehow lost the receipt, which I never ever do. And this new job is so time sucking that I didn't make it back for almost a month and apparently the store has a retarded 14-day return/exchange policy and only with a receipt. I didn't even bother for the $14.99, but now I'm stuck with a crappy too small shirt. I've soured on Strawberry.

Strawberry * 711 Lexington Ave., New York, NY

Key to Happiness

Key_1 I don't think anyone would be cheering for Key Food's Court Street demise any louder than I. Good riddance is an understatement. Unfortunately, I was too busy/lazy this weekend to snap any photographic souvenirs of the decimation. Lucky for me this neighborhood is thick with bloggers that I can vicariously get my doses of shopping schadenfreude from.

My fear is that the supposed CVS taking its place will hire all the displaced Key Food employees. The disaffected teens will stay cashiers and the white lab coat guy who stands by the front doors doing nothing will become a pharmacist.

I do think it's weird that for such gentrified neighborhood, this little corner will have zero grocery stores. As much as I've always loathed Key Food, it was my only easily walkable after work option. There's not a heck of a lot open after 7 pm in these parts. I can only guess that many Carroll Gardens citizens must have cars or rely on Fresh Direct.

Does the neighborhood need another drug store? [423smith]
Key Food pandemonium []
All of Carroll Gardens to close [A Brooklyn Life]

Key Food * 395 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

A Study in Beef

I'm not one inclined towards the visual. I always think words first, but admittedly, I do enjoy store photos. Yes, I actually like looking at grocery store interiors for fun. Here are some lovely shots of my favorite NYC food shop (Balducci's, my ass).

Believe it or not, these ma and pa potatoes just appeared last month. I wonder what kind of person would create such a thing.


Watch out for the cavalcade of wieners spilling forth.


I don?t know that the typical Western Beef customer demands skinless drumsticks. The big box of frozen White Castle burgers peeking from the left is more like it.


Dulce de leche and Whoppers flavored syrups? Crazy.


That's a heck of a lot of mini Welchito cans in the distance.

You don't have to have an SUV to shop here.

More: western beef

Talented and Gifted

Targethaulfeb I was on a mission to find my sister a sure-to-be-belated birthday present (it was the day before her birthday and she lives in the U.K.). But shopping for others always morphs into buying for yourself.

I did pick up a skinny package of those colorful screen printed Choxie squares and a Nerds Valentine's set for her. But the rest of her gift would have to wait.  TargetclothesI went in with no intentions of buying for myself, yet walked out with:

Clothing: Luella Bartley polo with appliqud cherries on the chest and cutesy sweater with patchwork birds (I guess I'm appliqu crazy). Food: Hello Kitty Pop Tarts in "meow berry" and Choxie Aztec Thin bar with cinnamon and ancho chile (you can't really taste the chile). Housewares: ceramic faux bamboo dishes that match a similarly patterned vintage tablecloth I bought off ebay last year that totally out-Jonathan Adlers Jonathan Adler

Target * 8801 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst, NY