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Bowl Me Over

Bowls I know I can't be the only one bothered by KFC's new Famous Bowls. And it's not like I have good taste either (I'm totally fascinated by Crunchwraps and stuffed crust pizza). There's just something very wrong about this overloaded combination. Fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy all seem innocent enough when compartmentalized on the plate, so it must be the crowning glory, the three cheese (which three, pray tell?) blend.

The completely unnecessary addition of cheese (hey, except in that stuffed crust) is the hallmark of any good American fast food invention. It's like the recipe developers just weren't satisfied with cramming a typical KFC meal in a bowl and calling it a day (not too long ago Taco Bell went this same route with their Border Bowl). It had to have that extra oomph, and in many cases oomph equals cheese.

My other personal peeve with this dish is that it's one of those crammed convenience meals that might psychologically feel like you're eating less than a normal plate full of food because it's all squished and combined. I like my food to last a long time so superficially it seems more satisfying. I hate how in NYC (or maybe other places too) they serve bagels filled to the gills and halved like a sandwich. I always pull mine apart (and occasionally remove some of the cream cheese-I know, blasphemy) so it takes twice as long to eat. Ok, maybe I'm the one with the problem. I like to eat a lot and it's a trick I can play on myself that works.

Mayo I've always had an unabashed problem with mayonnaise, though I will admit to gaining an appreciation for the emulsified spread served with French fries, especially if it's freshly whipped up. I mean, it's just egg and oil, so what's the big deal? I will concede that mayonnaise has its place…in small doses.

Yet, I'm disturbed by Hellman's Easy Out! because it's encouraging excessive use of the questionable condiment, just what I've rallied against for like 30 years. Did consumers really cry out for easier access to mayo? The commercial shows a huge dollop being squeezed onto a wrap, akin to shaking hot sauce on a burrito. Not the same.

Now, squeezable cranberry sauce? That's bizarre on a totally different level. Inoffensive, yet odd.

New, not Necessarily Improved

As anti-blog as I've been, I must come to terms with the fact that the '00s are already more than half over and that there's no going back web-wise. I love making and reading little rickety pages from scratch, but I suspect that I'm in the minority. I've just started seeing the charm in posting pointless photos and pics and now that's passé. It's all about video, apparently. Or is there some brand new medium that's so now that like a hologram appears in your physical space and provides you with content…or maybe the post somehow just beams straight into your mind. Who needs the internet at all?

Do I want to be like the humans on Invasion who keep futilely fighting the hybrid evolution? (I can't believe I just made a TV reference like that, but I loved it on the finale when Larkin, the world's skinniest pregnant woman, got shot and tossed in the water. And now I hear there are no plans for another season. What the fuck? All three spooky shows that debuted last fall–Threshold, Surface and Invasion-have gotten the boot.)

My point is that I just converted my chatty, not thoroughly insightful dining diary that I can't stop doing (babies are now coming out of the womb texting and reflecting over their last meal, but I still can't stop adding to the noise, it's a weird compulsion), Shovel Time, over to Type Pad. It's not like it's a heavily read website anyway, but it drove me insane that everything I wrote took forever to show up in search engines if it showed up at all. My voice will be heard, dammit. Oh, it's still a work in progress–the formatting is off, images are missing, the search seems to be broken. It's all really just one more distraction to keep me from actually trying to do important potentially scary things with my life.

Sunday Night Special: Pad Prik King

I recently occured to me that the only cooking I ever document is what I do on Sundays. That's simply because Sunday night is the only evening when I have the time and energy Prikkingfixingsfor silly crap like snapping photos of ingredients and typing up ingredient lists. Why fight it? I'm starting a new category: Sunday Night Special. The following recipe is from last Sunday, not today. I don't ever actually post anything in real time–I tend to mull things over, but mostly I'm just lazy. Let's see if the fish curry I plan to embark on in a hour or so ever makes it up here or not.

I never see cilantro with the roots intact, so when I found a dirt-caked pile of rooty herbs at Western Beef, I bought some with the primary intent of cutting, cleaning and saving the roots for later use in Thai recipes that always seem to call for them when I'm empty-handed. (Last week, for the first time, I saw rau ram, a.k.a. laksa leaves at Hong Kong Supermarket in Sunset Park. But I wasn't sure how well they'd hold up in the freezer and I didn't have any plans for any Malaysian recipes in the immediate future, so I was forced to pass.)

I decided to make a dry curry using pork and long beans David Thompson's paperback Thai cookbook from the early '90s, not the encyclopedic behemoth, Thai Cooking, that dazzled everyone a few years ago. I love that obsessive tome, but for a simple every day recipe, the smaller book usually suffices. I followed it fairly closely, though I didn't de-seed my chiles and used short ribs (I thought I had pork belly in the freezer, but I couldn't find it) primarily because I don't have a cleaver to chop down big ribs.

Padprikking The result was very strong and rich, though not from coconut milk. I guess the ingredients were naturally rich. I tried a canned prik khing paste last night for a similar recipe and thought the one from scratch was superior (though James seemed to like the prepared sauce better, but that's psychological because he bought the can)  I think even the good canned pastes, end up being too salty and flat. The freshly pureed paste was also considerably hotter than the canned version, which I had to spruce up with a couple chopped chiles.

Pork with Snake Beans and Chile Paste
Pad Prik King Tua Fak Yaew

2 tablespoons safflower oil or 4 tablespoons if using pork ribs or leg
2 cloves garlic, crushed
7 ounces pork belly, fresh bacon or pork ribs or leg, steamed and sliced into smalls strips
3 tablespoons of the chile paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 ounces snake beans, cut into 1 ¼" lengths
6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
3 fresh large red chiles, halved and deseeded

Chile Paste
5-10 dried red long chiles, deseeded and chopped
3 red shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ stalk lemongrass, sliced
1 teaspoon galangal, peeled and chopped
3 cilantro roots
1 tablespoon dried shrimp, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium pan, heat the oil, add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the pork and fry until it begins to color. Add the chile paste and fry for about 5-8 minutes or until fragrant; if necessary, moisten with a little water to prevent the paste from sticking. Add the fish sauce and sugar. Mix in the beans, kaffir lime leaves and chiles, fry for another 2-3 minutes, or until the beans are cooked. It will taste quite rich and spicy.

To make chile paste, puree all the ingredients in a food processor (or mortar and pestle), using as little water as possible, until fine.

Adapted from Classic Thai Cuisine by David Thompson. Ten Speed Press. 1993.

Here's a fun site with Thai cooking videos. Watch stir-fried pork with long beans being made (scroll down to #9). They're not scared of MSG in Thailand.


1/2 I go to Schnack more than I mention, maybe once every other month, but I never bother saying so because I almost always eat the same thing and nothing noteworthy ever happens. That's not a bad thing, that's consistency. Fries, cubano and a pint of Schwag are my usual M.O.

My latest visit was a balancing act. After an earlier Room 4 Dessert venture, we had to counter the sweetness and sophistication with something "grubbing," so to speak (I hate that adjective, but it's fitting in this case). There are only so many late night options that fit that criteria in the neighborhood.

This was the first time I'd ever tried the schnackies, and I'm glad I did. They're heartier and saucier than typical sliders, which I suspected and ordered three rather than the four I might have at White Castle.

The weird thing about my last two Schnack experiences has been the cheese fries. The last time we ordered them we ended up with chili cheese fries. I'm not a chili lover, but it was ok and it wasn't a big enough transgression to ask for a re-do. This time we also asked for cheese fries and got regular fries, which we did get rectified. It's feast or famine with the damn fries.

Schnack * 122 Union St., Brooklyn, NY

Room 4 Dessert

Friday night at 6:30 might seem a bit early for dessert, but that's just the way it worked out. I had suggested trying Room 4 Dessert to a friend as a birthday present (I gave her Dirty Found too). It wasn't my fault that a month and a half passed between her date of birth and our sweet excursion.

Packdessert Apparently, the menu has recently changed, so many of the items I'd read about, Voyage to India in particular, were no longer being served. There were four choices of foursomes, and unfortunately, I didn't take a menu home so the finer details of each are hazy. Chocolate seemed too obvious, so I went with the PACK acronym, which showcased pistachio, apricot, cherries and kirsch. Despite the scary sounding name (and ingredients), I ordered a Mr. Clean cocktail anyway. You probably could clean tile with the pine liqueur, lemon, amaretto and whisky formula. It was bracing and medicinal (and almost reminded me of a thick white prescription liquid I had to drink for an ear infection I had when I was in preschool). But I was glad for the daring mixology.

Pistachio was my favorite PACK component, but I'm just partial to anything green that's not a vegetable. I wish I had paid closer attention to the preparations because now I fear making everything sound lackluster and simple. The cherries were in a liquid in a thick cylindrical pill bottle, the kirsch was blended into whipped cream with apricots underneath, and if I'm correct apricot was also the foundation of the sorbet which covered little crunchy bits.

Reddessert The belated birthday girl tried the red quartet, which contained hibiscus jello with ice lettuce, beet sorbet (or was it ice cream?), raspberry "bread" and a little white cake with cooked down red speck.

Ok, the two drinks at a bar around the corner, beforehand, and glass of cava mid-dessert aren't conducive to flavor recall. I'll definitely return with a clearer mind and palate. I can see this being an endearing late night stop.

Room 4 Dessert * 17 Cleveland Pl., New York,NY

Blue Ribbon Brooklyn

I hate off-kilter weeknights. There are these occasional weird mid-week dining excursions where I simply want to have a satisfying meal and unwind, yet little unimportant things start thwarting my fun and my sanity comes into question. Is this how nervous breakdowns (whatever that means, exactly) begin?

This same evening, I spent almost my entire subway ride home from work feeling like my chest was being squeezed, and I couldn't breathe or swallow. I'm convinced that I'm on the verge of a stroke, or more likely, a nice panic disorder that seems to have set in with age. 

Even though we only had to wait at the bar for about five minutes, there was still aggravation with where to stand when you're the only one not seated. Since everyone is sitting except for you, it feels like you're hovering even when positioned a good foot behind someone's stool. I also have this issue when for some bizarre reason, I'm the first person who has to stand on the subway (this really only happens on the end of the G in Queens when the train sits and waits for like five minutes) Like I said, I wonder if these non-problems are the first steps towards mania. Standing dilemmas really shouldn't make you jumpy.

On the opposite end of the potential problem spectrum, we got a nice spacious, squishy corner booth in the back. None of that squeezing you ass through the three-inch clearance between table rows. We decided on salt and pepper shrimp as an appetizer. I'd finished about 80% of my pricey gin and tonic (that's one thing I'd forgotten about Blue Ribbon–the drinks seem a buck or two higher than need be) by the time the waiter came over. I don't know what happened but my hand totally smacked the glass over and the clear liquid ran down the table, onto James and completely soaked the red velvety fabric we were sitting on. I had no one to be annoyed with except myself, and yet I was still annoyed. I was hoping my duck club sandwich with sweet potato chips would set the course back on track. Meanwhile, I picked up the spilled vessel and put it far from my spastic reach.

Milk1 When our waiter came back with my sandwich and James's spicy steak (that's what they called it, I think it was their way of saying steak au poivre), he managed to re-knock over my glass onto the floor and underneath the table of the two loudly inebriated young women seated next to us (I couldn't figure out why you'd go to Blue Ribbon for cocktails, because like I said they're not cheap, and these girls seemed mildly on the prowl and it was only families and couples as far as the eye could see. If I was their age, I would be drinking at a proper bar. I would've continued our evening next door at Great Lakes, but James is no Thursday night boozehound and put the kibosh on my plan). I was like what the fuck is going on. And everyone looked at me like it was my fault–or is that just the paranoia of a mentally ill mind in the making?

I half-heartedly slogged through my food since the spirit of the meal had been crushed. I did amuse myself by ordering a Hefeweizen, which comes in one of those tall, skinny, top-heavy beer glasses. Talk about precarious. But that's me, living on the edge.

Blue Ribbon * 280 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Image borrowed from The Small Object

Newborns: Cake & Pretzels

I’ve recently discovered two new treats that have made my day. (And no, Coca-Cola BlaK isn’t on my list, though I actually like it better than plain cola which isn’t saying much because most cola type beverages upset me.).


Entenmann’s Ultimate Celebration Cake
It practically jumped off the shelf at me at Western Beef. Really, it’s just a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and circular sprinkles, but it’s so damn festive. It brought me joy on three separate occasions in the past week or so (that’s the benefit of junky preservative-laden snacks—they keep in the fridge for abnormal lengths of time). Watching Sunday night HBO can be a celebration, managing to make it to six o’clock without hurting others (or yourself) can be a celebration. Life can be one big freaking celebration. Thank you, Entenmann’s.

Hotbuffalowingpcs2_1 Snyder’s of Hanover Hot Buffalo Wing Pieces
Pretz has nothing over Snyder's. They already make those peculiar ochre honey mustard nubs that I find disgustingly tasty. They must put something extra in those artificial flavors to increase appetite. I’m able to resist Dorrito dust, but Cheeto powder has an allure. Wasabi peas too—I can eat a whole bag in one sitting, and almost did just that on Sunday.

But buffalo wing pretzels?! Is buffalo flavor the new ranch? That’s outrageous. The pretzel cubes are shocking orange and initially too tangy, but then you get a little spice and the vinegary quality is mitigated when the blander pretzel middle breaks open and mixes in your mouth. Not bad. And next thing you know, you’ve reached into the bag like ten times. Just imagine dipping these pieces in blue cheese dressing.

My Way or the Fairway

Everyone has priorities in life. Me, I took a day off work to check out the new Fairway in Red Hook. I almost spontaneously gave my notice yesterday, which would've been severely stupid since I have zero job prospects at the moment. The only thing that kept me from walking out was the promise of a shiny, new Fairway to visit the following day. Seriously…I never claimed to be un-pathetic.

It's odd because in a car, it's only like five minutes to get to the end of Van Brunt St., but walking it seemed like more of a haul, maybe 30 minutes or so. I took the BQE foot bridge that's across the street from my apt. and then proceeded to get twisted around and ended up over off Lorraine St. where all those busted stores and laundromat are, at the end of the projects. Even the nasty now shuttered Court St. Key Food that the entire (blog) world hated would be an improvement over the Red Hook grocery situation. The Fairway is like a massive jump from shitty to super with never having spent any time in the mediocre middle.

I'm guessing I made it there around 10:35am and I was completely surprised by the lack of massive crowds. Not that I'm complaining, I'm severely pushy people-phobic. Of course, there was lots of rampant shopping cart banging and blocking and the usual slow movers and gawkers. But it was manageable. For a while, there might've been more press than public.

I got overwhelmed and only ended buying a Vitamin Water (lemon-lime perform because you know, I'm a high performing individual). Now that I'm back home and settled in, I wish I would've bought some snacks (there aren't any real grocery stores in Carroll Gardens proper since the Key Foods went bust. Jeez, I can't believe I've managed to bring up that abominable store twice in one post).

I've posted more images on Flickr (yes, I've started buying into the whole Flickr mania–though I could still take or leave You Tube) if you're interested.

The parking lot was about 85% full

They had just wrapped up a stirring rendition of "New York, New York"

The Brooklyn Eagle and either a co-owner or the landlord (I've seen this same man with two different names attributed to him in newspapers–maybe the landlord and owner are both large gray-haired men in overalls?).

ho I tCheeses of the


A cute alternative to the typical laughing cow cheese. I think the text was in Hebrew.

I'm not cheese obsessed, I was just trying to find something for price comparison. Blue Castello, one of my middlebrow favorites, was $4.29 (or $4.59–my mind is blanking) which seemed spendy. It's only 99-cents at the East Village Cheese Shop, but then theirs is also half-rancid half of the time.

The bakery scene. I managed to abstain from the free cookies

No crowd for meat

Awesome. The world has totally gone squeezable crazy. I mean, is there such a high demand for convenient cranberry sauce?

Bounty of produce. They had some nice looking heirloom tomatoes, but I wasn't on a mission to buy.

Just a lone mopper on this aisle

In case you were interested. I've always been scared of grocery store bathrooms so I didn't go in.

Firemen love dry aged meat. Isn't there a beefcake joke in there somewhere?

There was a mob for free samples of jumbo shrimp, off to the left.

No lines at checkout–I wonder how long that'll last.

Singapore Cafe

You might think that I'd eat Malaysian/Singaporean food more than I do since those are my favorite countries to eat in and I'm frequently trying to reproduce the cuisine in my cramped kitchen, but I dine on Chinese and Thai fare way more often. Much of the fun of Malaysian fare is the hawker or food court experience, the caliber of the cooking itself and cheap cheap prices. It doesn't quite translate in NYC.

James and I did a Mott and Canal after work meet-up to see what struck our fancies. I couldn't make a restaurant decision (I've noticed one of the many downsides of my not-so-new-anymore job is that it has made me exhausted and indecisive) earlier so wandering seemed like a good antidote.

I'd eaten at Singapore Café, twice before, though not recently, and it appears to be under new management. They now have two menus, one Chinese and the other "Asian fusion" which contains the Singaporean stuff. That's an interesting tactic. I guess they think that no one knows what Singaporean food is because they explain it to you without being prompted, and it appeared that most diners were eating Chinese food either because they were Chinese or because they were tourists (yes, I'm generalizing).

We had adequate versions of char kway teow, roti canai, grilled chicken in pandan leaves and beef rendang. I'm sure purists would find nitpicking points galore, but it was about what I'd expected going in. It's wise to be wary of restaurants that offer two cuisines because it's likely one is going to suffer. I don't even know if there are any Malay-run Malaysian or Singaporean restaurants in NYC. It's a more Chinese-y kind of city, I think. 

My only complaint was the hovering service, which I realize sounds petty considering many consider Chinatown the epitome of brusqueness (I do not). Everyone watched us like a hawk, filled drinks too frequently and generally made me self-conscious. Two of the waitresses kept staring at my feet and I couldn't figure out why. I was too unnerved to snap photos, primarily because I was convinced that it would lead the host to think we were tourists who'd never seen Singaporean food and he'd come over and school us. Maybe I'm just an unfriendly crab but I'm a leave me alone kind of person.

Singapore Cafe * 69 Mott St., New York, NY

The Company I Keep

Though it’s doubtful, perhaps I’m maturing or getting taste, but the clothes are crap everywhere I look. Ok, I only looked at New York  & Company but even amidst their mediocrity I often find one or two reasonable items (seriously, no one believes that I’ve actually unearthed unhideous duds there). Not so, recently.

Midtownstrawberry_1  I think it’s the midtown dilemma. Something that would be $9.99 in the boroughs (or the rest of America) seems to stay at $39.99 at this location. This shiny, newish NY & Co. lacks the chain’s major calling card: the sloppy sale rack. No one shops at the former Lerner because they actually love the clothes. At any Brooklyn branch, the full-priced front displays are desolate with just a lone security guard milling around. The crowds are all crammed in the back where the marked down stuff is.

Not only was former stalwart NY & Co. a bust when I paid a visit last week, but my go-to cheap shoe store, Strawberry, a couple store fronts down, had been decimated, it was just a shell. Not that I mind having that lame excuse for a Strawberry put out of its misery. I only went twice since setting up shop in this part of midtown and both excursions were beyond fruitless. The stock was depleted and miserable, and now I know why. Boo to the east 50s—Bloomingdale’s is no substitute when I need a cheap and borderline tacky fix.

New York & Company * 715 Lexington Ave., New York, NY