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On a Roll

LostbraceletOh, this week’s Lost had a total gotcha moment. I wasn’t particularly fond of the plot focus on two undeveloped characters. Mysterious collapses, buried treasure, gasped last words…who cares. But I was holding my breath during the scene where the cheesy actress was offered the bread basket by her sugar daddy. “Here, try one of these homemade rolls” so translates to “will you marry me” in my mind. Damn, but it was a fancy bracelet, not an engagement ring. So close. Now they really need to work a food-based proposal into 24, which will be no small feat, considering the only character I’ve seen eat on that show this season was autistic.

Tidbits: Bauhaus and Mayonnaise

Mayo_cover1. Bauhaus in Starbucks is wrong. I could deal the other morning when my favorite New Order song “Age of Consent” was playing (it already got tainted in the Marie Antoinette trailer, anyway) but “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” is wrong anywhere, but particularly at 10am in the Financial District in a coffee chain.

In the mid-‘90s I found a bunch of old dubbed from vinyl cassettes, including a few Bauhaus ones. I tried playing them while driving and it was intolerable, like really nuts and dramatic. In a way, Destroyer is a contemporary non-Goth version of this super theatrical style, and I can listen to it (maybe not driving, though).

2. Remind me to not go to Pret a Manger again. I’ve only gone twice in the past month but I keep forgetting that the not terribly filling sandwiches ring in at $7 on the dot with tax and are overly mayonnaisey (I’m not the first to note this overabundance). I end up hungry in a few hours, grossed out even after wiping excess mayo off with a napkin and annoyed that I’ve used way more than my allotted afternoon calories. Sad. I could deal with the heavy handed condiment application if the price was even a dollar cheaper because they do have interesting flavors. But after looking up the nutritional info on my cranberry, walnut, mesclun and brie version, I almost crapped myself. I might as well have eaten a Wendy’s value menu cheeseburger and saved fat and money. Um, except I don’t think they have Wendy’s down here.

Bon Chon Chicken

1/2 Bon Chon is now Mad For Chicken. Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it? (5/15/09)

I have no idea how the Korean fried chicken craze of 2007 originated, but the New York Times article blew the genre wide open (I’ve really been liking some of the Times’s recent articles, sometimes I’m just bored. Last Wednesday’s suburban Latin supermarkets one was great. Huge, organized, well-stocked “ethnic” supermarkets are my raison d’etre and they’re too few and far between in the city. The article even made a point about having wider aisles for larger families [in number, not weight, natch] which ain’t happening here. Even the trying-to-be-mega Red Hook Fairway is cramped and illogical.)

Bon Chon is the type of place, along with Yakitori Totto, that I have every intention of visiting but never make it to because midtown is barely on my radar anymore and I need a catalyst. This time it was a friend’s birthday dinner, the venue chosen at the suggestion of her sister who’d become enamored with the chicken while working nearby.

Bon_chon_chickenThe peripherals don’t necessarily enhance the dining experience. The décor is industrial, blood bath chic, kind of like a cleaner more stylish version of the room from Saw. Music ranged from late ’80s Depeche Mode to a dance version of Dirty Dancing’s "Time of My Life. "

And well, the food itself takes more than its sweet time making its way to the table constructed from wood, glass and rusty gears. Flagging down a server was also tough. But that didn’t stop anyone from retrieving numerous pitchers of Killian Red (the only beer served in that rare less-than-urbane format) straight from the bar. The possible downside of that was that by the time the food started arriving, I was too tipsy to critically evaluate the poultry pieces.

More_bon_chon_chickenClearly, the chicken is cooked to order. But 30+ minutes seems a bit excessive. When we asked about breasts and whole drumsticks, our waiter looked at us like we were crazy, declaring “too busy.” That was fine. The extra skin to meat ratio on wings and drumettes is superior. The sensation is skin-centric with a papery crispness, more crackle than crunch. I enjoy thickly battered Southern-style fried chicken greatly, but this is a different beast.

Between a mix of hot wings and soy-garlic, the latter flavor was more popular. I’d agree by a margin, despite usually preferring spice over sweetness. The soy was just more welcoming where the hot required a pause between wings. I lost count, though I easily ate six. We ordered three $19.95 larges to split amongst seven eaters at our waiter’s suggestion and that was right on. Only two stray pieces were left on the plate, and even they were eventually devoured.

Bon_chon_rosemary_fries_2Accompaniments include a small bowl of cubed, pickled daikon and a heap of shredded lettuce with a thousand island type dressing. Sushi rolls, ramen and something for $12.95 called iced peach are also on the menu. The lone vegetarian in our party had to make a meal of edamame and rosemary wedge fries. We were accidentally given an extra order of these potatoes, for no reason.

Bon Chon isn’t cheap when you think about it, and definitely not fast food, but somehow that’s all clouded once you ascend to the nearly hidden second floor. There’s something about restaurants with no signs on the façade or ground level presence that change the rules. My sights have now been set on the Flushing location, Fort Lee’s Boom Boom and Jackson Heights’s Unidentified Flying Chicken.



Bon Chon Chicken * 314 Fifth Ave. second Fl., New York, NY

I Say Macaroon

Beary_berry_banana_split Maybe I’m just dumb (and kind of disinterested in Francophilia and Judaism) but I just now realized that macaroons and macarons two very different things and that the golden, haystacky blobs I’m familiar with are a Passover treat. I just thought they were plain ol' coconut cookies. Even Kraft knew, and they make freaking Teddy Graham banana splits.

In the past year or so I’d noticed food blog saturation with the French meringue cookies (the single item equivalent to Shake Shack and Ssam bar mania—two other icons I’ve avoided). There’s an entire Flickr group devoted to them and in a super cursory search, I immediately turned up 1, 2, 3, 4 posts all by Asian females, which confuses me even further. But I never noticed until this week that the coconut-less circles are spelled macaron, no double O. How did these two cookies both become so closely named? I guess edibles like Spanish and Mexican tortillas are even more wildly disparate with the exact name, and the two don’t give me problems.

MacaronsI’m fascinated by their unnatural colors (I’m sure I’ve mentioned how my mom used to food color mini A&W mugs of milk green so I would drink it) though I’m not understanding how all the rainbow brightness is reconciled with supposed Parisian élan. It seems rather gauche to me and I know from gauche. Regardless, Laudree looks like they know what they’re doing.

The taste? I have no idea but now I’m hell bent on getting my mitts on an emerald green macaron. Where can I get these downtown or in Brooklyn? It’s not likely I’ll make it up to Bouchon Bakery or Fauchon anytime soon.

Macaron photo by gnuf 

Silent H

1/2 Silent H? It’s a cute conceit and a welcome restaurant. But my first thought when I heard the name was the word pho and you totally use the H in that (though there’s no American consensus on how to pronounce the soup. I’d heard like foot without the T and far without the R but if you don’t say it like faux then half the time people have no idea what you’re talking about. There’s a fine line with native English speakers going overboard in the name of authenticity. I feel kind of retarded saying Chee-lay for Chile, so I don’t). It’s definitely not po.

Silent_h_spring_rollsI’ve never understood why Thai food so dominates gussied up parts of Brooklyn while Vietnamese has been relegated to ethnic status. That’s not the case in Manhattan. I would think that Vietnamese has broader appeal; it’s not spicy, it’s lighter than a lot of popular S.E. Asian food, relying on steaming and grilling (never mind the deep fried spring rolls—I’ve always been most fond of cha gio as far as the wrapped, stuffed and fried Asian canon goes).

We waited about 15 minutes around 9pm, not bad for a Saturday night in a small new restaurant. Within an hour the room was jammed up. Oddly, we were the only ones who’d brought beer (it’s BYOB for the time being). Apparently, Williamsburg is a wine-loving crowd. It did feel a little funny sitting at a bar, drinking your lugged in beverages.

Silent_h_beef_carpaccioThe décor is sparse, woody and muted–nice on the eyes but a bit stiff in execution. The older I get the more I notice comfort, not that I’m ready for a pair of Rockports but awkward seating seems more glaring lately. To be fair, I’m abnormally imbalanced and stools always traumatize me. But I’m tallish for a female and I had a hell of a time hopping up on my perch. It was like being up on a horse and I hate horseback riding. After being seated, I had a view of all the low-rise exposed asses, one with non-offensive floral underwear (not thong) sticking out, and one full bare butt flash with a good three inches of crack hanging out (you could practically fit a kielbasa banh mi in there). Another downside to stools, if you ask me. Amusingly, I just found a Flickr photo of the setup but they've featured guy asses, which tend to remain covered for some strange reason.

Silent_h_pork_chopWe were eventually given an end table for two, which was lucky because two-seaters bookend a four-seater that is impossible to get in our out of without making a huge production. One long bench lines the wall, while backless, stubby stools face the table. The distance between tables is NYC narrow, so even the world’s skinniest human can’t squeak by and pulling the table out barely helps matters. It made me nervous that they were seating two parties of two at one table for four Chinatown style. (I was very disturbed on my first visit to Chicago last month to see that they have side-by-side seating on their subways, like a movie theater. That’s totally insane to expect that during rush hour people are going to get up to let people off and on. And as human nature goes, when it was less crowded singles invariable sat on the aisle seat so it felt nearly confrontational to try and take the inner seat.)

Looks are one thing but practicality has to be taken into account with restaurant design. I really enjoyed the place, awkward seating was my one non-food beef. James’s was the price. I didn’t think they were outrageous but I could agree with his assessment that two bucks could be shaved off of most items and you’d feel better.

Silent_h_crepeOur beef carpaccio was skimpy for $9 (forgive my messed up camera setting–I'm still figuring out this camera). I thought $6 for three taro, pork and shrimp stuffed spring rolls was fair, though. The raw beef strips were very limey, maybe lemongrassy, and nicely spiced. Both appetizers were likeable enough but my pork chop over broken rice was amazing. Maybe I was hungry because initially it seemed like a lot of food, then I managed to eat the whole thing. I wasn’t expecting hardboiled egg and cucumber, that seemed very Malay in a good way. The complex tasting caramel sauce is what makes the dish. The amber liquid is essentially a shit load of sugar cooked down with garlic, fish sauce and lots of black pepper, and sums up all that’s rich, pungent and homey about Vietnamese food.

James had the crepe with chicken and shrimp, which nods more to the fresh, herby side of the cuisine. He was smarter because I was so full of beer and pork by the end of the meal that it took me a few hours before I could drink properly. That’s when gin and tonics seem to work magic.

Silent H * 79 Berry St., Brooklyn, NY

Real Azteca

1/2 I think “you order like a Mexican” is a compliment. At least in a Bronx tacqueria. I’m not sure how I’d feel about the same comment at an haute French stalwart (which are fading fast—I couldn’t immediately come up with a proper name to insert).

The Bronx is still uncharted territory for me (I didn’t even realize there were numerous bridges between the borough and upper Manhattan), and I’m fuzzy on neighborhoods, though I’m pretty sure this was my first foray into Hunts Point. My only knowledge of that pocket of the city is from that HBO special from a few years back. It’s not that sketchy, hookers weren’t roaming the streets and there’s even an ABC Carpet & Home outlet semi-nearby.

Though after that shopping anomaly, Conway is about as classy as it gets. (They don’t even have a web presence, they’re so budget-minded. I was amazed that on my grandma’s one and only NYC visit she managed to discover Conway all on her own. She’s like the physical embodiment of Conway.) Then it turns into the classics on Southern Boulevard. You know, your Jimmy Jazz, Pretty Girl and Radio Shack (which didn’t have a single answering machine—is this an extinct electronic?). I was enticed by a colorful Forever 21-esque shop called Disco 1, and I’m still not sure what to think about the two wood-planked, wild west looking stores that I’m fairly sure were called Jean Star.

Hunts Point isn’t hyper-Mexican. It appeared that Dominican and African-American influences were stronger. Real Azteca was the only place of its ilk that I spied. I’m not sure how I made the mistake but I’d confused this tiny, take out joint with Estrellita Poblana, a roomier affair. It worked out for the best, though because we had grill side seats. After taking a stool and surveying the scene it became apparent that quesadillas were the main attraction. We’d already ordered carnitas tacos and a torta, though.

Tacos use doubled-up packaged corn tortillas, but the quesadillas occupying nearly all the griddle space are pressed from fresh masa into thick disks and filled with items like huitalacoche or mushrooms and white cheese. I’m fairly certain they use shredded muenster cheese, which is non-traditional to say the least. 

As a nod to the mixed patronage, there are hamburgers, bagels and omelets on offer, and default taco toppings include cilantro, onions, lettuce and tomato. It was when I was asked if I wanted all four that I was given pause and nearly had to insist that I only needed the cilantro and onions, prompting the “you order like a Mexican” response. I was trying to do it right.

The plastic wall menu listed weekend specials of pancita, which I think is akin to menudo (but I’d already eaten homemade for breakfast) and birria, a goat stew I became acquainted with last month in Chicago. What seemed like a simple storefront bears further exploring. Admittedly, it could be some time before I make it back up there.

As happens more than you might expect, I felt too self-conscious to take photos, even though it was my first outing with my new camera. I did snap Latin fusion sushi pics later that evening and peking duck sushi a few days later. I didn’t write up Citrus because the mood didn’t strike or Empire Szechuan Village because it’s for a listing (a brand new side gig). Sorry tacos, here’s to random untraditional sushi.

Citris_sushi Empire_szechuan_village_peking_roll

Real Azteca * E 163rd St., Bronx, NY

Fourth Dimension

Cravies I’m a sucker for advergames (I just learned that jargon at work and thought I’d toss it around). In the early millennium I was sucked in by White Castle’s Craveology campaign (scroll to 9/25/00), which prompted me to collect nearly all 12 pseudo-zodiac plastic cups and I went as far as getting James a birthday ice cream cake adorned with a picture of Cravies, the fry-beared ram (which I thought I had a photo of but I guess this was pre-digital camera days).

Last night while watching 24 I became mesmerized by a new Taco Bell commercial touting the“fourth meal.” I thought I’d invented the concept, except I call it second dinner and try to reserve such decadence for food-centric vacations and rare occasions. I thought their previous blatant “I’m full!” approach was grotesquely gluttonous enough, but wow, inventing an extra eating event is over the top. I’m trying to put that “peeking under their little togas” ickiness from my mind, permanently.

Of course that didn’t stop me from immediately checking out the new URL and playing with the Combinator, a drink pairing game. I picked chalupa supreme, Mexican pizza and caramel apple empanada and was suggested The Flashlight, a combo of 33% Pepsi Wild Cherry, 34% Mountain Dew and 33% Tropicana Lemonade. Virtual soda sommeliers are awesome and I don’t even like soft drinks.


Not only am I still sussing out the Financial District lunch scene, I’m also figuring out office eating etiquette. Like do the women actually eat, do people take full hours, are these expense account steak folks or Subway buy one get one free coupon types (the latter, it turns out), are there brown baggers in the house, is desk eating ok or a gross out. Personally, I like getting something relatively cheap and eating at my desk so I can use the time to visit mindless internet sites. The major hindrance so far is that I don’t have a desk, which is getting peculiar since I’m going on week four as of today. I imagined the situation would’ve been rectified by now but since on any given day someone is working from home there is usually a random desk and computer available. There hasn’t been any sense of urgency.

Being a refugee, I feel weird about eating in near strangers’ workspaces. I try to leave during lunch and stay gone for an hour (so far I’ve discovered the weirdo fried chicken udon at a Korean deli and Bento Nouveau. At both places I just wanted plain hacked up chicken like my old favorite from midtown’s Yagura, yet was presented with broth filled with chunky chicken nuggets. I like fried food but you’re getting the calories with none of the crispness from the skin so it seems like a waste. I also think the $6.45 lunch special at Taste of Tokyo is great value but it’s take out only so it doesn’t solve my midday seating problem).

Last week I was careful because I was sharing a space with my supervisor and I suspected she was a particular person and possibly vegetarian. I’m good at gauging who’ll be sensitive to food smells (usually the skinnier the more stringent). But she was out one day and I was feeling abnormally hungry and wanted something more substantial than sushi, soup or salad, my three big S’s.

I decided to check out Alfanoose, a popular Middle Eastern (technically Syrian-Lebanese but I don't add more specific categories until I have at least two restaurants to tag and I'm not sure that I have other Syrian eateries–I'll have to check) place, not all that near the office. I never spend $9 for routine lunch and it’s been paining me to break the $5 barrier but it was my first payday so I went wild. And even soup breaks that budget, it seems.

I was more impressed than I thought I would be. I expected Alfanoose to be rattier (not literally rat-filled, though I don’t quite get all the recent vermin hullabaloo) and more of a take out joint but it’s slightly more welcoming. Good signs were in place, like a case with homemade desserts (I’m curious about what looked like butterscotch pudding with a rectangular cookie placed flat on top like a sinking raft) and snacks like spinach turnovers and kibbeh. If someone’s taking the time to bake and concoct, they must care about their offerings. I’ve never set foot in Pita Grill, closer to my office (there’s also one in my home neighborhood) but it doesn’t seem like they’d whip up goodies from scratch on a daily basis.

I get nervous about lunch time heavies with long lines and regulars because I’m impatient, myself, and don’t want to mess up the ordering flow with clueless questions. That’s why I’m a big scrutinizer of online menus pre-meal. Normally, I would opt for a sandwich, but since I was starving I couldn’t resist the platter, my nod to temperance was ordering falafel instead of meat (I’m not sure if fried chickpeas have any health advantage over grilled lamb).

That’s the easy part, then come the questions. Hummus, baba ganouj or tabouleh, then I was confused by a choice of three grains which you could see through the glass. I think there was a reddish tomato rice, a rice with lentils and couscous with lentils, I went for the latter. I always agree to “everything,” it’s easier. That includes sliced red onion as well as sweet carmelized onion shreds, tahini and hot sauce. People are very particular about the amounts of condiments, lots, less; I got into the spirit of things and asked for a few extra squirts. Oh, and there is a sprinkling of those beet-stained pickled turnips that I could eat a small plate of, plus regular pickle shreds too. You also get a large pita rolled and wrapped in foil that doesn’t manage to maintain heat. It’s a lot of food, practically a whole cup of hummus and too much starch which is way better than typical filler. The couscous and lentils were soft, chewy and cohesive. I never got bored like I tend to with pasta and grains and had to force myself to stop eating the entire serving.

This looks like crap because I'd been carrying the carton sideways for seven blocks.

I brought my bounty back to the office and attempted to furtively eat in peace but the aroma of my Alfanoose styrofoam platter elicited “what is thats” from numerous people and then prompted, “you picked a good day,” implying that that the person who’d normally be sitting ten feet from me wouldn’t be as tolerant of the scents. I’ve never been bothered by food smells but I’m also chronically stuffed up.

The only time I took issue with unwelcome odors was when I moved into my first NYC apartment that had been occupied by an Indian family of five. I always thought curry was a pleasant scent but after a month the madras powder situation (and severe roach and mouse problem) still hadn’t dissipated. And matters weren’t helped any by my using their left behind mattress for three years because I couldn’t afford a bed (they’d been using two on the floor for all of them so I figured I was better off in some inexplicable way). It was as if cumin, turmeric and grease had seeped into every surface, and I don’t know if it ever went away or if I just got used to it.

But enough about work (and soiled mattresses) I don’t want to ruffle any feathers if someone inexplicably decides to Google me (I do work in the research department). Next time, I’ll get a sandwich instead of the full on platter and go late enough in the afternoon to snag a seat at the restaurant. I should take advantage of my full hour anyway and stop being a desk eater. Computers probably contribute to brain rot anyway, that’s why I can’t write a concise, non-meandering critique.

Alfanoose * 8 Maiden Ln., New York, NY

Sunday Night Special: Menudo

Neither of my parents could’ve qualified as good cooks during the many years I lived with them. We probably ate breakfast for dinner twice a week and fried eggs, bacon, grated cheddar cheese and salsa wrapped in flour tortillas are the only thing I even recall my dad churning out. Breakfast burritos were about as Mexican as it got in my household, too. 

Well, Tex-Mex enchiladas, along with lasagna–another baked dish adept at feeding crowds–were my mom’s two company’s-coming-over standards. The one anomaly, which I’ll have to ask her about, was her taco technique. She would deep-fry corn tortillas when making tacos while all of my friends’ families used those crunchy shells from a box. I’ve since learned that the puffy oil-dipped style is Texan, a state no one on my maternal side has any ties to. I have no idea where she picked that up because she’s way more of an out of the box woman than an extra step type.

I’ve never been given a straight answer as to when either sides of my family came to America and where they even came from. The closest I could gather from my father was that his ancestors lived in Texas before it was a state. That’s kind of weird, like my relatives didn’t come from anywhere; they were just hanging out in America already. But I don’t see how that century-old-plus connection could’ve had any influence on my mom frying corn tortillas.

Menudo_menuditoEpisodes that only occurred a couple times in childhood often multiply in the mind years later. My dad likely bought a big can of Juanita’s menudo two or three times, though I remember it as a more regular purchase. I thought the crimson, lightly spiced soup crammed with monster-sized white pieces of corn was the coolest thing ever. It was much more exotic than Campbell’s bean with bacon, my favorite up until that point.

My father and I were the only ones who’d eat it. Tripe was alien and like nothing I’d encountered before. The fact that it was cow stomach didn’t bother me–I was never grossed out by things like giblets either and had no problem eating pet food on dares. My sister turned out the opposite and grew up into a vegan whom I think has loosened up and started eating cheese. Cheese is one animal product worth clinging to.

I liked anything different or underdoggy. When given a choice between blue and white Trax (Kmart’s house brand) or tan and sienna, I chose the dirt colored combo because they were uglier and not the Nikes I wanted in the first place. Eventually I grew to genuinely enjoy the contrary. Maybe a lot more kids had to wear Trax than I realized at the time since like it not, irony is such a trait of my generation. ‘80s kids are way more straightforward and jubilant (and could use a good spirit-crushing).

Menudo_ingredientsYou don’t see menudo in cans much here, or even freshly prepared on menus. It’s standard weekend fare on much of the west coast but NYC doesn’t necessarily follow the rules. Yesterday, I visited a tiny lunch counter in the Bronx, Real Azteca, and they had pancita, a tripe soup which I suspect is similar to menudo if not the same thing. I was just in the mood for tacos, though.

It had never occurred to me to try and cook my own menudo but it seemed like the perfect Sunday afternoon project. I know menudo is morning food but I rarely get out of bed before noon (and I didn’t even go out drinking on St. Patrick’s Day).

Finding a good recipe proved more difficult than I’d expected. For one, I don’t own a single Mexican cookbook, which is plain sad. In fact the only Latin American cookbooks I possess are a ‘60s Time Life Foods of the World volume and Havana Salsa and Daisy Cooks, which were freebies because I reviewed them for the New York Post. Not counting multi-cuisine (primarily S.E.) Asian cookbooks like Hot Sour Salty Sweet, New Wave Asian, The Occidental Tourist and the like (19 in all), I have 12 Malaysian, 7 Thai, 4 Singaporean, 2 Vietnamese and even 2 Filipino and I never ever cook Pinoy fare. This Mexican cookbook situation must be rectified pronto.

Menudo_extrasI turned to the internet but every recipe seemed slightly off to me. The Diana Kennedy one floating around had no call for liquid which had to be a misprint and contained no seasonings whatsoever, possibly because it was for white menudo. I didn’t want white. Others were too fancy and called for bay leaves and employed bouquet garni. Some put chopped green chiles in the broth and I don’t think anything but red and dried chiles belong. I’m so not a recipe writer, so I borrowed bits from all over as part of the learning process and would change a few things next time. I’m not saying what follows reflects any authenticity but it felt right.

Menudo (attempt #1)

2 pounds honeycomb tripe
1 calf’s foot, chopped into chunks
1 white onion, roughly sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced in half horizontally
1 ancho chile, toasted and ground
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 28-ounce can hominy
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

For garnish
chopped cilantro
chopped white onion
piquin chile powder
lime wedges

Place calf’s foot, garlic and onion in a large pot and sprinkle with salt. Top with tripe and salt a little more, then pour water to cover all the ingredients. Add peppercorns, thyme and ancho chile powder. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about two hours.

Strain out the ingredients. The garlic and onion can be tossed, any meat from the calf’s foot can be shredded and the tripe should be cut into one-inch pieces. Return the meat to the liquid. Add the hominy and oregano. Simmer for another two hours.

Skim off any foam or oil that has accumulated on the surface. Add salt to taste and serve garnished with chopped onion, cilantro and chile powder and lime wedges.

Serves 6-8

Adapted from here, here and here.


I’m still not 100% sure about the process. Next time I would cut the tripe before cooking it. There wasn’t any meat on my cow’s feet so there wasn’t anything to remove and add the pot. And I was confused by the onions and garlic. I’m assuming they had to be strained out because menudo doesn’t have chunks of aromatic vegetables floating in it.

Even after adding ancho chiles, thyme and oregano, which weren’t a part of the original recipe I was following, the broth tasted a little flat. It smelled and looked richer than it was. And my tripe was too tough (I didn’t cook it as long as I’ve indicated above). But after re-heating the pot full the next day the flavors had melded and the meat had softened up. This is a work in progress and I plan on revisiting tripe soup after I do a little more research.

Boiling Point

CoffeecatDespite how it might seem, I don’t generally enjoy complaining. And I wasn’t ever going to mention how the heinous Starbucks sort of across the street from my new office makes me want to spit and scream and I’m always overly polite to customer service workers (though tonight our super late pizza delivery from Nino’s induced mild irritation mixed with light empathy because apparently the delivery guy, kind of an Italo-Mongloid hybrid, had dropped the pizza on the way over. I’d have felt bad if he had fallen but I think he was just butterfingers with the box. He was apologetic and waiting another 45-minutes, his estimate for a replacement pie, seemed unreasonable. But the pizza was all smooshed on one side of the box, like half the pie had all the fillings and the other part was mangled and topless) but today was free coffee day from 10am-12pm so it seemed timely to vent(i) my concerns.

I wouldn’t normally go to Starbucks, not because it’s inherently evil but because I’m cheap. But my mom has gone on this kick where she sends $25 Starbucks cards for holidays and I have no problem redeeming them. Since college she’s often mailed a twenty dollar bill on such occasions, I don’t know when or why the Starbucks changeover took hold.

I actually liked the “secret Starbucks,” as they’d call it, hidden in the back lobby of the building next to Newscorp with no external signage. It was never crowded and sometimes they’d give me larger coffees than I’d ordered. But the new-to-me Beaver St. location is like the setting for an episode of Boiling Points. I’ve gone about a handful of times and every time except for once I have no received my coffee. I order the simplest thing on the menu: a tall black coffee. That’s it. All they have to do is turn around and pour it from a spout or tell another worker to pour it from a spout. Yet, I pay, move to the side (not the larger area where 98% of people are waiting for fancier complicated beverages) and my coffee never arrives. On my first visit it was a solid five minutes before I realized no one was ever going to get my coffee. Frothy, whipped cream topped behemoths are flying out the door, everyone in line after me leaves, and I’m still waiting for my fucking drip coffee. I paid already, so it’s not like I can leave.

Yesterday, I lost my shit after the four women in line behind me received their drinks while I was standing inches from the gentleman who’d taken my order. I was like, “um, I ordered a coffee before all of these people” and the counter guy as well as three workers who were literally just standing behind the counter doing nothing ignored me. The one other drip coffee lady who’d arrived well after me was less polite than I. She chided everyone in the way only a middle aged woman with nothing to lose can. I would've been scared if she hadn't been on my side. Free or not, I can’t allow myself to step foot in that caffeinated hell again.

Plain black coffee is all that I want so I would be fine with the coffee cart brew. The going rate for a large (and strangely called extra large one block down) around Wall Street is $1.15. I can deal with that despite hating to dig around for the 15 cents. But I was blessed by Au Bon Pain when the other day the cashier gave me one of those plastic commuter cups for no reason whatsoever (I used to frequent the 47th and 6th branch daily and never got such treatment) I always thought their $1.72 large was a rip off since the coffee isn’t really any better than street coffee but for $1.07 with the free cup, it’s the only bargain of my day and had induced irrational loyalty. And I’m not put off by their self-serve approach, at least I have control over how quickly I get my goods. Now if they’d only bring back their half price baked goods after 4pm deal, all would be right with the world.