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Allen & Delancey

Allen & Delancey was the site of a belated birthday dinner. Dining four days past the actual celebration was my only choice even with three-weeks lead time unless I wanted to eat at 6pm, which I didn’t. Not a big deal since Wednesday nights are preferable to Saturdays, anyway. Generally speaking, you don’t want your table two-inches from the types of crowds that descend on popular restaurants on weekends.

Allen_delancey_interior The cranky suburbanite in me hates being smooshed, and by the luck of the draw we ended up with a no-neighbors two-top. Sure, actually obtaining our reserved table required nursing an elderflower Prosecco cocktail, The Delancey, for a non-egregious spell. It’s strange that the room seems so empty in this photo taken around 10:30pm since the candlelit (the bane of my photo-snapping existence) urban-boho space (I refuse to say speakeasy) was at capacity when we showed up.

There’s something about the moody velvet-curtained frippery that gives off a decadent aura, yet the food is more straightforward and restrained compared to much of what’s currently in vogue. Uptown goes downtown, but not like LuAnn, The Countess from The Real Wives of New York City getting tipsy on margaritas at Little Giant and showing up with her 23-year-old hippie headbanded neice at Cakeshop. No, it’s substantive and doesn’t embarrass you.

Allen_delancey_bone_marrow_and_cavi Caramelized Bone Marrow, Caviar, Shallot Puree.

I mean, appetizers ranging into the $20s is certainly decadent. I tend to balk when my starter’s price is indistinguishable from my entrée. But I wanted the freaking bone marrow and caviar, $21 or not (hey, that Google adsense payout and all—I’m totally an internet tycoon).

And I’m glad I ordered it. Eating bone marrow loose rather than scooped from the bone is kind of like eating mussels freed from their shells, no work and kind of obscene. But the saline caviar mixed with the fatty meat essence was perfect with char-grilled toast. This dish managed to taste supremely beefy though you’d never guess it by looking at it.

I’m not sure if I’m just bread deprived or if the rolls were completely amazing (I took a horrible photo I can’t include). I’m sick to death of fibrous multigrain bread and Wasa crackers; sometimes you just want a warm, crusty, yeasty starch bomb slathered with 80 percent-plus butterfat butter. 

Some menu descriptions were more illustrative than others. I was curious about the starkly described Cabbage, Beef, Onion because you know it’s going to be cool (and I love corned beef and cabbage) but that’s the type of thing I wouldn’t take a chance on unless someone else was paying.

Allen_delancey_sea_troutTasmanian Sea Trout, almond cream, haricot vert, parma ham gastrique.

As often happens, I was intrigued by the sides so I opted for the trout even though I’m blasé on the fish. I don’t dislike fish in a ew, seafood way, but more of a ew, dull way. Fish tends to be too delicate for my liking,

However, this sea trout was awesome. pink and rich like salmon with a crackly exterior (crisp skin does it every time) The strange thing was that I’d forgotten that the menu said almonds and thought the sauce was creamed peanuts. Peanuts seemed very wrong but as soon as I adjusted my brain back to almonds it tasted correct. The vinegar in the beans helped cut the oil and nuttiness. I’ll admit that I didn’t notice the ham, though.

Allen_delancey_chocolate_peanut_butChocolate Peanut Butter Tart, Malted Milk Sorbet, Whiskey Vanilla Shake.

I wouldn’t have chosen the peanut butter and chocolate dessert (I wanted the carrot cake thing, which I’m sure wasn’t a simple square of cake with cream cheese frosting) but it wasn’t up to me since it wasn’t my birthday dinner and ordering my own just didn’t seem smart. I was surprised at all of the women with their own desserts (I thought ladies only ate cupcakes) and the same one we chose. I usually share or shun altogether, which has little to do with caloric corncerns or out of control blood sugar (my blood is sweet enough, thanks). I just don’t always feel like a chocolatey barrage after a substantial meal. But I was thankful for something warm, cocoa-laden and gooey that wasn’t a molten cake.

Allen & Delancey * 115 Allen St., New York, NY


Philippines Asks Fast Food Chains to Cut Rice Servings
Clearly, I have starch on the brain because when I saw that headline I immediately thought, yeah, because they eat shitloads of rice and it’s totally unhealthy. But no, the article isn’t about Filipinos’ ravenous appetites for rice, it’s all about rising food costs (which I still can’t muster interest in—I’ll get back to you when I’m subsisting on tap water and shriveled potatoes).
My teenage-era best friend, who was yes, Filipino, would complain that rice servings were never large enough. She’d frequently order seconds. I witnessed this exact thing at Ihawan on Easter Sunday.
The place was packed and we did a good deal of waiting before eventually getting shuttled into this weirdo back room with a threesome and a big party (that brought their own plastic jugs of Ocean Spray cranberry juice, which seemed like a strange thing to byob). Everyone gets a big generous blob of rice, at least one cup’s worth, but the threesome asked for refills before meal’s end. I conscientiously nibbled at a third of my scoop and survived just fine.

Twelve lumpias sounds like a lot, but they’re tiny things fried and filled with ground pork. The orange sauce is sweet and a little too gloppy but that’s the way it is. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a spring roll even if you know it will be merely adequate. I’ve always been partial to cha gio, but you can’t get pork cracklings at Vietnamese restaurants so there’s a trade off.
Ihawan is meaty---their slogan is “the best bbq in town”--so I knew better than to delve into any of the soupier classics like chicken adobo or even touch the pancit. Plus, you can find those practically anywhere in a two-block radius.
I don’t think you need me to tell you that this isn’t ribs and brisket barbecue. No mop sauces and spice rubs. It’s grilled meat, in this instance pork and chicken, that’s spent time soaking in sweet and garlicky liquid. The rice-crazed friend’s family used Dr. Pepper in their marinade. The end result is sticky, sugary, a little salty, and completely amazing with charred edges caramelized just so. It really kind of is made for rice.
You need the vinegary, pickled green papaya condiment, achara, to take the sweet edge off. But there are other things floating around in the little dish, too. I’ve always found the addition of raisins in Filipino food to be a fun Spanish appropriation that you just don’t see in the rest of Southeast Asia. The plumped dried grapes mix with shredded carrot and lots of minced garlic.
Lechon is a must always. I tend to order mine kawali, chopped up with good portions of meat, fat and crispy skin in each chunk. I’ve noticed on the blogs you see more pata, the whole foot, which is practically German and also a huge treat. Maybe I’m just dainty. Either way, it will slowly kill you.
The pork also calls for its own condiment, the simply named lechon sauce, which is savory, slightly tart and completely impossible to discern the individual ingredients from. I’m still surprised that the flavor comes from liver, vinegar and breadcrumbs. That’s ingenious.
Ok, at least one vegetable was in order. No one said it had to be a healthy vegetable. This is laing, which is akin to creamed spinach but uses taro leaves and coconut milk instead. A couple head-on shrimp get tossed in for good measure.
I’d read and saw ads for a new Ihawan branch in Long Island City that will serve sushi. This is bizarre, for one, because I don’t think of the slowly gentrifying barely-a-neighborhood demanding Filipino food (I honestly don’t think the average citizen has much knowledge about Pinoy cuisine, period) and two, sushi? But heck, if Lucky Mojo, also new in LIC, can serve Cajun, Tex-Mex, bbq and raw fish, why not Ihawan? Barbecue and sushi will be huge by mid-2008, or at least in a tiny sliver of western Queens. (3/23/08)
Read my much more concise review at

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You Say Stilcheechon, I Say Stilton


I was confounded by a cheese last month at Gramercy Tavern. When one of the servers brought out an end of meal cheese plate, he ran through the four offerings and introduced a blue with a name that sounded like “stilcheechon” and added, “it’s different from Stilton.”

First I thought salchichon, but clearly it wasn’t sausage, then I started mentally questioning his pronunciation (when I first moved to NYC I was convinced that culantro was a misspelling because I’d never heard of it). He did have a strong accent, which I actually appreciated (it’s nice seeing Latinos and South Asians working front of the house, especially in light of last year’s Boulud lawsuit) and he clearly knew what he was talking about so I was the clueless one.

Later, I tried Googling spelling variations (stilchichon, stiltchichon, stilcheechon) and came up short. But thanks to The Kitchn, my memory was refreshed yesterday. It’s Stichelton. Ok, so either the waiter did pronounce it a little funny or I transposed syllables in my brain, but at least the mystery is solved.

Sure, it ranks pretty low on the scale of life’s great mysteries (I’d rather discover Sasquatch or D.B. Cooper—keeping it NW for you) but sometimes cheese is all I have.

I Have Been Known to Drink 99-Cent Wine…


…though not in this decade.

Apparently times are tough. If you’re to believe all the belt-tightening, penny-pinching articles showing up lately, that is. I’m not feeling particularly pinched, or maybe things like the price of milk, white bread and gas have next to no obvious effect on my existence. In fact, I’m more financially stable than I’ve ever been in my life, which isn’t to say rich.

My timing has always been horrible. During boom times everyone I knew was doing well and I was destitute. Now, it seems like everyone is unemployed or sporadically employed by choice, oozing free time and mellowing out while I’m tied to a rigid schedule.

I don’t often have moments where I’m like, “hey, that was my idea” mostly because I don’t have that many ideas. I’m horrible with ideas, that’s why I could never survive as a freelance writer, I find pitching extremely painful.

But yesterday I couldn’t ignore mentions of The 99¢ Only Stores Cookbook everywhere (ok, just on Chow and NPR) It made me sick and panicky, er, then I noticed it was blurbed by Jack Black and felt a little better. I’ve had an obsession with 99-cent store food for years. Ages ago when I took a horrible, miserable food writing class, I kept pounding away on this piece about 99-cent store food but it seemed lame, there wasn’t much of a hook and it just didn’t seem relevant to a larger audience (like much of what I have to say).

So, one woman ran with the idea of 99-cent store food and got a book deal. Fine. Then today in the New York Times it’s 99-cent food all over again, “How to Survive in New York on 99 Cents” written by an “investigative humorist” and maybe I missed it but they don’t seem to even reference the book, like it was a spontaneous, simultaneous genius idea.

I have no idea why I would feel defeated and incensed by a book and article about 99-cent store food appearing at the same time, it’s a gimmicky flash in the pan conceit, and one that I never even perused with anything resembling a vengeance.

I wonder if The 99 Cent Chef feels left out.

Pretty bottles photo from Ghetto Wines

Huckleberry Bar

After years on hiatus, the joint birthday celebration was re-established. James the boyfriend and Jane the friend are both March 22ers (so was my sister’s ex-husband, which has nothing to do with anything). Since the date fell on a Saturday this year, there was no shoving it under the rug. Newish Huckleberry Bar seemed appropriately classy and we early-birded it at 5pm, mostly to take over the seating in the back before prime time but also out of senior citizen spirit.

For obvious reasons, birthdays have a way of bringing out aging insecurities and fixations. I always thought things like lying about your age and plastic surgery were bougie crutches. But I’m seeing the folly of youth, you can’t say what will happen until it does (I’m seriously down on medical procedures, though).

Jessica mentioned setting her age to 31 on Nerve, hardly young enough to raise suspicion. I totally understand how there’s a psychological dating threshold with men; once you hit 34 you become repellent no matter how great you look. Then James, who’s never shown any concern about these girly matters, agreed that shaving off five years sounded wise. From now on he’s claming to be 33. I haven’t decided if I’ll feign 31 come July.

Guests of honor


Specialty cocktails were the first order of business (the second and third was two-for-one happy hour red wine. I may be old but I’m still not at a point in life where I’m willy-nilly with the $10+ beverages). I was sold on the Montresor containing Maker’s Mark, Lustau Amontillado Sherry and a splash of orange juice. Does that make it kind of Spanish? The emphasis was on the sherry, very forward and kind of nutty.


Not my drinks. Article 57 (citrus infused vodka, ginger juice and Q Tonic—I had to look that one up, it’s one of those fancy tonic waters that seemed to storm the scene last year) and the Tina Modotti (Herradura silver tequila, Del Maguey mezcal, spiced pear syrup and chili salt).

Then came the food. We ordered a little bit of everything to share but about fifteen guests had amassed by this point so I snapped quickly and sampled sparingly. I think I had a taste of everything except the sandwiches because individuals ordered those and I’m off bread at the moment.


Boiled peanuts were a gratis snack. I guess the mushiness in an acquired taste. I’m not opposed to them because I generally hate the dull dryness of peanuts.

Gin-pickled beet salad with Stilton and pecans


I could’ve eaten the whole cheese plate myself but that wouldn’t be polite. I’m positive that Humboldt Fog is in the center and that the upper left is Shropshire Blue. I’m not entirely sure which ones are Petit Frere, La Serena and Beemster Classic, but I should find out because I loved the semi-soft one in the bottom left corner. I want to say that it was nutty but I already used that word once in this post. It really was nutty, though, like a creamier gruyere.


I didn’t try all of these so I can’t say much about the charcuterie except for what’s on display: Baby Jesus (I did not previously know that was a Lyonnais sausage but I’d just seen it a few hours earlier at Stinky Brklyn so it stuck in my head), Bresaola, prosciutto Biellese, pancetta and cacciatorini.


I would never order hardboiled eggs but I must admit they were incredibly tasty drinking food. I preferred the mayonnaise spiked with grainy mustard. We also had two with hot sauce and another duo with a mystery pickle that was kind of like sauerkraut.

Candied pecans, simple and sweet


I consciously avoid people photos (posting, not so much taking them) because it’s too MySpacey self-indulgent (as if blogging about yourself isn’t) for my taste. I don’t have anything to prove and fun still happens even if it isn’t documented in pictures. But I must include this shot because I accidentally captured the interloper in the corner.

Ok, and I’ll include a picture of myself because I rarely do.

This bald, turtlenecked gentleman set up shop at the couches across from us, pulled out a notebook and periodically stared without expression for what felt like hours. I was convinced he was bitter, seething and plotting our demises (or maybe I was projecting because I hate being out and about when an obnoxious party takes over, but he chose to sit nearby in a half-empty room). Eventually, he got squeezed out and no one got hurt.

We eventually dispersed, ourselves. The problem with early-birding is that if you don’t turn in early enough, it translates into a surprisingly long night of drinking. I certainly felt elderly on Easter Sunday. Even though I called it quits by 2am (and ended up at a Kennedy Fried Chicken) it was still nine hours of non-stop imbibing. The Montresor, a couple glasses of red wine, a few Manhattans, then onto gin and tonics at Bushwick Country Club a few doors down. Never mind the irony of the bar’s name, it’s not even in Bushwick.

But they do have cheap drinks and a photo booth. Despite what I just said about hating people photos, I do have a soft spot for these self-serve machines. In my intoxication, I became hell bent on celebrating rat-ness with my fellow born-in-1972s. But no matter how hard we tried, it was impossible to squeeze three heads prettily into the frame.


Huckleberry Bar * 588 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY

For Just 5 Cents a Day…


Do you know how long it takes to earn $100 (the minimum amount they’ll cut you a check for) through Google ads? If you’re me: 18 months. Today I finally became rich. I would’ve just gotten rid of the damn ads but it was an experiment. A long, drawn out experiment, for sure.

I could just take them down now and declare the test an unsuccess, but I’m kind of looking forward to that next $100 check…in October 2009.

Screw You, Too

Some time ago, during a hellish meal at Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon (service was some of the most sophomoric, assholiest I’ve encountered, which isn’t entirely unusual with restaurants foodies love) James found a screw in his pork chop. At the time we speculated about how it would be reported in a New York Post headline and imagined it would involve the staff having a screw loose.

Well, we finally got our answer thanks to a disgruntled bacon cheeseburger eater in the Bronx: “Wendy’s Got a Screw Loose: Suit


1/2  Hibino and Bocca Lupo always get lumped together in my mind. They both kind of popped up out of nowhere, glowing behind lots of windows on quiet Henry Street corners. Now, I’ve forgotten what previously filled those spaces.

I live on Henry Street so you might think I’d be excited by these options, but I never give them a second thought because I reside along that last little bit of Carroll Gardens that’s still on the east side of the BQE entrance.

I have been to Bocca Lupo twice now (once last month, but in a fit of reserve I didn’t write it up). Hibino, and Japanese food in general, is almost always charming yet it’s never what I’m craving. Subtle is a difficult concept for me.

It wasn’t until this weekend after watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (I was most struck by how attractive [in a natural way—not my usual taste—again with the subtle] all of the actresses were and yet not one was under 35. There’s no way they’d make the movie here without throwing in at least one young starlet to play baby mama, mistress, nurse, speech therapist or eye-blink transcriber) at Brooklyn Heights Cinema, my favorite never-full movie venue, that I gave in to Hibino.

There was no way I was eating in the immediate neighborhood. I don’t think I’ve ever dined in Brooklyn Heights, unless you count the north side of Atlantic Avenue and include Chip Shop or Waterfront Ale House, which technically fall into that zone. One block south of Atlantic is safe, though, and there’s friendly Hibino.


I felt I’d be remiss if I didn’t try any tofu since it’s made in house. I can’t speak to the wonderfulness or miserableness of their bean curd because I just can’t tell. Well, obviously it didn’t suck. I was impressed with the barely (in the past year I’ve noticed so many abuses of the bear/bare homonym—one during a subtitled trailer for The Band’s Visit before the Diving Bell and the Butterfly—that I’ve started questioning my sanity. But I do know there’s no way that a crust can be bearly there) there lightness of the coating. You could hardly even call it tempura.

But the squares were surrounded by dashi, once again presenting me with the tempura in soup conundrum: why it’s agreeable to put crispy into wet. If you don’t immediately dig in, there’s trouble; the coating flakes off, sinks into the liquid and turns to fluffy mush. I don’t see how it couldn’t. And this seemed like a high quality preparation. Three shishito peppers and a few shiitake mushroom caps also sat in the bowl lending spice and texture.


Mayonnaise, even sweetened Japanese style, has always been a creepy condiment but I can deal with drizzles on onomiyaki. It’s not the flavor that’s offensive because if you close your eyes and nibbled everything would blend, crispy with creamy, hot and cold. This pancake with octopus, cabbage and other bits, was a little thicker than I’m accustomed to. And I’m not convinced that the center was fully set. This was a dangerous move for someone who’s supposed to be avoiding starch, but I couldn’t help myself.


I did eschew all the meaty entrees over rice and sushi for unadulterated fish slices. Octopus never tastes like much even though it looks interesting (I first discovered this at an early-‘80s luau thrown by Hawaiian church friends of my parents. Church friends were always meh, but I did relish trying the “gross” stuff like octopus legs covered in tentacles and poi. I also used to be known for eating pet food for shock value. In fact, I lived up to this when my sister was recently in town and she scrounged up a dog pepperoni stick from her coat pocket and dared me to eat it. Of course I took a bite. It was foul, bitter and waxy, nothing like the surprisingly benign Milk Bones I used to chomp for shits and giggles).

I like fat and oil so the mackerel (Spanish and non) and tuna were my favorites. And the dramatic yet practical on-ice presentation somehow made everything taste better.


Here’s the sushi plate, traditional, not “new style.”

Hibino * 333 Henry St., Brooklyn, NY

Sunday Night Special: Carnitas & Refried Beans


I haven’t cooked anything even vaguely worth documenting lately (there is a Christmas present country ham begging to be prepped for Easter—I’m just not sure what all of the fixings should entail because biscuits seem obvious yet I’m trying to avoid bread, but would one…or ok, two biscuits really hurt?) because I hadn’t felt up to snuff since mid-February. But now I’m back in the kitchen.

I forgot how amazing Mexican food is from scratch (or otherwise) because I tend to put all of my energy into re-creating Chinese and Malaysian dishes, rarely Latin American food. (I think I got seriously burnt out on every land mass south of the border when I was doing ten reviews a month for early last year)

Every step of the process produced something fragrant and appetizing: the blanched, pureed tomatillos, as well as the pork fat that the carnitas created and the spoonfuls I added to the beans. Or maybe I’m the only one enchanted by the meaty smell of pork fat. (Every now and then I take the R to work [it’s a convoluted commute I only do when I’m lazy] and it puts me out at the Whitehall station next to Chipotle, a chain I never visit because I can’t stomach  1,000+ calorie burritos. They must stew carnitas because the corner smells like a roasting pig. It’s way more invigorating than the scent of coffee first thing in the morning.) In a perfect world the tortillas would’ve been fresh of the comal, not stiff grocery store circles, but I’m only capable of so much.


We have legumes in abundance, thanks to a Rancho Gordo sampler than never got given at Christmas. Some of the heirloom beans are esoteric but pintos are easy to deal with. I wanted them refried, which involved a two-step process from Rick Bayless’s, “Authentic Mexican.” (I just discovered that his recipes are easy to find on the web, but you miss all of the notes that way.) First you soak, then you make them soupy, afterward, you mash and cook with fat, oil or whatever. I used a higher proportion of beans to lard so I wouldn’t exactly call them fried, more like sautéed. A crumble of queso anejo on top of the brown mush gilds the lily. I omitted the cheese, though.


The carnitas recipe I chose wasn’t exactly traditional. Brandy? We did have a bottle of Courvoisier sitting downstairs for some unknown reason. You wouldn’t think so but carnitas are kind of like rendang, an unusual cooking style in that you slowly boil in liquid and aromatics first, then brown as the meat dries out. I used a combo of tangerine and mandarin orange juice because I had both of the diminutive citrus fruits wasting away in the refrigerator. Orange is more standard. Restaurants probably use pork shoulder, though a lot of recipes for home cooks recommend country style ribs. Either works; the ribs are just a little more manageable.


I didn’t have the energy for a salsa and a guacamole but was wanting avocado, so I made a tomatillo blend, guacamole picado, also from Rick Bayless. It’s spicy but you can eat big spoonfuls because the mashed avocado tones down the heat. A few dashes of Cholula sauce rounded out the meal.

Quiznos and Rachael Ray Have a lot to Answer For

1. Teen suspended for selling fancy sammies.

Don’t tell me those Park Slope panini kids are at it again.

If the youngster in question actually used the word sammies, he (I feel like it’s a he) got off easy with a mere suspension. I would hope that Saturday school was also involved somehow, but then that would just lead to poignant Breakfast Club moments and the opportunity to share fancy sammies with his newfound acquaintances that turned out to have more in common with him than he ever realized.

Uh, if the searcher used normal people words like sandwiches, they would've found the real story. Yes, it was a he, and the precious hand held meals involved mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, olive tapenade, zucchini, Provolone cheese and pesto (not all in one sammie). Maybe if you time traveled to 1990 that would be "fancy," though I do understand that's quite a step up from Hot Pockets and Bagel Bites.