Skip to content

Archive for


I tend to think people who have a hard time navigating Brooklyn, or rather flat out refuse to visit Brooklyn, are on the retarded side. But maybe I should lighten up because I’m clueless about the nuances of navigating anything uptown. On my way to my birthday dinner, I managed to end up at 125th Street when I only meant to go to 81st.

Normally, this wouldn’t be the biggest deal– how many times do you arrive on the dot for a reservation only to be made to wait at the bar–but it turns out that Dovetail is persnickety about punctuality. It was just frustrating because I’m always on time, if not on the early side.

Well, my sweaty and late arrival at 7:15 (by my watch—7:20 according to James) was tardy enough that our 7pm table was given away to walk-ins. Fine, do Friday evening business as you must. However, what was kind of offputting according to James was that the hostess (who oddly dressed like a woman in her 40s but was probably two decades younger) apparently gave him the once over, then asked in so many words if his date was really going to show up. Like it’s been 15 minutes, are you sure that don’t want to just give up this waiting charade? I don’t know that that’s the best way to start off a customer’s dining experience.

So, I was initially soured a bit. I try to separate service from food but when you’re spending hundreds of dollars the two are kind of inextricable. You start thinking in more critical terms. I will say that the servers were professional and gracious, though we both got paranoid when a besuited gentleman we hadn’t seen all night, likely a manager, came over towards the end of the meal to check on us and took our dessert order. We became convinced that we were being watched, bugged and/or expedited for taking too long at the table.

Dovetail amuses

Amuses: a mini taco-like crepe, turnip, and salmon with crème fraiche.

Dovetail lamb's tongue

I was excited about the deconstructed muffaleta and wasn’t disappointed. I would never think to batter and pan-fry a lamb’s tongue and serve it with ham, salami and provolone, thinly sliced olive ovals and a capery mayonnaise. But I’m glad that someone else thought of this creation.

Compare the striated meat and cheese cross section of a classic muffaletta to Dovetail’s more refined roulade of layers that they call presse.

Dovetail baby pig 

I’m not certain what cut of pork this is. The chop contained nice amounts of fat and char, and there’s a crispy strip tucked behind. I wasn’t imagining the chickpeas and fennel united in a chunky Indian-spiced puree, or the peaches at all. The meat was so good, though, that I didn’t ponder the slightly unharmonious side components.

Dovetail brioche bread pudding

I recently discovered that my birthday falls on National Hot Fudge Sundae day. I do love a sundae but that’s the type of dessert you can only ever find (at least in a straightforward fashion) at chain restaurants or Luger (no, you’re not going to catch me saying Luger’s). Instead, I shared a super buttery brown sugared bread pudding. It was the bacon brittle and rum ice cream that sold me.

Dovetail sweets

Curry marshmallows and fudgey squares were our parting treats.

Clearly, I’m more provincial than I’d care to admit. I like to imagine that I’m intrepid but in the future I’ll probably limit special occasion dining to restaurants that are less than an hour away by subway. But I wouldn’t hesitate recommending Dovetail to anyone residing on the Upper West Side or vicinity.

Dovetail * 103 W. 77th St., New York, NY

This Takes the Cake

Foot_cake As long as I live I’ll never understand the formula that creates an instant blog hit. I know enough that deceptive simplicity with a singular focus is key (and that I’m all about murkiness and scattered thinking).

The latest blog in funny and to-the-point category is Cake Wrecks, one that I’ve noticed quite a few food blogs linking to over the past week or so.

I immediately thought of my friend Jane who has baked some wonderfully grotesque cakes in her day.

And apparently, this sweet-centric blog has thought of her too. My attention was just drawn to a post about an edible Chinese bound foot beauty of hers that’s provoked a stupendous amount of grossed-out comments, a few bizarrely P.C.

Who knew freakish baked goods could stimulate so much online conversation?

Feliz Cumpleaños

36 Ah, it’s the one time of year where I willingly post a photo of myself. I don’t know when I decided that it would be a good idea every July 25th (yes, I know it’s the 27th now) but it’s a not-terribly-useful habit I’ve stuck with. So, this is 36. It could be worse.

Friday, I had a birthday dinner at Dovetail, which was odd because I never eat (or do anything) on the Upper West Side. The food was likable, service was a little strange. More on that later.

Last night I had a low-key party with a Spanish-ish food theme. As to be expected, I drank too much (it’s all I can do to get these words out in a semi-coherent fashion). What I didn’t anticipate was receiving a copy of Sing Blue Silver, which I foisted on my captive audience.

Now that I’ve come to terms with my aged status, I can openly reminisce about the big deal it was when this Duran Duran documentary aired on MTV a full 24 years ago. I recall having to use the timer on the VCR and being scared to death that it wouldn’t record properly. DVR had changed my life.

I also received a soda siphon, the two liqueurs I’ve been meaning to track down: crème de violette and maraschino, a Sephora gift certificate, Vosges bacon chocolate bar, plastic Japanese food containers with anthropomorphic characters, a few bottles of wine including a Riesling in a crazy pink cat shaped bottle, a Spanish grammar book (from my Spanish teacher, duh) and a few more items.

Back to the food. The more I looked at last month’s alfresco feature in Gourmet (this month’s has totally upped the ante, by the way) the more I realized how good the recipes sounded. I’m not a hater, so I borrowed two dishes. I must point out that they were consumed completely indoors.

I couldn’t bear to also use the white sangria recipe included with this set menu and opted for a Thai basil infused sangria from Food & Wine that ended up having zero basil flavor.

Manchego and olives

Manchego with almonds and green olives

Cauliflower red pepper salad

Roasted red peppers and cauliflower with caper vinaigrette


While still not a greenmarket convert, I will concede that you need quality tomatoes if you’re going to make gazpacho. I wasn’t thrilled about spending $35 on the summery ingredient, but it had to be done. I did have to nix serving Serrano ham to keep within a reasonable budget. I didn't expect the color to be so orange. I did throw in a few yellow and green-striped tomatoes, which could've toned down the more typical ruddiness. Update: hmm…I brought leftovers for lunch and just noticed a strange bitter undercurrent, likely from too old garlic. I didn't taste much of the soup on Saturday so I didn't catch it, and it's not like there would've been anything I could've done about it anyway. It's a shame, though.


Boquerones are as easy as buying them and placing the vinegary fillets on a plate. I was actually surprised that these disappeared so quickly because people are generally anti-anchovy.

Chorizo cooked in cider

I braised chorizo in hard cider with a bay leaf based on a recipe from The New Spanish Table. This was also insanely simple.

Spanish cheeses

Murcia, mahon and cabrales were served with membrillo and fig-almond cake.

There was also an Oreo ice cream cake from Baskin Robins (I didn’t grow up with Carvel so Cookipuss and Fudgy the Whale mean nothing to me) that I neglected to take a photo of.

That’s Amore

Breaking news: diners’ favorite dish at Macaroni Grill is pasta.

Also, Italy is the most popular fantasy vacation destination for Americans. I never would’ve guessed.

And this is my dream kitchen.

Tuscan fantasy

Would someone please explain America’s fascination with all things Tuscan? I feel like there is some obvious pop culture influence that I’m naively unaware of just like when I read that someone named Nate Berkus is the most trusted celebrity among US adults. Seriously, who the fuck is Nate Berkus? Oprah’s interior designer, it turns out. Does everyone know this?

Mario Batali came it at number three, so maybe there’s a bizarre connection between Italianism and trustworthiness that translates to kitchen design.

It Doesn’t Get Juicier Than This

Juicers Strange that those “mandarin juicers” (get it?) from Alessi are just now causing a commotion, and at Pinkberry, no less. My sister sent me a blue one for my birthday at least five years ago and I never gave it a second thought.

But then, I’m not attuned to cartoony racial stereotypes. I had no idea that Speedy Gonzalez had been retired to the permanent archives either.

Personally, I’m more offended by the inexplicable glut of frozen yogurt shops in the city. I haven’t touched a dollop of the pseudo-dessert since the ‘80s TCBY craze and don't plan on starting now.


1/2 Do you think people are swayed by businesses with the same name as their own? I would because I'm a cornball, but the only establishment I'm aware of that falls into this category is the Krista Hotel I recently saw in Buenos Aires.

I didn't choose new restaurant James simply because I was dining with someone named James, though it's possible that I was lightly influenced. Really, I was thinking of not terribly far away Brooklyn neighborhoods I rarely dine in like Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Ditmas Park. I'm just not sold on South Brooklyn as neighborhood even after four years here so I'm testing the waters through restaurants.

James is pleasant in that handsome dark wood, painted white brick and pressed tin ceilings punctuated by hanging filament bulbs style that's been au courant for a few years. Nearby Flatbush Farm isn't a wildly different animal. The area can definitely sustain two seasonal restaurants with prominent bars, though.

Sure, there are small plates…and proper entrees too (mostly above $20, for what it's worth). I'm all for a normal dinner-sized portion but something about the wilting humidity combined with offerings that just sounded ok, not amazing (I can't define an amazing sounding entrée but I know it when I see it, and I will concede that James the dining companion's lamb with big fat white beans looked good) prompted me to order the burger. I never order the burger.

James cheeseburger

The grass-fed beef was juicy and flavorful, perfectly medium-rare. Topped with sharp Cotswold cheddar and served on toasted brioche, this was a more elegant burger specimen. My only complaint is that the patty was a little stubby and tall, and not wide enough to fill up all of the bun. I cut the sandwich in half and this caused the patty to bunch up at the flat cut edges, so that when you tried to grip the half-circle the meat kept sliding out. I don't think it's overly fussy to want your patty to stay put.

James grilled prawns with sunchoke puree

I envisioned a cocktail with our shared starter of prawns with a lemony sunchoke puree and a glass of Syrah with the burger but they brought out all of our food at the same time, which is a pet peeve I didn't realize I had. Maybe I'm fussier than I thought. It doesn't just throw off the balance of a meal and lets food get cold, it's physically tough at a two-top. It certainly wasn't the end of the world.

James ginger fizz

The ginger fizz with rhizome-infused vodka and mint was refreshing. I've always preferred ginger in beverages than in food where sometimes it's jarring. I would've passed on dessert but if one is ordered and put in front of me I can't not take a few bites.

James ricotta beignets with raspberry red wine coulis

Described as ricotta beignets, the blobs were more like coconut-crusted fritters. Fried, sweet and cheesey is a hard combo to resist. A raspberry-red wine coulis tarted them up.

James is a perfectly likable restaurant, but with so many worthy spots competing for attention in the city I wouldn't feel compelled to return in the immediate future. But it's definitely worth stopping in if you happen to be in Prospect Heights, maybe for a cocktail and a few small dishes.

James * 605 Carlton Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Why So Possessive of That S?

I’m not even close to a grammarian, mostly because my grammar sucks and I make up rules as I go along. I can't properly use commas for shit and for absolutely no reason whatsoever I’ve been doing the s’s (Thomas’s muffin) for years and then yesterday decided to stop.

With that said, the white trash S, adding an S or an apostrophe S typically to a proper noun a la Barnes & Nobles, makes me violent. I’ll admit that sometimes I catch myself starting to say things like Nordstroms and sometimes it slips out, but I can’t allow it in print.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen steakhouse, Peter Luger, written as Luger’s (not being used as a possessive). I noticed it on TV this weekend and I just spied it on a blog seconds ago. It's so commonplace that I'm staring to wonder if I'm in the wrong and even more grammatically misguided than I originally thought.

Closer to home, I’ve even seen this site referred to as Goodie’s First. Frankly, I can let that one slide because a mention is a mention and I take what I can get.

Cafe Hon

I've never quite understood why lampooning certain white folk stereotypes like rednecks, hillbillies, guidos, WASPs and I guess hipsters  is considered fair game for anyone but poking fun of other ethnicities or religions is off limits. Really, I think everyone should be made fun, but that's neither here nor there.

I wasn't sure what to make of the whole "hon" phenomena in Baltimore (and apparently, a backlash is growing, so I'm not alone in my feelings). There's a fine line between homage and parody, and I realize the reverence for a gum chomping, cat-eye glass wearing, big-haired, working class archetype that's fading from the city's fabric is a harmless form of kitsch gone mainstream.

But it's strange. I couldn't imagine a New York version. The best example I can come up with would be if a younger, wealthier more educated demographic moved into, say, Bay Ridge (Staten Island might be more fitting after this incident) and started a guido movement complete with festivals where guys showed up with orange tans, waxed eyebrows, hair gelled into impossible spikes, gold chains, smooth muscled skin encased in form fitting tank tops.

And then someone opened a place called Café Guido and decked it out with lots of marble, Greek columns and lion statues. Actually, that would be kind of funny. But I don't know if would fly because guidos are steroidal and aggro. And you know, buildings have been known to mysteriously burn down.

So no, I don't think Café Hon is offensive, I just like tangents about strange snowballs of appropriated culture. And don't think that the clientele is mostly youngsters (though here, and nearly everywhere I went had at least one large group of Asians. I came to the conclusion that they must be Johns Hopkins students because the girls looked nerdy studious not quirky cutesy like the ones white dudes in Brooklyn like to date). When I was there for brunch, there were plenty of cranky old people. One gentleman with an oxygen tank couldn't get over the fact that there were no hot dogs or hamburgers on the brunch menu. He'd have to wait until 4pm for the burger on the dinner menu and hot dogs weren't going to happen at any hour.

Cafe hon omelet

The food is fine, nothing special. I had an omelet with bacon potatoes and sausage. I don't think my toast was buttered, and that didn't seem right.

Cafe hon grits and eggs

James had something with grits and a biscuit.

Red men's hall

I have no idea what goes on at the Red Men's Hall around the corner from the café, but it certainly seems like a relic of "hon" culture.

Cafe Hon * 1002 W. 36th St., Baltimore, MD

Henninger’s Tavern

1/2 I wanted to eat one “nice” meal in Baltimore. But defining nice isn’t easy. To me, nice is…well, if I had to use adjectives: upscale, modern and I guess intimate, though that sounds gross. Baltimore doesn’t have an Allen & Delancey or a Momofuku Ko (I’d have taken Ssam). And I guess this is why NYC is more unique than I give it credit for. It’s hard to complain about our dining options.

It appears that in Baltimore the more expensive restaurants are either a stodgy place you’d take a parent or have a business lunch or flashy and clubby likely serving mediocre tapas or pan-Asian food.

Woodberry Kitchen had potential but felt a bit precious and too locavore for my tastes. In my own version of eating local, I decided it would be best to choose a restaurant that could only be in Baltimore with an atmosphere unique to the city.

Henninger's interior

Henninger’s Tavern fit the profile perfectly. You enter through the bar; the narrow train car-esque dining room is off to the left. The walls are crammed with ephemera, pink elephant mobiles hang from the ceiling. If the word wasn’t so overused, I’d almost say it felt like a speakeasy, though one that organically evolved rather than born of strategic design. Not some Taavo Somer production but a gussied up chophouse with a sense of humor. The only place I can compare it to in NYC might be the rebounding Marion’s.

Henninger's oysters 

The food is a little fancy, not wildly creative, but solid. Still kind of full of pit beef from a late lunch, I probably didn’t need an appetizer at all. I still split an order of fried oysters just because I wanted them. And the breaded orbs sauced with a pernod-spiked cream dotted with fennel seeds certainly weren’t light.

Henninger's fisherman's stew

Fisherman’s stew was similar to a Portuguese caldeirada de peixe, except that there wasn’t any fish in it. There was a mound of shrimp, clams, mussels and octopus atop a substantial fried crouton that absorbed the sauce and turned into a soft edible bread sponge.

Henninger's peanut butter pie

We finished with a slice of peanut butter pie because I like my desserts sweet, fatty and American. It was 4th of July weekend. 

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that they drink more in Baltimore than in NYC. To be more accurate, I was compelled to drink more in Baltimore than in NYC. In both bars and restaurants, servers are quick to bring drinks and eager to bring you more, there’s a palpable sense of disappointment when you say that you’re good. The atmosphere lends itself to drunkenness, kind of like Portland. I still can’t determine if my current wholly reasonable level of alcohol intake is because I’m no longer in my 20s or because I’m no longer in Portland.

After a pre-dinner whiskey sour at Henninger’s and two glasses of pinot noir with my meal, we moved onto the bar at the top of the Belvedere Hotel, which apparently has a salsa night on Saturdays. Strange because Baltimore didn’t strike me as a Latino hotbed (though we did drive through a strip of tacquerias and Mexican bodegas). A good portion of the crowd was made up of youngish white urban professionals but there were also middle aged Puerto Rican couples so what do I know. A margarita and gin and tonic were consumed there.

Then it was onto the Mount Royal Tavern, near the art school, which probably explains the bad art displayed on the walls. I went to art school so I know what I speak of, though I can say that I never made pencil sketches of Bob Marley in the privacy of my home let alone showed them in public. I had a pint of Magic Hat and a can of Natty Boh.

Following James’s trail of bars that he frequented 15 years ago we headed to Club Charles where we were half-heartedly carded and drank a gin and tonic. I was most taken with a girl who had ’50 cotton candy textured bleached white hair. There is most definitely a John Waters-influenced contingent thriving in Baltimore. I also observed that Goths are still alive and well but hang out a few buildings up the block.

That should’ve been it and 2am was rapidly approaching anyway. But James wanted to see the new and not necessarily improved Rendezvous Lounge, which apparently had moved kitty corner from its old location at some point in time, for all I know a decade ago. Supposedly in the early ’90s, the bar was of its era, filled with kitsch and playing the likes of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. I know the type of place.

Rendezvous lounge

Well, now it looks like a boarded up condemned house with only the faintest hint of signage, the letters long gone. I will grant that my perception was way off at this point, and perhaps it was actually a lovely, warm inviting space and not the barebones counter with shelves of liquor for sale (you can see in this photo—ignore the text which bizarrely uses the adjective “stylish”).

Creamed chipped beef There was only one other female patron, and minus her presence we were the only other white customers. I’m overly sensitive to feeling out of place, though, with all social strata and ethnicities. I don't think I have an element. It’s not that I have a problem with anyone (except bar-goers with strollers) I just fear that others will have a problem with me.

Never mind drunk driving, drunk shopping is more dangerous. We ended up at a large 24-hour supermarket buying Saga blue cheese, Little Debbie Zebra cakes, pizza-flavored Combos, a giant potato rosemary focaccia and a plastic bag of creamed chipped beef. It was only then that I could call it a night.

Henninger’s Tavern * 1812 Bank St., Baltimore, MD

Olympic Flavor

Beijing burger

While the Chinese government is busy combating menu Engrish, McDonald’s, the world over, is promoting Olympic-inspired edibles. Chop suey burgers in Latin America? Ok, I guess they’re going to be called Beijing Burgers according to the Wall Street Journal.

The only McDonald’s country sites where I could find photographic evidence of this hamburguesa de Beijing were Argentina and Colombia, and it’s even better than expected. The China Menu includes said burger with a ginger sauce, black and white sesame seeds on the bun and yes, chop suey. There are also fried rice sticks and a banana caramel sundae.

Though not on the website, I was able to glean a few details about Australia and their "Flavor of the Games" promotion. McDonald’s down under will be serving burgers called The American, The Euro, The African, The Asian and The Australian.

I know Aussies put peculiarities like beets, pineapple and fried egg on their burgers. The Asian will probably involve wasabi, sweet and sour or soy sauce. What I’m dying to know is what’s on an African burger—that’s way open to interpretation (let’s hope it’s not raw fermented sour dough).