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And Then There Were Four


I completely missed's Another Offal Monday series that began in June when recently surveying the sudden proliferation of organ worship on the web. So far, they have four diverse entries: Mexican tongue tacos, southern-fried sweetbreads, dim sum-style spicy tripe (pictured above) and dowdy American classic liver and onions Spanished-up with a little sherry vinegar.  I'm liking these recipes very much.

They'd better be careful, though, with all those international flavors or they're going to get more angry letters from the crackpots like Marlynn Marroso who don't want unpatriotic food in their July issues, or any issues for that matter. Who knew that adobo and black beans could muster such ire?

Oh right, we did know after all the letter-writers equating a love of tacos, pupusas and pollo a al la brasa with glorifying illegal immigration crawled out of the woodwork after Gourmet published its September 2007 Latin American food issue.

Cowgirl Sea-Horse

Cowgirl Hall of Fame will always be the '90s to me–squarely in the same camp as Moustache or Mugs Ale House–places I ate when I first moved to New York and didn't give much serious thought to food.  Cowgirl Hall of Fame is where birthdays tended to be celebrated or large groups would convene. Just last month a vegetarian friend (I point this out because people who can only eat a small proportion of the menu don't always have the best sense of what's generally good) asked for restaurant advice to give to visitors from Germany. She had steered them to toward Cowgirl, among others. Eh, if they wanted "American" food, The Redhead might be a better choice. Clearly, Cowgirl still holds sway with many, though.

2009 or not, I, myself, was curious about Cowgirl Sea-Horse (I’m still not clear why seahorse is hyphenated—would you say cow-girl?). It's quintessential Friday night fare. By 6pm I've all but given up and fried food and beer walking distance from my office sounds like the best idea I've had in ages.

A week after opening, the restaurant, on a lonesome corner across from the Brooklyn Bridge's underbelly, was hopping. An enormous party of 25+ youngsters were attempting to take over the back room (where we were seated), little kids were running around and falling over each other, a few of James' coworkers even randomly stopped in. Service was upbeat but clearly overwhelmed. I wouldn't want to make any strong judgments about the slow as molasses pacing so soon. I expected as much on a weekend.

Cowgirl seahorse texas caviar

Texas caviar, a.ka. black eyed peas in a vinaigrette, were a gratis starter despite being listed on the menu for $3.50.

Cowgirl seahorse rattlesnake bites

Rattlesnake bites are grilled bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with shrimp. These smokey vegetal poppers are a form of Russian roulette, every third one you get a seriously hot chile. As you can also see, some are more done than others.

Cowgirl seahorse clam fritters

I wouldn't have ordered the clam fritters, not only because we already had plenty of starters but because inevitably you end up with a mouthful of bready filler. There was a decent amount of firm meat in these, though. More jalapeno in the tartar sauce.

Cowgirl seahorse pork tacos

Trying to avoid any more oil-bathed items (James had the oyster po boy and onion rings) I went for the tacos. Weird, yes. Sometimes I like the American shredded lettuce and cheddar style, but hard shells would've been too much. I wasn't expecting wheat tortillas as the "soft" option, though. These were floppy fun handheld drinking snacks. The pulled pork was on the dry side, even if it wasn't sharply obvious with all the accouterments.

Afterward, I wandered over to the Water Taxi Beach to see how it compared to Long Island City’s version. Well, for one you don't have to pay $10 to enter in Queens. At umbrella’d tables on the other side of the barrier next to the shops, groups had set up their own party complete with R&B blasting from a boom box. Smart? And as you continued around the back of the shopping center, the crowd became whiter and whiter until it suddenly became very '90s for the second time in one hour. The big stage was encircled by a tightly-packed crowd, disproportionately gray-haired and crows-feeted, bobbing up and down to Superchunk. Yes, Brooklyn babysitters must've made a killing that night. Despite being of that demographic, I was never a fan, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing a $6 plastic cup of beer just to stand a while and ponder the state of 2009.

Cowgirl Sea-Horse * 259 Front St., New York, NY

Flip Flops, Fedoras and Suspenders…Oh My!

Yes, the August Gourmet has already arrived, which means that I’ve been slacking on my alfresco porn-monitoring duties. July had me spoilt for choice, though.


Blue Skies Ahead, the tale of a weekend lunch with friends at your farmhouse, was tempting. And I could definitely go for some grilled Buffalo shrimp with a few black and tans. Or course, the beer bottles would have to be removed from their cardboard carrying case and transplanted into an antique metal basket with handle. “You never know who might drop by?” If I had a farmhouse in the country, that would be no one. It’s hard enough to get people on the F train.

Sail on home

Sail on Home suggested that instead of meeting friends at a restaurant, you invite them over for a Mediterranean meal served on your lakeside table crafted from a wooden slab placed atop lobster traps weighted down with beach ball-sized glass buoys in weathered fishing nets. It actually looks kind of chilly and lonely.

American idyll

Clearly, the best time is being had over at American Idyll where the young folks are stuffing themselves silly on honey caramel peach pie while swinging in hammocks. Flip flops, fedoras and suspenders, oh my!

American idyll2

American idyll3

Jamon Jamon

Despana jamon price

Feeling flush, more from birthday week high than from financial windfall, I sprung for three see-through slices of $159/lb bellota jamon iberico at Despaña yesterday. That worked out to approximately 80-cents per bite.

Despana jamon bellota

I don’t know that I could immediately discern the difference between this coveted ham and a good quality Serrano. But it’s very distinct and more desirable to me than ordinary prosciutto. Is it unfair to compare Spanish and Italian cured meats? The texture is firmer and overall meatier with substantial stripes of fat, less salty and almost blood-metallic with a strong flavor that’s on the verge of decay. Yet not gross at all. The taste lingers with you and something (I really need to look into this) causes a mild tingly sensation in the mouth, sort of the way some aged cheeses do.

Despana gallego You can get a bocadillo using the pata negra ham for $25 but I opted for the more pedestrian Gallego at $8.50. It uses Serrano ham, chorizon and a cow’s milk cheese I wasn’t familiar with called Arzuea Ullloa. I love ham and cheese, though this is one of those rare sandwiches that could just as strong through the power of meat alone. This is a sandwich worthy of more than a camera phone shot but believe it or not I don't typically carry a camera on me.

He Kin’ Do It

Donut police One of my favorite May-December romances of 2008 was the pretty boy teen and the not-so-pretty 37-year-old teacher. Does, "I'm tapping that ass and there's nothing you can do about it" ring any bells?

Former model, Joshua Walter, has now been arrested for participating in a crime spree that ended this weekend at a Queens Dunkin' Donuts with a pistol-whipping instead of an ass-tapping. Thankfully, it was not a Tim Hortons.

Szechuan Gourmet

We're lucky to have a decent selection of Sichuan restaurants scattered throughout three boroughs. Now I’m hoping that Hunan will be the next break out regional Chinese cuisine. But with Grand Sichuan House and Bamboo Pavilion kind of nearby in Brooklyn, I rarely feel compelled to patronize any of the midtown joints. I finally got to Gourmet Szechuan, though, only because I was Koreatown realizing that I wanted spicy food of a different sort (plus the lines at Kunjip were intimidating).

It's been nearly a year since the New York Times decided to pay a serious visit, a marginally odd choice for the Bruni slot. And despite a copy of the review blown up at least seven times the original size adhered to the front window, the sit-down clientele was predominately Asian. Those waiting for takeout were not.

The most uncomfortable part of the meal was being privy to the ordering foibles of two middle-aged gentleman, mostly likely Mexican, who were seated directly next to me. They were getting thwarted in all kinds of ways, both through language and dashed expectations. The waitress really didn't want them to have lo mein and fried rice, they didn't want anything "picante" (hey, not all Latinos love spice) and they specifically wanted Pepsi, which they didn't have, juice was their second choice (also not available) so they settled for Coke. I witnessed a similar series of events go down at Grand Sichuan House once. Some people just want to eat American-Chinese food (which is on the menu at both) and have no desire to expand their culinary consciousness. That's ok. I imagine it could go both ways despite my never having witnessed Chinese people chancing upon a taqueria looking for hard shells and cheddar cheese.  It's generalizing but I think Chinese (not Chinese-American) might be more inclined to eat only their own food.


We always order dan dan noodles, just because. In fact, we were intending to make a batch during the week but neither grocery store we tried (Stop & Shop and Wegmans) had ground pork, which is just strange.


Instead of my usual cold tongue or tripe, I opted for bamboo shoots. I had to get a vegetable in even if it involved a sea of chile oil. The peppercorn level in all of the dishes was what I'd call a medium, creating a pleasant buzz that still leaves your ability to taste intact. These crunchy strips were served with "fernbraken." If I didn't know better I would've guessed by the wetness and chew, that this mystery ingredient was a type of seaweed but if I'm correct it's part of a fiddlehead fern. I've mentioned before that fiddleheads creep me out; luckily, this dish was absolutely un-creepy.


A creature of habit, I wanted the dish that's bacony and smothered with softened oily leeks. I thought this would be #65 Stir Fried Chef's Sun Dried Pork Belly with Leeks but our controlling waitress, the same woman who wouldn't let our neighbors order both noodles and rice, steered me toward # 46 Stir Fried Fresh Pork Belly with Chili Leeks, instead. This was the version I had in mind with fat-striped thin rectangles of pork, though I imagine the chewier smoked version would've also been good.


I'm not as enamored by the crispy cumin lamb as others seem to be. I've seen it discussed at length on message boards and I'm fairly certain it received praise in the Times review. All the greaseless renditions I've tried are likeable but the dish feels more bar snacky and after a few nuggets a dry monotony sets in. We dunked ours in the slick pool of spicy remnants that had collected at the bottom of the nearly empty dan dan noodle bowl. For Sichuan lamb flavored with cumin, there's nothing better than the foil-wrapped seared version covered with a fistful of cilantro at Little Pepper.

I would be more inclined to head to south South Brooklyn or Flushing if the Sichuan urge grabbed me in the evening but I am jealous of midtowners with two Szechuan Gourmet locations for lunch. The Financial District is a paradise for cheap carby Chinese food—all the fried rice and lo mein you can eat with no judging—but even a Yip's apologist like myself needs a break every now and then.

Szechuan Gourmet * 21 W. 39th St., New York, NY

Fatty Fatty 2x4s

Fatquilts Wow, so much (mostly snarky) blog chatter about fat acceptance today (thanks, to this New York Times article). As if it were a new and radical concept. Has dieting  ever been a cure all or route to happiness?

Didn't we just see another study about how the overweight (not obese, mind you) live longer than both the average and underweight? An extra 20 pounds isn't going to kill anyone, I'm afraid, it'll just make you the subject of scorn, shame and derision. Maybe you will wish you were dead.

Meanwhile, soon-to-depart restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, confesses to being a "baby bulimic."

"Competitive Non-Eating Between Women" is a fun game discussed at

The current New Yorker has a round-up review of books about why Americans are so fat and disgusting.

Even Fox News thinks eating-disordered fat-hating MeMe Roth has gone too far. That's saying something. [via Jezebel]

 Ok, I'm off to the banh mi cart. My brought-from-home 80-calorie low-sodium tomato-red pepper soup lunch is bringing me down.

Chain Links 7/14/09

American, Laura Shapiro, loves dreary-stodgy British food but has gained an appreciation for all the new healthy fast food chains. []

A 2,500-square-foot 7-Eleven is coming to 103 W. 14th Street. [New York Times]

Top 400 Chains: The Quiz [R&I]

Ruth Madoff not only eats at California Pizza Kitchen, she uses coupons.  [New York Post]

Hot Potato

Rescue me

I didn’t start watching Rescue Me until this season. It’s entertaining in a guy-centric douchey way akin to Entourage but kind of smarter and more introspective. Normally, I hate starting shows in the middle (one reason why I’ve given up on ever taking up Mad Men. The first episode didn’t draw me in, it got removed from the DVR queue by the time the show got so popular it was too late for me) but beginning with season five hasn’t bothered me yet.

Of course that means that I have no idea who this woman from Lou’s past is. I gather she was a prostitute and stole his life savings. Hey, these things happen. But she’s back with a vengeance and is so sorry and changed in her ways that she’s proposing marriage with an engagement ring in the mashed potatoes. I do appreciate the role reversal even if it means embracing the hidden ring cliché.

Eleven Madison Park

I'm not sure which is more embarrassing–to be pegged as a blogger or a tourist. I've always felt a little bit dorky breaking out the camera during meals, especially at higher end restaurants. It does become a compulsion, though, and one I’m not fully ok with. The conundrum is that no one has the attention span or wherewithal to actually read what a blogger has to say about a restaurant; people just like to scroll through photos. In fact, I'm wasting precious keystrokes this very second.

So, I found out that tourist feels worse when asked by our waiter if "we were visiting from out town." Dude, not everyone taking photos in restaurants are rubes. Er, or maybe I am a yokel in denial. Either way, it set a discordant tone for my leisurely day-off lunch.

I never take a real lunch. Usually I brown bag it and walk around the block for air, rarely taking more than 30 minutes of my afternoon (many males in my office take one-hour-plus lunches going to the gym. I would appreciate knowing how women manage that without having to shower and re-do hair and makeup because I hate wasting time after work at the gym). So, for pre-holiday July 3, I thought it would be fun to try an upscale prix fixe lunch. Jean Georges has a good deal with two courses for $28, additional offered for $14 apiece, but I was there for Valentine's Day and wanted to go someplace I'd never been. Eleven Madison Park wooed me with their two-course $28 deal. Apparently, $28 is the going rate for these fancy mid-day offerings.

Eleven madison park amuses

It's a good thing we didn't go all out with the $68 tasting and $45 wine pairing, which I initially thought I might want. The more retrained option was sufficient, and as it was, I’m not certain that five courses would’ve been more enjoyable. Despite the room being about half full, the pacing felt off and there were minor distractions. I'm not a fuss budget (unlike the Louboutin lady next to me who sent her $10 supplemented lobster roll back for reasons I couldn't discern, then nibbled maybe two bites of the second rendition and left everything on her plate—maybe she was practicing that three-bite diet rule I still cant wrap my head around) but there were little things like not being brought any silverware to eat our entrees. It also would've been nice to have had our cocktails with the warm cheesey gougères, butter-enrobed baby radishes and cucumber-salmon rounds, but they awkwardly came right before the first course despite having ordered them before even focusing on the small nibbles.

Eleven madison park oaxaca 747 I did like my Oaxaca 747, though, a smoky take on the Aviation that used mezcal and agave nectar in addition to the usual gin, maraschino and crème de violette. I'll order practically anything using crème de violette even though the deep amethyst color in the bottle always translates as gray in the glass, not even mauve. Once again, I encountered the big ice cube.

Eleven madison park tete de cochon with pickled vegetables

One thing is certain; their presentation and use of color is beautiful. Instead of feeling fussy, the baby vegetables and tiny bursts of pink and orange on this plate of tete de cochon provided more dazzle than was hinted at by mere “pickled vegetables.” The tartness of the radishes, onions and carrots and chopped parsley-onion condiment helped offset the richness of the pork, whose comforting texture reminded me of corned beef hash, not in a disparaging way. I couldn’t determine what flavor the ivory-colored gelatinous cubes were.

Eleven madison park skate with capers, cauliflowers, almonds

I wasn’t expecting such a golden exterior on the skate but it was fortuitous because sometimes I find fish too delicate (subtlety is often lost on me). This gave it enough heft to stand up to the strong, Spanish-ish accompaniments. I chose this specifically for the sweet-salty components: briny stem-on capers, oily Marcona almonds, neutral cauliflower, golden raisins and a few croutons that seemed to be rye.

The additional set of appetizer and main course that I didn't sample:

Eleven madison park poached egg, asparagus, hollandiase, parmesan

Slow Poached Organic Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise and Parmigiano Reggiano

Eleven madison park suckling pig with broccoli rabe, pickled mustard seeds

Suckling Pig with Broccoli Rabe and Pickled Mustard Seeds

Eleven madison park lemon meringue pie

Dessert was the biggest disappointment. Not that there was anything wrong with the lemon meringue pie. I’m just a sucker for trolleys and when the desserts came wheeling by I felt compelled to pick one. Soon after, though, I began to covet the plates of parting mini macaroons in unusual flavors and pastel shades that the non-dessert orderers around us were presented with. Unless you’re dead set on a particular pastry, I wouldn’t spend the extra $12 (strange, that I don’t normally discuss pricing so much—maybe the economy has finally sunken into my consciousness).

I will say that I liked the young British sommelier whose looks and uppercrust accent reminded me of John Brisby in the Up series circa 28 Up. He seemed genuinely excited to talk about Rieslings even though I was only ordering one by the glass. And the 2005 Hofgut Falkenstein, Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spätlese Trocken, which he claimed to enjoy as his after work drink, was pleasingly zesty and fruity. I’d like to track down a bottle.

The food was quite good but the experience didn’t do much to enhance it. Maybe this was just the result of Friday before a holiday afternoon sleepiness. Then again, maybe we were getting tourist treatment.

Eleven Madison Park * 11 Madison Ave., New York, NY