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Tipsy Parson

1/2 I’ve been indecisive and forgetful lately, which isn’t the optimal state of mind for choosing and assessing restaurants. I couldn’t come to a conclusion while mulling over which new spot to try mid-week so I had to stoop to superficial criteria. One of the Tipsy Parson’s owners happens to share my last name and in a recent photo appeared to be transitioning from brunette to gray. It’s absolutely impossible to find an attractive (or homely—I’ll take what I can get) New York woman in her 30s who doesn’t dye silver strands or entire locks into submission. That settled it. I was going to Tipsy Parson.

Also superficially, I loved the trompe l’oeil bookshelf wallpaper. I had my eye on a similar motif a few years ago but I’m not sure how to handle wallpaper in a rental.

And to the forgetful: I lugged my damn SLR around all day in anticipation of going out after work only to realize after sitting down (I made 8pm reservations and we were seated fairly promptly in the tightly packed bar area, not a problem, as the back dining room where we had a choice of waiting for wasn’t particularly more luxurious in terms of space) that I’d left the memory card in my laptop at home. Urgh, an obnoxious food blogger’s worst nightmare.

It did allow a showdown between the photographic capabilities of the iPhone vs. the MyTouch. While a million miles from food porn-creating, the iPhone crushed my android powered device. Do keep in mind that these are sad little camera phone photos presented here.

Tipsy parson cheese curds Fried cheese curds beat mozzarella sticks any day. This little $5 pile was served with a chimichurri sauce. A spicy or creamy sauce would come to my mind first, but parsley and olive oil worked too. The thing is, I can barely remember the cheese. Char No. 4s version has more presence.

At the last minute we switched our minds from lamb ribs to chicken livers (I would’ve ordered both but as you’ll see below, I knew I was already in for a meat overload with the pork shank). The opposite of neutral cheese curds, these breaded organs stood out: creamy, a little funky, not for everyone. The tart green tomato marmalade cut through the richness and made a perfect grilled toast topping.

My touch chicken livers


Tipsy parson chicken livers


Tipsy parson pork shank I will always order the pork shank when offered, no question, which isn’t that often outside of German restaurants. And how often does one eat at German restaurants? Ok, maybe I do more than the average New Yorker considering that even when on vacation in Hong Kong last November I tried an eatery called King Ludwig Beerhall where I ordered a pork shank that could’ve fed an entire family of four.

Where many of the dishes lean towards snacky and sharable at Tipsy Parson, the hunk of  pork that our server quoted it as being around a pound and half—do keep the bone heft in mind—is certainly an attention-grabber. There was plenty of tender dark meat and a few welcome gelatinous bits coating the ends of the bone. I almost forgot about the apple puree beneath the club-sized but of meat that I think was spiked with bourbon. The only thing that would’ve made this better would be the inclusion of crackly skin. Shank is as much about the skin as the flesh.

Tipsy parson trout A grilled trout stuffed with thyme was also eaten. Though not by me.

Tipsy Parson is a cute restaurant that I can’t compare to Little Giant because I’ve never eaten there. It does feel a little Brooklyn, or maybe it’s that the casual, seasonal style just isn’t typically Chelsea.

Tipsy Parson * 156 Ninth Ave., New York, NY

Chain Links: I’m Not Sure What Freshii Is But I Like the Sound of It

Two brothers who run Dunkin' Donuts in Northern NJ plan to open more than 20 Freshii stores in New York.

Someone who created a restaurant called Salad Room is turning all of his locations into Freshiis and wants to take over Eastern Europe.

Chain Links: Big Mac Attack

All the hubbub over the McDonald’s in the Louvre appears to be unfounded. The average Parisian doesn’t give a merde about Big Macs tainting France’s culinary traditions.

McDonald’s, which has had a presence in Iceland since 1993, isn’t faring quite so well. They’ll be closing all restaurants in the country at the end of October.

The Great Wall of Chocolate

P.f. chang's mini desserts I’m afraid things have a been a little quiet over here. I’ve been temporarily preoccupied with the new baby, Chains of Love. Yes, there are some subjects only a blog mother can love. If you’ve always wondered what goes on in a P.F. Chang’s, here’s your chance to find out. I discovered a surprising amount of Chinese diners and Morrissey playing in the background.

P.F. Chang’s

Did I love it? Not until I had a few drinks in me and they began playing Morrissey (godspeed).

It’s hard to judge a restaurant like P.F. Chang’s. Compared to the Americanized Chinese food found on every NYC block, it’s better on many levels. While it’s pointless pitting it against Chinese Chinese food, I’d go as far as saying it’s a suburban Shun Lee Palace. Less finesse and history, sure, but you’ll get similar garishness and fanfare at a fraction of the price.

P.f. chang's interior

For comparison, P.F. Chang’s has Philip’s better lemon chicken, “Lightly dusted and quick-fried chicken served with broccoli in a tart, sweet citrus sauce” for $12.95 while Shun Lee Palace has $26.95 lemon chicken “Chicken breast coated with egg batter and rolled in water chestnut flour then fried till crispy, served with shredded lemon and a velvety lemon sauce.” Ok, the latter does sound more alluring but I do wonder how different the two really are. And who eats lemon chicken, anyway?

P.f. chang's lucky cat martini Do not fool yourself into thinking this is Chinese food for those who can’t handle it or are unable to discern the real thing. Initially, I was surprised at the number of multi-generational Chinese families waiting for tables at P.F. Chang’s, but it’s kind of silly to think that Chinese in America would only eat at restaurants with fluorescent lighting and delivery guys on bicycles.

Normally, I’m not one for sweet cocktails but you feel obligated to order one at a fancy chain. The lucky cat martini, despite containing vanilla vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord, wasn’t that sugary. In fact, it was actually kind of bitter even though that makes no sense.

P.f. chang's dim sum

The dumpling heavy dim sum platter wasn’t anything special. They steamed, filled crescents of dough weren’t mushy but the fillings were all kind of dull and flat. Beef seemed indiscernible from pork and I prefer whole shrimp over a ground mousse. I do appreciate a crab wonton, though. The most fun was playing with the numerous sauces (there was an additional set off to the side). I’m a sucker for condiments even though the sauce they mix for you of hot mustard, soy sauce and chile paste seems kind of haphazard. What’s wrong with eating each of those on their own?

P.f. chang's tangerine shrimp

The entrees were stronger than the appetizers. Orange peel shrimp was tasty in that candied, crisp fried way that makes sesame chicken and general Tso chicken so appealing. The peel’s bitterness did help balance the sweetness.

P.f. chang's cumin lamb

Chengdu spiced lamb contained thick, tender hunks of something. I’m not fully convinced that this beefy tasting meat was lamb at all. Even though this dish wasn’t really like any Sichuan lamb I’ve had–it wasn’t particularly cuminy or spicy– it was kind of good in its own way. The meat had a charred smokiness and the sauce had an unidentifiable savoriness, perhaps from a bean based chile paste.

P.f. chang's mini desserts

$2 mini desserts seem to be the thing now. I also noticed them at Carrabba’s. And they do suck you in. I would’ve said no to after dinner sweets but how much harm could a small treat cause? James had the small Great Wall of Chocolate. My incongruous lemon tres leches cake was confusing at it sounded. It was more like lemon pudding layered with graham cracker crumbs and reminded me of the desserts you find in Cooking Light. I frequently use the magazine for mid-week meals but their sweets are disappointing.

I got an eyeful of the plastic display Great Wall of Chocolate cake on its round metal tray on the way out and I’m almost convinced that you could spot it from outer space (urban myth be damned) it was that large. Mini desserts were wise.

P.f. chang's exterior One chain hallmark is the music piped outdoors for the pleasure of patrons quoted one-hour-waits while being handed chunky plastic beepers. As I assessed this gargantuan horse statue of indeterminate dynasty, Suedehead was playing. The video with Morrissey gadding about Fairmont, Indiana, James Dean’s hometown, tracing the young actor’s steps, making a pop culture icon personal, an outsider surrounding himself in artifacts of no import. Riding a lawnmower, sitting astride an Indian bike, reading James Whitcomb Riley in a barn, passing time in a diner…um, and playing bongos in a cow field. 

Immersing myself in East Coast suburbs is a pilgrimage of my own. I can’t help it that I get swept up eating American-Chinese food in New Jersey.

P.F. Chang’s * 3545 US Hwy. 1, Princeton, NJ

Is Tex-Mex Ethnic Food?

Grilled herbal

According to Technomic’s "2009 Flavor Consumer Trend Report" 66% of US consumers would return to a restaurant and try a dish that originally hooked them with a new flavor. I not exactly sure what constitutes a new flavor, but there is a sample chart that indicates grilled and herbal is the preferred flavor combination of both genders.

Steak with chimmichurri? Lemon and oregano-infused whole fish? I suppose I could go for those, though I’m more of a spicy and sweet person. Really, spicy, sweet and fatty–pork belly with Thai basil and chile springs to mind–but that wasn’t an option.

More interesting, perhaps, are the "less broadly established ethnic cuisines" that are of interest to US consumers. Maybe the avante garde is becoming mainstream: 72%, the highest number of respondents, are interested in Spanish food followed by American regional cuisines like Hawaiian (71%) and Tex-Mex (69%). Really? Nearly two-thirds of this country has yet to discover chili and fajitas?

For what it’s worth, Greek, Caribbean (both 66%) and Mediterranean (62%) follow closely behind.

First There Was Cake Batter Ice Cream

Cupcake shake
Photo from less apathy more cake

Yes, the internets have been abuzz over the Japanese Burger King’s Windows 7 Whopper. That’s an impressive novelty to be sure.

But why am I just now hearing about the Burger King cupcake shake? It appears that the cupcake trend has finally began to trickle down to the fast food arena. First, red velvet cupcakes quietly showed up in Southern California Taco Bells and now this.

When do you think fast food joints will start deploying food trucks? Northwest chain, Burgerville, already has a Nomad.

Chain Links: Korean Chicken & Waffles

Fast food is still nascent in North Korea. Singaporean chain Waffletown has begun slinging their namesake treat along with fries, hotdogs and yes, fried chicken, in Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, Singapore is in advanced chain-ification stages. Heavy hitters Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali and Guy Savoy, among others, are opening high end outposts under one roof, a Vegas-style resort.

Boulud is going totally wild with Asian expansion. If I was a chef, I would apply for one of these openings in Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Caribbean Blues

Blue food I’ve always had a thing for blue food—from the natural: soft blue cheese, to the invented: blue velvet cake, to exotica: Malaysian nasi kerabu.

That’s why I was excited to hear about the blue food festival in Tobogo that happened this past Sunday. In my experience taro (which they call dasheen) really creates a more grayish mauvey blue, like how most Aviation cocktails turn out (though Rob Cooper’s—the man responsible for the St. Germain blitz of ’08–new more vividly violet Crème d’Yvette might just perk up the drink’s visual impact).

The only examples I’ve found of food from this Caribbean festival aren’t really blue at all, though the rundown on this blog is charmingly Bubba Gump-esque, “dasheen cheesecake, dasheen pizza, dasheen chicken with dasheen dip, dasheen ice cream, dasheen chips and cookies, dasheen pies, dasheen sweetbread and dasheen bread.”

That’s a lot of dasheen.

Sue Perette

1/2 Sue Perette, a play on superette, and possibly an homage to JOE'S S PERETTE down the street, home of famous prosciutto balls and missing letter U signage, recently opened on Smith Street in the former Café Dore space (which used to be a crepe place that I ate at back in 2001, way before I knew anything about Carroll Gardens and rapidly got a lesson in the laissez-faire, children run free local parenting style that wouldn’t be tolerated in Sunset Park where I was living at the time). At least it’s not another Thai restaurant.

Periodically I feel like a bad person for my lack of enjoyment in living in a desirable neighborhood and then resolve to try new things in hopes that I’ll discover something to make me excited about Carroll Gardens. It’s yet to happen. Sue Perette, thankfully, didn’t add to my negativity, though.

At 7pm on a Wednesday, I was surprised that we were the only diners, and remained so until the very end of our meal when three groups slowly trickled in. I pegged Smith Street as an early bird zone considering that if you stroll around after 10pm on a weeknight you can literally hear crickets. A lot of passerbys did peek in the window and at the menu posted out front. I, myself, am hesitant to take a chance on an unproven restaurant with entrees over $20. Price could be part of it. Also new Wing Stop across the street might be more mid-week speed for many.

Sue perette bread

While a bit nondescript in looks, Sue Perette is more personable than generic–you know, the Luluc’s and Bar Tabacs of the strip. It’s one of those rustic, canning jar, no fear of lard restaurants. In fact, bread is served with both butter and pork fat.

Sue perette pastifret

I didn’t know that until after I ordered pastifret, a pate-rillettes hybrid, or else I might’ve thought twice about all the congealed white porcine products I would be ingesting and chosen something healthier. The creamy soft meat was served with traditionally sour accompaniments: pickled onions and cornichons.

Sue perette double duck

The menu is brief and not radical in any way;  it’s French country cooking that doesn’t stray too far afield. I tried the double duck, a crispy rare breast cut into thirds atop scattered Brussels sprouts leaves glossy from chunks of confit. My original plan to only eat half and save the rest for another meal didn’t work out. One, despite the richness, I still wanted to eat the whole portion, and two, duck is never the same after reheating, there’s no way to preserve the skin and keep the meat from overcooking and turning livery.

I might be inclined to return and cobble together a meal from the snack section of the menu. The Brussels sprouts with duck confit can be found there served minus the breast. Polenta fries with parsley aioli also sound like they have potential.

We passed on dessert and had a nightcap at Brooklyn Social Club instead. Part two in my quest to ignite the flames of Carroll Gardens passion. I did like my Brooklyn (I just like rye—I wasn’t going overboard in borough boosterism) but I wouldn’t go so far as to say love.

Sue Perette * 270 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY