Skip to content

Archive for

A Wing and a Ring?


Promising! Maybe fried chicken and cheese waffles were involved.


This is what Twitter was made for.


Don’t go giving me any ideas…

Tadich Grill

Tadich Grill, said to be the oldest restaurant in San Francisco, reminded me a bit of the Grand Central Oyster Bar. It’s certainly not as loud and sprawling, but it’s a seafood-centric icon, not as inexpensive as the surroundings might suggest, and favored by both tourists and commuters.

Tadich grill counter
During my late lunch at the bar, solo men close to retirement age and older with a newspaper and a martini for company, filled empty counter seats on my right and left. They were there for dinner, seemingly clocked out at five on the dot. It could’ve been 1960 or 1980; the only thing missing being clouds of cigarette smoke.

This is the San Francisco that I enjoyed the most, not the local, seasonal ethos that’s an obvious culinary draw, but lazing about in eateries that haven’t firmly settled into the twenty-first century yet. Just a few hours earlier at proper lunch time, I’d taken in the bar scene at Fishermen’s Grotto, another reassuring time capsule.

Tadich grill cioppino
Cioppino is a big thing at Tadich Grill, but it’s not what I ordered.

Tadich grill sand dabs
Sand dabs (or sanddabs, depending) are a regional flat fish. I just liked the sound of their name. Served breaded and pan fried, drizzled with a thin white sauce (homemade tartar sauce on the side), steak fries (my enemy) and institutional steamed cauliflower and broccoli, my meal could be construed as bland and geriatric—at least in comparison to how I might normally prefer my seafood.

Tadich grill exterior

But this is exactly what I’d want to be served at a 161-year-old restaurant. Just as a Harvey Wallbanger would be appropriate at Eddie Rickenbacker’s and nearly no place else. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

Tadich Grill * 240 California St., San Francisco, CA


Preview: Graffit

There’s still a lot of hubbub surrounding Spanish food (or have we moved on to Scandinavia?). Yet, for such a de moda cuisine, there are many swaths of the city lacking a single Spanish restaurant, modern or traditional. I can’t believe it took until last week for South Brooklyn to get a tapas bar (no, La Mancha doesn’t count).

Maybe I’m geographically biased, but the dining diversity on the Upper West Side has always felt a bit bleak. That’s why it’s surprising that Spanish chef, Jesús Nuñez, has decided to open his first New York restaurant on W. 69th Street. Known for deconstructions, playful presentations…and a penchant for graffiti art (hence, the name, not to be confused with Jehangir Mehta’s Graffiti) hopefully his vision will translate in this staid neighborhood.

This is a preview of what Graffit will be serving when they open in November. As this dinner was hosted at Compass, chef Milton Enriquez contributed dishes, as well. Free food clouds one’s judgment so this is by no means a review. Just the facts. I will say that I would likely return on my own. Mercat, Txikito, Casa Mono and countless other tapas bars are justifiably popular, but I would say that we haven’t had a creative full-on Spanish restaurant since Ureña.

Graffit sangria six textures
Sangria in Six Textures

Graffit fuji apple endive salad

Fuji Apple, Endive Salad
Greek yogurt, manchego, tangerines, pistachio vinaigrette

Graffit carabinero, langoustine & prawn carpaccio

Carabinero, Langoustine and Prawn Carpaccio
Saffron Cream, Sauce Américaine, Olive Oil Gel and Sea Dust

I wasn't going to editorialize, but this was my favorite–so much color and flavor crammed into such small surface areas.

Graffit tortilla de patata

Potato + Onion + Egg = Tortilla de Patata

Graffit hudson valley foie gras

Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Meyer lemon curd, brussels sprouts, porcini mushrooms, toasted pinenuts, 50 -year old balsamic

Graffit dover sole

Pan Roasted Dover Sole
Sunchokes two ways, poached hen egg, white truffles, parsley beurre blanc, osetra caviar

Graffit bacalao in salsa verde.CR2

Bacalao in salsa verde, kokotxas, traces of bell pepper

I also like the use of mauve and bisquey earth tones, which aren't intuitively appetizing.

Graffit braised veal cheeks

Braised Veal Cheeks
Celeriac, chanterelles, cipollini onions, mustard asian pear salad

Graffit venison

Chestnuts, Wheat Risotto, Lentils and Pumpkin

More of those flesh tones–and lavender micro cauliflower. Yes, I'm a sucker for unnaturally colored food.

Graffit orange julius

"Orange Julius" jasmine granite

Graffit pina colada

Piña Colada
Curry scented pineapple sorbet, coconut bubbles

Graffit molten chocolate buñuelos .CR2

Molten chocolate buñuelos on a canvas of colors, flavors and textures

Graffit lollipops

Graffit sweets

More lilac hues. A fitting send-off.

Graffit * W. 69th St., New York, NY

Wall & Water

When asked what made me decide to try Wall & Water (it had already been determined that I wasn’t a hotel guest, but worked up the street–really those are the only two reasons someone would be dining in this nowhere edge of the city) I didn’t have the heart to admit that it was a Village Vines 30% off promotion. Normally, I’d shy away from $14 cocktails, “house-pressed” ginger syrup or not. But a $9.80 dark & stormy? Sure.

The manager is painfully attuned to the service being described as “hot and cold” in the doubled-up New York Times review from August. Consequently, they’re kind of overdoing it now, falling hard into the ingratiating end of the spectrum. Not that I’m calling for more aloofness, just balance.

The food, however, hits all the right new American notes. Raw bar, charcuterie, artisanal cheese? They’ve got that too. Overall, the menu is a little pricey but good as opposed the little pricey but middling that plagues nearly every establishment in a ten-block radius (Setai excluded). I would return if I had an expense account type of job, and recommended it to someone I work with who probably does.

Wall & water butter

The salt-sprinkled hunk of butter drizzled with olive oil and goat cheese topped with cracked black pepper added variety to the bread basket.

Wall & water swordfish confit

The swordfish confit starter would’ve been better for sharing. It was hard to gauge serving sizes based on price. Fifteen dollars of seafood could be a few bites or it could be substantial like these three slices of mild, firm fish. The dish was appealing but not exciting enough to hold my attention. The smoked trout with pickles and beets might have been more my style.

Wall & water pork chop

It’s hard to go wrong with a pork chop, especially with such handsome grill marks. I enjoyed the slightly unusual pairing of meaty pinto beans and horseradishy slaw. Potatoes would just be too obvious and I’ve been trying to take a break from heavy starches, so this was perfect.

At its core, Wall & Water is at hotel restaurant in the Financial District. Lots of suits, and for nearly an hour I was the only female in the dining room. Eventually, a young guest was seated next to me who ordered swordfish (an entrée, not my appetizer) a glass of water and blew through his meal in minutes, sunglasses on, iPod buds in ears the entire time. This is what’s going to happen to all those kids glued to DVR players at the table when they grow up.

Wall & Water * 75 Wall St., New York, NY


Bullish On KFC China


Periodically, someone will post a nice round-up of fast food items sold in American chains abroad. I appreciate their efforts because my time is in low supply lately.

Buzzfeed has fourteen “Fast Food Items Not Available In The U.S. That Should Be” for your perusal. I particularly like the Tender Beef Pentagon from a Chinese KFC. It really looks more like a Taco Bell item to me.

Mr. Bill’s Terrace Inn

Mr. bill's terrace inn entrance

“See?! I’m getting my Orioles hat out of the trunk.”

Mr. Bill’s is the kind of place where the older gentleman in slacks, who appears in photos at various ages on the wall along with maritime art and sports memorabilia, sits on a stool guarding the dining room from the bar and will begrudgingly take your name down. Maybe he doesn’t want you there. Locals only.

Mr. bill's terrace inn bar You’ll drink a couple Yuenglings at the substantial rectangular bar while kids commandeer the pool table and cropped-haired ladies who remind me of women my grandma would know, women who three decades ago might’ve worn t-shirts that said liquor in the front, poker in the rear, sip brown liquor on ice through little straws. Maybe you’ll be tempted to play Keno but shy away because you’ve only partaken in Oregon and maybe it’s different in Maryland. You don’t want to look like a New Yorker.

Mr. bill's terrace inn dining room If you’re lucky, your name will be called in under an hour and you’ll be led from one windowless room to another. Vinyl booths and long communal tables covered in brown paper. No metal cracking implements, just wooden mallets and sturdy plastic knives. It’s hard to say if it’s a bar with a restaurant or a restaurant with a bar. You’ll order a dozen Old Bay-encrusted crabs; big ones for $50-something or even bigger specimens for maybe ten dollars more. They’ll be worth the work; none of that shrunken crustacean all you can eat business where you burn out, fingers cut up and still hungry.

Mr. bill's terrace inn crabs

Mr. bill's terrace inn table

Mr. bill's terrace inn buckets In fact, you might not even be able to finish your share of crabs because you’ve ordered a pitcher of beer, and some cheddar-topped crab dip too. Served with pita triangles? That seems kind of fancy.

Mr. bill's terrace inn crab dip

On your way out, the gatekeeper slaps you on the back. No Baltimore cap needed, afterall.

Mr. bill's terrace inn sign

Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn * 200 Eastern Blvd., Essex, MD

Chain Links: Christmas Sushi

Yosushi Dallas-based gelato chain, Paciugo, is heading to South Korea. Run by an Italian family in Texas, they have been wise enough to stay out of Europe—Taco Bell has failed twice in Mexico, the second time as recently as this past January—and will be focusing on an Asian expansion. []

I'm not sure if NYC currently has a kaiten, a.k.a. conveyor belt sushi bar. Singaporean Sakae Sushi didn't last (I did eat at one in Penang) and same for Itsu, semi-famous for its London location being the scene of that Russian spy poisoning a few years ago. Old Britannia will be trying again soon when YO!Sushi opens on the East Coast. I hope that East Coast means NYC. [Fast Casual]

zpizza is going to Ha Noi. Maybe the time is right for gluten-free crusts and vegan cheese in Vietnam. [press release]

I'm kind of sick of hearing about Cold Stone Creamery, but apparently they are loved in Dubai where they were named Franchise Operator of the Year by Retail City Awards.  [press release]

Turkey katsu, stuffing, red current jelly wrapped in savoy cabbage, i.e. Christmas dinner sushi from YO! Sushi.


It was pure coincidence that I was asked to write about food cooked with blood the week after I ate pig’s blood pappardelle in San Francisco. I’ve not found anything in NYC that really approaches that level of creativity; most preparations here are traditional, whether French or Filipino.

Incanto pig's blood papparadelle with foie gras & trotters

The chewy, crimson pappardelle strewn with trotter meat, hunks of foie gras and homemade raisins that were closer to grapes is hard to describe without sounding obscene. The few times I’ve brought it up, I’ve had to temper my words with, “No, it’s really good.” I’m not sure if it’s the blood or the multi-levels of decadence that’s off-putting to the uninitiated. This smaller portion we shared as a second course—many dishes are available in two sizes—was beyond rich, a glorious appetite-squelcher.

Incanto pork belly with watermelon & tomatoes

Really. We ended up taking most of the following course, pork belly with heirloom tomatoes and yellow and red watermelon to go (yes, I’m normally melon-averse but I discovered that the pork tempers the fruit’s cloying nature when I a tried a funkier take on this combo at Fatty Crab). It wasn’t half-bad room temperature for breakfast.

Incanto lamb heart

Our starter, while also meaty, was the lightest of the bunch. Just a little spicy lamb’s heart and shallots.

Incanto * 1550 Church St., San Francisco, CA

Hill Country Chicken

Hill Country Chicken really wasn’t what I had expected. The cute, ‘50s farmhouse décor, plenty of open seats and an abundance of choice, not a single item sold-out, were all pluses. My restaurant pessimism over newish restaurants was squashed flat.

Hill country chicken drumstick & thigh

I wouldn’t say that the heat lamp setup is kind to the fried chicken, though. Pre-Willie Mae’s Scotch House visit, I would’ve been fine with this dark, denser, paprika-heavy approach (the Mama El’s style with a crushed cracker crust is actually pretty tasty, but for me the skin is the whole point of frying poultry) but now I’ve been spoiled by a lacier, golden version that will satisfy after only one thigh. Of course, Hill Country would certainly fix a Manhattan fried chicken craving if New Orleans isn’t in your immediate future.

Hill country chicken selection

Sides are perfunctory. I’d rather fill up on the fried pimento cheese sandwich, shown wrapped in red-and-white gingham paper in the back. The crisped treat is salty, gooey and not greasy in the least.

Hill country chicken pimento cheese sandwich

Cut into quarters for sharing.

Hill country chicken pies

I think I liked the pies more than my tablemates, as it came out that they are cake people. I like pies of all sizes; shrunken ones with more crust to filling ratio don’t even bother me the way it does others. Then again, I also like more cupcake than frosting and more bagel than cream cheese. My choice, the bourbon pecan, didn’t have much whisky flavor or sick corn syrup sweetness that I want in my southern-style desserts. The peanut butter chocolate and special of the day, a mash-up of chocolate and butterscotch chips, walnuts, coconut and condensed milk like an Eagle magic cookie bar in a pie shell, more than made up for the pecan pie’s relative austerity.

The only true downer was the lack of a liquor license. One-third of my group was very interested in the watermelon wheat beer listed on the menu, the other third doesn’t drink and me, I loathe melons but could’ve stood a beer or two. I will admit that the Boylan fountain drinks with unlimited refills (at least no one was monitoring return visits) was pretty cool even though I don’t drink soda. Never having developed a taste for pop, it’s the only food (is it a food?) I can be self-righteous about (please don’t take away my fat or alcohol) and probably why I don’t get the uproar over proposing no soda purchases with food stamps. Is fizzy fructose a want or a need? When I got food stamps decades ago, I bought crazy shit like smoked salmon and hot cross buns, so who am I to say?

Hill Country Chicken * 1123 Broadway, New York, NY

Easter Every Day


Apparently, in Switzerland eggs come in a rainbow of colors for no particular reason. In a bold, slightly off-kilter palette too.