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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Bone-In Steak, Birthday Cake

Costata tomahawk steak

Costata Eating at two Michael White restaurants in almost
the same week is kind of odd. I’m not a fanatic or anything. But it was a
birthday dinner option and I took it (Maggiano’s in Bridgewater, NJ–don’t
ask–and Mission Chinese were also tossed into the ring. The Elm might’ve been
the best choice but I don’t like to pick my own special occasion meals) because
I was up for something meaty and I wanted to see if the room was all D.C. style
because I love corporate hotel chic (it’s not that bad) and if it was all
blobby blowhards in suits. No, strangely, there were lots of groups of 20-something
ladies in sausage casing Vegas/Meatpacking dresses drinking cocktails and
primping in the bathroom.

Costata duo

Get the tomahawk rib-eye if someone else is paying and skip
the pricey crudo (I’m not lumping oysters into that) even if they are. I don’t
care about pasta, so farroto with bone marrow and parmesan and the broccoli
rabe with fennel sausage worked as sides. Go wild and drink Spanish Rioja instead
of Barolo (I don’t care about expensive Italian reds either). Though dry-aged
for 40 days, the steak isn’t super funky. Some slices had that hyper-meaty edge
while others were mild and tender, maybe too much so. You don’t really need
black truffle butter, but after $118 for a slab of meat what’s another $3?

Cata razor clams

Cata After reading about the rising price of raw bar fodder,
and the $21 razor clams at Costata in particular, the shellfish sauteed with
garlic and olive for $14 sounded like a relative bargain while having a giant
pre-dinner gin and tonic flavored with kaffir lime leaves.

Cata kaffir lime leaf gin & tonic
Also $14, and though I recently boo hoo’d about
this cocktail price point, these drinks are long-lasting, not gone in four
sips, and potent as two normal gin and tonics.

Cheesecake duo

Cheesecake Factory Sure, you can go to Edison and discover
Indian food if you’re friends with Floyd Cardoz
, or you can eat at Cheesecake
Factory in the mall. I first stumbled upon this part of New Jersey (I have not
forgotten about the Post-Millennium Chains of Middlesex County, by the way) in
2005 when looking for America’s first Uniqlo
(which will soon be returning to
the Menlo Park Mall, plus Staten Island and that horrible Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn
shopping center with the Target) that served as a testing ground for Soho then closed. I prefer other chains over Cheesecake Factory (the
martini with blue cheese olives is three dollars cheaper at Bonefish Grill,
which is only one reason why I love Bonefish) but the Thai lettuce wraps are a
classic appetizer in all their glorious unauthenticity, and the fried chicken
salad was more demure than I’d anticipated size-wise (that’s not a negative).
And yes, there was a slice of turtle cheesecake involved.

Green symphony salad bar

Green Symphony is the bizarro Yip’s (R.I.P.?). It’s also one
block from my office like my former love, but this by-the-pound buffet is
greaseless and healthy and borderline Little Lad’s (also R.I.P.) even though
it’s not vegan or even fully vegetarian (there is organic chicken in various
guises). These piles include a cucumber salad, broccoli rabe with pine nuts,
curry chicken salad with fake mayonnaise, edamame salad, wild rice salad,
quinoa salad and some tofu mushroom thing. I can dig this.

Worst birthday ice cream cake ever

Baskin-Robbins The West Coaster in me wanted to blame
Carvel (Baskin-Robbins is also an East Coast brand, but ubiquitous–I’d never
heard of Carvel till later in life) for this ice cream cake disaster that
supposedly bears my name, but it was the handiwork of a Brooklyn
Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin’ Donuts hybrid shop. My name is not aes (?) for the record.



Two Things

So, I wrote a few things elsewhere recently.

Oddfellows ice cream

Read about OddFellows Ice Cream on Real Cheap Eats. I love the miso cherry butterscotch. I also need to go back for a sundae.


And Wok to Walk, a Dutch stir-fry chain just appeared in Times Square (and used to be near NYU). It's no great shakes, but office workers mobbed it opening week just the same.


The Week in International Intrigue: Man Salads, Standing Restaurants, Turkey Burgers

Man salad

The founders of Australian SumoSalad must not read The New York Times because they think Americans lack healthy lunch options like
If the chain wants to get with it, it should really consider chopping these
piles of lettuce, chicken, egg and avocado up
instead of giving them names like
Man Salad.

I would say that standing-only restaurants must be a Japanese thing, but then that wouldn't explain tapas bars as actually experienced in Spain. No matter, by year's end NYC will likely have an Oreno Kappo, just one of many in a chain of standing restaurants from the Tokyo-based Ore no Corporation.

London wouldn't be the first international location for
Fatty Crab (that would be Hong Kong) though it seems to be the first non-US
branch under the new partnership with restaurateur Stephen Starr.
I'm most
interested in what the "city-specific menus" might entail. Banh mi on baps, I hope.

As soon as Manhattan receives a Fatburger, so does Istanbul.

Pollo Tropical opening in the Dominican Republic  doesn't seem so odd considering it's a
Caribbean-themed chain anyway.


The Butterfly

The last time I saw a grasshopper on a paper placemat
cocktail menu in an NYC restaurant was at Stingy Lulu's. That was the '90s and it
was meant to be kitsch. The last time I tried ordering a grasshopper was at
Jade Island and it was a no go. The Staten Island strip mall tiki bar traffics
in a very narrow range of kitsch that doesn't include creme de menthe.

Of course The Butterfly's version is a $16  Eben Freeman creation so it's made with fun
things like pandan extract and Branca Menta. Or so I've read. I didn't even end
up trying it, despite that being  my
original aim. It's the lounge/supperclub dichotomy. And considering the bar was
at capacity but there were plenty of open tables on the early side of a
weeknight, the people have decided it's a bar, not a supperclub.

A highbrow grasshopper only makes sense if you're
stopping by for a drink (or treating it as a dessert). I'm still not fully on
board with the new era of $15+ drinks, so if I order one or two I want the
focus to be on the drink not convoluted with fried or heavy food.

The butterfly brandy old fashioned

I did try a brandy old fashioned sweetened with oleo-saccharum,
though, while deciding what to eat. And then moved on to beer, Birra Morini
Lager from Wisconsin, which seemed wrongheaded even if it was more sensible.

The butterfly shrimp toast

The shrimp toast wasn't radically reinvented. In
fact, it would be right at home at Jade Island if the price were chopped in
half ($12 vs. $6.15).

The butterfly reuben croquettes

The reuben croquettes, gooey with swiss, corned beef
and just a little sauerkraut, were more successful, partially because they felt
more substantial. The thousand island for dipping was unusually pink, even more
so than from a plastic bottle of Wish-Bone.

The butterfly patty melt

The patty melt was the underdog hit. I realize the
only thing separating a melt from a burger is really the bread, but I want a
bun, plus toasted rye is for reubens. But because the meat–rare, dry-aged with
that deep steak-y flavor–was so good, none of the idiosyncrasies mattered. Strangely,
I didn't even notice the cheese (strange because I'm a sucker for melted
cheese). The caramelized onions stood out more and combined with the
distinguished beef, started veering toward Minetta Black Label Burger territory
(turns out it's a White Label blend from Pat LaFrieda so that makes sense).

The butterfly moby dick

After trying the patty melt, "Moby Dick,"
the filet o' fish, couldn't even compete.

This is where the grasshopper would logically fit if
you insisted on both drinking and eating.

The Butterfly * 225 W. Broadway, New York, NY

Nordic Love

No word on whether kelp, rhubarb, pine or ramps were involved in the proposal. If it were up to me, I would've had the ring slipped onto a duck neck.

Waterman’s Crab House

I independently came to the conclusion that Waterman's
is the closest real Chesapeake crab-eating experience to NYC, which was later
reinforced by the Road Food message board. You still have to drive nearly 200 miles for
the experience, though.

Waterman's crab house view

By real I don't even mean that the crabs are local;
most, maybe all, of the Maryland crab houses get their bounty from Louisiana
and Texas, at least part of the year. It's the Eastern Shore style, served
outdoors, on the water, at picnic tables (though the windowless bar room is
equally authentic
, especially in Baltimore).

Waterman's crab house dozen crabs

The crabs come crusted in salty,
piquant Old Bay with vinegar, extra Old Bay, and melted butter for dipping.

Waterman's crab house crab pile

get to choose the size of your crabs, all the way from mediums to jumbos with
larges and extra larges in between, if they have them, and pay accordingly by
the dozen. NYC crabs are never larger than medium. Picking crab is fussy
business; you'll starve messing with mediums.

Waterman's crab house hushpuppies

Hushpuppies are the starch of choice. Dip them in
more butter.

Waterman's crab house crab pretzel

Crab pretzels, cheesy crab dip baked onto pretzel
bread, came on the scene some time ago. Admittedly, it's kind of gross when it's
over 90 degrees and you're sweating. Crab dip served with saltines is more

Waterman's crab house beer

A pitcher of beer is necessary. I'd never seen this
bag of ice trick before.

Waterman's crab house bar

Then you can move onto Rum Runners, Jaeger bombs or
whatever special is advertised at the adjoining bar where 85% of the clientele
is at least 40, smokes and tanned to a beef jerky brown. My current bleached
blonde hair made me feel like I fit in a little big, but my skin's ghosty hue gave me away
as an intruder.

Waterman's Crab House * 21055 Sharp St., Rock Hall, Maryland

Week in International Intrigue: Whoppers, Wine Bars, Wing Zones


New York Fries, which doesn't exist in New York–or anywhere in the US–will be opening two shops in Istanbul shortly. The Candian chain is no stranger to cross-cultural items;  butter chicken poutine is already a menu standard.

There is a 10-seat French-ish restaurant in Tokyo called Fort Greene.

Next year Pakistan will likely get its first Burger King.

The Maldives already got their first taste of Whoppers.

2014 will also see McDonald's arriving in Vietnam.

Japanese robata grill, Inakaya, is expanding to India. Apparently, I work one block from NYC's Inakaya and had no idea. I've always been anti-restaurant week, but maybe?

Parisian wine bar and bistro, Racines, hopes to be in Tribeca by year's end.

There was recently a franchise expo in NYC and there was Bolivian interest in WingZone and Bangladeshis wanting to transport Subway to the Indian subcontinent.



Eaten, Barely Blogged: Summer of Cheese

Nitehawk cinema queso tots

Nitehawk Cinema A lot of melted cheese was consumed
in a one-week period. I ordered the queso tots thinking this was some new unexplored
treat then remembered I’d ordered the exact same thing on my last visit to the
theater. Menu memory lapse happens far more often that I'd like to admit. So, how about that Frances Ha?

Taco chulo eggs benedict

Taco Chulo I also eat at Taco Chulo more than I'd
like to admit. It's never my idea, but it's a block from my apartment and seems
to appeal to picky eaters. If you love processed cheese like I do and can deal
with brunch on occasion, the queso benedict an underdog surprise. Velveeta
instead of hollandaise, sweet toasted cornbread in lieu of English muffins, and
enough spinach and slaw to give the dish a health halo. Save one half and eat it for
dinner once you emerge from your afternoon Bloody Maria stupor.

Artichoke racino pizza

Artichoke Basille's The fabled artichoke cheese dip slice has
certainly garnered a lot of attention since it appeared in 2008. Yet it was
only when I noticed an outpost at the Aquaduct casino that I felt compelled to
try it. It's heavy, for sure, and best consumed in a temperature controlled
environment like a casino food court, otherwise all that warm fat and starch
loses its appeal in 90-degree heat.

Waterman's crab house crab pretzel

Waterman's Crab House Sweat and melted cheese not mixing was
the lesson I learned while tearing into a crab pretzel (crab dip baked onto a
pretzel roll is very much a relative of the Artichoke pizza) on a dock
overlooking the Chesapeake Bay while being blasted with the sun's ray, despite
the table umbrellas. I'd still order the massive appetizer again, though. I
prefer the more demure Phillip's version that you can get a rest stops on the
drive to Baltimore.

Pat's cheesesteak

Pat's and Geno's A pit stop was made on the way back from
Maryland for more unnaturally colored liquid cheese. This was the greasiest
cheesesteak I've ever experienced (and I've experienced quite a few in my time)
and not really in an endearing way. I've always been partial to Pat's, though,
because it's less flashy. Geno's version was consumed for breakfast the
following day and not photographed. The only reason why Pat's was eaten on the
spot and Geno's was saved for later is because Geno's gives bags and Pat's does

Help. I just bought a 12-pack of Kraft Deluxe
American slices at C-Town when there are perfectly nice real cheese shops
within walking distance.


There was that Ocean Spray brainstorming scene in
the last season of Mad Men where the descriptor "sour" was ditched
for the more pleasing "tart." Sour isn't necessarily a bad thing, of
course, and it had better not be for you if dining at Luksus is in your future.
The opening menu and beer pairings really play with the puckery end  of the flavor spectrum.

Luksus menus

The menu was $75, beer inclusive ($45 for pairings
after hard opening) which was a good deal, if not a little confusing because
with so much palate/palette misuse, I couldn't be sure if
"complementary" used in the reservation email meant well-matched or
free. It was both, as it turned out.

Luksus ham & vinegar

You begin with three snacks brought in succession,
no utensils; the first to appear is a ham chip (definitely more accessible than
Aska's blood cracker) coated in powdered vinegar. Salty and tangy, yes? And
wow, with a Berliner Weisse to really make a point. (I really want to Torst to
get on the homemade woodruff syrup.)

Luksus mussel & dulse

Dulse is an algae, if you didn't know. I would've
pegged the flaky squares to have been made with a mung bean or green pea flour
since they tasted more terrestrial. Marine-based crackers made sense paired with
the mussel fluff, though. Chopped pickled vegetables added more texture (and

Luksus carrot & beet

The roasted beets and carrots with an egg cream were
more straightforward and had a bitter finish.

Luksus bread

Warm sourdough bread came sort of as its own course,
tucked into what looked like a denim pant leg while the Outback Steakhouse song
played (well, the original Of Montreal version).

Luksus radish, razor clam, cucumber, bone marrow

Radishes sitting in a cucumber broth were the focus
(my very unhelpful notes say "sour not tart"). I'll admit that I
wasn't sure what role the bone marrow played. Initially, I thought the pinkish
translucent nubs were the marrow, but I suspect those was the razor clams.

Luksus little gem, salad puree, pea broth, egg

The leafiest course was meatless–at least
overtly–but robust. The little gem lettuce was charred (I do like all the
sooty burnt flavors that seems to be a Nordic hallmark) creating a presence
that didn't get overpowered by the maitake and slow-cooked yolk.

Luksus lamb, sunchoke, burnt hay, tongue salad

Lamb breast, rosy and fatty, was a solid main with a
lot of intrigue. Sometimes this style of food can be overly austere for my
taste, and that really wasn't the case at Luksus. Thinly sliced sunchokes and
ribbons of lamb tongue formed a little salad in the middle that had a mustardy
flavor hit with mint. I knew that hay was going to have to appear somewhere,
and I suspect that was the source of the black splotches.

When I posted a horrible Instagram pic of this on
Facebook because I'm a horrible person, the burnt hay threw an acquaintance for
a loop, reminding me that these ingredients and preparations aren't immediately
accessible. I mean, people still use arugula as a punchline. I had to explain
that, yes, it was hay not "hay." I do wonder how this style will
trickle down to the mainstream. Maybe more wild leaves and herbs tossed into
salads? More vegetable-based broths? Less reliance on meat for impact? Seaweeds,
lichen and barks have a ways to go.

Luksus spruce, blueberry, yogurt

The palate cleanser was the only thing I hated, and
I did not write than on my comment card because that's crazy subjective like
weirdos who don't like cilantro, coconut or blue cheese. I really can't deal
with pine flavors (maybe too much Northwest upbringing) so spruce sorbet was
not for me (and spruce isn't even native to the region, so it's not exactly
making a case for local-ism). The menu says yogurt, but the third component was
a sorrel broth. Guess what sorrel tastes like? Oh, it's tart,  all right. Even the blueberry gel was sour,
not sweet. My first thought, after the first bite was that Spain would never do
this to me. It certainly succeeded as a palate cleanser, however.

Luksus rhubarb, pea, beet, anise hyssop

Pea ice cream is fine by me, though. The cool
sweetness worked with the beets, rhubarb and licorice flavors. It was paired
with a sharp apple-like lambic (technically a gueuze) topped with  beet juice.

Luksus flodebolle

Ah, chocolate. This was a play on a traditional
Danish flodeballer and contained a brown butter cookie and a marshmallowy center flavored with strawberry cider, I think.

I liked Luksus, though I'm marginally biased since
I’m only one month post-Copenhagen and the food eaten there hasn't slipped my
mind yet. The cooking was strong for opening week with no real misfires (sorry,
spruce sorbet) despite the sour obsession; I'm sure it'll be refined with time.
I think it comes down to more of a matter of whether or not you dig this type
of thing–I'm more curious than fanatical–which will be important long-term
after the initial hype dies down.

Initially, I was thinking that the options for New
Yorkers to explore this trend seemed limited, but even three four  (Luksus, Acme, and Aska–oh, and Aamanns will be introducing a New Nordic dinner menu next Wednesday) restaurants in this style tops
the number we have showcasing avant-garde Spanish cuisine, despite its longer
lifespan. Something about the rough-hewn, pared-down aesthetic (maybe we simply
like stark white walls, blonde wood, and bearded men?) just seems to mesh with urban-naturalist
NYC at the moment.

Luksus * 615 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, NY



She Said No, Right?

Donut ring

I’ve been patiently waiting for this day to come, the ultimate I Do(nut) moment.

For example, there was the man who wanted to present his
fiancée an engagement ring inside a cronut. Unfortunately, they'd sold out by
the time he reached the front of the line. "He came back the next
day," Mr. Ansel marveled. "He was first in line. He delayed his
proposal because he wanted to get a cronut."  [WSJ via Eater NY]

Doughnt Diamond Rings photo: sarahlouisematthews/etsy