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The Best Lazy (Not Quite) End of Summer Friday Afternoon Snack

Everyone’s on vacation and away from their computers, right? I’m not. Fine. So, on the cusp of this who-cares-about-blogs-three-and-a-half-day weekend, I’m going to share a snack. It’s kind of a desperation snack because the only other food in my apartment, minus dried goods and condiments, is a bag of soft celery and carrots with growths sprouting from their tops.

Take a container of Liberté coconut yogurt, which is slightly sweet and pretty rich and dessert-like (it has the same calories as a bag of M&Ms) and add a pinch of salt and another of cayenne, then add maybe four or five roughly chopped cashews. That’s it. There’s a great balance between the sweet and the savory, kind of like you’ve had a meal and dessert in one go.

Photo: Fage

Photo: Fage

Another variation is doing the same with full-fat Fage with the cherry or strawberry jam on the side and substituting almonds for cashews. Use 2% if you must, but please don’t mess with nonfat yogurt. I’m always saddened when I open my office fridge and it’s teeming with 0% dairy products. (I thought the whole reason why ladies glommed onto the Greek yogurt thing was because the higher protein makes it more filling, and fyi you don’t get that effect without some of the fat.) On the upside, no one will ever steal my yogurt.

Happy Labor Day. Go eat some real food, please.

Sizzler Forest Hills

oneshovelSizzler is a tricky beast. I’ve been talking it up all summer (and f.y.i., there’s still more than three weeks left). I am one of its only 48 Instagram followers. I also became debilitatingly sick immediately after eating there. And yet even with a dull headache four days later, I still don’t want to snark on Sizzler.

Photo: Sizzler

Photo: Sizzler

Not only is the Forest Hills location just past the never crowded Trader Joe’s that no one ever talks about the only remaining example of this fading heritage brand in NYC, it’s the only sad reminder of the once mighty chain east of Nebraska (if you don’t count the three in Florida, which I don’t). Somehow, though, the America’s Favorite Flavors promotion explicitly mentions the East Coast, represented by steak and shrimp scampi linguine.

It’s also kind of a fun bus ride if you happen to be in Williamsburg and enjoy seeing long inter-borough thoroughfares shift character from starting point to near-terminus and keeping tabs on the one other rider with even more staying power. For $2.50 the Q54 provides a magical sightseeing tour of many of the city’s super-scarce chains. Sizzler, obviously, but also NYC’s only Chili’s, hidden in Glendale’s upscale and underwhelming Atlas Park Mall, and one of only two Arby’s, plopped in the lot that used to be occupied by Niederstein’s in Middle Village’s cemetery country.

Despite Sizzler searing itself into my consciousness as a child, it’s not a young person’s game. In fact, one member of the crew I convinced to join me had previously been to this exact Sizzler in grade school after her grandmother’s funeral. On this visit I witnessed a septuagenarian’s birthday, as well as waist-high toilet handles, presumably to prevent the need to bend. There are most certainly senior specials, even with the already modestly priced menu.

sizzler spread

I mean, $12.49 for steak and chicken? There was no way I wasn’t going to get the Malibu Chicken. I loved Malibu Chicken so much as a teen that I Todd Wilbur’ed it. My sister and I would allocate part of our $20 weekly grocery budget for frozen, breaded chicken patties, Swiss cheese, packets of Land O’Frost ham and powdered hollandaise sauce–just add milk and margarine. We were processed food geniuses.

sizzler steak & malibu chicken combo

I’m not sure if my tastes have changed or the recipe did, but the sauce currently being served is definitely not hollandaise. The predominant flavor was mustard, not lemon. I do now recall the appeal of this dish, though, and it’s the fried, fatty, creamy trifecta. That cheese is a solid molten mass, no lacy holes remain. I would probably add a spicy component if I were an R&D consulting chef. I don’t think Sizzler is at Sriracha level yet, so I might start them off with a mayonnaise-based chipotle sauce. In reality, pepper jack swapped for Swiss might be as much change as anyone could handle.

sizzler salad bar plate

I barely touched my medium-rare steak that sadly didn’t come skewered with a little plastic doneness indicator because the salad bar is more important than sirloin topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions (an upsell). And you’re insane if you don’t get the salad bar–a $4.95 add-on–because incorporating hard shell tacos, krab salad, onion rings, corn fritters, and chicken wings is kind of the whole point.

sizzler taco bar

Nacho cheese, of course. Mild, naturally. No shredded cheddar here.

sizzler green peppers

I didn’t see evidence of the kale mentioned on Sizzler’s site, but apparently green bell peppers are so out they’re back in. That pile of sauteed beef and peppers is exactly the type of dish that caused so much teen angst that my mom gave up cooking for us.

sizzler pasta salads

In another fit of Sizzler synergy, The New York Times also featured a pasta salad in its cooking newsletter last week.

sizzler dessert bar

The soft serve machine may have been broken, but there was no shortage of other soft desserts.

sizzler dessert plate

Green Jell-O, of course, plus ambrosia, chocolate pudding, and pound cake hidden beneath an avalanche of mini chocolate chips.

bangkok sizzler duo

I was going to say that I haven’t been to a Sizzler since the ’80s, but that’s about as accurate as saying the Queens Sizzler is the only one remaining on the East Coast. I must admit I hit one up for lunch when I was in Bangkok two visits ago. Yes, there’s a salad bar. And yes, the portions are completely un-American. You call that Texas toast for two? More like Rhode Island toast, amirite?

The leftovers: sadder than the HBO show

The leftovers: sadder than the HBO show

I may have been the only person depraved enough to drink beer at Sizzler. I was also the only one in my group who took home leftovers–steak and Texas toast that got forgotten in my ride half-way home–because I’m just that cheap (and didn’t even pay for my own meal). I’m well on my way to becoming an “Honored Guest.”  I only made it down Metropolitan Avenue as far as Ridgewood before hopping out of the car to head off a friend who’d been biking up to meet us for a Forest Hills bar crawl. Too dizzy and sweaty for drinks at this point, I ended up laying down in her spare room, and eventually the bathroom where everything I’d ingested five hours earlier came up for the next 20 minutes.

sizzler salad bar

It was only last night that I deduced I had a migraine, not food poisoning–are Jell-O and processed cheese triggers? I got made fun of on Facebook for saying I didn’t want to blame Sizzler, the true mark of an abusive relationship. I can’t have Malibu Chicken to be the source of my malady, and I’m not convinced that it was because no one else who ate it had any distress. Maybe my brain just shorted out from sensory overload–it’s a lot of nostalgia for a body to contain.

Sizzler * 100-27 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, NY

Me, Elsewhere

Do we really need more places to post and share stuff? Probably not. I decided to give Medium a whirl anyway, so don’t be afraid to click on my attempt at writing about something other than food (well, it does mention Houdini obliquely). In a nutshell, a yet-to-air Fox show triggered strange, possessive feelings for Ridgewood, Queens, a neighborhood on the verge.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Brunch & Burgers

delaware and hudson brunch

Delaware and Hudson Brunch is not dinner, obviously, so I can’t speak to the seemingly good-value tasting menu that will surely draw more attention post-New York Times review. Brunch is pretty chill considering the restaurant’s proximity to Bedford Ave. and its aimless shufflers and line-lovers. Walking in on Sunday was no problem, and where else can you get scrapple in all of its livery glory, edges perfectly crisped, eggs over easy, and paired with an inexpensive bottle of Provençal rosé? (Wine served in tumblers doesn’t bother me. My friend was less convinced. Coincidentally, wine not served in wine glasses appeared as a “grievance” on Eater the following day.) Mini sugar doughnuts with blueberry jam are also pretty civilized.

peter luger burger & martini

Peter Luger One neighborhood benefit bolstered by the occasional self-created summer Friday (don’t tell) is the Luger lunch burger, a treat I’ve somehow never mentioned before. I don’t think there’s a better NYC burger in the $12 range. Of course I get mine with cheese, despite the dry-aged beef having plenty of rich, minerally flavor on its own. Cheese isn’t a sacrilege, but adding bacon on top might be. Those charred strips are to be savored with nothing more than a few dabs of the sweet and tangy steak sauce. If you’re serious about summer Friday, make it a one-martini (ok, two) lunch and cap it off with a shared hot fudge sundae.

peter luger bacon & sundae

corner bistro burgerCorner Bistro This is a burger I’ve never mentioned because I’d never tried it. Even this occasion happened to be an unplanned accident. Unfortunately, I also had an unplanned, accidental cheeseburger at an Irish pub near my office for lunch, so I was burgered out by dinner. Or at least that’s the reason I’m attributing to this crumbly burger making little impression on me–I remember more about the Teamster who bought me a shot of Jameson–when normally I’m all for greasy bar burgers. The poorly lit photo makes the thing look even less attractive, which is kind of unfair. I get the late night appeal, but I wouldn’t call this a destination burger in 2014.

Un-American Activities: Localization of the Week: Wendy’s Philippines Salad Bar

Salad bars used to be a big deal in the pre-kale era (don’t even get me started on the glory of the Wednesday baked potato bar at my middle school cafeteria). Probably because it was an excuse to load up on shredded cheese, bacon bits and thousand island dressing in the name of health.

Wendy’s is credited with introducing the first fast food salad bar, in 1979. The concept had a two-decade run before fading into American history.

In July, Wendy’s in the Philippines brought the salad bar back to life. Being 2014 a hashtag #WeDeserveThis has been deployed and a crowdsourced Facebook campaign solicited salad items to be included. With the exception of lychee gelatin, the offerings wouldn’t likely throw Dave Thomas into fits. The spring rolls, spaghetti and salisbury steak on the regular menu? Maybe.

The salad bar technique appears to be borrowing lightly from the Chinese Pizza Hut playbook.


Top 5 Shocking Discoveries About Applebee’s and Tennis Stars

The Cincinnati Masters attracts tennis pros from around the globe. The Marriott in Mason, Ohio, is the official hotel of the tournament. It also happens to be next to an Applebee’s. Culture shock–and eventual understanding–ensues.

5. There are no mopeds in Mason, according to American athlete John Isner.

“I always say Carrabba’s has great Italian food to a couple of the Italians, and they look at me and laugh,” he said of another restaurant in Mason. “I still stand by that. I don’t know, I think it’s easy. Everybody has their own car, it’s easy to drive here. You’re not fighting awful traffic and mopeds and all sorts of the stuff in Rome.”

4. Despite the lack of mopeds, Cincinnati and its suburbs are still world class.

“I’m super comfortable; I think most Americans are,” he said of staying in Mason. “I prefer Cincinnati, personally, over a tournament like Madrid or something. For me, it’s better. There’s a lot to do here, in my opinion.”

3. Former player and Croatian, Ivan Ljubicic, thinks Applebee’s is a Japanese restaurant.

“Especially coming from Europe, when I eat my first meal at Applebee’s, I feel. …,”  Ljubicic said, puffing out his cheeks and holding his arms out to indicate the width of a sumo wrestler. Then he added, “But the desserts are fantastic, it has to be said.”

2. Maria Sharapova doesn’t get it. “It’s really slim pickings here, in terms of the healthy options,” said the highest-paid female athlete in the universe. She rents her own house and supposedly cooks her own food.

1. Latvian Ernests Gulbis gets it better than anyone.

“But throughout the years, and I’m not joking, I start to love this place,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to come here. I don’t know. It feels somehow — even this Marriott where we’re staying, the atmosphere there, the Applebee’s next door — you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Un-American Activities: Cheese Fondue Whopper

Burger King has introduced a burger that would be near and dear to my processed cheese-loving self if I were anywhere near South Korea. It’s the Cheese Fondue Whopper, which appears to have swapped out American slices for melted white cheese that may or may not be Emmental.

Actor Lee Jung-Jae makes dipping a fast food burger into processed cheese (in the commercial he submerges half the Whopper into the fondue pot) look like the height of sophistication. The bachelor pad penthouse terrace probably doesn’t hurt.




Put a Ring In It

When you passively await fixations to blip on your radar, dry spells are a given. (The summer has been upsettingly slow for palate/palette abuse.) Finally, a solid food proposal came my way.

We can all agree this would be more romantic if the ring was oozing out of a molten chocolate cake (heck, even the new cinnamon version), right?

Shovel Time: Bâtard

threeshovelBâtard doesn’t seem radical on the surface. It’s a nice restaurant in Tribeca. But thinking back to my experience in the same space over four years ago, it feels like twice as long in restaurant years. Gone are the tablecloths, much of the hush (though this was two days after the great muffling) and pretense, no biggie if you want white burgundy but aren’t willing to spend three figures. Unlike at Corton, no one would’ve given a shit if I took out my purse-sized SLR instead of leaving it at home, a more frequent occurrence lately because who cares about blogs anymore? Bâtard has an active Instagram account.

batard bread

No amuses. There is still bread, though.

batard chilled pea soup, fluke, salsify crumble, sweet shallots, mint

Anyone who ate at Bâtard in the early days–you know, a month ago–recommends the pea soup with sweetbreads. It has since given way to a more summery version, chilled and minted, and containing ribbons of raw fluke. The crisped salsify that looks like bacon is still present, as is the tableside pour.

batard octopus pastrami, braised ham hock, pommery mustard, new potatoes

Octopus “pastrami” might be the breakout hit. In fact, the spice-crusted cephalopod terrine, garnished incongruously but deliciously with grainy mustard, capers, ham, and potato, appeared on Good Day New York the following morning. Oddly, it was the almost sweet rye croutons that really brought this dish together.

I slunk into mild martyrdom because I don’t have fine dining friends (I have plenty of brunch friends, bbq friends, beer and burger friends, and Neverending Pasta Bowl friends, thanks) and was starting to spazz over not getting the birthday dinner I truly wanted. A well-meaning question from the loosening vegetarian almost made me say and do regrettable things. “Is there chicken on the menu?” With the exception of the schnitzel special, there’s not only no chicken on the menu, but no poultry whatsoever.

batard veal tenderlon tramezzini, sugar snap peas, sweetbreads, sauce diable

I may have opted for the veal out of misplaced defiance. It’s a serious entree, described playfully as “tramezzini,” a nod to the breading wrapped around the rare tenderloin that’s more like a wellington than an Italian sandwich. The crunchy snap peas added just enough freshness to the rich jus, chanterelles and sweetbread cube.

batard black forest, chocolate sablé, kirsch chantilly, bing cherries

The black forest dessert, incorporating straightforward chocolate, cherries, and cream, was the most overtly Germanic. Sweet and pleasing, it just made sense.

Keeping with the more accessible theme, the relatively low point of entry ($55 for two courses) is nice, but you’d have to crazy to not find the extra $20 for two more dishes.

Bâtard * 239 W. Broadway, New York, NY

Would You Rather? Chinese Edition

Would you rather:

Photo via

Photo* via

Eat Beijing burgers in NoMad?


Crab rangoon and Brooklyn Lager in Shanghai?

*I’m 99.9% certain that’s not the chain in question, as it appears to be a one-off in Qingdao that serves chicken sandwiches. In fact, there’s no (English-language or crappy Chinese Google translate) online evidence of the existence of an Uncle Sam Fast Food in China. I would ponder if this was just an elaborate hoax, but some teenager in Brooklyn did win an Uncle Sam’s logo contest–at least according to China Daily, which may or may not be a legit publication.