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Posts from the ‘New York’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Hudson, NY

Hudson, New York, which I kept referring to generically as The Catskills despite being informed on Facebook that technically it’s not, is the type of bucolic, bougie paradise I’m not typically attracted to (if I’m leaving NYC, give me the suburbs) and yet I went up by myself on a near whim because that’s what you’re supposed to do in summer. Elsewhere, I’ve described it as if Red Hook was an entire Ikea-less town, the projects were ramshackle wood-clad homes with saggy porches, and Van Brunt was more densely packed with galleries and antique stores and perfumed with essential oils. I did not visit purely for food purposes, especially with my solo dining weirdness, but of course eating happened though not as much as one might think for four days.

I will say one thing about Hudson: the bread and butter is very good everywhere.

fish & game trio

Fish & Game recently went more a la carte, which is great if you’re not willing to fully commit to a tasting menu. Still, you will need two for the shared roast chicken, rack of lamb or whichever big meats are getting the wood-burning oven treatment that day. Oysters, eggs, both chicken and sturgeon, were playing a large role on the Thursday night I visited. I started with the shellfish, roasted, encrusted with a less-overpowering-than-it-sounds kimchi hollandaise to snack on with my Dr. Mephisto Swizzle (white rum, sherry, turmeric liqueur, husk cherry). I treated a hefty slab of smoked and grilled pork belly nearly hidden in a mound of thinly shaved Hakurei turnips and doused with the F&G house sauce that smelled strongly of fish sauce and was similar to a Vietnamese sweet-savory caramel yet also managed to taste like pizza as a main, along with a glass of orange wine (Franco Terpin Quinto Quinto Bianco) because that’s what one must drink at 2015’s midpoint. Really, though, the tartness was right on with the pork that would’ve been better split with another diner to free up stomach space for a third dish. Sitting at the bar, I had a view of a more granular demographic division than townie/”citidiot” (as I was later told interlopers were called by a retired NYPD libertarian who also relayed a Father’s Day sob story and wanted to talk guns with me) which boiled down to boisterous group-dining golf-shirted men in their 40s vs. the cocktail-sipping millennial topknot girls who probably harvest their own honey.

swoon kitchenbar duo

Swoon Kitchenbar is kind of the original upscale, locavore restaurant in town (founded in 2004). The kind of place we almost take for granted in every tier of city now. Once again, I was more of a snacker, trying the greaseless fried artichokes with black olive aioli and a roasted beet and goat cheese salad that swayed me with the inclusion of crispy onions because double fried vegetables for one meal is a sound decision. I appeared to be the only unknown entity dining at the bar. It’s also that kind of place. There was confusion about the lady at the end of the bar who’d ordered the beet salad. Both I and the older solo woman with short spiky silver hair, similarly toned statement jewelry, and funky glasses were brought the same dish at the same time and I had a vision of one possible future if I started making different life decisions. I don’t think I’m ready for that.

helsinki duck confit

Helsinki Hudson. I went twice, once just for a drink, because this restaurant/performance space was very close to my airbnb, and left with two very different impressions. At the bar on weeknight there’s a more casual menu and on the early side was province of solo-dining (there are a lot of solo diners in this town) men over 50 who appeared to make money in mysterious ways and have homes in town and elsewhere. On a weekend evening in the outdoor compound, I had Hudson Valley duck confit made Southern with collard greens and a slightly incongruous puck of blackberry cornbread, and the crowd was a hodgepodge of gay seniors, non-young moms with newborns, a plethora of Eileen Fisher and straw hats, plus a woman in a one-shoulder cocktail dress who looked like a vixen from an ’80s video but was a little too old to be ironic yet not old enough to be time-warped.

Cafe le Perche is a French-ish bakery/bistro with scattered service and an assumption that reservations are required on a Monday morning. I’ll take my black coffee and almond croissant to go, though I should probably shouldn’t take it at all.

The Cascades, on the other hand, is not terribly fancy but where to go for solid American sandwiches named after mountains. Because I was starving, I didn’t even take a photo of my Mount Baker, roast beef and provolone on a hard roll, with shredded iceberg balanced out by vaguely chichi balsamic mayonnaise.

grazin' burger

Grazin’ Yes, there’s one in Tribeca, but this is the original. It’s the pseudo-diner to visit if you want hyper-local burgers (Grazin’ Angus Acres beef), cheese (Prodigal Farm bleu), and beer (I don’t remember) and to observe children trying their first tastes of gazpacho and attractive, middle-aged couples without wedding bands having quiet fights. When “Movin’ Out” started playing, I braced myself. There. “Heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack.” As if on cue, the dressed-down tortoiseshell frames finance guy confided to his bird-tattooed, age-appropriate girlfriend in expensive clogs and crowned with sun-streaked waves , “I used to be so into Billy Joel.”

relish blt

Relish. Maybe you have an hour (or more once you get an Amtrak text alert) to kill before your train back home? This is really the only daytime hangout in the vicinity of the station, directly across the street. Have a BLT on multi-grain bread, side of the day (a chickpea salad that I swear had wasabi in it) and a cucumber mint soda, and try to mentally will your train to arrive faster by staring at the Hudson sign in your line of vision.

american glory improved whiskey cocktail

American Glory. Just for drinks (like the improved whiskey cocktail above) and friendly bartenders, not the bbq. If you wear a Target dress, moderate heels, and lipstick, everyone will think you are up from the city for the weekend.

half moon

Half Moon. The good dive bar to go to if you need something open after midnight. I still feel guilty for under-tipping the bartender who gave me more free drinks than I realized.

melino's beer & shot

Melino’s Pub. The dive bar you go to before you realize Half Moon exists when you need something open after midnight and want to scare your beer-hating, skinny-jeans vegan Tinder date and make them drink Fireball shots against their will.






MP Taverna Roslyn

twoshovelThe primary upside of finding myself in a suburb is that I can make an excuse for trying a new chain restaurant. At least this is always the case in New Jersey. Long Island, though, which one would think is very much the same, just on the east side of New York City instead, is not the same at all

The area around North Shore Animal League, Port Washington, North Hempstead, Manhasset, whatever you want to call it, had a startling lack of proper chains, and drifting nearer to Roslyn, it was clear that this was a wealthy character-preserving town. The tip offs were the Main Street Chase branch dolled up in clapboard like it belonged in a maritime village and the strip mall sitting across the street from an Aston Martin dealership, all shiny with its Brooks Brothers, Tory Burch and Tiffany. And even though a restaurant along this corridor whipped by in seconds, a blur of lights and parking lot opulence that seemed better suited for Los Angles (pure speculation because I’ve know nothing about the city except that I could envision this restaurant being the setting for a misunderstanding on Curb Your Enthusiasm), I made a point of remembering the name: Limani. (Oh, there will be a Rockefeller Center outpost soon–also, it’s a Greek restaurant, as well, which isn’t immediately apparent from a drive-by.)

MP Taverna was the closest thing passing for chain (three spots to date, and a staffer was telling customers about a Brooklyn location being scouted, which may or may not be the giant Williamsburg project).  I never ever hear about the NYC restaurant, despite the New York Times review from only six months ago. It’s popular in Roslyn. A 5:15pm Open Table check on a Saturday night yielded only 5:30pm and 9pm slots. I went early bird and by 6pm, the dining room and bar were mostly full.

mp taverna duo

Oh yes, the food. It’s rustic (I almost said “lusty” but that’s a horrible word and then noticed it’s used in the Times review, for what it’s worth) with strong flavors and a few slight twists, but generally, it’s straightforward menu. A clove-y spiced Manhattan to start, followed by a salad filled with chopped dried apricots and figs, smoked almonds, and manouri, like a less salty feta.

mp taverna lamb shank

I wanted to play indignant customer and ask for the whole goat or lamb, both which require five-days notice as stipulated in small print on the menu, then get outraged when told no. Instead, I politely ordered the lamb shank with orzo, which was unexpectedly tomato-saucy (I was imagining a drier dish enlivened with fat and natural juices) and what I thought was an undercooked mirepoix were cubed root vegetables. I’m still not sure there was supposed to be that much stiffness and crunch. No, I’m not really selling this dish, but the lamb, itself, was tender and cooked well.

mp taverna cake

The parsnip and walnut cake was a wintry play on carrot cake, and taken more seasonal with the scoop of maple ice cream.

I did not intend to turn this into a full Shovel Time post because I had more to say about the surroundings than the food, often the case with my suburban fixations, but now you have the story of three courses anyway. So, who’s been to Limani?

MP Taverna * 1363 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn, NY



Cheesecake Factory Westbury

At the Westbury Cheesecake Factory nothing was as it
seemed or should be.


Cheesecake factory vietnamese tacos

The Vietnamese Tacos were buns.

Cheesecake factory kale salad

The kale salad was frisee and radicchio with a few errant celery
leaves. I was just curious how kale would play in the suburbs, and apparently,
it doesn't. I ordered it because I like sweets and nuts with my roughage and this
one also contained dried cranberries, apple and marcona almonds (at least those
were legit).

Cheesecake factory crab rangoon

I would be surprised if the crispy crab wontons,
a.k.a. crab rangoon, contained real crab meat, but that's not the point. Fried
cream cheese is.

Cheesecake factory white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake

The macadamia white chocolate cheesecake (recommended
my our server and nearly the highest-calorie cheesecake on the list–I would
tell you just how much but nutritional info isn't on the site) was kind of a blondie
with stuff on it. Ok, it was a cheesecake–and a damn fine one if you like violently sweet desserts.

At least my martini, The Well-Mannered Dirty Martini,
was a martini, the only non-sugared choice of the ten on offer. Most chain
restaurant cocktail menus will throw in one drink with blue cheese-stuffed olives
to appease sweet-resistant fat-lovers. (I love cloying desserts–see above–but hate sweet beverages.)

And I must say that the suburbs are for spacious booths,
not two-seaters inches from a banquette of birthday partiers playing music
aloud on their phones. I could stay in NYC for that experience.  When our server mysteriously disappeared for
what seemed like a universe in chain time, we contemplated up and leaving for
Grand Lux Cafe down the road–it's supposed to be classier, right? I will have
to get to the bottom of how once town can have both a Cheesecake Factory and a
Grand Lux Cafe when so many others have to do without.

Cheesecake Factory * 1504 Old Country Rd., Westbury,

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

1/2 Even though school started this week and we’ve slogged through torrential downpours, September is still summer—and therefore, a perfectly good time of year to experience nature’s bounty of tomatoes, corn and melon (bah, more about that later) This particular month wasn’t part of my original plan, though.

There was no impetus for a trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns beyond a July panic that I should be eating summer foods somewhere that takes such things seriously, i.e. not my home. My only two previous visits were in the dead of winter, so cold you had to run from the parking lot the entrance and missed the whole point of escaping NYC, and before they implemented the freeform, tasting menu-only approach. Eh, and I was violently sick and ruined my own meal last time. (Through no fault of the restaurant; I was getting over a two-week-long flu and didn’t want to cancel my reservation. That was a mistake.) It was time for a re-do. Except that the soonest weekend opening available was for Sunday, August 28 at 9:30pm. I took it anyway.

And when Hurricane Irene was predicted I thought I was being a genius by searching Open Table for cancellations. There were plenty. 5pm on a Saturday? No problem. Except that Saturday morning the restaurant closed. Wisely, it turned out, because even days later on a Thursday for our rescheduled dinner, the hour drive ended up taking three (!) because of the Saw Mill Parkway being closed, flooding and other unforeseen detours. (On the way back we were re-thwarted and discovered the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was closed, then the Brooklyn Bridge entrance, too. 9/11 prep or normal construction, I don’t know. By the time I set foot in the apartment it was 3am.)

Being a weeknight (and having just eaten at Town House over Labor Day—two decadent parades of food just seemed a bit much for one week) we opted for the smallest number of dishes, five, which would presumably be plenty satisfying—and the right number for one bottle of wine, a 2004 Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Spätlese, preceded by a gin cocktail with purple basil and a glass of cava.

Bubbly always signals special occasion (and really, the restaurant’s three-and-half-year-old, new-to-me style is the epitome of special occasion dining—there were lots of candles sheltered in glass domes, brought to tables to be blown out) and we were asked if we were celebrating anything. We were not, though I would’ve been well within my rights to mention our twelve-year dating anniversary that occurred three days before. I’m not attention-starved.

No matter, the meal that unfolded was anniversary-worthy and then some. No restrictions, no allergies, no food off-limits. (Not 100% true—there’s only one food in the entire world that I don’t like but wouldn’t necessarily bring it up under the context of “Do you eat offal or mind raw seafood?” because it’s so benign to most that I can’t bear bringing it up out of fear of looking like a dilettante. Ok, I hate melon, yes even watermelon, and cantaloupe in particular. The offending fruit showed up three times during this meal! Because it’s still summer, duh. And yes, I ate it without complaint because I don’t tolerate food babies and no one should put up with crap from me either.)

Let’s just say that five courses was merely a guideline. The amount of food was highly unexpected, edible shock and awe, which I’m not complaining about. I just had not anticipated a four-hour dinner and closing down the restaurant. You have to be mentally and physically prepared for such decadence! And I’m still sad about leaving behind a good portion of the final savory course: pork in a zillion forms—especially after hearing about how cute and fat the piglets were getting.

Blue hill stone barns 4 amuses

The meal was kicked off with a single lettuce leaf (a similar one-leaf approach occurred at Town House the previous weekend). Then you’re consumed by which naked piece of produce to snatch from the row of metal spikes first, though soon your attention is diverted by a jungle of dried kale, tempura beans and thin rounds of pancetta.

The mini burgers are a diminutive hallmark; beets in the past, this time with tomato and bacon. And a really sweet bun, which I liked. Keeping up the make-the-diner-feel-like-a-giant theme, finger-sized zucchini and “corn dogs,” battered, fried little stalks served with a bitter corn and beer shot, added to the tableau.

   Blue hill stone barns radish trio

Natural sweetness enhanced by salt was the theme. I never get people, always food people, who cite radish and butter sandwiches as a revelatory dish. Use fresh enough butter and barely bitter radishes and a good dose of salt…and ok, it makes more sense.

A coca, that would be a Barcelonan thin, crackly near-pizza (I only know this because twice I went to La Vinya del Senyor looking for a version with red peppers and sugar and both times they did not have it) comes blanketed with cured ham.

Fish balls with phytoplankton mayonnaise. What’s phytoplankton, you ask? Microscopic organisms that form the basis aquatic life. Dan Barber encountered its culinary applications at Aponiente in Cádiz. Will powdered, reconstituted algae be the next shredded beef tongue?

My subconscious must be stronger than realized because I have no photographic evidence of the melon balls with cracked pepper and watermelon juice course. If forced to choose, I will concede that watermelon is the more tolerable variety.

Blue hill stone barns marrow duo

The garden showcase segues into a meaty period with a veal marrow bone (love the tailor-made contraption) topped with breadcrumbs and foie gras sandwiched between lacy chocolate wafers.

It’s hard to say where the amuses end and the courses begin.


Blue hill stone barns tomatoes & melon
More melon! I will also concede that grilling the bad-sweet pink cubes adds a complexity that paired well with good-sweet tomatoes and a touch of goat cheese.

Blue hill stone barns brioche duo

Ricotta is stirred into solidity tableside and is meant to be eaten with a thick piece of brioche and a mound of greens (spinach? chard?). I’m pretty sure tiny raisins were tucked into the sautéed vegetable.

Blue hill stone barns onion duo

We wondered if the wild flames visible through a darkened window were intentional (after the flooding and hurricanes, who knew?) Yes, and our onions cooked in “biochar” were one of the things in the fire pit. The soft, caramelized guts could be eaten with a hazelnut-leek spread, chicken liver, peaches or beets. The latter may have worked the best, but I loved the variety.

Blue hill stone barns head grains

Hmm…when the chopsticks appeared I wondered what was coming. I didn’t notice anything particularly Asian on the tables nearby. Fish head? Indeed! I was not expecting a nice gelatinous piece of cod simply presented with a pile of salt and chile flakes for flavor and to be eaten with a small vessel of grains. (I could not tell you the myriad varieties, though our informative server definitely would’ve found out, if asked.)

Blue hill stone barns egg

This is no mere egg yolk sitting atop zucchini shreds. An unborn egg aged to the texture of parmesan is treated similarly to the hard Italian cheese and is grated on top. Egg two-ways. Thankfully, the fish head was as wild as they got and balut wasn’t incorporated for a three-way.

Blue hill stone barns salt baked duo

Salt-baked chicken in a charred crust. I have to admit I was feeling a bit fatigued by this point, so I didn’t ask about the chicken that James insisted was seasoned with pork. Was it? The pristine flesh has clearly been glazed with something.The fried potato dish beneath had to have been. The flavor of the meat was so intense and savory that if only derived from the poultry itself I will begin ponying up for the farm-raised chickens I’m normally too cheap to indulge in.

Blue hill stone barns pork

Waah, pork…rich, fatty pork. Why did it have to come at the end? I was only able to handle a few bites from this sampler of  bacon, blood sausage, ears, loin and even little chicharrones. (I’d just stocked up on pork skins at gas stations all over North Carolina so my pork tolerance is high.)

Blue hill stone barns sweets

Nothing like a cantaloupe palate cleanser, cut with concord grapes (phew) to transition to the sweeter side. This was followed by a semolina pudding with blueberries (and plums?), a chocolate hazelnut mousse with elderberries and an ender nearly as simple as the initial lettuce leaf: dried white peaches and a cluster of grapes.

The restaurant has really elevated its style—the ethos is produce-forward, but more accessible and soothing than some of the forage-heavy roots-leaves-and-twigs school that’s in vogue—since my long-ago last visit. It feels very American. I wonder what influence Peru will have on the cuisine’s future. We were told that “Dan was in the city” before being offered a peek into the kitchen. What they didn’t say was that the city was Lima.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns * 630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, NY

Pizza Hut Saratoga Springs

A $20 Pizza Hut gift card has been stashed in the armrest of James’ car for probably the past two years. Just in case, you know? Really, it’s only a gift in the way that buying things for yourself while Christmas shopping can be considered gifts.

Unlike the cards for Olive Garden and Cheesecake Factory, also languishing in their cache between the front seats, I’ve hoped that James would forget that he bought it. Pizza Hut, like Sizzler, feels second-tier, someplace old and tired that I’ve known my whole life. Not necessarily the source of good nostalgia.

Yet during a rain storm, hungry yet hours earlier than normal dinner time you might see Pizza Hut advertised on a sign on I-87 while approaching Saratoga Springs from Montreal. This is no occasion for glitzy trappings or voluminous menus. And maybe it’s a sit-down? Standalone Pizza Huts are a rare breed, at least around NYC. We struck-out with the first location we found on the GPS. It was just a strip mall takeout version like the one I worked at in the summer of 1990. But the counter woman was nicer than I was during my stint and directed us to a full-service one just a block-and-a-half down the street. Why Saratoga Springs is so saturated with Pizza Huts is another issue.

Pizza hut interior

The faded, family-friendly style that I’d been thinking of as dreary turned out to be charming in its refusal to modernize like an uppity Red Lobster. This photo could’ve been taken decades ago: '70s suburban church italics, '80s checkerboard tiles, three-bean salad. The menu wasn’t laminated and photo-driven, but simply a Xeroxed piece of paper listing the basics. There is a small salad bar and pizzas you can order half-and-half—or Hawaiian with no shame.

Pizza hut pizza.CR2

I picked hand-tossed crust because I couldn’t handle the breadiness of pan, and not thin crust because I remember hating having to make it since it was the only style you had to roll through a machine out on demand. This is childhood pizza, sweetish sauce encased in mozzarella, completely inoffensive. The pepperoni had the perfect singed ends and pools of oil. The odd thing, and I hope it’s not a case of my palate maturing, was how bland the ham and pineapple was. Maybe it was always this way.

Pizza hut salad

The most shocking part of the experience was that after paying, we still had 88 cents left on the gift card. I practically spent as much on a lobster roll and naturally sweetened blueberry soda for lunch last week. No wonder Pizza Hut is such a family favorite (with the exception of the tottering elderly couple drinking white wine and Molson in the primo corner booth, the diners were all parents and children). You might not be treated to a bubbly coal oven pie adorned with mozzarella di bufala, and who would expect to for $11.99?

Pizza Hut * 22 Congress St., Saratoga Springs, NY

OBAO Preview

In 2006 I worked a block from where OBAO, Michael Huynh’s latest venture, is scheduled to open on Monday. The immediate area has shaped into a multi-culti lunching paradise (Güllüoglu, Barros Luco, Mantao Chinese Sandwiches) or maybe it just seems better in comparison to the Financial District blandness I’ve grown accustomed to. And I shouldn't complain so hard, we're getting a Baoguette down here.

Obao lamb, beef on sugarcane & pork belly

Based on the sampling at OBAO’s preview party, there is high promise. The grilled cubes of pork belly were a little sweet with nice char and good balance between the meaty and fatty bits. Lamb chops were coated in chopped lemongrass and tasted like they’d been marinated in coconut milk. Instead of shrimp paste, thin slices of beef were wrapped around sugarcane. Bacon too. Why had I never thought of that?

Obao satay & shrimp roll

Shrimp rolls and chicken satay were perfectly fine renditions, but couldn’t compete with the oomph of the pork, lamb and beef. Or maybe I just have a preference for the fatty.

Obao soup

I think this was a pho. It definitely was pho-like, but the poached egg threw me off.

The unknown element will be the noodles, which weren’t showcased at this event. I’m crazy for laksa and can’t decide if the non-traditional green tea soba noodles as they are touting will be a welcome tweak or just weird. Will the char kway teow also be an Asian hybrid? I’m sure I’ll get the answers soon enough.

Obao exterior
I imagine the signage will be complete and the garbage bin removed by opening day.

OBAO * 222 E. 53 St., New York NY

Sriphraphai Long Island

Sripraphai is one of the few restaurants that I’ve eaten at so many times that I can detect subtle differences in dishes on each visit. I’m not that astute normally. I know some believe that the quality—and spice level—has decreased proportionately with the increasing size of room, but I don’t tend to agree. However, I did wonder how the food would translate to their random (to me, at least—maybe staff or owners live nearby? It doesn’t appear to be a Thai-heavy community either, but more Italian, middle eastern and Indian based on businesses we passed) Long Island location that had been teasing me on their homepage for what feels like a year.

So, my Halloween day plan to finally try the Red Hook Ikea that’s only 1.9 miles from my apartment was shifted at the last minute to Hicksville, just a few towns over from Williston Park, home of the brand new Sripraphai branch. Brooklyn Ikea can wait.

Sriphraphai interior

Yes, there was a crowd out front around 8pm, though not nearly as dense as the eaters that swarm 39th Ave. All resemblances ended there. For one, there was a parking lot adjacent to the stand alone building (we still had to street park). And more importantly, a bar with a few tall chairs on the short side near the front window that were completely open. A cocktail (ok, a Singha) while waiting for a table? How civilized. Oh, and we discovered that they also take reservations and credit cards (though the machine was broken). After only a few sips of beer a two-top became available.

The menu appears to be the same, at least the same as the relatively compact spiral bound one with small photos of nearly every single dish that was new on my last Sripraphai visit. Some of the servers were the same too. Unsurprisingly, the clientele was a little more white and suburban with way more rambunctious kids than I’m accustomed to seeing in Queens (not so, in Brooklyn). Large Chinese families were the second most represented group, which meant just about everyone was eating with chopsticks. Not a single table within eyeshot was lacking a plate of pad thai and another of fried calamari (the child-pleaser of choice, it seemed).

It wasn’t clear to me if the diners were there due to Sriphraphai’s reputation or if they just wanted to try the new Thai restaurant in their neighborhood. I would say a majority were familiar with the establishment. We got nods of approval from our server, ”very popular dish” with our orders of crispy watercress salad and chinese broccoli with crispy pork, which was unusual considering we’ve had this same waiter a million times before and he’s never acknowledged our ordering prowess.

Sriphraphai crispy watercress salad

Determined to branch out from my usual picks, I still had to glom onto a few control dishes. My initial assessment was that the crispy watercress salad was minutely different. I’m not sure if it was because I was looking for aberrations and minute tweaks would’ve slipped past me in the original location, but visually the liquid that pools at the bottom of the white plate was more orange than usual though not spicier as the color indicated. And nearly everything we ate seemed a touch saltier. The big difference was the watercress clusters. They weren’t warm, as if they’d been fried earlier, though not soggy either. If anything the batter was crunchier and more substantial. There was a lacy delicateness lacking even though the overall flavor of the salad was almost identical to the version I’ve come to love. Only a nitpicker would have a problem with any of this.

Sriphraphai chinese broccoli with crispy pork

Nine times out of ten we order crispy pork with chile and basil instead of the fatty strips as a mere accent to Chinese broccoli. This is a good dish to pretend that you’re getting in some healthy greens while also getting a dose of pork skin.

Sriphraphai red snapper with chile and basil

I’ve never had a whole fish at Sriphraphai so this whole snapper with chile and basil was a radical departure. This is why we didn’t order our usual crispy pork; the fish became our substitute meat. You can also choose from a small or large trout. Another fried dish, obviously what I enjoy about much of this food is the contrast between crunchy and soft (the only downside being the inevitable leftovers lose any crispness). The white flesh stayed moist and the skin was wonderfully crackly and bubbled. Also, the light heat was offset by a touch of sweetness.

Sriphraphai duck curry

Though the balance was skewed with one of my favorite curries of duck, bamboo shoots and Thai eggplant. Once again, the sauce was more orange when normally this conglomerate is more swampy and served in a bowl. The flavors are usually mysterious and dark more like a deep body of water far from land, this was sunny like a tropical lagoon. I’m not saying I didn’t like this dish, but knowing the original it’s hard not to compare.

The most striking difference was the inexplicable and very fleeting likeness to the preseasoned pork tenderloins from Costco that I don’t like because they have a barely discernible pastrami flavor. This duck had a tenderloin/pastrami undercurrent that I think might be attributable to cumin. Cumin is fine when it blends into the scenery. It personally creeps me out a bit when it stands out, though. That’s just me. There is definitely a different curry paste being made (or maybe not being made in-house, which is the issue) at this location.

Thankfully, they have replicated one of my favorite aspects that you don’t always find in Thai restaurants: the refrigerated cases and metal shelves full of snacks. I also like that the desserts have glamor shots and names in the menu now, which cuts down on awkward browsing in the busiest part of the restaurant (at the original location—here, they’re off to the side). I took a plastic container of pumpkin custard squares to go and being Halloween, this parting sweet was fitting. Good as these creamy cubes are, I still felt a little deprived that I never got any fun sized candy bars on this holiday.

Sriphraphai exterior

For being a new operation, service was efficient and good natured (though similarly harried and forgetful as the original location), and the food was still many times more enjoyable than what exists in South Brooklyn. I’m never ever in Long Island (NJ is my suburb of choice) so it’s doubtful I’ll make a comparison visit in the near future. It’s nice knowing they’re there, though.

Sriphraphai * 280 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, NY


I can’t decide if I should be cross-posting relevant missives for as long as I can keep up this two-blog charade. I don’t believe Carl’s Jr. is worth mentioning outside a chain-centric blog (especially since I wrote next to nothing about the food) but Burgerville is certainly worthy of Goodies First status.

I can’t pinpoint when Burgerville went from being a regular, albeit regional—they’re based in Vancouver, Washington—burger chain to the
revered sustainable/local/seasonal darling it is today. For many, like that bike-riding drive-thru woman who recently caused a flap, it’s the only fast food they’ll deign to eat.

I primarily remember it being where my dad and his fellow classic car enthusiasts would meet up and show off their tricked out autos in the parking lot. I guess because Burgerville has adopted a vague ‘50s décor and uses a jukebox on their sign?

But the food is really good and who can argue with using what’s fresh and when it’s gone it’s gone? I’m just bummed that we missed the Walla Walla onion rings by a few weeks. On my visit they were promoting poblano peppers, sweet potatoes and blackberries, as well as advertising upcoming apples and cranberries.

It was also worth noting that you can substitute a side salad for fries and bottled water is a combo option in addition to fountain beverages. As a soda-loather, this is appreciated. I’ve always been bothered by water costing more than soft drinks. I’ll take the fries, though.

Burgerville cheeseburger

I accidentally ordered a wimpy cheeseburger instead of one of the beefier varieties so I had to strain to try and detect all of those grass-fed, antibiotic and-hormone-free nuances shining through. Frankly, what made this burger so awesome was the combination of melted Tillamook cheddar and that sauce that I’d totally forgotten about. Plain mayonnaise scares the crap out of me but incorporated into condiments, the eggy richness transcends the fluffy white emulsion. They sell the spread in jars at the counter so I know I’m not alone in my love.

Burgerville blackberry shake

I prefer caramelly, chocolate, nutty flavors of ice cream over fruity varieties. I guess I’m just not crazy about fruit, though I do like berries, cherries and tropical stuff. The Northwest is teeming with berries like huckleberry, marionberry, boysenberry, olalaberry, not just regular black and rasp. This lavender shake ruled; sweet without straying into sickly territory.

After eating, we ordered two pepper bacon cheeseburgers for the road. I think the counter kid thought we were crazy.

The bread is from Franz, with whom I happen to have a personal beef with for a very legitimate reason.
Not too long before I moved to NYC, one of their delivery trucks crashed into my parked car and totaled it during an early a.m. rainstorm. (In a weird way, it kept me from going to court. Days before this incident I had been pulled over by cops and cited for driving without insurance. I was scheduled to go to court to prove I had gotten it but no more car solved that problem nicely.)

Franz delivery truck

These Franz trucks haunted my entire week in Oregon. There was a Franz bakery outlet just a block from the Burgerville in Albany where we stopped on our way to Eugene. We ended up spending over $10 on non-Franz junk like pepperoni sticks, mini pecan pies and Annabelle
candy bars, Abba Zabba and Big Hunk, both non-existent on the East Coast (what, no Idaho Spud?) so we were entitled to two items from the sale rack. No one needs loaves of white bread on vacation but I grabbed a pack of hamburger buns just to be safe.

Burgerville * 2310 Santiam Hwy SE, Albany, OR

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

1/2 I’m about to embark on a woeful tale, so anyone with an aversion to unpleasantness (you know that I have a fascination with barfing, but I fully realize that not everyone shares my interest) should skip ahead to my original stellar Blue Hill experience from 2006.

I thought it was strange last week when James mentioned on a Thursday night that he’d made reservations at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. There wasn’t any occasion for it. That’s the kind of place you’d go to for, say, Valentine’s Day not a weirdo spot like Crave on 42nd. Not that I’m knocking the spontaneity. As it turned out, he had been influenced by a promotional email from the restaurant. I always delete stuff like that, but obviously it works on people, which is great when I benefit.

The problem was that I was still very sick with the virulent cold that I’d had since President’s Day. I didn’t start feeling normal until three days ago, over two weeks after I first became ill. (One thing I learned is that it only takes fourteen days of not plucking for my eyebrows to turn completely Frida Kahlo. Oh, and after being given an EKG and then nearly admitted to the hospital because my heart rate was so out of control, that I’m not allowed to take cold medicine ever again).

But I was determined to go anyway and have one nice meal because I’d been stressing so much over this whole messed up blood sugar business. That was my first mistake. If you have even the inkling that you’re not feeling up to par, just reschedule your reservation.

My second mistake was taking half a dose of cold medicine even though I was warned against it. Actually, I’m not sure if that was the mistake or not. I think it might’ve been self-prescribing antibiotics I picked up in Mexico last year. All I know is that everything stewing around in my stomach started inducing serious sweats and nausea by the time we popped out of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Manhattan. And we still had an hour to go.

Always the planner, I’d targeted a Trader Joe’s a few miles from Blue Hill to pick up some items like Greek yogurt and overly fibrous bread. I’ll do anything to avoid shopping in NYC. First, I ran into a neighboring CVS to grab some Tums in hopes of heading off intestinal distress, but it was too late for that. Next thing I knew I was puking up my guts (and animal ones too) in the Trader Joe’s bathroom.

Ok, the mistake might’ve been leftover Sichuan tongue and tripe in chile oil for breakfast (it seemed like a good low carb solution at the time). I will say that the numbing burn of these cold Chinese appetizers is more pleasant going down than coming up.

At this point we should’ve evaluated the situation and headed home but we were only a few miles from the restaurant. Instead, I nibbled on a piece of brown hyper grainy bread and hoped that the worst was over now that I’d gotten all the crap out of my system.

It is strange that both of our visits to the Westchester Blue Hill have been during the dead of bone-chilling, snowy winter. I really need to pay a visit when it’s all corn and tomatoes instead of root vegetables and cabbage. Honestly, I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other towards seasonal food, but I am a bit curious to try Park Avenue Winter after it morphs into Park Avenue Spring at the end of this month.

I had the good sense to not indulge in the tasting menu, a.k.a. the farmer’s feast, as we did last time. The other way to dine is a la carte, two dishes plus dessert for $65 or three for $78. Portions are modest and nothing is grouped by appetizer or mains so anything goes. I wondered if it would raise eyebrows if you were piggish and ordered three meats: venison, pork and veal. Not that I would. I was completely sensible and asked for soup, vegetables and pork. We both ordered the Berskhire pork, breaking the unwritten rule of never getting the same thing.

Deciding on a blood orange margarita while perusing the menu was insanity and just goes to show how unwilling I am to let go of habits. It was the ginger part of the cocktail that caught my attention. Soothing, refreshing and good for nausea. But I blocked out the tequila part. Two sips of this and I knew I was in trouble. I quickly moved on to water and ginger ale but the damage had already been done. My stomach started going wild again.

Fried food certainly didn’t help. Amuses seemed to come out willy nilly. Tables received varying items. The couple next to us had mini beet burgers, which we had last time so I would’ve been ok without them. Not long after our neighbors polished off their snack, a second set of beet burgers clearly meant for our table went to them again. Didn’t they think it was strange to be served the same starter twice?

After a bit of time passed we were brought battered proscuitto-wrapped salsify. Normally, I would’ve loved this but the saltiness and frittery nature overwhelmed me into queasiness.

Then, I became appalled by the couple who’d already eaten two amuses, including ours, pointing at our table and asking their waiter for what we had. And this is the type of place that’s wildly accommodating (the older couple that eventually replaced these two bland thirtysomethings were extremely demanding and fussy—no fruit in anything, which caused a problem when a beet salad with goat cheese had dried fruit mixed into the cheese--but appeared to be regulars and knew all the waiters by name) so it wasn’t a huge issue. But I mean, seriously. Their bad manners and the fact that the female half was a total skelator despite her apparent love of amuse bouches made me even more nauseous.

Cauliflower soup seemed bland and inoffensive and it was…until I got to the oyster and I knew I’d be leaving the table soon. No matter how many spoonfuls of the liquid I sipped, it didn’t seem to budge. Kind of a loaves and fishes experience. It’s not like the serving sizes were enormous but I couldn’t plow through the creamy broth.

The “roots and fruits” are the type of thing I normally wouldn’t order because they appeared abnormally healthy. The gluttonous part of me was like, “I don’t want to eat a plate of pretty produce” but the part of me with an upset stomach and newly determined to eat less crap thought it was brilliant.

But I couldn’t take a bite before I had to make a production getting up from the table (we had a freestanding corner booth, luxurious by NYC standards but it was so squishy and tucked in it was hard to get out without moving the table) to run to the downstairs bathroom. Blood orange margarita, cauliflower soup and gallons of indeterminate liquid came up in three separate wall-splattering sessions.

I kind of wanted to go home but didn’t know how to handle such a maneuver at a high end restaurant when you’ve already ordered multiple courses. To the shock of people I’ve verbally recounted this sad tale to, I went back to the table and proceeded to eat my mélange of spinach, cabbage, grapes, pears, walnuts, chestnuts and fennel. It was good, ok? And I was starving. Ah, but I returned to a silver dome warming my food. I’d never encountered the elegant device until Gramercy Tavern, and here it was twice in two weeks. I told you 2008 was going to be good.

The main event wasn’t to be. When the sight and smell of farm raised pork served three ways makes me gag, you know something’s seriously wrong. I took one bite of the perfectly pink-centered loin and a nibble of the crispy skin and I’d reached my limit. I sat and watched James eat his while trying not to breathe too deeply or the porcine scent would induce a repeat performance in the bathroom.

When our concerned waiter came to clear plates including my barely touched one he asked “Can we make something else for you?” Now, that’s service. I thought of the recent Diner's Journal discussion about taking home leftovers from upscale restaurants. I never do it, primarily because the portions don’t usually require a doggy bag. I do it all the time and midrange and lower establishments, though. But this was an unusual circumstance and there was no way I was tossing a full plate of food. They whisked it away and said it would be waiting at the front desk when I left. Ah, also very classy. Not foil swan classy, but you know.

You’d think that if I couldn’t handle my entrée that would be it, but I did order a dessert. Despite the rumblings in my gut, I was feeling sentimental about treats since I had just a few days prior I had been informed that I need to severely limit if not eliminate sugar from my diet. There was no way I was going to pass on this course. Even the freaky African-American nurse with an unfortunate birthmark over her forehead and right eye (it’s hard to act serious and like you’re listening while trying  not to stare) who kept hammering how white foods were bad like it was a twisted  racial lesson rather than a dietary one said, “If you’re going to eat a sweet, you’d better make sure it’s amazing.” I hear ya.

Well, the desserts really were worth it. Often pastry gets short changed when the savory ingredients are the focus, but these were really nice. James ordered the rich one I would’ve picked if I had more digestive stability. His banana fritters made me want to hurl but I was so enamored by the concept of peanut butter ice cream topped with cracklings that I had to sample a small bite. There was also a little dish of honey for dipping.

I ordered Bosc pears poached in something brown sugary and sitting atop a flaky sable cookie with a side of five spice ice cream. I still can’t figure out why I loathe fruit but prefer fruity desserts over chocolate.

I didn’t touch the chocolate truffles.

My leftover pork made a dainty lunch the following day. The fromage blanc spaetzle remained springy, but there was no way to preserve the original correctly cooked rendition. I tried crisping up the skin it the oven and microwaved the rest as briefly as possible but it still dried out a little. Even so, it was certainly better than what I’d normally eat mid-day. (3/1/08)

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T.G.I. Friday’s

You can’t properly entertain a sister who has lived outside the U.S. for over a decade without at least one pit stop at a chain restaurant. Never mind that they have a T.G. I. Friday’s in Bristol, things are best experienced in their natural habitats.

We’d spent a killer day trolling around Bear Mountain (I had to squeeze in a bit of nature to appease the outdoorsiness in my sister and her husband. Some would argue that paved trails aren’t exactly super natural but that’s as rough as I get) and Woodbury Common (where I’d already been to the on-site Applebee’s enough times). All that cold weather open air outlet shopping really works up an appetite.

The best part of Bear Mountain were the zillions of ’60s-seeming educational signs dotting the park.

Of course, not enough of an appetite to finish an appetizer and entrée (let alone dessert too, though I was pleased to see they were offering the three courses for $12.99 promotion which probably doesn’t exist in NYC). But that’s not the point. James and I know the excess game–that’s what take out containers are for. Despite not being truly European, British are freaked out by leftovers.

While dwelling on our monstrous portions and Japanese hara hachi bu (wise, certainly. But if I stopped at 80% full, I would never get past the appetizer course) we ordered pink fruity cocktails like the Cosmo ‘Rita. Minor trouble erupted when our waitress asked for ID, “My manager makes me card everyone under 40.” and neither out-of-towner had any on them.

I started having flashbacks to my 22nd birthday with my dad and stepmom at a place called BJ’s Roadhouse. It wasn’t my choice (while chain loving now as an adult, I couldn’t see the humor in the early ‘90s). I hadn’t brought my driver’s license and they wouldn’t serve me beer, not even an O’Doul’s, which I didn’t want anyway. These annual occasions were tough enough to slog through with a few drinks in your system.

I’m fairly certain this was the same birthday where we stopped at a grocery store afterwards and picked up a watermelon (I’ve hated melon since birth) and a sugar free cherry pie. I mean, it was my birthday and I could produce insulin normally so would it kill them to buy a real dessert? (technically yes, but diabetes wouldn’t my render my father a fatal blow for another ten years)

Thankfully, we looked old and haggard enough to have the ridiculous rule waived at T.G.I. Friday’s.


Nachos on the half shell. They evoke traditional topping on individual chip rather than pile of toppings on slew of chips, yet these aren’t chips.


Yeah, I noticed that cheesy bacon cheeseburger was separate from the regular cheeseburger but I didn’t read the fine print. The cheesy was cheesy alright. A whole half-inch round of breaded and fried provolone was sitting atop the patty. Whoa. I should’ve taken a cross section photo but I was in a state of shock. It almost looks like a chicken sandwich from this angle.

We passed on the Cinnabon cheesecake and picked up a dozen doughnuts at Dunkin’ across the parking lot (I’m not a doughnut-crazed person, but British folks seem to like them because they don’t really exist in the U.K.), then called it a night.

The next morning I arose to find a note from my sister left on the dining room table. “Dave is afraid of the leftovers; you can have them.” Oh, foreigners…there’s nothing to fear. Even our cheerful waitress told us that the gooey spinach artichoke dip could be brought back to life in the microwave.

I did wait until later that evening, after I had a few drinks in my system (and the brother-in-law had gone to bed) but you know that I devoured that second-hand hot Tuscan dip and red corn tortilla chips along with the help of my sister. We re-warmed the deep-fried breadsticks we’d brought home too. Anything else would be un-American.

T.G.I.Friday’s * 5 Centre Dr., Central Valley, NY