Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Read: It’s Finally Here… La Tacopedia

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TacoDirect from Mexico comes this delightful taco encyclopedia, La Tacopedia, the first of its kind. The amusing and thorough  book covers 19 typical types of tacos, with additional information about enchiladas, quesadillas and tlayudas (a crunchy, flat tortilla topped with beans, meat, lettuce and cheese). Authors Débora Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena also write about the mighty taco’s origins; list recipes, sauces and recommend some of Mexico’s tastiest taquerias.

La Tacopedia is in Spanish, so hopefully you speak a little. If not, it’s time to call on those Spanish speakers you know. If you’re feeling antisocial,  there is always google translate.

If you need daily taco tweets, you can follow @LaTacopedia (in Spanish); you can order La Tacopedia from Amazon.

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Eat: Svenska Brothers Open Tribeca Coffee House, Kaffe 1668

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kafsm4Nestled amid the impersonal buildings of lower Greenwich Street that sport corporate neon signs for Whole Foods, Bank of America and T-Mobile, is Kaffe 1668. It’s a cozy coffee shop opened in October 2009 by Swedish twin brothers Tomas and Mikael Tjarnberg.

“This neighborhood needed a good coffee shop,” said Mikael Tjarnberg, sitting next to an equally tall and skinny Tomas, both of whom live about three minutes away from Kaffe 1668. On a recent Sunday afternoon, jazz played on the sound system, smells of brewing Ethiopian blends filled the air and nearly every seat was filled by young families, couples or people working on their laptops taking advantage of the free WiFi. Mikael continued, “We wanted to create a very high quality place with a focus on good coffee: fresh kafsm2beans, good roasters, and a nice environment as well.” Kaffe 1668 serves single brewed cups of coffees from a revolving roster of Direct Trade (better than Fair Trade) beans that might originate in El Salvador or Rwanda. Kaffe 1668 also serves a full array of espresso drinks and tea.

“We take our tea very seriously,” added Tomas, all of which can be smelled prior to purchase at the clever, magnetized “Tea Sniffing Station.” Kaffe 1668 also carries an impressive selection of baked goods including Swedish Chocolate Balls, all made daily by manager Aya Nakanura. Tomas explained that “kaffe” is “coffee” in Swedish, and “1668” is the year that coffee became New York City’s favorite breakfast beverage according to some history books, overtaking beer.kafsheep

Kaffe 1668 has a definite northern European feel, but it’s not obviously Swedish, except for a few discretely placed elk-shaped items and the not so discrete abundance of wooden, woolly sheep, ranging in size from a toy to a rocking horse. “This is new,” stated Tomas, referring to the sheep—some arranged in clusters, others hidden in nooks—that have multiplied in the past three months, “it’s a little excessive.” Mikael, the sheep-buying enthusiast of the two brothers, mentioned that eight more sheep are currently in transit from Sweden.

Kaffe 1668
275 Greenwich Street (near Murray Street)
212 693 3750
Weekdays: 6:30am to 9pm
Weekends: 8am to 9pm
www.kaffe1668.com

Eat: The Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Chinatown with Little Italy Native Arthur DiBiasi, Part 1

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Part 1: The Introduction

Arthur DiBiasi has recently discovered Chinatown’s wealth of Vietnamese restaurants, despite living next to Chinatown his whole life as he’s a Little Italy native. “I just sized it up for a while,” says DiBiasi of the less than nondescript restaurant Pho Bang on Mott Street that he’d become curious about. “But I’d heard weird things about dogs and cats,” concedes DiBiasi, referring to the meats people are known to eat in Vietnam.

dscn8593sm1DiBiasi is a food connoisseur, he’s often at home preparing one of his famous Italian cheesecakes or giambottas (Italian roasted stew), or dining out at one of of the neighborhood restaurants. He’s pals with chefs at the best local restaurants and specialty shop owners in the area, such as Peasant and Di Palo’s, and splurges on a $100 bottle of balsamic vinegar once in a while. But surprisingly, given his daring and adventurous pallet, DiBiasi had never tried Vietnamese. “I love Chinese food,” he stresses, as he is a fixture at Congee Bowery Restaurant and very happy eating the most disturbing item off the menu, “but I just thought Vietnamese was a totally different animal.”

A recent impromptu group dinner at the subterranean Doyers Vietnamese Restaurant had him face to face with his first pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup with rice noodles. It peaked his interest, but instinctively he knew there was something better. It prompted him several days later to venture into Pho Bang, the restaurant he’d been surveilling on Mott Street.

dscn8592sm“I ordered the soup with a pork chop to play it safe,” recalls DiBiasi; he ordered take-out so he could eat it in the privacy of his own home. When he unloaded the contents, it was soup in a container, a pork chop and a snarl of fresh greens–Thai basil, bean sprouts and lemon. “I ate the soup, then the pork chop and threw out the greens, I thought it was decoration.” He knew something was not right and the following week he ordered the same meal at the same restaurant but stayed.

He stared at his soup when it arrived. In a moment of humility he called over the waiter, “I knew I was doing everything wrong, I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.” The waiter took the knife out of DiBiasi’s hand, cut the pork chop into pieces and put it in the steaming bowl of soup, adding ripped-up basil leaves, bean sprouts and squeezed lemon juice. “I consider that the first time I ate Vietnamese and it was phenomenal.” A few days later, feeling adventurous, he ordered Spring Rolls, deep fried rolls with pork, which arrived with a plate of lettuce and mint. “The waiter, who is like a friend at this point, wrapped the lettuce and mint around the roll, dipped it in the sauce for me.”

DiBiasi has since become a Vietnamese food expert with the zeal of the recent convert. In just a few months he can walk into almost any Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood and he’s greeted with warm hellos from the wait staff and owners. He rips into the various piles of leafy greens, wrapping and dunking Spring and Summer rolls as if he had been born in Vietnam. “The food is clean, fresh, not as greasy as Chinese. It’s cleaner on the palette, it’s a totally different experience.”

dscn8590smArthur DiBiasi’s neck in neck winners thus far are Pho Bang Restaurant and Tu Do. Details to come in the next installment where DiBiasi will compare his favorites with Nan Son on Grand Street.

Pho Bang Restaurant
157 Mott Street (between Grand and Broome Streets)
212 966 3797

Tu Do
102 Bowery (between Hester and Grand Streets)
212 966 2666

Eat: New Schnitzel on the Block

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If you can’t remember your last run-in with a tantalizing bratwurst, treat yourself to a meal at Café Select, the new, Swiss German neighborhood spot in Little Italy/Soho. Don’t let the trendy location and its triumvirate of über-groover owners (Oliver Stumm and Dominique Clausen, aka A Touch of Class, the Euro-dance-DJ duo, and Serge Becker of La Esquina fame) be a turn off. Although there is an undeniable element of hipness, Cafe Select has a primarily relaxed, low-key feel and it’s one of the only places in the neighborhood to linger over a coffee, a snack, or a meal and not feel rushed (in fact you might have to get up to ask the waiter for the check). Many customers are refreshingly well over the age of 25, unlike most restaurant goers in the area.

Café Select is decorated with Swiss graphic art posters, a huge, glowing Rolex clock juts from the wall and the menu is sprinkled with bratwurst, schnitzel, Büunderfleisch and Rösti, yet it steers clear of being a Zürich theme park eatery. The menu lists Continental and Swiss German options of moderately priced salads, sandwiches, meat dishes, sides and desserts, including a Toblerone parfait and Quark cake. There is an all-Alpen wine list to choose from and and homesick Zürchers can even order a Rivella or Shorley.

Café Select
212 Lafayette Street (south of Spring Street)
212-925-9322
www.cafeselectnyc.com

Eat: Let the Beef Knuckles Roll!

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Pierre Thiam of Le Grand Dakar in Fort Green, Brooklyn has just written the first Senegalese cookbook in English. “Yolele!” translates to, “let the good times roll,” in Wolof, one of the languages spoken in Senegal. This gorgeous cookbook–designed by Luke Hayman of Pentagram and shot by Adam Bartos–is available in most bookstores and Amazon. There are plenty of recipes for those who are not ready for Tripe Stew with Beef and Calf’s Feet, such as Five-Spice Duck, Shrimp and Sweet Potato Fritters, or Steamed Black Eyed Pea Puree with Eggplant.

Contrary to a recent New York Times article that quoted a restaurant critic claiming that “Africans vastly prefer tough, tough meat,” Thiam’s meat dishes are tender and succulent. The story continues, “They [Africans] will eat tree snails that are so tough you would have difficulty distinguishing it from a section of rubber tire. For them, eating something for dinner is not an appreciation of tenderness. It is an appreciation of toughness, and they want to really chew on the meat and enjoy it because meat is so rare.”

Not only does Yolele! educate readers about Senegalese cuisine, a mix of West African, French, Portuguese and Vietnamese, it’s a glimpse into Senegal itself, a country that has not shared such a bloody past as many of its neighbors. “We were blessed with no natural resources,” the affable Thiam joked recently, “no oil, no diamonds.”

When he’s not writing letters to the editors at The New York Times, he’s cooking outstanding meals at his intimate restaurant that should not be missed. Don’t forget to try the Roasted Mango and Coconut Pudding.

Le Grand Dakar
Pierre Thiam Catering

Buy the book: Amazon