11 August 2010

Mo'betta, mo'pain, mo'pork

This trip was planned, re-planned, evaluated, re-evalutated and ultimately just tossed up into the air.  I research my food trips entirely too much.  It's a fact.  I seriously enjoy doing it, telling myself that it's always good to have options.  Well, it is.  But not this many options.  I guess in the end it's not really hurting anything, I do feel like it is time well spent.  It usually results in my consumption of some damn good grub too.  Now about that grub...

Our bus arrived in NYC at 8:30am on Saturday.  Our first stop was another trip to Shopsin's to see if it could blow me away for a second time.  We got there at about 9:10 and it was empty so we walked across the street to use the restroom at McD's and by the time we got back all but one table was full with regular's and we had to wait in line.  I didn't mind, luckily our itinerary for the day was pretty loose.  Last time we were given a table out in the open dining area, this time we were fortunate enough to be seated in the cozy cubby right by the kitchen.

I'd been studying the menu for weeks, which I just love, and as expected it was different from the one lying on our table.  Not drastically different, but different.  My wife and I had already agreed on our order, and luckily everything we wanted was still being offered.  Initially I really wanted to try the fudge-filled red velvet poppy seed pancakes, but the Mrs. wanted another taste of the Slutty Cakes so we ordered a half order of those and the Mo'Betta for her and the Castles w/Hatch for myself. 
First to arrive was the Mo'Betta which is eggs and maple bacon sandwiched between two mac n cheese pancakes.  Yes, you read that right.  I'm not repeating myself.  Don't believe me?  Just look at it:
See, I told you.  Immediately after snapping a few pictures I snagged a lone piece of the maple bacon that had fallen outside of the boundaries of the sandwich.  Fair game, I say.  It was perfectly crunchy and glazed with maple.  Oh man, I had to try this thing in all it's glory.  She poured her maple syrup over top and then squirted a little pool of hot sauce on the side.  I built the perfect bite on my fork, getting a piece of every component, rolled it through the hot sauce and chomped it down. 
Mo'Betta even betta
 Yes, I saw the light.  It was like breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in one bite.  I've been on a salty-sweet kick as of late and this dish made it move.  Ya know, *it*.  The crunchy bacon contrasts the fluffy pancakes and eggs.  The hot sauce and maple syrup dance a wonderful waltz in your mouth.  The flavor of each component both jumped out in front and married harmoniously.  There was no way my Castles could stand up to this.  Next up was the Slutty Cakes which weren't quite as good as last time. 
They were just as tender and packed full of flavor, but this time around I felt they were more heavy on the pumpkin and lighter on the peanut butter. 
Slutty innards
You want more details?  Check my first review of Shopsin's .  While I won't quite label them as the *best* pancakes I've ever had, they are most certainly my favorite, and I don't see them being dethroned from that seat anytime soon.  
As soon as he placed the Castles in front of me the smell of eggs and hatch chiles assailed my nostrils.  I'd heard nothing but rave reviews about Kenny's sliders so I was very eager to try this breakfasty spin on them.

Castles w/hatch
You've got quality ground beef and fluffy egg topped with chilies and cheese with a side of greens and pickles.  It really was a gorgeous plate of food.

I slapped the pickles on my burger and dove right in.  After a few bites the flavor profile really hit me on all fronts.

 I've been doing some prelimiary research on a trip to Colorado and New Mexico next year to visit my friend Z who moved to Boulder and the flavors of this dish transported me to the green chile cheeseburger shacks popular throughout New Mexico.  The roll was soft and lightly buttered, the beef was cooked through, but still juicy and tender.  I could tell it was quality ground beef as I could still taste it even under all of that cheese and chile.

Imagine all those burgers in your stomach right now...
If I had one complaint I would say that they needed some sort of textural contrast as everything was quite soft, but the pickles slices did help alleviate that some.  I asked for extra and the waiter obliged without fuss. I easily put down my three mini-burgers and helped the wife polish off her Mo'Betta.  My favorite bite of the meal was actually after she had waved her white flag and I had the fortune of cleaning her plate.  The bits of egg, bacon, and pancake left on the plate had been soaked through with syrup and hotsauce and those last few bites were nothing short of sweet bliss.

Deliciousness ain't cheap...
 I will agree with the many Shopsin's haters that say that his food is overpriced, it is.  Our bill came to $49 before tip for just 2.5 dishes.  That's a retarded amount of money for breakfast.  I will continue to patronize Shopsin's, however,  because his menu offerings are unlike anything else I've encountered and there's nothing I love more than an adventurous menu, as long as it's executed properly.

Happily full we left and set out for an hour long subway ride to the Cloisters Museum.

The Cloisters
Fortunately, we scored student tickets and the guided tour on Medieval altarpieces was starting up literally right behind us so we hopped on board.  The tour ended up being pretty interesting and the amusement that we were being given a tour on Medieval Christian praticies by a flamboyantly gay Jewish guy never quite wore off.

Some guy guarding a door frame
Immediately after that tour was over a garden tour started, but we lost interest in that fairly quickly as the lady raved on about all of the wonderful plants featured in the garden.  Especially lavender.  I hate lavender.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around on our own.  The outdoor terrace gardens were really quite lovely and afforded a wonderful view of the river.

Terrace garden
View from terrace
I like this view better!
We were informed that our admission also applied for the Met and after checking it out on my iphone I found they had a huge Picasso exhibit going on.  The rest of our afternoon was set.

The Mrs. expressed interest in checking out the ridiculously huge cookies at Levain Bakery beforehand, and I agreed that it would be nice to nab a cookie and take a stroll through Central Park over to the Met.  As we arrived I noticed one of the bakers loading tray after tray of softball sized cookie dough balls into the fridge.

Edible softballs
I had to resist the urge to grab as many as I could and sprint out the door.  Even though she doesn't like nuts in her cookies (I have no idea why, she likes them in everything else) I urged her to trust me and we ordered a chocolate chip walnut cookie and two bottles of water.

Chocolate chip walnut
The cookies was every bit as good as last time, and as I came to realize on my last visit, it completely killed their chocolate peanut butter chip cookie.  Check out the gooey innards:

After that we meandered through Central Park, snapping a few photos along the way.  We were almost to the Met when horrible gut-wrenching stomach pains assailed me.  It wasn't cramps, it wasn't nausea, it wasn't mother nature, it was just pain.  I had to peruse the Picasso exhibit, which was amazing, hunched over constantly massaging my stomach.  It really put a damper on the entire experience.  After the exhibit we decided to cut our day short and check into the Super 8 Motel down in Brooklyn.

After checking in and relaxing for a moment we decided to head out to dinner.  Vinegar Hill House had been on my radar for a while, and more recently it was featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate for their Red Wattle Country Chop.  We arrived and I immediately loved the place.  It was bustling and there it had a great rustic look with an exposed wood-fired oven and a copper-topped bar.

Bar and open kitchen
The hostess told the couple right in front of us that there was an hour and a half wait and our eyes widened.  I expected a wait, but not quite that...  No matter, we had nowhere to be and I had my sights set on a big pile of porky goodness.  We put our names down and literally at that second a couple walked by leaving two prime bar spots open.  We told her we'd dine at the bar and our one and a half hour wait turned into no wait at all. 

The bartender came over after a few minutes and I ordered a Dark n Stormy hoping the ginger would help get my stomach back on track and a glass of red for the Mrs.  I'd never had a DnS but I was eager to try one as I love ginger, lime, and, of course, rum.  He told me that while most places make theirs with a sub-par ginger beer, they made theirs with ginger syrup.  I was surprised when he put the drink in front of me served in a tall skinny glass with crushed ice.

Dark and frou-frou
 I felt like I had to tuck my sack back before trying it.  It was a tad too sweet for my liking, but other than that I really enjoyed the flavors.  I killed it before our food hit the bar and ordered a glass of red to go with my chop.  He spouted off the specials and, after finding out they just sold their last Mexican-inspired corn salad, we ordered the pepper-crusted lamb ribs served with a sauce comprised of greek yogurt, red onion, lemon, and parsley.  For our mains, I ordered the chop for myself which was now served over jalapeno-cheddar grits, and for the Mrs. the pappardelle with lamb ragu, olives, and ricotta.

Lamb ribs
The ribs looked great, but they were pretty tough to cut through.  After sawing away at them for a few moments I just picked one up and started knawing at it.  I could feel people's eyes burning into me, but I didn't care.  This is how Mr. Micro gets it done, proper or not.  The ribs had a subdued gaminess and a nice peppery bite, but what really blew me away was that sauce. 

Delicious saaaauuuce...
The flavors just jumped off the plate.  I'd never tasted a sauce so bold.  I tried to get every last drop off the plate with my fork, wishing I had a spoon.  Serve that sauce to me in a bowl and charge me what you will I told the guy.  Damn.  This dish only heightened my anticipation of our entrees.  First up was the pappardelle.  

 I speared a long wide noodle and swirled it around the plate, twisting it onto my fork, being sure to pick up some ricotta and an olive or two, and airplaned it in.  Yes.  This dish was a perfect example of tasting flavors you are exactly in the mood for right at that very instant.  Now, I will say that I very rarely order pasta in a restaurant, simply due to the fact that restaurants in my neck of the woods rarely offer pasta prepared the way I like it (like this), so my experience is fairly limited. 

It's a broad, flat noodle
The olives made the dish a tad salty, but other than that this dish really nailed it.  The ricotta was fresh and fluffy, but the star for me was the lamb ragu, offering up the gaminess that I missed in the ribs.  The pasta itself was perfectly al dente (made in-house I'm guessing?).  VHH was 2/2.

Pile o' pork
I've never really had pork prepared like this here chop.  I reckon it tasted like steak!  Big thick slices with a nice tender layer of fat running through each, lending a richness that was only enhanced by the creamy grits.  I didn't really get much jalapeno flavor, but with cheddar and pork dry-humping my tastebuds into submission I barely noticed.  The red he paired with my chop really evoked the smokiness of the charred meat and cheesy grits.  I thoroughly enjoyed washing down every bite with a quaff of wine. 

A little fat with your pork? Yes, please!
I was sad to see it served in a bowl instead of that badass chopping block, but I'm assuming it was due to the inclusion of grits with the dish instead of the... whatever it was served with before.  This dish was the second instance where the last bite on the plate was the best.  The meat they left on the bone was porky to the nth power.  I knawed it all off.  All of it:
I win
It made me quite sad knowing that most diners probably thought it was just bones and missed out on the best meat on the plate.  It pays to be educated about these things and a willingness to get a little dirty, even in fine dining, usually pays off.  Did we want dessert?  We'd gone this far, why the hell not?  He handed us the menu, but as soon as my eyes landed on the words 'salted caramel' my mind was made up.  My voice memo about about this dessert simply said:  (in my slobbering Homer Simpson voice)  "Salted caramel custard with pecan shortbread..." (and then in my Kramer voice) "Uh'giddy up!"

Salted caramel custard
Neither the Mrs. or myself are really crazy about whipped cream, but here it served to balance out both the richness of the custard and the saltiness.  The shortbread cookies were just oozing with butter and they literally crumbled apart after biting into them.  

A perfect ending
The progression of flavors in this meal really couldn't have gone much better.  Food this good doesn't come cheap though, and to say this meal put a dent in my wallet is a vast understatement.

Even though I'd been up since 3:30am I was determined to see my man Anderson Silva fight in UFC 117 that night.  It was about 10:30 when we finished dinner so we headed on over to the Buffalo Wild Wings in Brooklyn.  I ordered a tall Magic Hat #9 and watched a few matches, but couldn't quite hold out until the end.  At the end of the 3rd round of the title match I couldn't take anymore so we stumbled back to our hotel and passed out.  Silva was getting his ass beat when I left, but he ended up pulling off a triangle choke in the 5th round to win it.  Awesome.

That's it for Day 1.  Stay tuned for Day 2.  Thank you, as always, for shopping at your Abingdon Wal-Mart.

Shopsin's General Store (Essex Street Market) on Urbanspoon
Levain Bakery on Urbanspoon
Vinegar Hill House on Urbanspoon

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Xani said...

Love your NYC write-ups! Sounds like an awesome day of eating and touring. I've experienced that NYC-induced tummy pain before (usually after housing a full Shake Shack meal), way to work through it!

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