Do you ever wonder just how mental I am about planning my food adventures? Here's a good example. Take a guess at how many places I planned to go for breakfast that Sunday. Let's see if I can remember them all. First it was Buttermilk Channel. Then it was Tom's Restaurant. No, make that Joyce Bakeshop. On second thought let's go to Bark Hot Dogs. Where did we finally end up going? None of the above. I need therapy.
After seeing NYC Food Guy's 200th post about a Mexican food tour in Sunset Park and seeing the post on Serious Eats about the Hawaiian Torta de Salchicha I marked Sunset Park down as a worthy food destination.
So that is where we ended up for breakfast on Sunday. More specifically Tortas A La Plancha Don Pepe located in the back of Puebla Mini Market.
We proceeded to the back of the store and, as expected, were overwhelmed with the plethora of options. He offers an astounding 30 different variations of torta.
I didn't see the Torta de Salchicha, and I'd read good things about the Torta de la Casa which apparently gave one commenter an erection, but what ultimately caught my eye was the Torta Ranchera advertised featuring carne asada, chorizo, jamon, queso fresco, and quesillo. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that every torta also comes with tomato, jalapenos, mashed avocado, onions, and refried beans. Oh yeah, I need all of that all up in my belly. I placed our order and immediately we heard various types of meat hitting the plancha. Moments later we were given our sandwich tightly wrapped in wax paper. I split that bad boy open and nearly gasped. Avert thine eyes, for the beauty is almost too much to behold:
Look at that layer of chorizo! I appreciated the burst of juice from the tomato, but otherwise it didn't really add anything to the sandwich. Otherwise I could taste every single ingredient. The smoky, spicy chorizo was the dominant flavor, but everything else worked wonders supporting and enhancing the overall flavor. My only complaint was that the carne asada, which is basically roast beef, was pretty tough and took some pulling to bite through. I think at one point I tugged so hard I almost threw my torta on the floor. Here's a more intimate look at the innards:
I can see why people make pilgrimages to this place. Sunset Park is definitely a haven for Mexican food-lovers. On our way out we were given a takeout menu. I didn't check it out until after we got back home, but here's an invaluable tip: Grab a takeout menu when you get there and order from that. It's much more descriptive and has pictures of every torta. Order without fear using your menu as a guide.
Now that we had something in our stomachs it was off to our next destination: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden. We walked up to the ticket counter and after flashing my ancient University of Maryland ID we both scored half-price student tickets. Way to abuse the system, eh? Woot! I asked the guy what the best way to spend about an hour and a half would be (we had more eating to do!) and he said the rose garden, the japanese pond garden, and the atrium which featured a bonsai exhibit. Awesome.
The dork in me has always love bonsais. They're like miniature trees. Put a few pewter figurines on there and you can create your own little world. Your own microcosm, eh? Everything comes full circle. Walking around in the heat all day got our stomachs growling and I knew exactly where we were going for lunch. Falafel is one of my favorite foods, and while I've had falafel in NYC a few times, I hadn't had it since I started my illustrious career as a food-blogger. So I decided to check out Taim Falafel & Smoothie Bar.
As you can see, it was packed when we got there. I know all about the sabich sandwich, but I had a hankerin' for some falafel so I ordered a harissa falafel pita on whole wheat with pickles and s'rug (their hot sauce) and the Mrs. ordered a ginger mint lemonade. While she waited outside I stood in front and watched the guy throw together falafel pitas with astounding speed and accuracy. I noticed that he adds in a few falafel balls in the bottom of the sandwich before adding in toppings and then additional balls and even more toppings. Score! After about 5 minutes we had our food and scored a seat right outside the door to chow down. My lovely wife was happy to model our lemonade:
This beverage was surprisingly good. The flavors were light, bright, and summery. You could taste the lemon, the mint, and the ginger and they all worked together. The beverage walked the razor thin line between too sweet and just right. We found ourselves fighting over the last sips. I happily chomped the ice cubes as we made our way to our next stop. As I unwrapped the pita, I was happily greeted by...
...this lovely sight. If that doesn't get your stomach growling, I don't know what will. I liked the unique spiciness of the harissa falafel, but if I ever go back to taim I think I would order the traditional green. The toppings were all great and fresh, the hummus standing out as being exceptionally creamy.
I didn't really notice any flavor from the s'rug, but my lips were tingling by the end so there was some heat in there somewhere. I liked the toasted whole wheat pita and the pickles added a much needed crunch to the overall texture of the sandwich. While overall I enjoyed the sandwich, it's not something I see myself running back to try anytime soon. It was good falafel, but not the mind-blowing experience many have made it out to be. The real gem of this trip was stumbled upon by chance making our way back to the subway. That gem was Pleasure Chest!
Erm, wait that's not right. Ah, what I meant was City Bakery! How silly of me. We walked right in front of it and immediately I remembered reading about their phenomenal pretzel croissants and hot chocolate. While it was too hot out for hot chocolate, I was all about trying their famed croissant.
I asked to have it toasted and the guy manning the counter happily obliged, popping our croissant into the toaster oven. 5 agonizingly slow minutes later and ding! we had our almost too hot to touch toasty treat. We found a concrete slab and unwrapped this beautiful gem:
When I first saw it I thought to myself "Oh great, he burned the damn thing!" But no, this is toasted perfection. We dove in, and I wasn't prepared for the utter explosion of flavors that went off in my mouth. You've got the toasted sesame (one of my all-time favorite flavors) and the salty pretzel flavor on the outside and then you penetrate the outer crust to reveal piping hot uber-buttery tender innards (I've been using that word a lot lately...)
Not only did we devour this pastry in seconds, I enhaled every single solitary sesame seed that I could find. I even scoured the ground around us before being satisfied that I had consumed every toasty bit. This was the best non-sweet pastry I'd ever eaten. Oh yes, I went there. Go get some and see for yourself. Be sure to set your faces to stunned.
Non-sweet quota filled we had one final stop before we caught our bus at Penn Sation. Press about the new concrete flavors featured at the newly opened Theatre District Shake Shack was plastered all over almost every NYC-based food blog I read. After reading the descriptions and deciding which two of the three we would try (Always Hungry NY eliminated having to make that choice by ordering all three in one cup) we placed our order for Jelly's Last Doughnut and The Great White Way to which I added peanut butter sauce. Seemed like the right thing to do.
The Great White Way w/peanut butter was very much like the concrete I ordered at Nielsen's a few weeks ago. While I did prefer Shake Shack's vanilla custard over Nielsen's, the chopped cashews outclassed the crispy crunchies. Great nonetheless. I liked how the crunchies were blended throughout as well as liberally applied on top.
If it were a perfect world I would've waited 5 minutes to let the doughnuts soggify in the Jelly's Last Doughnut, but alas our bottomless stomachs were having none of that.
The only flaw I found with this was the overly sweet strawberry preserves. I loved the addition of cinnamon sugar, and the best bite of this entire experience came from the last scraps clinging to the bottom of Jelly's Last Doughnut. No preserves made it down that far and the doughnuts had enough time to get nice and mushy, and you know I love the mush. Strangely this was the third instance on this trip where the last bite was the best. Can you name the other two times? Post it in the comments and I'll give you a prize.
In my opinion the custard/concrete are the only reason to go to Shack Shack. Well, and maybe the shroom burger. But, as expected, the place was packed to the gills. We actually had to sit on the little benches next to the line, but I didn't mind. I do like the look of the place though. Good job Danny Meyer.
After a quick stop at Murray's bagels for half a dozen to take home, we made our way to Penn Station and caught our bus ride home, albeit 30 minutes late. We got home a little after 9pm and stopped by my dad's to pick up the pups. Oh, you didn't know I had dogs? Why yes, I do. Want to see pictures of them? Why of course you do!
Isn't bathtime fun? Until next time, thanks for reading!