27 September 2010

Gaps vs. City

My father is turning the ripe age of 55 today so for his birthday I offered to take him to NYC for the day. He hasn't been to NYC since before I was born so I felt like it was my duty to show him the best the city had to offer. Alright, that's not entirely true. He said no majorly touristy stuff (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, etc.) and that he wanted pizza. That was great because as you all know I don't care about seeing NYC, I care about eating NYC. And that's exactly what we did.

Megabus dropped us off at the usual corner of 28th and 7th Ave. We hit the subway and were quickly at our first destination: Russ & Daughters. I'd visited R&D once with the Mrs. and thought my dad would really enjoy sampling all of the different types of smoked salmon and building a bagel sandwich. Unfortunately, he didn't sample anything, he just glanced at the options and ordered. But I guess that's the kind of guy my dad is, no BS straight to the point. He ordered Scottish salmon with horseradish cream cheese on a plain bagel and a jug of OJ. I, on the other hand, had read about the Super Heebster sandwich and had also read that they do mini versions of their sandwiches, so I ordered that on a mini sesame bagel and a diet Dr. Brown's Black Cherry.

Cute lil guy
I don't use this word very much, but as soon as I unwrapped the lil guy, he looked just adorable. A Super Heebster is whitefish and baked salmon salad with wasabi-infused flying fish roe and horseradish cream cheese. Now, I'm not sure if they infuse the roe with wasabi simply for color or for heat, because combined with the horseradish cream cheese I was expecting this sandwich to have some kick, and it had none whatsoever. Add that to the fact that the mini bagel was quite firm, causing the filling to squirt out the sides upon biting into it, and I was pretty disappointed.

Don't click, it's blurry
The whitefish salmon salad was great, as well as the great poppy texture from the flying fish roe, but all-in-all I don't really think this sandwich deserves all of the press it has garnered. Dad thought his sandwich was great, but agreed that he detected very minimal bite from the horseradish. The smoked salmon was very good, so I guess we were off to a sort of good start... Maybe?

Dad was pretty full from his sandwich (later saying he should've ordered the mini like I did) so we wandered over to Washington Square Park. Dad swore this was where a scene from Dirty Harry was shot, but after whipping out my iphone we found it was the San Francisco Washington Square Park. Bummer. We walked up to Union Square station and took the L over to Brooklyn. We tried to transfer to the G, but the station was closed off, requiring use of the commuter bus to transfer so we decided to just hoof it up towards Greenpoint. We walked North on Union and came upon McCarren Park which was pretty cool. There was a high school football game taking place between Bayside HS and Automotive HS so we stopped to watch a few drives of that while my dad ogled the chicks running by on the track. We found it pretty funny that the biggest dude on Bayside played defensive tackle as well as punter/kicker.

Big sweaty mens
After getting our fill of foosball we headed up Driggs and made a left onto Manhattan Ave. A few long blocks later brought us to our second destination: Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop.

I go nuts for donuts
I'd originally planned on hitting Doughnut Plant after R&D, but after realizing that Peter Pan was close to Brooklyn Bowl (our next destination) I decided to check it out. We arrived and the seats were packed but the takeout line was short and moving fast. I took the few moments I had to look around, but already had a few doughnuts in mind that I'd read were good. This, unfortunately, turned out to be another classic case of taking someone else's internet recommendation instead of ordering what I would usually go with. Ah well, live and learn, right? I didn't notice any creme puffs which would've been first on my list anyway, so I ordered a honey coated french cruller and a glazed sour cream cake doughnut. Dad ordered an apple crumb and a chocolate glazed cruller. I also ordered a large iced decaff.

After finding a nice newspaper box to eat on we unveiled our goodies. First up was the apple crumb.

Apple crumb topped with a doughnut graveyard
What I love about this doughnut was that it is topped with the carcasses of other less fortunate doughnuts. There were no doughnuts harmed in the making of this doughnut. Oh wait, yes there were. Sweet! Almost immediately my dad's nice black polo was covered in smudges of powdered sugar.

Delicious entrails
The doughnut was very soft on the bottom and the filling was thankfully not too sweet, which I feel is the downfall of so many filled doughnuts. Dad said it was like biting into apple pie, and I agreed. This was my favorite doughnut out of the bunch.

We calls em tractor wheels where I come from, I reckon
My honey glazed cruller was also great. It was extremely light and airy, but the texture was more spongy than tender, requiring some effort to rip in half. The honey was fine, not too sweet, but I felt it didn't really add all that much to the doughnut itself.

The most over-hyped doughnut out of the bunch was the glazed sour cream cake doughnut. I didn't get the allure, to me it just tasted like your standard cake doughnut with a barely discernible sourness at the end. I popped open my coffee which was pretty bad too, by the way, and dunked the cake doughnut in and it improved it slightly, but still it just didn't do anything for me. I severely regretted not ordering the awesome looking red velvet...

Crazy hole structure
All of the things said about the honey glazed cruller could be said about dad's chocolate glazed cruller, except that the chocolate glaze had a nice hit of coco, again without being too sweet. This was my other favorite and were the situation different I could see myself putting down a half-dozen of these for breakfast easy.

The after party at the General Mills company picnic
Speaking of breakfast, walking along Wythe Ave. I couldn't help but take a picture of this awesome street art of all of my favorite breakfast cereal icons. I found it quite hilarious, my favorite being Wendel from Cinnamon Toast Crunch juggling hand grenades and Boo from Boo Berry choking the life out of Sonny from Cocoa Puffs. Only in NYC...

Our timing was perfect, and we arrived at the door of Brooklyn Bowl mere minutes after they'd opened. We were assigned lane 5 and quickly made our way over to the bar to sample a few beers. I explained to the bartender, who turned out to be uber-nice, a theme with all of the employees we encountered there, that we were in town for my dad's birthday and I wanted him to sample a few beers and we would order a pitcher of whatever he likes. The guy had no problem shelling out samples of the handful of beers my dad listed off. While I don't care for Brooklyn Lager, we both really enjoyed Brooklyn Light Ale so we went with that.

The interior of Brooklyn Bowl is nothing short of gorgeous, and after only being open for 2 years this place has received ample amounts of press for being an awesome place to bowl, eat, and see live bands. Another reason I chose to take my dad bowling was because I bowled throughout my entire childhood, and while I failed miserably at little league and high school football, I dominated in bowling. You think I jest? I was the YABA Maryland State Champion and hold one of the highest youth sets ever bowled in the state of Maryland, 771. I killed it with my Rhino Pro Gold. You best straight recognize.

Bringing the ruckus
The perfect marriage of bowling and beer
Enough with tooting my own horn (hehe, toot) while I expected this place to get packed with drunken college kids as they were showing college football all day, I guess they were all hungover because it was packed with raging kiddie birthday parties instead. Oh, joy. I especially loved the group of 12 year old girls on lane 3 that screamed at the top of their lungs after every. single. shot. Ugh. But, as you all know, beer makes everything better so I grabbed my glass and started to chug. Game on.

I talked so much smack about kicking my dad's ass on his birthday. I was going to bowl circles around him, he didn't even know what pain I was about to bring. Yeah, well that's not entirely the way things panned out and before I knew it he was up two games to none.

Game #1: Gap Daddy 143
                Baby Gap   111

Game #2: Gap Daddy 145
                Baby Gap   111

Hey, at least I was being consistent, right? Luckily I capitalized on dad's worst game so far, squeaking out my first win in game 3.

Game #3: Gap Daddy 125
                Baby Gap   128

Game 4, and our second pitcher of beer were upon us. As I laughingly quaffed my glass I entertained visions of leaving with at least a shred of respect, splitting our games at 2 apiece. Alas it was not meant to be. Apparently the more my dad drinks the looser he gets and the better he bowls and the more I drink the harder it is for me to concentrate on what the hell I'm doing. Not to mention keep my balance. Game 4 turned out to be the harshest beat-down of them all:

Game #4: Gap Daddy 202
                Baby Gap   101

Yes, you read that right. Not only did my dad bowl a 202 with a house ball, but he doubled my freakin' score of 101. I hung my head in shame. We turned in our shoes and paid our bill.  My dad was really blown away by how the pin setters worked.  Thin black cables were attached to the tops of the pins and after every shot they would get sucked back up into the setter.  Pretty ingenious.

His eyes almost popped out of their sockets when he saw how much two hours of bowling and two pitchers of beer cost. He estimated around $30. Try $146. Ouch. We saddled up to the bar to finish off our second pitcher. There was some great light coming in through a high window which really showed off the great golden color of the Brooklyn Light Ale:

Oh, the pretty colors!
My dad was stone sober, but I was approaching giddiness as we made it back to the subway station. That may have accounted for how we ended up three stops deep into Manhattan before realizing we had gone the wrong way on the L. I was planning on taking him to Motorino in Brooklyn and while it probably would've been faster to just go to the East Village location, I didn't feel like I was in the proper state of mind to figure that out so we just went back to Brooklyn. A few short blocks from the station and we had arrived.

Ah, toasty warm
I liked the Brooklyn location a lot better because it was much more spacious, and the oven was front and center instead of tucked away behind a corner. I already knew what we were going to order so I threw it down: A Brussels Sprouts Pancetta pie for my dad, and a Soppressata Piccante for me. A few short minutes later (gotta love those 700 degree ovens!) and we had our pies.

Nothing witty to say about this one... boobs.
Look at how friggin' gorgeous those pies are. Our waitress brought us out a little dish with chili flakes and chili oil and we dove right in. Having already sampled much of Motorino's menu previously I knew my dad would love the BS&P pie, which he did.

BS&P just kills it
I've already raved about it, so I will spare you the details, but I will say that it was just as great as before, the chili oil adding another layer of flavor and emphasizing the smokiness even further. The SP pie was good, although kind of suffered in the shadow of the BS&P.

Spicy, garlicky, and, unfortunately, greasy
It was a little too heavy for me, evoking the feeling of being covered in grease after we were done eating, which I hate. The pie already had chili oil on it, and... other details about the pie are a little hazy due to the strong buzz I still had from bowling. I think I've explored enough of the menu to know that the BS&P pie is my pie of choice at Motorino.  I will say that it did have some lovely leopard spotting on the undercarriage:

That's not burnt, that's char and char is delicious
After lunch we headed back to Union Square Park to get in line for rush tickets for Fuerza Bruta. This was the only part of the day I kept secret from my dad, hoping the show would really blow him away, which it did. We waited an hour in direct sunlight, nabbed our ridiculously discounted tickets, and made a dash for even more revelry at Union Square Cafe.

A NYC institution, or so I'm told
Immediately upon sitting I asked the bartender if they still had any bar nuts and she gladly doled us out a bowl. I was uber-excited that we got our own individual bowl and they were served right out of the heater so they were nice and warm.

Giada's favorite nuts
These nuts are straight up CRACK. Every nut you could imagine nicely toasted and coated in sea salt and rosemary. I would walk around with a fanny pack filled with these at all times if it were possible. I've never wanted my mouth stuffed with salty nuts so much in my life. And, believe me, that says a lot. What can I say, I love nuts. Get your mind out of the gutter.

My dad went to the bathroom and I ordered him his usually double T&T. I was pretty full from lunch so I didn't want to drink beer, and I'm not much of a cocktail drinker. I like them, I just never know what to order. The bartender asked if I preferred a sweet drink or something more bitter, and it seems that whenever I answer that question I'm presented with a drink that's either two sweet or two bitter. I told her that I love scotch and she asked if I'd ever had an old-fashioned. I replied no, and she told me that it's usually made with an orange slice, a maraschino cherry, and a sugar cube, which is muddled together and bourbon is poured over top. She said there was a variant that she couldn't recall the name of that uses scotch instead of bourbon. Initially she made it with Dewer's and while I loved the drink, I consider Dewer's to be the Bud Light of scotch. So after she retired and the evening bartender came on I asked him to make it with Glenfiddich (I can never remember which one I like better Glenfiddich or Glenlivit... Why the hell do the names have to be so GD similar?). He also transferred the drink to a shaker which broke up the orange slice even more. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you my new drink of choice:

I guess I'm just an old-fashioned girl
Ain't it perty? My friend G happened to be in NYC that weekend visiting my friend A so they both met up with us for a round at the bar. As always A and I discussed NYC dining and food in general. And, as usual, G felt completely out of place in his disheveled black t-shirt and sneakers.  I got the bartender to snap a quick photo of the two of us, the only one of the trip:

Clearly dad is jealous of my badass lazer eyes
Showtime was fast approaching so we paid our obscenely large bar tab (this is why I usually don't drink when I visit NYC...) and headed back to the Daryl Roth Theatre. As expected, my dad loved the show his only complaint being that there was no T&A.  That's my dad for ya.  I was really surprised how much he got into it, I never thought he'd be jumping up and down waving his hands around. I guess they really know how to make a double T&T at USC. This being my third time seeing it, it was no less spectacular than the first, and I made sure we were well away from the rain at the end. For just over $50 for the two of us, you really can't find a better deal in the city. I snapped some decent shots during the show, taking care not to use my flash.

And finally we come to our final destination of finality. The finale if you will. I had two options for dinner: an 8:45 res at Convivio for fancy pants white table cloth pasta or beers and burgers at the Breslin which was just a few short blocks from Penn Station. We went for burgers at Breslin, primarily due to the fact that I love alliteration.

Considering how much press the Breslin had received shortly after opening in October 2009, and the fact that they don't take reservations, I was expecting a colossal wait at 9pm on a Saturday. The Breslin is April Bloomfield's second restaurant after the Spotted Pig. The burger at the Spotted Pig happens to be my favorite burger on earth, combine that with my love of all things lamb and you can imagine how excited I was to try her take on a lamb burger. Well, for whatever reason that wasn't the case and I barely had time to use the restroom after putting our names in before the hostess was tracking me down to lead us to our table.

I ordered a Pork Slap Ale and a lamb burger medium rare and my dad was delighted to see that they had a gin and tonic menu so he ordered the classic and a lamb burger medium. I was glad the wait was so short, because the service was embarrassingly slow. I wasn't really complaining though, our bus didn't leave until 11pm and it was just past 9 so we had plenty of time to hang out and discuss life. We actually did get into some pretty heavy discussion about the current state of our lives and how happy we were. We discussed life and love, marriage and divorce, and all things between. All of a sudden two big stinky burgers were plopped down before us. Hold that thought dad, it's eatin' time.

Would it beat the Spotted Pig?
I'd read rave reviews about the cumin mayo and the thrice cooked chips so as usual, I went to the fries first. I'm usually not a huge fan of mayo but holy fancy mother of crap this stuff was nothing short of a revelation. The fries were good, fine, crispy, salty, but the mayo overshadowed everything else on the plate, even the burger. I quickly polished off the first dish and the waitress didn't skip a beat when I asked her for another, laughingly agreeing with me that it was pretty amazing stuff. Yes, yes it was. They should make The Breslin Cumin Mayo Flavored Body Butter.  Nut butter?  It just might be up there on my top 10 bites of NYC.

I wish I were that fry.  I wish that fry was me.
The waiter wasn't quite sure which burger was medium-rare and now looking back at the pictures I think he gave me the medium one. Nonetheless this burger was pretty damn good, but not without it's faults.

Just imagine the bun is lips, the patty a tongue, the feta two gapped teeth.  A sign?
I'm not really sure why, but instead of cutting the burger in half as I usually do for the autopsy shot, I ignored the knife and dove straight in. It may have had something to do with being there with my dad and testosterone... Who knows?

He's so ashamed for wetting himself all over the plate...
See? Naughty burger!
Upon biting into this thing hot grease literally jets out of the patty. I'm not joking. It felt like someone was peeing down my arm. It squirted out everywhere. Luckily the bun was substantial enough to hold up the the deluge of grease, but the crustiness of the bread really cut into my lips, leaving the corners of my mouth painfully tender.

The gaminess of the meat was the stuff of legends, the feta cheese only serving to enhance it into another stratosphere while also adding a thick slab of creaminess to the bite. Red onion is usually a pretty powerful flavor, but combined with all of these other potent forces, it was lost in the mix. All-in-all a very tasty burger indeed, and one I would happily order again if I ever found myself at the Breslin. The star of this dish though, is that mayo. Hallelujah, holy shit, where's the Tylenol? If only one could have the fries and mayo from the Breslin and the burger from the Spotted Pig, that would truly be burger heaven.

I wasn't done just yet. When I mentioned ordering dessert to my dad, he looked at me like I had lost my damned mind. In a way I had. He's not used to marathon eating like I am. This is the way I roll, you'd better come prepared or suffer the consequences! I ordered the chocolate stout syllabub with creme fraiche and caramel bubbles.

There's your syllabub, bub.
Syllabub is an English dessert akin to pudding. The pudding was surprisingly light and fluffy with a great bitterness from the stout beer. The creme fraiche added a silky creaminess as expected, but my favorite part was the snappy crunch from the caramel bubbles. They should sell those in the junk food aisle next to the Twizzlers, they would kill!

I want to do a cannonball right into that
As I waved the white flag in defeat, dad took up the challenge and bravely dove his spoon into the glass, finishing off what scraps remained. What a trooper.  Dinner completed, we made our way out to the awesome lobby of the Ace Hotel, in which the Breslin is built. We plopped down in some comfy chairs and mulled over the highlights of the day.

Pretty lobby
Pretty light
We walked over to Penn Station and dad really got a kick out of standing right next to the imposing Madison Square Garden. There was already a long line for the 11pm Balt/Washington bus so we got in line and reflected on our day. One thing I'd like to mention here is that I slept the entire bus ride home. I woke up a few times for a second, and I smelled something that in my sleepy-headed delusion smelled like dead fish. Something straight up rancid. After arriving in White Marsh I asked my dad if he smelled anything on the bus and he had no idea what I was talking about. I then realized that it was the grease from the burger still on my face and in my goatee. That was a pretty foul realization. Ew.

I'm so glad I decided to do this and I can only hope my dad enjoyed it half as much as I did. The highlights for me were goofing off at Brooklyn Bowl and seeing my dad let loose and really get into Fuerza Bruta. Happy 55th birthday dad! You don't know how lucky I am to have a dad that is not only a great father, but a best friend too. I love you.


Since I'm feeling a bit saucy here are some bonus pictures of our adventures on Labor Day.  We did our usual crabbing and boat-riding shenanigans.  Enjoy!

Seasoning the crabbies

My bloody mary

Steamed crabs on the water, nothing beats it

The pups' first boat ride

My girls.  Damn I'm lucky.

Smoking some wings for dessert

Sahara remembered to vote, did you?
Russ & Daughters on Urbanspoon
Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon
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Union Square Cafe on Urbanspoon
Breslin Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

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theminx said...

Wow - never had a burger pee on me before.

Happy birthday, MicroDad!

Arielle said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one with ho-hummish things to say about Peter Pan. I was beginning to feel crazy. Some people are just stubbornly loyal to "institutions" I think.

Oh and don't worry, the red velvet looks prettier than it tastes.

Mr. Micro said...

Well that makes me feel better. For me, nothing compares to Doughnut Plant, but the doughnuts at the Cockeysville PA Dutch Market are pretty damn good... Their caramel dipped is pretty ethereal.

Arielle said...

You've got to do to Dough in Bed Stuy (crazy, I know, but check out my blog about them(and I guess maybe the NY Times article from a guy who probably read my blog but didn't give me credit, poo)).

Mr. Micro said...

I am itching to get back up to the city. I've got plans for a burger tour brewing in my brain. But honestly, I'm not sure if I can stomach 3 burgers in one day with my new dieting habits...

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