18 December 2010

Two Dorks, One Apple

I wanted to visit NYC again before the year came to it’s stunning conclusion so since my father-centric visit went so well I offered to do the same for my retarded older brother. After conversing with his better half he gave the go ahead to start planning it all out for him, which I happily spent hours doing. After securing bus tickets and hotel reservations the much anticipated day (Saturday, Dec. 4th) had finally arrived. My bus from Baltimore arrived at 11am and his bus from Philly arrived an hour later and I knew the perfect way to kill an hour. I hopped off my double-decker megabus at 28th and 7th Ave. and made my way a few short blocks to Stumptown Coffee located in the Ace Hotel on 29th St.

The line was to the door, but since the central focus of this task was to kill time, I didn’t mind the wait a bit. I finally arrived at the front of the line and informed the snazzily-dressed gentlemen behind the counter that I would like a medium decaf soy latte. I paid my buckerage and waited by the frontal floor-to-ceiling window for my piping hot beverage.

What do you see?
This was the first time I’d ordered a coffee-based beverage with latte art and I was quite impressed with the results. What does that look like to you? A leaf? A flower? A crescent moon eating Pac-Man, eating a sperm that's smoking a joint? Well, that's what I see anyway. While I am in no way shape or form a coffee connoisseur (my brother most certainly is) I thought this was a pretty standard latte. While the soy milk wasn't as creamy as I would've liked, it had this fantastic grassy “green” flavor to it that I’d never experienced before. Otherwise it was just your run of the mill latte, something I wouldn't go out of my way for.

Unfortunately, my brother’s bus hit some traffic and ended up being 30 minutes late, but eventually, after many many games of Bejeweled Blitz 2 on my iphone, his goofy ass finally walked through the doors and into the lobby. Our weekend could officially begin.

My brother is a pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats seafood in case your google bar is broken) so initially I tried to find a great Southern Indian spot for lunch, but after much research I was left feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. So I took it upon myself to choose three restaurants and then let him pick. His choices were Momofuku Noodle Bar for ramen, Veselka for pierogies and latkes, or Taim for falafel. He said he wanted something warm and spicy so he chose ramen. Well shit. I told him that the only vegetarian ramen Momofuku offers is served cold. I stopped for a second to consider my options and when I looked up we just happened to be standing right in front of No. 7 Sub. I’d read good things about this place on Yelp and Serious Eats and said “Well this place is supposed to be really good, they have a General Tso’s Tofu sub” That was all he needed to hear. So inside we went.

Pretty sure he was doing lines just before we walked in
There isn’t much to the interior of No. 7 Sub. Just some dude at a register and two windows with tiny little shelves for those of us who weren’t eating on the run. We didn’t even look at the other options they had available, we just ordered two of the aforementioned GTTs and waited for our name to be called. Almost immediately after we ordered a line formed the stretched out onto the sidewalk. Apparently we’d arrived at the perfect time. After discussing the pros and cons of travelling by bus our name was called and we were handed a brown bag containing our neatly wrapped subs.

Autopsy shot.  I wish my innards tasted this good.
The bread didn't have too much flavor on its own, but the slightly resilient crust combined with the soft spongy insides proved to be the perfect vessel for the goodies within. On the first half of my sub the tofu was sliced a little thin so I didn't feel the full impact of it until I got past the 50% mark. I saw the light when I bit into the second half. The tofu was creamy and light with a texture bordering on custardy. It was perfectly fried, retaining a nice subtle crunch through the general tso’s sauce.

Big old slab of pickled ginger
At first I thought the sauce could’ve been a bit spicier, but after a few moments of chatting I started to notice the slow subtle burn creeping down my throat. The pickled ginger proved to be my favorite part of the sandwich adding a bright punch. I though the use of the spaghetti squash was a clever attempt at simulating the texture of seaweed salad. This proved to be a wonderful start to our weekend of Shenanigans in the Big Apple.

My brother is into model trains and shit (yeah, he’s one of those guys) and while the display at the New York Botanical Garden is the end-all-be-all of train displays, I wasn’t willing to spend half our day travelling up there. So I decided to check out the display at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex. Well google maps told me that the museum address was 40 East 45th Street, but after spending almost an hour poking our heads into random lobbies and office buildings and receiving the strangest replies and looks we finally gave up and moved on. While walking back to the subway my brother stepped into Grand Central Station and snapped a few shots of the pretty ceiling (he’s also a photography buff, among other things) while I waited patiently.

And, as is usual with all of my food-centric trips, we had to finish off our lunch with something sweet. After reading about “The Situation Dark” on Serious Eats NY I immediately set my mind on getting on from Dessert Club Chikalicious. We walked in and my brother brazenly ordered two. He was here to expand his stomach in ways he probably never thought possible. I was surprised, and proud. When the guy behind the counter overheard us talking about getting them to go and eating them with our espresso drinks at our next destination (more on that later) he told us they were just out of the oven and highly recommended that we eat them now. That was all we needed to hear so we made a beeline for one of the tiny open tables. We didn’t know what we were in for.

Mah bro adding his patented Shocker Stamp of Approval

I feel like I’ve been writing about “goo” an awfully lot lately, but that’s really what we encountered at the center of this cookie. It was like a slightly smaller, much more complex version of the much raved about cookies from Levain Bakery. Hmm, let’s see where to begin. Well first off I did encounter a few pieces of stale popcorn that lended an unpleasant chewy texture to the cookie. Then, while I could clearly see the pretzels on top, their flavor was completely masked by all of the other ingredients at work in this beast. Other than that it was pretty epicly delicious baked treat.

Want a bite?
Peanut butter chips, liquefied
My brother proclaimed it the best cookie he’d ever had, and while I wouldn't go quite that far, it definitely gives Levain a run for their money. The best part was the super-soft just raw center. The chocolate and peanut butter chips were heated to the point of liquefecaction, so naturally the overall flavor was that of peanut butter and chocolate. I would've seriously considered it the best cookie if the outer edge had been more chewy than crispy.

Finally we got on the train and headed out to Brooklyn. Our next stop was a mecca for all coffee nerds—Blue Bottle Coffee Co. I really wanted to blow my brother’s mind with some exquisitely crafted espresso brews. Unfortunately, the only thing BBCC ended up blowing up was our bathroom later that night (Caffiene makes you poop). After taking a picture of the imposing squirrel street art on the side of the building, we entered through the doors and into the somewhat cramped interior.

Apparently this is one of the best espresso machines in the world
Literally the only guy besides us without a beard.  I guess we missed that memo...
We saw a line and jumped into it, but after a short while we gathered that this was the line of people who had already ordered and were waiting for their drinks, d’oh! We finally got in the right line and I decided to let my bro order for me since coffee is his thing. I went to guard a standing spot for us at the high table dominating the center of the room while he placed our order.

A group discussion on the art of beard-growing and upkeep
That's the first brown ring I don't want my tongue to taste
The macchiato was good, but suffered from the fatal flaw of being brewed at too high a temperature. My brother said a tell-tale sign of that is the dark ring around the outer edge, which this cup obviously had. It wasn't the first time I found love inside a dark brown ring.  Ah, to be young again... I didn't really mind the burnt flavor until I got to the bottom, that last sip was straight up ass, erm I mean ash. I’m talking like Sour Diesel burnt. BBCC definitely failed to impress my coffee snob of a brother. Damn them.

Fortunately our next destination would prove to be a huge success, but, I mean, how could a place offering a great rotating beer selection coupled with a dizzying array of old school arcade games anything but awesome? Yes, I speak of Barcade.  Immediately upon entering I knew this was my type of place. Since we were there for pre-dinner drinks and not post-dinner drinks it was pleasantly lively without being crammed asses to elbows. We made a beeline for the bar and surveyed their chalkboard beer selection (not realizing they had a printed beer list until our second round). As soon as I laid my eyes on the Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter I knew that would be my first round.

My type of place...
If only they had "newer" classics like TMNT, The Simpsons, and Knights of the Round!
Smoked Porter? More like Smoked Pooper
We secured one of the tables in the back corner as soon as we saw a group getting up to leave and commenced the quaffing of brews. The beer wasn't my bag unfortunately. It had an unpleasant sour note to it with hints of lemon that I just wasn't expecting. I drank about half of it and gave the rest to my brother who seemed to be enjoying his.

I went back up to the bar to order another beer and this is when I discovered the beer list. Ah, yes lengthy descriptions of all their brews, that was exactly what I needed to choose my next beer. This time I went with the ridiculously named Chelsea Black Hole Nitro XXX Stout. Now this is what I’m talking about. It went down ultra smooth with a head that brought to mind a dark chocolate milkshake. I detected slight notes of coffee and caramel and it was sublimely drinkable. I was in love.

My brother displaying the beer list a la Kilroy was here
I returned to our table, beer list in hand, and enjoyed good beer and conversation. We were putting off playing games because we didn't want to have to juggle our glasses while button-mashing for great justice, but then we noticed the tiny wooden planks inserted between the machines to serve as beer stands. We made a beeline for Rampage. Game on.

I killed my CBHNXS—again, what a retarded name—and after taking a recommendation from the bartender I went with the Anderson Valley Brewing Company Winter Solstice. It smelled like tangerine or Clementine and I detected faint notes of Dubble Bubble bubble gum. I was definitely starting to feel it at this point, but I felt it was nice and light on the tongue and it tasted like a liquefied Christmas cookie.

A winter solstice in my pants
We made Rampage our bitch and then moseyed over to Punch Out and rounded it all out with a healthy dose of 1943. I was giddy as a schoolgirl when I found 1943 but I swear to your mom that it was stealing our quarters. It was hard to tell after that many beers. I had such a great experience at Barcade that at some point I bought a t-shirt, but I actually really like it, so no regrets there.

Dinner was at Dirt Candy in the East Village. We arrived slightly early so we busied ourselves at some random candle and incense shop a few doors down until our table was ready. My brother found a few wonderful candles and I had to talk him out of buying them for his wife for Christmas.

Add your own caption to this one
Aren't they just darling? Anyway, we were sat at the table against the left wall, closest to the door. The space was cramped indeed but we made the best of it. I was hellbent on ordering some of their famous jalapeno hush puppies which are served with maple butter to start and let him choose the appetizer. He chose the “Mushroom” which is a cube of Portobello mousse served with truffled toast points and a pear and fennel compote. The plate is also lightly drizzled with a flavorful balsamic reduction.

Jesus, I feel like I got punched in the eyes… As you can probably guess I don’t write this entire article in one fell swoop, well not usually anyway, and this morning I feel like crap… I think someone exchanged my saline solution for superglue. I’m usually a morning person too. Now I feel like a peeved dragon ready to spit flames. Did this rant have a point? No, not really but it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want. And that’s the conclusion of our intermission folks, back to dinner at Dirt Candy.

Dip dip bread
The complimentary bread and herbed olive oil was… Well for one, the bread was more like a chewy pita bread, which I liked, but didn't expect. The strange part was after dipping a slice and taking a bite something in the olive oil assailed my throat throwing me into a violent fit of coughing. No idea what caused it, but I steered clear of the oil after that.

$1.20 per puppy.  Ouch.
The hush puppies had a strong corn flavor with a subtle kick from the jalapeños. They would've been great had they had a more prominent outer crust. See a great example of what I’m talking about here.

The butter melted seconds after application
The maple butter went well with the corny insides, bringing to mind the flavors of a good old southern breakfast, but it really paired well with the pita bread, better than the hush puppies even.

It's like a Build Your Own Crostini kit 

The Portobello dish was quite successful. It was obviously a very earthy plate of food since we were eating mushroom on mushroom and the bright sweetness from the pears combined with the bold sweetness from the balsamic reduction really rounded it out nicely. I also really enjoyed the play on textures and the zing from the fresh ginger.

I build it good
For our entrées I ordered the "Corn" which featured stone ground grits, corn cream, pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche, and a tempura poached egg. Broseph went with the "Broccolini" which starred a slab of crispy tofu, broccoli & broccolini, and a orange beurre blanc sauce.

Hey, someone heaved on my plate...
When my grits were placed in front of me, they definitely didn't do much for me in terms of presentation. But after my first bite, I didn't care that what I was eating looking like baby puke topped with a panko-fried turd. The fresh cheese (don't remember exactly what it was and their menu doesn't say) and the micro-cilantro woke up my mouth while simultaneously stimulating my member. I loved how they had fresh corn kernels as well as corn cream mixed in with the grits to give you a hot and steamy corny ménage à trois.

The money shot
Once I broke my tempura poached egg and mixed in the velvety runny yolk I was at the cusp of orgasm. In my mouth that is.  Bro's Broc faired quite nicely as well.

That's tofu, not salmon
The broccoli was perfectly cooked and the buttery citrus reduction sauce just made everything on the plate just that much better. I'd had my first amazing pairing of citrus with broccoli at Pazo and this definitely proved that it wasn't just a fluke. They really do go great together. My mouth didn't even know how to process the tempura fried orange slices. The Thai chili really punched you in the facehole and I really appreciated how the chef (who was also acting as our food runner, nice chick) placed the chili whole on the plate, so you could nip off a little bit at a time, controlling the level of heat in each bite.

Ryan was really looking for some high quality gourmet vegetarian and I think Dirt Candy passed with flying colors. This place was the highlight of the trip for him, and I couldn't be more pleased that he enjoyed it. Pleased in the pants, that is.

The conclusion of our night was spent sampling single-malt scotch at Brandy Library in TriBeCa. I failed to make a reservation because I couldn't quite grasp the idea of making a reservation to drink at a bar, but luckily we were sat with minimal fuss at the bar mere minutes after we'd arrived. One of my bro's internet guy friends from Brooklyn met us there and we all enjoyed a nice evening of sipping and chatting.

Bottles cleverly arranged to look like books
Ardmor Peated Island Malt Unchillfiltered 92 Proof

The bar, seconds before the "entertainment" arrived
There wasn't a band, but there was entertainment. Brandy Library hired a woman who could smoke a cigar out of her vagina whilst crab-walking across the bar top. It really was quite a show. The smoke from the cigar really brought out the smoky notes from our scotch. It brought literal meaning to the phrase "fire-crotch".

Did that really happen? I guess you'll have to trek on down to TriBeCa and find out for yourself. Tell 'em Mr. Micro sent ya. That's it for our first day in the city. Day 2 is coming up next. Until then, as always, go freakin' eat something fatty!

Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon
No. 7 Sub on Urbanspoon
Chikalicious Dessert Club on Urbanspoon
Blue Bottle on Urbanspoon
Barcade on Urbanspoon
Dirt Candy on Urbanspoon
Brandy Library on Urbanspoon

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