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Carnivore-pescavore pair in Montreal and QC

Hey folks, sorry for vagueness and then disappearing (long non-chow story). In any event, yes, probably skipping deli and smoked meats, as generally not the hugest fan. Places that reading about sound good (but warn me if I'm wrong!):

L'Affaire est Ketchup
Wine and snacks at Le Moine Echanson
La Legende (?)

Bouillon bilk (not ideal for the non meat eater?)
Nora gray
Liverpool house or Joe Beef do-able?
We certainly will be wandering the markets (JT and Atwater)

Hotel Herman?

Carnivore-pescavore pair in Montreal and QC

Heading to Montreal, Quebec City and a night in the Eastern Townships. I've pored over the recommendations here for relatively upscale nights out in each, and more casual meals, so assume I've read anything you posted here before. Here's the twist: any changes to recommendations considering we will be one who eats land but not sea creatures, and one who eats sea but no land creatures? And both eat vegetables. We do love to share foods, but go separate ways to indulge as need be. So any restaurants that are not worthwile if you don't eat meat, or if you don't love seafood, that come to mind? Most menus obviously can cater to anyone, but some are just better suited to this than others. Thanks!

Recs Sought for Thailand: Chiang Mai and Bangkok

I culled all my recommendations from (veteran chow poster) Robyn's blog "Eating Asia." They are top-notch recs, mostly for Chiang Mai.

In Chiang Mai, the Friday Shan Morning Market (held on the street near the mosque with all those khao soi shops--one block off the top of the night market street) was fantastic for Shan breakfast (chickpea tofu, chickpea noodles, etc).

I also found the recommendation for Sorn Chan, which is across from Thapae gate, to be spot-on. I also love all the grilled pork in the evenings at Warorot market -- my favorite sai krok issan vendor is right next to a great smoothie vendor.

What I did NOT like: the awful Sunday night "walking street" market. I probably wrote here about the khnaom jeen nam ngiaw vendor in the courtyard on the north side of the street. Well, that was 10 years ago, and I went back last year and not only had the whole scene become insufferable, but the vendor -- still there -- had a vastly inferior product to offer. Do Nam Ngiaw Thapae instead.

Fairway going downhill?

This makes enormous sense for what I've seen. I've been a staunch Fairway fan for a long time, but in the last year have lost most of the grounds for defending it except familiarity and the views from the Red Hook cafe.

I have shopped over the years at many of the branches: original UWS, Harlem, Stamford, midtown at 24th Street, E 86 St, but most regularly for the last 3 years at Red Hook. I have particularly noticed that the semi-prepared foods (e.g., in-house pesto, pastas) have gone HUGELY downhill in quality and taste. It seems like nobody actually cares about the taste of food there any more.

The prices have also gone from being excellent to often being quite similar to Whole Foods (a chain I detest) on many items. I can't say I noticed a decline in produce, though -- but maybe that is coming too. The branch I mentioned on 24 Street, a smallish store, is particularly pathetic and has nobody who knows anything.

Red Hook keeps moving everything around in insensible ways, but I have a feel for it and know the layout, and what I want to buy. That said, when Wegman's opens in a year or two, I have a feeling I won't have much compunction in shifting loyalties completely.

Aug 13, 2015
mary shaposhnik in Manhattan

Ruthie's closing

Ruthie's, the southern food resraurant on Myrtle and formerly on DeKalb, is going out of business on August 23. I didn't go there so much on Myrtle, but stopped in for fried chicken today. I'll miss that fried chicken. Unlike many of the trendy spots, this was always about technique rather than batter, just a thin, salt and pepper, perfectly crisp exterior.

Casual in Port Chester (Westchester County)?

The beer garden at the Port Chester train station is about a block from the theater, and has great atmosphere. It is literally right IN the train station itself -- a great adaptive reuse of the building, and well priced and designed to be inclusive. Most of the seating is outdoors, and it has a big casual menu (salads, sandwiches, burgers, some entrees, apps, pretzels) and good beers. Now, the food? Swings wildly, averaging okay but not great. There is always one element to each dish that is really tasty, and one element that is a complete mis-step. But it might suit your purposes.

I also for a long time really liked Taqueria La Picardia, which is kitty-corner to the Capital (I think). Small place with a friendly owner. But the last time I went the tacos weren't as good as the many previous visits. I've usually liked the tacos al Arabe (whatever that is--some good pork taco), and I did enjoy the pozole I got last visit. It was the vegetarian taco that disappointed last time. Also, terrible beer selection. Still, a very easy pre-Capital dinner.

Maiolino, Ai Fiori, Cafe Boulud or Ilily

I really like Ilili, and the nature of the food -- mezze to share -- works well with someone who may not eat very much. They have a few different spaces, and I think the back room was quiet.

Jul 28, 2015
mary shaposhnik in Manhattan

natural/good food stores in blacksburg or roanoke?

What are the stores near Blacksburg or Roanoke where health-conscious, organic, food-loving sorts might shop? They grow their own fruits and veggies, but do shop somewhere. I want to give a gift certificate to friends who live in the area. Thanks.

Jul 28, 2015
mary shaposhnik in Mid-Atlantic

Clinton Hill lunch and dinner

For ethnic, try Buka on Fulton Street. Nigerian food, friendly people, nice setting.

Kao Soy--new Thai in Red Hook

Uh oh. I am not going so far as to say "downhill alert" based on one visit, but dinner here the other night was a distinct notch below my several prior visits.

For one, gaeng hanglay is off the menu. The owner I usually talked to was not there, but the server told us it's because they can't get the right ingredients for it from Thailand. Now, I DO understand this concern, and think that is the reason (as opposed to a lack of will or knowledge) why most of these places that truly know northern Thai food can't turn it out "authentically." But I really was wondering what ingredients they couldn't get for this dish (as opposed to some salads that rely on fresh herbs or leaves), but was left wondering. He said (in response to very leading questions, so the answers were unreliable) that maybe it will come back on the menu some day.

Meanwhile, the pla goong was way too sweet, which it should not be and was not on prior visits. The nam prik num that accompanies the sai oua still brought the dish together, but it was a little drier than usual. The little pork bacon bites that sinfully accompany it were just greasy this time, not tasty-greasy.

The khao soi remained good, but I was again surprised at the teensy, tiny portions of the fixin's (pickled greens, shallot, chili paste, lime) that must accompany it. The portions were like wasabi paste or something. I always have to ask for more there.

Anyway, restaurants have to experiment to get the right note, and maybe there are ups and downs. But I hope this was not a trend.

Ethiopia Report

Sounds like we were there at the same time. Since I was either in Addis or in the mostly Protestant or Muslim areas, meat was much more widely available than it would be in primarily Orthodox areas where people were fasting (i.e., up north where you went). I had wondered whether I would have found any in Lalibela, for instance.

It's also an unusual culinary destination in that it's great for both carnivores and vegetarians.

Ethiopia Report

Thanks for the post, and the helpful (if not exactly tantalizing) wine reviews. I was there in April, and the one glass of the Rift Valley wine I had -- can't remember which it was -- so thoroughly disappointed me that I went right back to the St. George's for the rest of the trip. That may have been premature, but at least my disappointment in the wine wasn't compounded by having spent more for the glass of wine than my food.

I'll add on some notes, prompted by your post. My eating agenda unfortunately had to take a back seat to several other agendas (meeting friends, how far across town I had already dragged a first grader that day, etc.).

In Addis, we loved the beyaynetu (vegetarian platter) at Ketegna, at the branch behind Medhane Alem church (it is right next door to one of the new branches of Tomoca). It's a chic, modern spot with a beautiful-people but friendly vibe. Excellent vegetarian food, very very good doro wat, boring lamb tibs. I will say the tibs were an ordering mistake. One of Ketegna's strongpoints is an extensive menu where they usually have most things available, and you can easily do half orders of two different things, which is helpful if you are not a large eating party (and we were not). I just got a little flustered with a hungry kid and figuring out the menu concept, and didn't realize I was ordering lamb tibs.

Since I mentioned it, I will say that this branch of Tomoca is NO substitute for the Piazza-area original when it comes to atmosphere. It was a good spot to grab more bags of Tomoca to take home (same prices and product as the original location--though bags were also available in the basement supermarket at the Friendship Mall on Bole), but is just another brand new glass coffee place.

I was also pleased to see that the Taitu Hotel was packed for its vegetarian lunch buffet. This is Ethiopia's oldest hotel, and I have long loved its decrepit, faded grandeur, but it suffered much damage in a fire last year (or perhaps January of this year, I forget). So I am glad the lunch business is still bringing in money. Food was just okay, though -- nothing great at all. Terrific value, though, especially with a kid--one adult, one kid, one beer, all you can eat, and the bill was just under $US5. I think kids were only 15 birr (75 cents)--I am not kidding! So, if you are wandering the piazza and want to soak in a bit of the place's history, you could do worse. Or you could do better, and just stop here for a beer.

Otherwise, I agree with you that most places I ate weren't sufficiently distinctive to mention.

In Addis, friends often preferred non-Ethiopian places because they get Ethiopian food at home all the time, and I was pleasantly surprised that the Ethiopian dishes on the menu at many western places were quite good. For some reason, I didn't have any kitfo on this trip--I like it, but just never had a hankering for it at the time.

On the Italian front, people raved about Antica pizza, but I thought it was unremarkable--very floury crust. Dinner at the Italian club -- Club Juventus -- was quite satisfying, with a subtly balanced, old-school lasagna (e.g., just a touch of nutmeg in there) and similarly nicely done simple tomato pasta that showed a classic (if unexciting) touch.

We were then in some southern towns, and mostly had a lot of shiro, and was quite pleased to start learning some more varieties of it than I had known before. I particularly liked the "thick" kind whose name I am forgetting.

In Hawassa, the guidebook recommendation of the Pinna Hotel for lunch was unwarranted (a perfectly fine doro wat, but not worth seeking out). Also tried Venezia, and found the ravioli tasty but very thick and doughy. Electricity had been out all afternoon and evening, and I am not sure if that had anything to do with it. Ice cream each night from Tasso (on the river road, where the road to the Lewi/Oasis/Lakeview hotel leads) was pretty good for outside-Addis, and the lakeside makeshift cafes were a relaxing scene for a drink.

We spent a few nights in Yirgalem, and mostly ate at our hotel, Aregash Lodge, which has a lovely organic vegetable garden they irrigate from the nearby spring. So it was wonderful to eat fresh salads that I otherwise forego on a short trip, and my kid raved about their homemade pesto from the garden (it WAS very good pesto--the Ethiopian owner's late wife was Italian). They put great care into cooking the food with good ingredients, and had enset dishes like kocho, and genfo from enset-flour at breakfast. But a lot of the food was of that meant-to-please-all-tourist-palates, and thus well executed but boring. Wonderfully congenial hosts, though. Had one unremarkable shiro lunch in town, and some quite tasty local-donuts and tea at the Arada neighborhood market (I think it's just a Saturday market?), but no other finds.

I would love on my next trip to spend more time in the food markets. The Hawassa market just went on and on with stalls of various beans and spices, and I would love to have more time to go slowly through and check out the varieties. The Yirgalem market whose name I forget (not the Arada one, but one a few km closer to the center of town) was buzzing with pre-Easter activity, as everyone would be making doro wat for Easter. So there was a HUGE chicken section that week, and in the spice stalls, it was sweet to see these tiny, already apportioned piles of each spice you would need for doro wat, laid out so you could buy just one serving of each. What I did not expect was to see the spice I know as long pepper, which I only knew from northern Thai cooking (though is part of Indonesian too, I take it). I hadn't known this was part of Ethiopian cooking.

Nessa, PortChester

I've been twice in the past year, and have been very pleased, even if I can't say I remember exactly what we ate. Both times we ate outside in the little side garden, which was the main draw. It's a nice little courtyard and there are not a whole lot of outdoor places like that to choose from. I do remember really enjoying a lot of the small appetizers and bites, and had a very good pasta. Don't think I've tried the cocktails. All told, though, very good meals and I'll be back.

Kao Soy--new Thai in Red Hook

Kao Soy has BeerLao too.

And PokPok's khao soi has always been extremely weak. I don't know why they offer it.

But I love both restaurants' gaeng hanglay (the pork belly stew). They are different, but it's a dish with a range of emphases, and I think each of these restaurants highlights a different part of the dish.

Funny, I consider Kao Soy's sticky rice a real weak point. It's not the texture of any sticky rice I've eaten with before.

Thanks for reporting about the wait times.

The best of Connecticut?

Yes, yes, yes on Lao Szechuan. I just found this place in mid-January and it was excellent. Completely worth traveling for. Best food I have had in Connecticut.

Fort Greene Food?

Desert is too strong of a word, for sure, but for 20 years Fort Greene has specialized in stylish restaurants you WANT to love, but that are wildly inconsistent (at best) in food or value. Abistro was my consistent exception to this, but that closed. I do very much like the new restaurant in its spot -- Lulu and Po -- when I want the upper end of price.

Dino, the Italian place on DeKalb, does a reliably nice job of Italian, with the best thing coming off the specials menu.

Graziella's is nothing special to look at but has excellent pizza (I don't eat much of the rest of the menu, and it's been nothing special, but the pizza cook really can turn out top notch pizza).

The little French café on DeKalb by Brooklyn Tech, a few steps down from the street--Café Paulette?--is very good and very French, too.

LaCaye, opposite BAM, has some very tasty chicken stews. Drinks are uniformly weak.

Only ate once at Colonia Verde and was very impressed, but they may still be closed right now repairing from a fire.

Hudson city feedback

Spent the weekend in Hudson, after reading many of the threads on the town here (it can be a hard one to search for, given the regional name too).

Swoon Kitchenbar was very, very good. Excellently prepared duck and fish and desserts. Was a little less impressed by a pasta -- a rabbit tagliatelle -- it was fine, just quite bland. Definitely a place where you need to mélange all the flavors on your plate to get the right effect. Nice service. It wasn't quite as fabulous as I hoped at the price, but was our best meal and I'd go back.

Ca Mea fell completely flat and felt like poor value. Lovely bartender (ate at the bar), but all of our pastas were overcooked and not the least bit special. One with sunflower pesto was downright bothersome. The mushroom one was fine but not standout, but kind of watery, and the beef ragu was completely pedestrian and also in terrible proportion to the pasta. Roasted vegetable antipasti were done very well, however. For a limited menu, and at these prices, I expected a lot more.

Murray's café in Tivoli was lovely lunch spot. Very casual coffee-house vibe, with a menu of sandwiches and chili, but very, VERY well thought out and executed. All had bright, fresh ingredients. Good for vegetarians or for getting more vegetables--most were veggie-based.

Great beer at that book store -- Spotty Dog, maybe? -- and almost-there bar snacks. (For instance, a very tasty bean dip from Bruno's, but served way too cold. Once it was left to get to room temp, it was very good). Great value.

Kao Soy--new Thai in Red Hook

I went the day after the review, because it was my birthday and I really wanted sai oua for my birthday, and they were completely crushed with the delivery orders. All the tables were full on a Wednesday night (though it's tiny so fills easily) but no line. There was a new waitress who was quite overwhelmed. It was a little bit frustrating that we got our pla goong -- shrimp salad, which is very good -- first, and asked for sticky rice so we could eat it, she said The kitchen was so backed up it would take at least 10 minutes to bring out the sticky rice. So we waited, and eventually got the sticky rice along with the very excellent sai oua. I was going to get something to take away as well, but it would've taken at least another 45 minutes. So, growing pains.

This is the first time I have gone since they got their liquor license, and they had a great menu of good choices of beers. I did not look at the wine but they had that too. This is a very welcome addition.

I will say that after several visits, I am surprised at their sticky rice. It is way too sticky, and does not form a ball very well and sticks to my fingers a lot when eating food with it. This surprises me.

Best Northern Thai Larb?


Best Northern Thai Larb?

PokPok does a northern laap (which as you write, is very different than an Isaan laap).

Sides that cut through fat/ richness

If you want simple, sautéed bitter greens -- mustard greens, dandelion greens, or broccoli rabe -- with garlic and lemon would be a good counterpoint.

Dec 22, 2014
mary shaposhnik in Home Cooking

Christmas Baking 2014

Am I off in thinking these might work with a touch of cardamom? The pistachios lead me in that direction.

Otherwise, my most-complimented cookie for the last two decades has been the pecan sandies in the "New Basics" cookbook--a very simple cookie that somehow comes out great.

Just last year I started doing the chocolate peppermint buttercream cookie from this website, and that worked out surprisingly well too.

Dec 12, 2014
mary shaposhnik in Home Cooking

Bay Area Burmese Restaurant Roundup 2.0

Since this is a thread that is easy to find, perhaps it's worth noting in the thread that Burmese Kitchen may be closed, or at least will have moved, shortly.

Kao Soy--new Thai in Red Hook

Very good point, I have NOT tried Uncle Boon's. At some point I flagged it to get there, but it fell off the radar.

Kao Soy--new Thai in Red Hook

No, that was Yelp. Yes, I know...

Kao Soy--new Thai in Red Hook

My head was in the sand, so I didn't notice this restaurant until I saw these enticing posts from familiar posters. Ate there twice in the last week, and it really is a competitor -- and maybe even a winner.

Had the same dishes most of you did. Gaeng hanglay was really, really good. I also like PokPok's version, perhaps because this is just a curry I love in general, but I think this was more deeply flavored and complex. It was even better as leftovers the next day. However, since PokPok uses more pork belly (and I, too, find it a bit much when made in the traditional way of just using pork belly), it gets a slightly oilier dish, in the good way. Nonetheless, I'm splitting hairs: this was an intensely satisfying dish. The owner explained to me that the accompanying fried chicken leg, which I had never seen before, was her father's idiosyncratic tradition when he made the dish. It was nicely fried, but I wasn't going to take up too much room with it.

The sai oua was wonderful -- THAT was a like a breath of fresh air. Much better than PokPok's. They make it in-house. The nam prik num works magically with it, of course. This nam prik num is not very spicy, which is fine with me because I'm not a spice-chaser and usually find nam prik num (in Thailand, anyway) way too hot for me to eat enough to taste the flavor. This allowed me to savor it more. A definite hit.

Khao soi was the best I've had in NYC, which is faint praise because nobody seems to have tried very hard to make a good version of this (it's a mystery to me why PokPok serves such a lame version, because I know their chef knows better). It's a larger than typical portion, so can be shared. I would like to see it a bit more robustly flavored, I guess. And I was surprised by the presentation a little: some strange tempura-ish tangle on top of the crispy noodles, and very tiny portions of the fixins that I think make the dish. They kindly brought us more of the mustard greens, which I pile on, and the roasted chili paste tasted homemade too--good roasted flavor. But it was odd to have to go sparingly on them (maybe splitting a dish made this more noticeable).

The one disappointment was the nam prik ong, which seemed to be making its NYC debut (am I wrong?). This is a thick pork and tomato ragu dipping sauce. I just found this version to be rather bland, and the lack of spice and aromatics was really noticeable.

Also had the kanom jeeb (shrimp and chicken) dumplings for a kid, perfectly nicely done, just not what I'd find much reason to order.

If I sound a little hesitant, I think I led myself astray reading "just like in Thailand!" posts and thus my first reaction was, "no, this is not just like Thailand." And my second reaction was to realize what a useless comparison that was, since unlike El Jefe, I'm in NYC and not Chiang Mai--and that this was the best northern Thai I've had in NYC, along with the northern laap and a few others at PokPok.

They said it is NOT BYOB--we asked if we could bring some beer, were told no. Hope they get their license soon. Very nice people. The phone seemed busy with takeout.

Please help finalize Chiang Mai destinations (researched!!)

You totally should take up El Jefe on the offer of dining together--more dishes to try, a more fabulous feast! I was really limited in eating around Chiang Mai last year by being effectively a sole diner (my 5 yo didn't really make big dent in most of the meals). Definitely food that works best in a crowd!

You have clearly done your research, and will eat really well. Don't worry too much about micro-managing it -- there is far more great food in that town than anyone can eat on a short visit.

The Friday morning Cin Haw market was GREAT. I never found the donut vendor, but loved the Shan breakfast vendors. There are a few, right in the middle of the market. I would definitely keep this one on the list.

If, when referring to the Sunday night market, you meant that walking street in the center of the old city -- well, in my view, you are missing nothing. I had had good memories of it from 10 years ago, but last winter, I HATED it--crowded, annoying, overflowing with all the same factory tourist goods--no different than the other night bazaar--and could barely wait to get out of there. I went to the same khanom jeen nam ngiaw vendor I had been to before--in the courtyard there--and was really disappointed.

Sorn Chai was really great too. It's a tiny, casual place with a small menu (from what I recall). I think of it very differently than I think of Huen Phen, for example.

I-15 North to Driggs, Idaho

What I learned: Senor Iguanas in Pocatello is a must to avoid. It was profoundly mediocre--really, I'd say dreadful, except it was edible, and not spoiled or anything. We didn't see any more promising leads, but they can't possibly be significantly worse.

Jackson Hole to Riverton to Cody Wy

I just ate at Dornan's last week. The pizza was kind of like Amy's Frozen pizza, though arguably with less flavor -- too doughy, too cheesy, not saucy enough, and too sparing on the toppings. The spinach salad was very fresh and large, but way overdressed. I agree the wine shop is really good for the region. The main draw here -- unquestionably -- is that the top patio has a phenomenal view of the mountains, and is a perfect place to watch sunset. It's just too bad it doesn't have a better menu.

We did eat a very good meal in Jackson itself at the Local, right on the town square. Nice, unadorned vibe, and nice service. The star of the meal was actually the side dishes, which are ordered separately, but at 3 for $12 (for large, share-able portions) were a wonderful deal. Excellent mushrooms, brussels sprouts (we left off the completely unnecessary and misguided bacon vinaigrette) and heirloom tomatoes. Asparagus was nothing remarkable, but was fine. The elk tenderloin main I had was very properly cooked -- the rare side of medium rare -- and an excellent texture, but I found it a remarkably flavorless piece of meat. I think it's the first elk I've had, and I expected it to be more flavorful than beef, and it was not. I also thought it was overwhelmed by the sweetness of the sweet potato/huckleberry puree in which it was served. Other party had a trout that was a nice piece of fish, but a bit too breaded. Nice wines by the bottle, a weak white-by-the-glass selection. Still, while not fantastic, generally quite good.

Taqueria La Picardia in Port Chester

Recently had two absolutely excellent taco meals at this place, just kitty-corner to the Capital Theater (118 Westchester Avenue). Anyone else try it? I've only had tacos, so can't speak to anything else on the menu, but my next visit will be for pozole (just a hunch). The "taco Arabe" was a wonderfully flavored pork taco, and perhaps most notably, their vegetarian taco is completely worth getting even if you are not a vegetarian taco. It's a wonderful mix of sauteed veggies that really work. I'm not saying it will evoke memories of Mexico, but it's very good. Ample size tacos too. Also a friendly, gregarious owner, which is also really nice. And it turns out the Grateful Dead paraphernalia isn't Dia de los Muertos stuff -- he's just an old deadhead.

I liked these better than Los Gemelos, though those are certainly quite nice.