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The Basics: How to Make Gazpacho

sounds nice, but i don't think it is really gazpacho. you need bread in gazpacho to give it body.

Aug 11, 2009
mondaybox in Features

Robert et Louise

almost two years after my visit described above, i paid another visit. sadly, it was like night and day over my first visit.

from my blog: "... Long story short, my meal of duck confit was a disaster (I'll say the sausage [appetizer] was very nice, but the service was appaling, including taking ages to tell us the bottle of wine we ordered was not in their cellar, and then charging us for it later in addition to the one we drank). The duck skin was pale, fatty, and flabby. It seemed to have been steamed instead of grilled, or else heated slowly in very indirect heat (perhaps it was from a fresh batch of duck confit, taken immediately from the cooking vessel?). To add insult to injury, the sauteed potatoes I was served were made of small boiling potatoes, not the variety they normally use (that I'd had two years prior, and were actually served to the couple beside us). Who makes a successful sauteed potato with that variety of spud? Oh, and there was no dressing on my salad. Now, often I don't like dressing on my salad, but I do like the kind of standard "house dressing" that most French bistrots tend to serve on on their salad - a light oil, wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and salt & pepper."

not sure what happened - i'm polite, i try speaking a little french, etc. the place was full of french people eating with gusto. now, perhaps french people who aren't good eaters DO exist, i guess it is possible. anyway, i'm steering clear in the future. way too many places to visit next time i'm in paris.

Mark D. Smith
New York City
http://apricotcustard.typepad.com

Mar 27, 2009
mondaybox in France

Original Rays Pizza 6th Ave @ 11th

for a slice in the hood, i'll always go to joe's. i rate john's more, for a whole pie. my favourite in nyc is franny's on flatbush in bklyn (and one of my favourite resautants, period) though it is not "new york style" per se. famous ben's on prince and thompson is ok too, for a greasy sicilian slice with an onion/breadcrumb topping. like many of you, i'm sure, if i see stuff piled in a glass display case with diced chicken, steamed broccoli florets, or can't see the tomato sauce for a thick layer of cheese, i'll keep going. lately i've been making killer pies at home, and as long as i'm not trying to address a sudden craving, that's the way i'll go ...

Mar 23, 2009
mondaybox in Manhattan

White House Victory Garden

a kitchen garden, a community garden, or even a few pots on a window sill (which is all i'll be able to do this year) is a great way to get kids to appreciate, and want to eat, vegetables ...

http://apricotcustard.typepad.com/apr...

Mar 23, 2009
mondaybox in Food Media & News

In Search of Blood Pudding

the irish- or english-style one? i was going to say myers, but i guess you've checked. a few irish groceries in woodside, queens, have it. you can also get it from foodireland.com ...

Aug 08, 2007
mondaybox in Manhattan

Il Buco - very disappointing, bad service experience

i first went to il buco over 10 years ago, when it was still just an antique store-cum-wine bar. i loved it, thought it was really cute, and after moving to NYC a few years later spent some time trying to find it again (never could, as we'd just stumbled on it first time). anyway, fast forward many years and it has become the popular mediterranean restaurant that it is today, and i realized that "that cute little wine" bar is il buco.

myself and my girlfriend had been wanting to go for some time, and dropped in a couple of times on spec to see if we could get a table (we couldn't, of course). a friend from LA who visits NYC a few times a year, and who we always dine out with, had heard about it, and mentioned it as a possibility for one of our evenings out. so, we called up and got a table for 4 on the same evening - lucky us, we thought.

i buco is certainly a beautiful spot, in that old, coppery, worn wood, low-light way. i would even call it quite romantic looking. we were brought into the back room, by the semi-open kitchen, which would generally upset me enough to say something, but we knew we'd gotten the table at short notice, so i decided it was no biggie. plus, the room did have some charm of its own - different to the front room - being somewhat cellar-like with wine racks lining the walls. in fact, i believe it was this room that was in one of woody allen's recent movies ("melinda and melinda"?). it did prove to be very noisy, and the kitchen door was constantly flapping, but we didn't let us bother us too much.

what did bother me, however, was the service. our server started out brusque, and became rude as the evening progressed. she later seemed to change her attitude, but it was too late, as she had already marred the evening. what was initially off putting was the "diner-like manner" in which she approached asking for orders. i know this place is NOT "fine dining", rather it is somewhat casual, but it does come at a fairly high price-point, and i'd expect a somewhat better approach by wait staff. what made things worse, however, was that she was correcting the pronunciation of several people in our party. i was the only "westerner" amongst the group, the rest of them were asian. they are all fluent in english, and can certainly hold their own with many western languages on menus etc., but the fact is, people have accents, and may mispronounce a word when it is in a language that is foreign to them, and in an alphabet that is not their native one. i can understand a waitperson wanting to ensure that they heard the order correctly, but surely they should have enough interpersonal skills and sensitivity to be able to do this without making their guests feel embarrassed? it was very very poor form.

next, as i was the only one in the party who was going to be ordering a beverage, i told the sommelier that i was going to order wines by the glass, and could he recommend one. he asked what i was having, and told me he'd be back with a recommendation. the server came by next and i asked if i could have "an americano, as an aperitif" ... a few minutes later, you guessed it, a bus boy comes by with a cup of coffee! i told him that was not the kind of americano that i ordered, so he took it away. a few minutes later, our server arrived, with some wine glasses, and asked if i was having a glass of wine. i told her about the americano mix-up and she told me. "that's the only kind of americano we have". i told her i wanted an aperitif. she said "i don't know how to make those". so, i told her how it was made, and asked if she could get me one. she told me she could (btw, the beverage menu had all the various components of an americano listed, which is why i thought they might be able to make. plus, there is a rather well-stocked bar at the front the restaurant. and since when does a waitperson mix the drinks for the patrons?!!! what a ridiculous excuse she gave me! and surely every trained bartender learns an americano out the gate?). she was acting very defensive, and kept "over-talking" me as i tried to explain what i wanted. anyway, a few minutes later, the americano arrives, very badly made. way too sweet, hardly any soda. and a lemon rind instead of orange (i could forgive that part, maybe it is just my preference).

the food itself was unremarkable. my starter WAS very nice, a nice grilled quail salad. the salumi platter was a little disappointing, the serrano ham was way too dry, like it had been cut quite some time ahead of service. the testa was ok, but not a patch on lupa's, by way of comparison. my main course was a heritage pork (can't remember which breed), from flying pigs farms (i like those guys, i buy various things from them at the greenmarket). however, it seemed like the kitchen got a bit lazy with this dish, perhaps in trying to let the meat "talk for itself", coz it was very bland. i've had various heritage pork cuts, but this just didn't thrill me at all, needed another dimension on the plate, a sauce, a relish, more seasoning, something ... i tasted a friends steak dish, it was ok, better than my pork, but not great.

we probably SHOULD have let them know about our bad service experience either through leaving a small tip, or asking for the manager. but, sometimes you just want to get out of a place, you know? so, i didn't ask for the manager. we even left a good tip, just easier really coz we were splitting the bill, and it was a round figure each. a better server was there towards the end of the meal, and a the attitude of the original server had improved during the meal (but too little too later, on her part). and the bus boys etc. worked hard enough.

i will never go back to il buco, and i'd discourage my friends from doing so, as it was one of my worst meals (considering expectations, price, etc.) in all my years in new york. too bad, they could be on to a good thing with that nice space. maybe it is a great place for regulars, i don't know. maybe, food-wise, we ordered things that aren't really their specialties. but, i can't forgive bad service. oh, and it also kinda bugged me the way they devoted so much space in their menu to flogging their olive oil (very good oil, however), the sea salt, and whatever else they are selling under their brand. that came off as pretty tacky.

anyone else have a similar experience at il buco?

Aug 08, 2007
mondaybox in Manhattan

Best pad thai

i like the one at galanga, on west 4th street at 6th avenue in the village. it is a little bit orange, but not very sweet. i think the orange is from shrimp brains, that color appearing is some thai dishes is from that . other places will use paprika for an orange/red, which gives it a smoky flavor that can be interesting initially but ultimately overpowering and just wrong. my girlfriend, who is thai, likes the pad thai from boyd on thompson, between bleecker and w. 3rd (also greenwich village), but i'm not so fond of that one at all! ...

Aug 07, 2007
mondaybox in Manhattan

my 2 cents on Fatty Crab in Manhattan, NY

this used to be one of my favorite places, and we'd drop in regularly enough for a bite at lunchtime or in the evening. but last two times it has gone way downhill. the warm pork and watermelon salad is still good, but the malay fish fry has been poor last couple of times, as was the dungeness crab dish (had it last time, not time prior). also bugs me the way their bus boys frequently try to clear the table when you're not done ... even if you are on your last dish (plates come in random order). i may give this place one more go, but i think i'm over it ...

Aug 07, 2007
mondaybox in Manhattan

inexpensive raw bar?

yeah, the oyster special for $8, inc a drink, is good value! i've always had decent quality oysters, and there's freshly grated horseradish amongst the several condiments, which, for me, is a good thing! i usually get a glass of the white wine, which is whatever the house wine they are pouring is - unfortunately usually a fairly big chardonnay.

Aug 07, 2007
mondaybox in Manhattan

The most intimate fine dining restaurant in Manhattan?

skip il buco ... beautiful space, but the meal i had there last week was mostly so-so, certainly overpriced, and the service was absolutely appalling ...

Aug 07, 2007
mondaybox in Manhattan

3rd Arr. - best food & wine shops, etc...

i agree on le pain de sucre! i had no idea the patissier used to work for pierre gagnaire, but i am not surprised. i went a couple of times last week, mainly just for a quick snack, so didn't get to sample any of the big items. everything looked beautiful though.

however, i can vouch for the marshmallow (guimauve), which they have in big jars in the window, in "unusual" flavors like tomato and strawberry, or olive oil, along w/ more traditional flavors. also some really good macarons!

couple of pics we took below ...

May 14, 2007
mondaybox in France

Robert et Louise

i went there this past sunday night and had a great meal. i'd been in france for a week, split between paris and chinon, in the loire valley. i'd had all meals of things on my trip, including in some michelin-rated places (au plaisir gourmand), various well-known bistrots and brasseries (allard, lipp), and a few other nice places, but after eating at robert et louise i was quite happy that this was my last evening meal of my vacation.

i had heard of it on anthony bourdain's show, like many here, i'm sure. the place was full of non-locals (though it was an early hour, 7pm, when we stopped by without a reservation - didn't want to take a chance on arriving later without one) - some americans, irish, english, aussies. this must be de riguer, as the staff had pretty good english when my measly french failed me. yeah, it would have been nice to have been surrounded by locals, but the food stood out on its own, and the ambience was charming - well worn, lots of copper pots, drawings and sketches on the walls, and with some shared tables, and some single ones - and, (to me) unusual: what made it particularly interesting was how much was actaully cooked in an open wood-burning fireplace, on a stove top with (i think) a grill and griddle. there was also a small kitchen for preparing their ubiquitous sauteed potatoes, as well as omelettes, and the salads. they were even preparing some future duck confit in a le creuset oven on top of the fire while we were there.

i wanted some of my bistrot comfort foods, and started with six escargots. my girlfriend had the boudin noir. both delicious, both cooked on the wood stovetop. i'd had escargots, or tasted someone else's, a few times on my trip, and i think these were the best ones i'd had. the boudin noir was really nice too - a little sweet, and nicely charred in places.

for main course i had duck confit, again the best of my whole trip (i'd had it twice previously in paris either on its own or in cassoulet) - a very big piece, nicely crispy, a little caramelized here and there, very tender and flavorful. very nice sauteed potatoes and some dressed green leaves came with it. my girlfriend had the daily special, which was roast pork, also delicious - a big chunk, nicely flavored with herbs, very moist and tender. we ordered a side of some nice sauteed wild mushrooms. i didn't push the boat out on the wine, just ordered a 25cl pichet of the house red for myself (my girlfriend doesn't drink), which went down nicely. the couple beside me at our shared table had a steak for two, and it looked fantastic. the cheeseboard also looked quite good, though we decided to leave room for ice-cream as we walked around later on.

i'd go back for sure my next visit, as many other places as there are waiting for me to discover. a tiny bit of you may feel it is a bit touristy with the way it looks like a textbook bistrot, and with so many non-locals (maybe depending on the time you go) but just let the food speak for itself, and enjoy the delightful atmosphere. but i just loved it!!!

(photos below are, left to right: escargots, boudin noir, duck confit, and roast pork.)

May 08, 2007
mondaybox in France

west village take out

i'm a big fan of galanga ... right now i am addicted to their barbeque chicken, and also love the honey pork chop (which is moo yang in a chop format).

something else i really like there is the thai-style basil chicken (i.e. they use ground chicken, and put a fried egg on top). ask them to leave out the bell pepper, which they'll do. it is listed under rice dishes. if they don't bring you any nam pla prik on the side make sure to ask for some. the chiang mai noodles are good too, my thai girlfriend is addicted to them! drunken noodles are very good, and spicy; i'm generally very happy with the pad thai (which i get with shrimp). oh, and of their curries, i think their massaman curry is quite good.

Dec 01, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

west village take out

what seems weird to me about Yummy Schwarmy is that they have mayonnaise in the babaganoush. just don't know why they need to put mayo in something like that. i went around one night all set to get something, but that put me right off ...

Dec 01, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

Fatty Crab is the worst meal I've ever had in New York

wow! i could not disagree more, either. i had a fantastic meal there last friday night with two friends. we had the watermelon/fatty pork dish, which was superb. we also had the chicken wings (good), a braised rib dish (great), the crab (great), and a turmeric battered fish on crab curry (very good). i also enjoyed my wines by the glass, i thought they were quite interesting.

both of my friends, who are from thailand and fairly well acquainted with malaysian cuisine, were raving about it! having not been in well over a year (because it is often crowded when i decide to drop by) i was very impressed, and it had much improved - foodwise - on the the first time i'd been (which i'd liked). i couldn't recommend this place more highly. service was ok, barman was quite nice. very surprised by the OPs take on it, but everyone to their own ... :-)

Nov 15, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

dallas jones bar-b-q bbq

i went this week, and wasn't too impressed. the pulled pork was ok, but nothing to write home about (btw, not as good as virgils, which i like). for sides i had greens, which were not great, and baked beans, which were pretty good. the price was ok, but i'll not go back in a hurry. the sweetcorn my girlfriend had as a side was mushy, and at $3.95 way overpriced - i know sides are all one price, but this is crazy. the pink lemonade was made from a mix, probably "countrytime", which was dissappointing.

it seems it may be basically a catering operation with a small restaurant at the front - they've a huge kitchen, and i didn't see them doing much delivery, and it can seat 10 people at tables. based on their menu, which promotes catering, i reckon that is their primary business.

Aug 11, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

Private party - room for about 25?

Hi - I am looking for a private room in a restaurant for a party of about 25 people. We want a (set/limited) menu that runs about $75-$100 including wine and service.

Got any suggestion? Doesn't matter what kind of food, with so many coming there are many tastes, though it should be memorable and we won't be catering for bland palettes. Ideally if there was a bar area attached we could hang before and afterwards that would be good!

Thanks!

Jul 25, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

Introduction to Thai?

in the Village, i like Galanga on W. 4th street, at 6th ave (east side). they've just introduced a new menu. i love their chicken basil w/ fried egg - they grind the chicken in a more authentic thai-manner than most places, who tend to use large pieces. it comes with nam pla prik pla on the side. i used to get this off the menu before they added to the new menu. it is called pad ka phrao gai (sic), and is listed under "rice dishes". their honey pork chop is very good, it is a twist on moo yang. i also like their shrimp in a clay pot and chiang mai noodles, and their massaman curry is good too.

Jul 25, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

Muffelleta

the one from murray's is quite good, though not in the same league as central grocery - they seem to make their own "olive salad", it doesn't have all that oil that gives you heartburn just unwrapping it. however, i don't want a replica - i'd prefer to save that treat for when i am in new orleans. i would, get it from murray's again, actaully had a jonesing for one yesterday but went somewhere else instead.

Jul 10, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan

Cheap lunch in the West Village?

i tried westville yesterday, and was very happy w/ my cheeseburger and fries (though i only ate half of the very large portin of fries! i think i'll get the hotdogs and market sides the next time. my girlfriend got the neiman ranch ones, they were great, as was the fennel parmesan side. i wish they'd offer the market sides w/ the burger too.

Jul 10, 2006
mondaybox in Manhattan