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Di Fara--first visit trip report

Finally made the pilgrimage today and wanted to share my experience, to aid other first-timers and to reiterate the very very useful tips provided by fellow Chowhounds (thanks guys).

Saturday lunchtime...I picked a very cold (24 degree) day hoping that would keep the crowds down. Was aiming to get there by 11:45 am or so but had to wait for a FedEx delivery (damn!) Some aggressive driving on the FDR allowed my friend and me to arrive just minutes before noon. We pulled the car into a spot right in front. Only two guys ahead of us in line, sike! Dom’s son took our order immediately (plain round pie, two square slices with pepperoni and porcini), writes it down on a small pad even, and we had our choice of tables. I sat facing the counter/Dom both to watch him work and to keep an eye on any pies emerging from the oven. I am feeling confident.

10 minutes later, there is a small crowd (10+) of people huddled just inside the front door (nobody wanting to stand out in the cold, of course). Things start to break down a bit. Dom’s son disappears into the back, comes back out and is filling cheese/olive oil canisters, Dom is making a pie, nobody is taking orders. The two guys in front of me in line are also at a table. A round pie comes out. Dom cuts it into slices and hands them out to people in the crowd at the door. He jots down more orders, on stray bits of paper, to-go boxes... I chat some more with my friend. More people come in. Most of the tables now have people seated and the whole front half of the place is jammed. I get nervous and decide to start my hovering act at the counter. Dom’s son sees me and reminds his dad of the 2 square slices. They come out of the oven, I quickly sidle over to claim them, deliver them to our table, and go to hover again, feeling a bit silly.

The two guys who were in front of me seem confused. They come to stand next to me. Dom’s son sees me and asks, “Was your pie to stay or go?” I say to stay. He puts a big metal platter on the counter and disappears into the back. Dom takes a round pie out of the oven and does his triad of garnishes (grated cheese, snipped basil, olive oil) as I watch mesmerized. He then HANDS THE PIE TO A GUY WHO STEPS UP TO THE COUNTER AND CONFIDENTLY CLAIMS IT AS HIS.
I am confused...were this guy and his wife in the place when we came in and I just didn’t see them? Did I misunderstand Dom’s son in thinking that pie was mine? Long minutes pass...I start to think something is very wrong. Dom’s son now thinks I’ve gotten my pie (and may wonder why I’m still standing at the counter) and Dom has no idea that I am owed a pie. I determine that the VERY NEXT ROUND PIE out of the oven will be mine. It comes out, a young guy who is there with his two friends steps up to take it, Dom’s son gives him a nod...and I say (in a voice slightly louder than I’d intended), “Excuse me, we haven’t gotten our pie yet!” Dom’s son looks surprised and says that he thought my order was complete. I say (somewhat sheepishly), “Someone stole it!” and then “I hear you’ve gotta be kind of aggressive around here sometimes”. He cracks a smile and replies, “Yeah, half the time I don’t even know what’s going on!” He tells his dad that the pie is mine, I have a nice chat with Dom about his window herb garden while he snips basil, pay, and bear the pie aloft to our table feeling like a conquering hero. The pizza is, needless to say, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had in my life. I am filled with bliss, triumph and relief, a heady combination.

So to reiterate what those in the know have said here many times, 1) you must stay at the counter and make your presence known, 2) coming early helps, 3) do not be afraid to get aggressive in claiming your pie!!! Because it’s for sure that other people will gladly take it if your wimpiness gets the better of you, and they deserve to!

To finish on a sentimental note, this experience captures why I love New York: the place, the people (Dom and his son, plus my fellow pilgrims, both local and tourist), the experience, and of course the pizza....there can be nothing else like it in the whole wide world. Long live Di Fara!!

Nov 22, 2008
smsliu in Outer Boroughs

Harvest Supper New Canaan - Excellent

I am so glad that you posted this! I had dinner at Harvest Supper for the first time tonight, and also had an excellent experience....it seems that the service problems that many experienced here earlier have now largely been solved. We arrived at 6:15 and were done by 8:45 (due to our lingering over dessert, not service issues). IMHO the food, service and ambience could hold their own against many a place in NYC. Dishes we had that I would especially recommend include the sea scallops and veal cheek (as mentioned), crispy pork belly with pearl onion relish and chickpeas, and creamy bread pudding with a thin crackly bruleed sugar crust and apple confit. They now have their liquor license and the wine list has a nice selection of bottles, half bottles and by the glass as well as beer. Also, coffee (no decaf though) and tea....though no bread! I live in NYC and was only in town for a visit to the Glass House but wish that I had cause to come up more often now!

Future In-Laws Coming to Town: Dad wants seafood, Mom wants "somewhere famous"

The mentions of Atlantic Grill above made me think of Ocean Grill, on the UWS. It's "famous" (if you can call it that) b/c of its cameo in "You've Got Mail", it's a seafood place, the food is not bad and the ambience is special enough for out-of-town guests, and entrees are typically under $30.

Jul 09, 2008
smsliu in Manhattan

upper east side best ice cream in the 60's-80's?

Enthusiastically second the rec for Emack and Bolio's.
A little outside your specified range, but I'd also recommend Ciao Bella gelato shop on E 92nd just west of Madison. The shop offers a lot more flavors than the ubiquitous pints that are sold in many grocery stores.
Eli's on 3rd and 81st has a small ice cream stall which I've never tried. I would guess that it's probably good but may be relatively pricey (judging by the rest of the store).

Jul 06, 2008
smsliu in Manhattan

the NEW UWS dining scene???

Had dinner there tonight with a friend, my second visit. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a vegetarian, but sometimes a meal of veggies (esp. when as well done as at Blossom) hits the spot. We had the black-eyed pea and potato cakes and mixed tapas appetizers, and the risotto cakes with peas and a spiced seitan sandwich with spicy sweet potato fries for entrees. All without exception were wonderful, lovely combination of fresh flavors, large portions, great service. With drinks and tea we paid about $40 apiece. I realized tonight how much I do like this place, and it'll become a regular part of my rotation when I'm in the nabe!!

Jul 05, 2008
smsliu in Manhattan

New Amsterdam Market

Did anyone who went today catch which bakery was selling that killer pistachio bread?

Jun 29, 2008
smsliu in Manhattan

Nian Gow or Chinese New Year's Cake

Pandora, here is the recipe I use...I omit the dates just b/c I'm lazy. It doesn't taste too different to me than the ones you can buy in Chinese grocery stores but there's something more satisfying about homemade (plus it's super easy)!

Serena

Chinese New Year’s Cake

3 Chinese dried red dates
5 slabs brown candy, 11 oz
3 t vegetable oil
7 c glutinous rice flour
1 T white sesame seeds
1 lg egg

1. Soak red dates 30 min, remove pits
2. Cut each slab brown candy into 8 pcs, place in bowl, pour 2 c boiling water over, set aside until dissolved and cooled.
3. Grease an 8” round straight-sided dish/pan with oil.
4. Mix cold sugar water with flour. Knead dough in bowl, adding an additional 1/3 c cold water until smooth, slightly moist and shiny, 5-10 min.
5. Pat dough into dish, garnish with dates and sesame seeds, coat lightly with oil.
6. Steam 35-40 min on high heat. Cake is done when it pulls away from sides of pan. Pour off excess liquid. Cool at room temp overnight.
7. Cut into strips, ¼” thick. Dip in egg, fry 2-3 min/side.

Feb 09, 2008
smsliu in Home Cooking

Wild Sweet Rice- How to use?

An Indonesian friend makes a wonderful sweet rice pudding/porridge from wild sweet rice (=black glutinous rice)...soak 1 cup of rice in cold water for an hour, then boil with about 8 cups of water until rice has softened and texture is to your liking. Sweeten with brown sugar or palm sugar (about 1/2 c or to taste) and stir in 1 can coconut milk before serving. The rice is sticky like regular glutinous rice but the brown husk adds toothsomeness and a slight nuttiness. This is similar to paulj's recipe but will have a more "porridgy" consistency.

Feb 09, 2008
smsliu in Home Cooking

Kumquats in bulk

Anyone know of a cheap place to get several pounds of kumquats? I want to make marmalade. Maybe one of the outer borough Chinatowns?

Jan 21, 2008
smsliu in Manhattan

Grandaisy UWS Opens Tomorrow

So nativeNYer, I had to look up your original post just because and it made me laugh out loud! I'm not quite in the nabe (UES Yorkville) but this is still great news for me as I'm out your way at Fairway often enough anyway and it beats the schlep downtown. And yes, this truly is among the best bread in the city. Huge thanks for getting the word out!!!

Oct 18, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

Need your opinions on The Tasting Room

This place was recommended to me (by someone whose opinion I usually trust implicitly) as a good place to bring a visiting friend next weekend; we are both pretty serious chowhounds and I want her to experience a special (but not too ostentatious as it's not her style) meal while she's here. But, I am reading a lot of conflicting opinions (on other websites; am having a hard time finding reviews on this site b/c of the generic restaurant name) and am starting to reconsider...could y'all give me your opinions please? Nobody I trust more than the collective wisdom of the 'hounds...many thanks!!

Oct 18, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

Prune Restaurant

I was there last night and our table had both the marrow bones (listed on the menu) and monkfish liver (the appetizer special)...don't recall seeing the shrimp on the menu but that might just be my faulty memory. Everything was *awesome.*
i.e. Run, don't walk...!! :)

Oct 14, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

The Atlantic Antic Recap - hits and misses

I had a great piece of sweet potato pie from the long table of homemade desserts (affiliated with the soul food stand next door?)...and is it Waterfalls that has the huge table of assorted mixed vegetable dishes, falafel sandwiches, etc.? Yum....!

Oct 01, 2007
smsliu in Outer Boroughs

Do you make chaat?

This is awesome and has cleared up a perennial mystery...THANKS!

Sep 25, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Do you make chaat?

sweetTooth, I had a type of chaat as you describe, with a base of crunchy to slightly puffy?, squarish "crackers" and topped with a kind of snack mix of very thin thread like crunchies (sorry, don't know how else to describe these)...what are the names of these two items? I assume I could find them pretty readily in an Indian market? Thanks!

Sep 21, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Going to PJ Wines...need recs

Oops, OP here...I forgot to mention that my price limit is about $10-12/bottle...thx!

Sep 13, 2007
smsliu in Wine

Going to PJ Wines...need recs

I'm specifically looking for several white and red wines to serve at an upcoming baby shower whose menu will consist of mixed appetizers (of varying culinary influences including Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian). From a prior thread it seems that riesling/gewurt, beaujolais, rioja/ribera were most often suggested though I'm open to additional advice. Have never shopped at PJs but am heading there this weekend and would like your recs!! Many thanks...

Sep 13, 2007
smsliu in Wine

Premade mini tart shells?

Looking for premade (probably frozen) mini tart shells to make mini quiches for a party...I've seen the phyllo and puff pastry shells but was hoping for something closer to a regular pie crust shell (in mini form in small aluminum tins)...has anyone seen these anywhere in the City? TIA!!

Sep 10, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

Freezing cakes?

Thanks guys!!

Serena

Sep 05, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Freezing cakes?

Hi all,

I have a baby shower to host at the end of Sept for 40-50 guests and need to do some advance work...I'd like to make both red velvet and carrot cake sheet cakes and wonder if these (cakes only w/o icing) would do well to be made in advance, frozen then defrosted (and frosted!) the day before/of...I'm guessing it would work but would like advice from people who have actually tried this. Thanks!

Serena

Sep 05, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Curried chicken salad

Hi all,

Am looking for a source of a good quality curried chicken salad and (noncurried) egg salad to buy by the pound, as close to the Upper East Side as possible but preferably avoiding Eli's or the other exorbitantly priced markets in the nabe...Whole Foods? Fairway? Thanks for all suggestions!

Serena

Sep 05, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

What sauce would your recommend for grilled asparagus?

Romescu if you want something with a bigger flavor/kick...

Aug 17, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

In search of vinegar "mother"

I don't have an answer to your question but am really intrigued by this whole idea...have a friend who makes his own red wine vinegar and it's eons more subtle and flavorful than store-bought (he's in CA otherwise I'd bug him for a share of his "mother" for you!)
Good luck and let us know how it turns out!!

Jun 26, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

Your favourite thing to do with artichokes...?

There is a great recipe in Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" for roasted artichokes with thyme and bay leaf...very simple prep (paraphrasing): trim and quarter several large 'chokes, toss with EVOO, S+P, a sprig of thyme and several bay leaves, roast at 400 degrees for about 30 min covered then 20 min uncovered. Sounds rather unexciting but the roasting infuses the chokes with the flavor of the herbs and causes some brown crisping and caramelization of the tips of the leaves...*unbelievably* good!!

Jun 25, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Tenzan Sushi now on UES

For fans of Tenzan Sushi (I've been to the branch on the UWS), there is now a new branch on the UES at 2nd Ave and 88th/89th...one of the better mid-range sushi places in the City, imho. Not at the level of Gari, Seki etc. but leagues better than many of the mediocre joints in the neighborhood. Please report back if you try it!

May 23, 2007
smsliu in Manhattan

Fava Beans!

Yes could you please summarize the recipe, it sounds wonderful!

May 16, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Getting a table at Al-Di-La

I've only been once myself, but my friend and I showed up on a Saturday night at 5:20 pm (10 minutes before they opened), were about 15th or so in line, and got a table easily. Note that the line grew rapidly even as we stood there waiting! BTW it is well worth any extra effort...I left agreeing with all the raves I've read. Good luck!

Mar 07, 2007
smsliu in Outer Boroughs

FAGE 2% yogurt now available in 500g size

I can't be the only FAGE Greek yogurt lover who's been hoping for the 2% fat version to become available here in the U.S. in the larger size (500g) in which we can now find the 0% and Total versions....well, dreams really do come true because as of about 3 weeks ago, my local markets have been starting to stock the 2% in this size.
I live in Manhattan and FAGE USA is based in neighboring Queens, so this dreamy stuff is more ubiquitous here than it may be in other parts of the country. Having said that, I'm guessing that the large size 2% will be also showing up in refrigerator cases near many of you, soon!!
Enjoy!!

Mar 07, 2007
smsliu in General Topics

Calling All Black Rice Recipes

Thank you for this recipe! I too have been trying to duplicate this since I had it in a Thai restaurant. Am going to try it tonight~!
I've done a bit of reading on types of black rice...the Thai/Indonesian rice used for this dish is different than the Chinese "forbidden" black rice. Both are black b/c of the outer black bran layer. The Thai rice is a long-grained glutinous rice (my package says "Black Wild Sweet Rice") while the Chinese rice is medium-grained. I luuuuv Thai black rice...it has a wonderful nutty flavor and the slight toothiness of the bran layer contrasts with the "stickiness" of the rice in a way that's utterly sublime!

Feb 01, 2007
smsliu in Home Cooking

Best substitute for chihuahua cheese?

This is for a budin de elote recipe. I've read, variously, to use Munster, cheddar, or Monterey Jack. Does anyone familiar with Chihuahua cheese know which would be best (or another alternative?) TIA!

Serena

Sep 27, 2006
smsliu in Cheese