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Passover PSA: Free Lamb Shank Bones at Whole Foods

April 3, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the esteemed members of AOD will be hosting a Passover seder for the first time ever.  Menu planning, food ordering/shopping and tidying up have all been part of this week’s post-work festivities.  Obviously, a follow-up post documenting certain portions of said seder will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, those of you who are preparing for your own seders, Whole Foods (or at least the one recently visited in Tribeca) is giving away free lamb shank bones for roasting.  Instead of having to cook up a lamb-based meal this week or otherwise scavenging for roasted lamb parts, just call ahead to your local Whole Foods and check to see if the meat department still giving out free bones.  Anything to cut down the amount of work at this point has to be helpful, right?

More delicious pizza in the South Slope.

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

There was a lot of (well-deserved) hype surrounding the opening of Giuseppina’s, the off-shoot of Lucali’s in Carroll Gardens.  But there is another contender for delicious pizza in the South Slope/Greenwood Heights vicinity that’s been under the radar.

If you haven’t tried yet, check out Pauline and Sharon’s.  While a different style pizza is offered making a direct comparison unfair, Pauline and Sharon’s does deliver which should count for some bonus points somewhere in the evaluation process (you can pick up your pies at Giuseppina’s if you don’t feel like dining in but no delivery).

The puttanesca pie is amazing.  If that’s not enough salty goodness for you, add a Caesar salad which comes with house-made dressing chock full of anchovies.  Word on the street is that the tacos are outstanding.  Will have to give it a try soon.

Finally! Good Chinese Food in Park Slope!

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Park Slope is a great place to live — proximity to Prospect Park, beautiful brownstones, good schools, relaxed watering holes, etc.  However, it is definitely lacking in good, reasonable restaurants.  Sure, you could blow a wad at Al Di La or Blue Ribbon for a great meal, but is that what I plan to do every Wednesday night after work?  (Don’t worry.  There are those who do.)

While many Park Slopers fancy themselves “foodies” or otherwise knowledgeable about organic-free range-local-artisinal this and that, the reality, based on the eateries in the nabe, is that there are a good number of people paying lots of money night after night for mediocre take out and delivery food.  This is especially true for ethnic food.  There is no good Indian restaurant.  All of the sushi and banh mi joints are run by ethnic Chinese folks, which alone doesn’t discredit the establishments, but do they compare to the real thing?  No.

But at last!  Some quality Chinese food exists in the ‘hood.  Tofu on 7th has been on 7th Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets for a good number of years now.  The name speaks to its history of catering to the large number of vegetarians in the area, but don’t let it be a misnomer for its current iteration.

Recently, a new chef has been hired and real Szechuan food can be had from its kitchen.  The decor is a bit blah, and I’ve never observed many people eating in.  Go for delivery and order off the Szechuan menu (there is an American menu available for all your greasy, overly sweet favorites but just skip it).  My favorites so far have been the Ma Po Tofu (with pork), “Kung Pao Style” chicken, tea smoked duck and “Hot Pepper Style” beef.  I hope more people discover this joint as I would love for it to stay as is for years to come.

Clam Roll at the Sea Witch

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Believe the hype.  The clam roll at the Sea Witch is damn tasty.  For only $11 (which by NYC standards is a pretty good deal), you get a bun overflowing with tasty fried clams.  Add some delicious, crispy fries as a side, and you’ve got yourself a full meal.

Sea Witch Clam RollNothing pairs better with clam rolls and fries than a good rotating group of draft beers, which the Sea Witch has plenty of.  We heard from other patrons that the burger there is pretty decent.

The atmosphere is laid back — very neighborhood feel even with the nautical theme and giant aquarium.  I hope the quality of the clam roll keeps up as the area becomes more popular.  The backyard is going to be great once it gets warm enough.

Tailgating Made Easy

December 7, 2010 2 comments

In order to properly enjoy a football game, one must start with the all-important tailgating party.  Those of you who know nothing about sports are probably asking, “What exactly is tailgating?”

Tailgating comes in many forms depending on which part of the country you are in.  Some people stick with the basics: chips and dip, grilled burgers and hot dogs, and other easy to prepare items.  Others turn the entire experience into culinary decadence by preparing anything from BBQ to crab boils to lobster rolls to sushi.  Tailgating has become so popular that you can catch the antics of amateur chefs on the Food Network’s “Tailgate Warriors” hosted by Allegations of Deliciousness’ second least favorite personality, Guy Fieri.

For those of us who grew up in the South and Midwest or for those who went to colleges with big football programs, tailgating is pretty much mandatory before entering a stadium to enjoy the game.  Tailgating is also quite popular before NFL (pro football) games.

Besides our love of food, J. Frankfurter and I also share a love for the New York Jets, regardless of the Jets’ ability to choke big time and break our little hearts.  We decided to go the Meadowlands this season and catch the Jets take on the Green Bay Packers with a couple of friends.

One of the joys of living in New York City is never having to drive because of all of the public transportation options.  However, when it comes to tailgating, a vehicle of some sort is necessary to carry passengers, food, beverages and cooking equipment to the game.  Although both of us lack access to a motor vehicle, we employed the services of one of the many professional tailgating outfits that can usually be found at your local stadium.

We decided to go with Tailgate Joe because the food and beer menu (all you can eat and drink for a mere $25/person) sounded like a great deal.  For our particular game, there was plenty of Kelso beer to accompany maple breakfast sausage biscuits, Taylor Ham pork roll sandwiches, chili dogs, cheeseburgers, meatball sliders and homemade cannolis.

The food was good, the crowd plentiful but not annoying (i.e., you never had to wait in line too long for refills on food and beer), and you didn’t have to deal with cleaning up right before the game.  Also, since we were so stuffed from hours of eating before kickoff, there was no need to spend lots of money inside the stadium for mediocre food.  We highly recommend the experience for anyone unable to cook up a menu of their own.

Restaurant Review: The Vanderbilt

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Sharing is caring, and nothing beats ordering lots of small (and large) plates to share over quality cocktails and craft beers at the Vanderbilt.

The Vanderbilt is located on the rapidly gentrifying stretch of Prospect Heights along Vanderbilt (naturally) Avenue.  The space is rather large for the neighborhood with high tables in the front, a bar in the middle and more traditional tables with chairs and banquettes in the back.  Try to get a table in the back.  It’s cozier and your back will thank you.  There is also seating outside during the warmer month.

Upon entering, we were greeted by a friendly hostess who seated us immediately even though our party wasn’t complete.  Hint: the place is a bit of a scene the later the night gets, so if you get there around 7:00 pm, you’ll get a table before the restaurant gets too packed.

Part of the reason the place becomes a late night scene is the cocktail list.  If you are looking to get hammered a la recent college graduates living in Murray Hill, these aren’t the cocktails for you.  While a bit on the pricey side, the drinks follow the current cocktail trend of showing off craftsmanship with good ingredients.  There is also a good list of craft beers and wines if you want something a bit lighter.

We ordered a number of items to share from the hors d’oeuvres, small plates and large plates sections of the menu.  One of the table’s favorites was the Serrano ham croquettes.  A crispy yet light outside crust gave way to an oozy, cheesy goodness on the inside with a salty, porky finish.  A tomato salad (that has since been replaced with a more seasonal fall salad with sweet potato and faro) was a nice accompaniment.

The steamed baby blue island clams were also another fan favorite.  The little clams were cooked just right — salty and sweet bursts of tender clam in every bite that reminded one of being at the beach.  The broth was just as delicious with some heat from red chili flakes.  We kept getting refills on bread until it was all sopped up.

The crispy pork belly with green papaya salad received good praise for its nod to the Southeast Asian balance of salty, sweet, sour and bitter.  The pork belly’s crisp outside gave way to a velvety soft inside.  The accompanying green papaya salad added great contrast with texture and brightness from the citrus.  The underlying fish sauce tied the pork and salad together.

We also tried some other dishes including the duck rillette and the brandade spread.  While both were satisfactory, they did not measure up to the other dishes.  I think they were both lacking that particular “oomph” one expects from such dishes.  It seems the other ingredients in the dishes masked any potential for more potent duck and brandade flavors to come through.

Service was attentive and friendly throughout the meal.  Water was refilled constantly (full disclosure: one of my pet peeves is having to ask for water to be refilled in restaurants) and they brought us as much bread as we wanted to slop up all the yummy sauces on the dishes.

If you want to check out what a fantastic neighborhood Prospect Heights is (and its potential for future growth) or just want to share a fun meal with friends, head down to the Vanderbilt for a fine evening out.

Queens Represent! – Mapo Korean BBQ

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

And we’re back…

So much has happened since our last post.  Thirty-three trapped miners in Chile were rescued.  The San Francisco Giants(?!?) won the World Series.  Andrew Cuomo won the gubernatorial election in New York making Allegations of Deliciousness’s “favorite” chef Food Network personality, Sandra Lee, the first lady of our fine state.

Yes, I know we promised more regular posts as we transitioned from summer to fall, but like going to the gym, when you are not in a routine, it is hard to keep any momentum going.

No fear, dear readers.  Inspired by this past Sunday’s annual running of the NYC Marathon, we’re trying to break our nasty habits long before New Year’s resolutions rear their ugly heads.  I finally got my butt to the gym…and am giving you a long awaited post.  I have no doubt that J. Frankfurter will soon follow suit.

Now, let’s get to the food…

While J. Frankfurter and I enjoy arguing over which of our respective boroughs is better, I have to begrudgingly admit that when it comes to authentic Asian food, Queens may have an edge over Brooklyn.

For Korean BBQ, my friends “Tracy and Don” suggested we check out Mapo BBQ.  I grabbed two other friends, “Edna Krabappel” and “Sleepy Gonzales”, who are big fans of Korean food and took off for Flushing.  Admittedly, Mapo BBQ is not easy to get to without a car (although there is a LIRR stop right across the street), but Tracy and Don were nice enough to pick us up at the end of the 7 line and drive us over.

Mapo BBQ is known for two things: (1) using charcoal, which is our preferred grilling fuel, instead of gas like most of the restaurants in Manhattan’s Koreatown, and (2) kalbi – deliciously marinated beef short ribs.  Trust me.  Order the kalbi.  The quality of the beef, seasoning and perfect char from grilling (the waitresses cook for you) make the kalbi phenomenal.  Everyone was also very impressed with the variety and quality of the banchan (little dishes of various pickles, salad and accompaniments that come at the start of the meal).

There is usually a wait out the door, but tables turn quickly thanks to the fast and efficient service of the ladies who work there.  The ladies are also super nice and helpful.  We got recommendations and plenty of refills on our preferred banchan dishes even though none of us spoke Mandarin or Korean (the two languages the ladies seemed to be more fluent in).

If you’re looking for the best Korean BBQ in New York City, trek out to Queens.  While pricey and a bit of a journey, a trip out Mapo BBQ is well worth it.

Brooklyn Represent!: Red Hook Ball Field Vendors

October 7, 2010 1 comment

I’m not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to sing the praises of the Red Hook vendors.  The food vendors at the Red Hook ball fields have received extensive coverage on the internet, which you can read about here, here and here.

Red Hook is a neighborhood in South Brooklyn that should be known for its old school Brooklyn charm, art scene and views of the water but is, sadly, more known as being home to the only IKEA in New York City.  Red Hook is also notorious for its lack of transportation options.  Unless you have a car, you’ll find yourself relying on the B61 bus or the IKEA shuttle or schlepping a bit from the F/G trains at Carroll Gardens or Smith/9th Street.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Red Hook vendors started off humbly enough in the 1970’s.  Semi-pro soccer games at the local recreational fields drew a good crowd of players and spectators from various Latin countries.  Food vendors popped up to feed the masses after realizing that there was a sizable market of people who craved treats from home countries like Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Over the years, the makeshift “stalls” (read: tables underneath tarps set up in front of vans or cars) then became more well-known than the soccer games.  More recently, with growing popularity thanks to foodies and blogs (whoops!), the Department of Health cracked down on the vendors with city regulated food preparation guidelines, and many vendors were forced to buy and operate out of food trucks, which cost around $50,000 each.

While many lament the loss of the “authentic” stalls and question the growing number of “outsiders” showing up every weekend (like many neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Red Hook has gentrification issues), there is no doubt that the food is still authentic and delicious.  But no food can be declared worthy until one of the members of Allegations of Deliciousness judges it so.

The vendors are usually open every Saturday and Sunday from May until October, with October 31 being the last day for 2010.  Hoping not to miss out this year, I went last weekend to try out the pupusas from El Olomega.  A pupusa is traditional Salvadorian dish made with thick, hand-made corn tortilla filled with cheese and meat/beans/veggie.  I got mine with cheese and beef while Edna Krabappel got her’s with cheese and spinach.

Pickled cabbage (I gave my share to Edna since I can’t stand cabbage), pickled jalapenos and a not-so-spicy tomato sauce accompanied the pupusas.  They were both delicious.  The pupusas were not too heavy despite their thickness.  The outside had a slight crisp before giving into the fluff of the tortilla and melty, cheesey goodness inside.  The beef was well seasoned while the spinach melded well with the cheese.

If you live in New York City and have yet to visit the Red Hook vendors, hurry down and try.  Other vendors sell huaraches, tacos, ceviches, elotes and fresh pressed juices.  You only have a few more weekends to enjoy before the trucks close down for the season.

The Last Meal

October 5, 2010 7 comments

One of the most heated topics of debate both in legal circles and the mainstream is the death penalty.  Regardless of one’s personal stance on the death penalty, many people often have difficulty answering the question “What would your last meal be?”

On September 23, 2010, for the first time in almost 100 years, the commonwealth of Virginia executed a woman, Teresa Lewis, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to two counts of capital murder for hire of her husband and stepson.  For her last meal, Ms. Lewis requested fried chicken, sweet peas, Dr. Pepper and either German cake or apple pie for dessert.

I had always assumed that prisoners can request whatever he or she wants, but Slate has an interesting article that debunks that myth and gives the basic ground rules, notably:

Final meals are generally limited to food that can be prepared on-site. Virginia prisons have a 28-day rotating menu—for example, hot dogs on the first day of the cycle, chili on the second day, etc.—and prisoners facing imminent execution are limited to one of the 28. Other states are more flexible. In Texas, the chef at the Huntsville unit where executions take place tries to accommodate any order. But sometimes that means cooking a close approximate. When an inmate requests filet mignon—which happens a lot—the chef will instead cook up a steak hamburger, since that’s what they already have in the kitchen. When a Texas inmate requested 24 tacos, the chef made four. In Florida, last meals must be purchased locally and can’t cost more than $40. Alcohol is almost never allowed, since the prisons don’t want rowdy inmates on their hands.

Slate also notes that “[t]he most popular request is a cheeseburger and fries. Steak, fried chicken, and ice cream are also common.”  Notorious criminals have had interesting requests.  John Wayne Gacy asked for shrimp, fried chicken, French fries, and a pound of strawberries. Timothy McVeigh ate two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Curious, I asked a number of people what their last meals would be, assuming the above rules did not apply.  The food items rattled off usually fell into one of two categories: (1) decadent foods (i.e., price is no object — steak, sushi, oysters, caviar, etc.) and (2) comfort foods (i.e., what favorite dish you grew up eating).

For me (still assuming there are no restrictions), I would start the meal with a dozen Kumamoto oysters with a good, crisp ale.  The menu would also have to include a perfectly grilled ribeye steak (rare) paired with a lobster tail and grilled corn.  Some other items include crab cakes, nigiri sushi with toro and uni and Chick-fil-a.  A bowl of my mom’s pho would also be thrown in there somewhere.  I know this sounds like a ridiculous amount of food, but it’s all a hypothetical, and I’m just throwing out some of my favorite foods.

So, given no restrictions and knowing you had only one meal left, what would you want?

Road Trip Montreal: Cake Wars

September 16, 2010 1 comment

Sticking to our inadvertent Montreal-based theme for the day, I provide you with the following review of select Montreal restaurants written by one of my regular dining companions, known on these pages as Kristen Wells.

So I had this bet.  The prize was a slice of one of the most delicious cakes in the borough of Brooklyn:  Cake Man Raven’s red velvet.  (Scrape off some of the over-abundant frosting and thank me later.)  Some controversy arose, however, surrounding the terms of the wager and my betting partner – let’s call him T-Bone – and I did what all reasonable people do in these situations.  We went double or nothing.

The subsequent bet was not, strictly speaking, a true double or nothing, as T-Bone and I agreed two slices of cake was more than either of us wanted to eat (at least in one sitting).  How, then, to double?  We decided the loser would have to (1) buy the winner a slice of the best cake in Brooklyn (i.e., the original prize) and (2) research, identify and buy the winner a slice of the best cake in a city of the winner’s choosing, and coordinate the logistics of the associated trip. 

I talked a whole lotta trash that week, sending T-Bone pictures of cake possibilities from around the world.  Boston cream pie?  Jamaican black cake?  Parisian madeleines?  Whatever city would I choose?  Thankfully, I would indeed eat cake and not crow;  I won the bet and picked Montreal.

They say “to the victor go the spoils,” but in my case, the loser’s burden of travel-foodie research may have been a spoil.  I love to study up on destinations, mapping out what to see, eat and experience.  I had to summon all of my (Wonder Woman) powers to restrain myself and not research Montreal’s cake options.  I called upon my faith in T-Bone, that he would live up to his end of the bargain and, despite his disinclination for such granular planning, investigate thoroughly enough so we’d enjoy the best cake as recommended by sources other than Yelp.  That said, I couldn’t help myself entirely and made one dinner reservation.  Since the rez was for dinner and not cake, I figured I wasn’t diminishing T-Bone’s burden as loser of the bet.

I’m happy to say T-Bone came through like a champ.  Leading up to the trip, I posed the philosophical question about how I’d be able to determine if the cake T-Bone chose was, in fact, the best in the city.  If it’s the only cake I sampled, how could I really judge?  To round out the experience and provide some comparative data, T-Bone picked three destinations (for two days in the city).

As it turns out, one of his choices must’ve been very popular.  We arrived within the operating hours of Cocoa Locale, but the doors were locked.  They’d sold out of that day’s batch of baked goods.  No worries, as our next destination was nearby:  La Croissanterie Figaro

First, we had a late lunch, and my goat cheese and tomato quiche was excellent –really flavorful with perfectly roasted tomatoes and a tender, buttery crust.  As for dessert, T-Bone indicated the “go to” order was chocolate mousse cake, with a possible second place for carrot.  I looked at T-Bone quizzically because I warned weeks prior that I’m not fan of chocolate cake.  Was it wise to steer me in that direction?  We ordered one of each and, lo and behold, the chocolate mousse cake was phenomenal.  (The carrot was good, too, but really didn’t compare to the chocolate.)  Layer upon layer of a soft and light chocolate cake, smooth chocolate mousse that was a bit richer with chocolate than the cake, and a frosting that upped the chocolate ante, all dusted with really good cocoa powder.  I’m not a fan of chocolate cake, but this was hella good.  +1 for T-Bone.

The next day we ventured to the most charming croissant shop I’ve ever stepped foot in, Kouign Amann, named for the Breton cake we’d be sampling.  A tiny store with fresh baked goods on a couple of shelves, bakers in flour-dusted aprons forming croissants by hand behind the counter, and a really friendly and lovely woman working the register.  T-Bone is a big fan of croissants and I’d told him I don’t really understand them.  The ones I’ve had in the U.S. just don’t seem to be worth the fat expenditure.  Trying a warm, fresh croissant from Kouign Amann, however, has made me a believer.  Make this a must-stop on your next trip to Montreal. 

But that’s not why you came.  We weren’t sure what Kouign Amann cake is exactly, but we got one to share.  It looks like…this picture.  It tastes like sweet, buttery bread baked with a slightly caramelized crust.  Sounds simple, but the layering creates a really pleasing texture that I couldn’t replicate if I tried.  This cake was unique and, if you like buttery, sweet, baked goodness – and who doesn’t?  – you’re going to be really happy with Kouign Amann from Kouign Amann.  (I keep typing it because I’m still trying to figure out how to pronounce it.  Kouign Amann.  ?)  +2 for T-Bone.

Our last night in Montreal was the night of my one contribution to the chowhound itinerary, dinner at Au Pied du Cochon.  Although I’d read and warned T-Bone that we should arrive amply hungry, the afternoon cake (and, don’t tell, but later a shared almond croissant) kept me satiated for a long time.  Sadly, I wasn’t terribly hungry by reservation time so didn’t order as many dishes as I might have wished.  We shared a great blue cheese, apple, and endive salad.  For mains, I ordered a swordfish special and T-Bone ordered one of the more notorious entrees:  Duck in a Can.  My fish was amazing.  Perfectly cooked with a salty, buttery cream sauce, mushroom, and beans.  A combo I would’ve raised an eyebrow at had I known in advance, but it was really delicious.  Probably the best thing I’d had since the crab and jalapeno spaghetti at Del Posto.  About the Duck in a Can, you can Google search it to learn about the unusual preparation and presentation.  (Actually, here you go:  All you need to know is when they poured the can out, I thought “Goodness gracious, that’s a lot of food.  T-Bone might get halfway through that.”  Fast forward a bit and I thought “O.M.G. that must’ve been really delicious.  I can’t believe he ate the whole thing.” 

Seriously.  Did you watch the video?  T-Bone ate THE WHOLE THING.  That’s how good it was.  (+1 for me.)

Moral of the story?  Make some food bets with your friends.  Good times, and no one really loses.  Also, Montreal is a great eating town.