Divisive Durian

I’ve created some tension in my house because I am storing durian in the fridge.  It’s not even a full durian fruit, just the pulpy insides, which are in a shrink-wrapped plastic box.  Nonetheless, it is stinking up the  refrigerator, so that a cloud of durian-stench wafts out every time the fridge is opened.

For those of you not familiar with durian, it just stinks.  Of durian, Anthony Bourdain has remarked that after eating, “your breath will smell as if you’d been french kissing your dead grandmother.”  In Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, durians are banned from being brought into enclosed public spaces.  However, they are also praised as “the king of fruits” in that same part of the world.  Here in the West, they are a lightning rod of controversy.  As far as I can tell, most people in this country are thoroughly disgusted by the durian before they even taste it.  Even then, they are likely not to come back for a  second bite.  Now, I sought out durian a few years back after reading about it in some Asian cookbooks, which sung its praises.  I  find it quite delicious, addictive  even – but I do not deny that it is pungent – and funky tasting – as hell.  After several unsuccessful attempts to turn people on to durian, I have come to the realization that most people are happier not to have me serve it to them.  So I am forced to enjoy it in solitude, sitting and eating it in the  backyard because  my wife does not want it in the house.

Case in point: I threw a dinner party awhile back, and since I had some durian in the fridge and needed to cook dessert, I threw together a durian cheesecake.  I figured, what better way to ease people into eating durian – they don’t have to deal with the pungent fruit itself,  it will be mixed with traditional cheesecake ingredients to cut the strong flavor.  The meal went off great, everyone was singing the praises  of the food, so I brought out my cheesecake with much fanfare.  There was much discussion and anticipation, my dinner guests being familiar with the durian but never having sampled one.  I should add that this was a sophisticated group of diners, many of whom would not hesitate to consume the funkiest of unpasteurized french cheeses.  But durian threw them for a loop.  Many took one bite and left the rest. Maybe one guest ate his entire piece, though less than enthusiastically.  It was pretty much a stellar flop on my part, I should have just served some ice cream.  So I learned my lesson – durian is not ready for prime time in this country, or indeed outside of Southeast Asia.  You will not be buying durian at Gristedes or through FreshDirect in the near future, if ever.  Durian will not be all the  rage on NYC menus, nor will it be sold from food trucks.  Its just too funky, and too divisive.  Its one of the few foods that separates consumers into two camps – utter revulsion, or blissful enjoyment.  There is no in-between, no one is just okay with being served durian (actually, J. Burger may provide  an example of someone who is basically lukewarm about durian.  Of course, she is Southeast Asian, so she is kind of over it at this point).

Next up: I am keen to find some interesting new recipes, beyond custard, smoothies and cheesecakes.  Durian cake intrigues me but my wife will never forgive me if I fill the house  with the smell of cooked durian, so that will have to wait.  I’m also curious about durian pairings.  We all know that prosciutto and  melon pair well together, but what on earth pairs with durian?  I feel like there is lots of new culinary ground to be broken with durian, once you have gotten past creamy desserts.  I’m just sorry I can’t get more people enthusiastic about this particular journey – but, as the Grateful Dead sang:  if I go, no one may follow, that path is for my steps alone.

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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.

Shame on You For Studying The Science Behind Food Porn

March 14, 2012 3 comments

Yes indeed, we loves us some food porn here at A.O.D., and not least because it drives substantial traffic to our blog.  But apart from the shameful pleasures and tawdry thrills derived from ogling images and video that display food at its most lustful and succulent, do we really understand food porn? Have we bothered to comprehend the cognitive and biological factors that drive us to stare hungrily at sun dappled images of farm fresh garden veggies, or at Padma Lakshmi devouring a cheeseburger, or at the Disney Food Porn Facebook page?

Well, some scientists have concluded that this is all a result of “supernormal stimuli,” a phenomenon in nature in which the features of an object – be it a parent, a mate, or food – are exaggerated to make animal respond more strongly to them. In her book Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, author Deirdre Barrett discusses how advertisers and fast food companies exaggerate things that we like in order to hijack our emotions and cravings.  The idea is that viewers will react more strongly to images of a food/product where the enticing features have been enhanced – mainly, color and texture, e.g. crispness, moistness, freshness,etc.  Barret’s hypothesis is that everyone knows that fast food is unhealthy, but because its advertisements (TV, print, etc.) are expertly designed to scratch a particular itch, by manipulating our desire  to feed ourselves, we can’t resist eating things like Big Macs or Arby’s Big Montana.

So – courtesy Of Christopher Mims’ article on the SmartPlanet blog, we can share the ultimate food porn experience – a nearly 3 minute montage (actually a music video by the Amsterdam-based DJ Mason) showing food porn/advertiser manipulation at its finest.  Mims claims the video drove him to make lunch immediately, and promises you will be headed to get a snack after viewing it.  So, see for yourself – be sure to crank the volume.:

Supernormal Stimuli got hold of you yet? No? Well, we understand that for some of you, food porn may be more properly used to satisfy some of the more base biological urges. We don’t want to leave you all frustrated, so here are some of the most titillating advertisements we have come across in our long history of exploiting sexual food imagery. Enjoy!

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Here’s one that goes well beyond chicks eating burgers, and will assuredly be never aired in the U.S.  However, it is some pretty optimal food porn.

Next up: Hardee’s Monster ThickBurger.  I don’t know how this one escaped my two previous posts on the subject, but in the interests of completing the oeuvre, here you go:

And that finally brings us to the grand prize winner, food porn commercial extraordinaire, blue ribbon, par excellence (warning: may be an ad before this one).

Allegations salutes . . . The Fat Boys

March 13, 2012 1 comment

Here at Allegations we like food, but we also appreciate a good tune, and we pay special attention when the worlds of food and music converge.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, we sit up and take notice.  Occasionally, it happens in the world of Hip Hop – many rap artists have written songs in praise of their favorite foodstuffs.  A Tribe Called Quest famously sang about “Ham & Eggs” (and other foods).  MF Doom devoted a whole album to the subject of food (“Mm…Food”).  There is, however, one Hip Hop group that predates all these efforts.  This group didn’t just write a song about their favorite foods, they adopted food as their identity- fully embraced it as an expression of who they were.  And so, we present a tribute to The Fat Boys, one of Hip Hop’s pioneering ensembles.

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Now, by way of full disclosure – The Fat Boys will always be dear to me because their eponymous album (pictured above) was the third album I ever purchased, at the tender age of 8 (it was preceded by “Pac-Man Fever,” and Men At Work’s “Business As Usual”).  This album came two years after Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” and came out the same year as Run D.M.C.’s debut album, just to give an idea of its place in the old-school chronology.

The Fat Boys were (from the right), Prince Markie Dee, Kool-Rock-Ski, and The Human Beat Box.  A particular distinguishing feature of The Fat Boys was the percussive verbal stylings of “The Human Beat Box.”  He wasn’t the first to bust a beat with his mouth, or necessarily the best, but he had a distinctive style and was more than capable of carrying a song when the drum machine dropped out.  Importantly, The Fat Boys were not all gimmicks – they were decent rappers as well, they loved food, and they weighed in at a combined 750 pounds.  For a brief period they were movie stars as well.  Although they may be remembered for their star vehicle “Disorderlies,” they had also chewed up the scenery (literally) in a scene from the old school Hip Hop classic “Krush Groove.”  Here, the Fat Boys are enticed by the all-you-can-eat Italian buffet at the Sbarro on 49th St. and Broadway, which inspires them to burst into song.  The Sbarro is still there, I walk by it every day on my way to work (although the buffet, to the best of  my knowledge, is gone) – an unassuming piece of musical history in Times Square.

Now, the “reflections from jail” song is a tried-and-true Hip Hop archetype, where the narrator reflects on what got him into jail, how tough it is in there, and how he has changed as a result.  Rappers have been recording these songs since the dawn of Hip Hop (for historians, see Slick Rick – “Behind Bars,” Ice-T – “The  Tower,” and, of course, Public Enemy – “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.”)  The Fat Boys recorded their own “reflections from jail” song, with their own unique spin.  For those with lots of time on their hands (the song clocks in at over six minutes, including an extended instrumental break and piano solo), the video for “Jailhouse Rap” is below:

The Fat Boys have sadly passed into history, but for some, their legacy remains – a testament to an earlier and more innocent time when rap artists could be severely overweight, could beatbox throughout their records, could poke fun at themselves, could stuff  their faces at Sbarro onscreen and rap about how they got sent upstate for breaking into a pizza place and eating every pizza in sight.  Never again will there be a commercially successful hip hop act like The Fat Boys – but for a brief moment in the mid-1980s, they were the coolest cats on the block.  So, we  present this tribute to the Fat Boys.  You will never see them in the Rock-n-Roll, or even the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame (if such a thing existed), but they are an important piece of early hip hop history and, most importantly, they were not afraid to stuff their faces, film  themselves doing it and sing about it.

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.

Allegations at 100: Chocolate Coated, Freaky & Habit-Forming

June 30, 2011 1 comment

This marks Allegations’ 100th post.  Special thanks to all our regular readers who helped us along the way, and additional thanks to all those who stumbled over us while looking for Sandra Lee recipes or pictures of Kool-Aid Man.  We couldn’t have done without you.

I thought I would take the opportunity to share some facts and figures regarding the blog that we are privy to behind the scenes.  Since our launch in April 2010 we’ve had over 36,000 views – so we are not exactly the Huffington Post, but I guess its not bad considering we have done exactly zero to promote the site other than share it with a handful of our friends.

J. Frankfurter’s most popular post by far is “Reports Of Cookie Monster’s Demise Were Greatly Exaggerated” – in fact, it has generated 7,000 more views than the second most popular post.  This may be a result of J. Frankfurter’s keen intellect and rapier wit, or it may just be that a lot of people search for pictures of Cookie Monster on Google Images – I leave that to the reader to decide.  For whatever it is worth, it is probably one of my better posts and it debunks an insidious urban myth, so it serves a public service function as well.

J. Burger’s most popular post is “Popsicles are the new cupcakes.”  J. Burger strolls upon the cutting edge and this post is no exception – people seem to be linking back to it, unsurprisingly, as it provides invaluable advice for hip snackers and popsicle fans alike.

J. Frankfurter’s second most popular post is “Shame  On You For Looking At Food Porn – Part 2.”  Well, what can I say? It is surprising how many people stumble across our site after searching for “food porn” or “bacon porn.”   Well, here at Allegations we like to give the public what it wants – food, porn and snarky commentary.  If you feel you need a primer on food porn, and can’t just jump in at Part 2 of our ongoing series, then Part 1 can be found here.

J. Burger’s second most popular post is “Willy Wonka and The Gorton’s Fisherman Walk Into A Bar.”  Back when I was a young and naive blogger with more free time on my hands, I challenged J. Burger to cook a “food that hadn’t been invented yet” (courtesy of this Village Voice article).  I went first, cooking up a veal liver creme brulee which I ended up concluding wasn’t all that outrageous, and tasted really good on toast with strawberry jam.  J. Burger responded by cooking up chocolate-covered fish sticks.  How did they turn out? Well, you can go here to find out, suffice to say that the commenters were not impressed.

So, hopefully I’ve enticed you to click through to some of our greatest hits.  Thanks again for your patronage – it wouldn’t be much fun if we were playing to an empty theater every night, so its good to know there are at least a few people out there in the seats.

Categories: Food Media

NYC To Food Trucks: Drop Dead

June 29, 2011 1 comment

If you work in midtown, you’ve witnessed them steadily rolling  into the neighborhood and aggressively staking their claim to white collar lunch dollars.  I’m talking about food trucks. Not food carts, which are a different animal entirely, but trucks, which can roll with impunity around the city, appearing at 46th and 6th one day, and in Williamsburgh that evening.  Many lavish praise on these trucks – they are “the next big thing,”  the dream career for hipsters and oppressed  lawyers and bankers alike.  People will line up around the block to buy their lunch at these places, then brag about it in their offices.  Others deride them as “hipster food trucks,” run by slackers who are making a quick buck off the back of the old school street vendors who have been breaking their back for  years to establish their clientele, only to have them stolen by some guy selling waffles off the  back of a truck.  And yet, they have kept rolling into midtown and all over the City, literally lined up on the sides of the street, dispensing waffles, dumplings, desserts, tacos, falafel and weinerschnitzel.  Even truckin’-before-it-was-cool stalwart Mr. Softee has gotten in on the action, sending a veritable fleet of trucks into midtown and offering modern crowd-pleasing flavors like “potato chip chocolate dip” cones.

As shocking as it may seem, this golden age of the food truck has now passed into history.  On May 24, New York State Supreme Court Judge Geoffrey D. Wright issued a decision re-affirming a Transportation Department regulation, decades old, which provides that “No vendor, hawker or huckster shall park a vehicle at a metered parking space” to offer “merchandise for sale from the vehicle.” And apparently, the city is now enforcing the regulation, forcing food trucks out of their metered spots, to wander the city aimlessly, uneaten weinerschnitzel growing cold in the back.  Indeed, the Police Department has officially announced its intent to enforce the law, not just in midtown but throughout the five boroughs.  The end of an era is truly over, as the food trucks languish out of the spotlight, like cretaceous dinosaurs struggling hopelessly in the tar pits that will be their tombs.

Meanwhile, in midtown, life goes on.  The line at Moishe’s Falafel Cart went around the block today, and the only sign of food trucks was some sort of pizza truck parked in front of a hydrant and frantically selling slices before New York’s finest showed up.  Business was risk at the Biryani Cart, and at Kwik Meal across the street.  I did not visit Trini-Paki Boys down the street, but they have some of the most fiercely devoted customers of any cart, so I am sure they were just fine. You see, these carts, as opposed to the trucks, have designated locations on the sidewalk and thus the law does not apply to them.  In fact, the cart owners are probably breathing a sigh of relief that their tech-and-media savvy, well-financed and mobile army of competitors has been defeated by the City.

And frankly, while the food trucks have twitter accounts, top of the line equipment, and good publicists, they are, as group, missing something that is the essence of street food: good food at good value.  Its not that you can’t get good food from a truck, often it can be good (although just as often, not).  But even if it is good, it may be overly expensive.  The fact is, there are very few trucks that deliver good food at good value.

If I have to choose between the trucks and the carts, I’ll take the carts, every time.

But for trucks fans, all is not lost.  The Parks Department has taken a keen interest in mobile foodstuffs, so NYC parks  may soon become a haven for displaced trucks.