Author Archive

Pizza At Houdini Kitchen Laboratory

margherita

Ridgewood is an interesting neighborhood. Technically in Queens, it’s right on the border of where Queens and Brooklyn meet. I was last there for Bun-Ker, which is hard to get to by train. Much easier is Houdini Kitchen Laboratory, a new pizza place that’s been getting a lot of buzz on all the food blogs lately. I stopped by on a weekday for lunch, and found the place tucked away next to a loading dock. They have a really beautiful, airy and open dining room, as well as an outdoor patio. I sat on the patio, with a view of that loading dock, and I ordered the Margherita. You may have noticed that the pizza crust has none of the char that I love so much. Instead, the crust is flatter and more like a regular pizza-shop pizza. The pie was still good; a little wet in the center, like a traditional Neapolitan pizza, with a nice balance of sauce and cheese. The sauce could have used a little more salt, but after eating the first slice I doused the rest of the pie in some of the chile oil provided on the table and that helped some too. While I enjoyed the pizza at Houdini, I wouldn’t call the Margherita destination-worthy. If I lived in the neighborhood I’d probably be there pretty often, but I have better, closer options right here.

Houdini Kitchen Laboratory — 1563 Decatur St, Ridgewood

Vegetarian Ramen At Momofuku Noodle Bar

hozon ramen

As a vegetarian, I’ve never really felt the urge to dine at any of the Momofuku restaurants. When he first started out David Chang made it pretty clear he didn’t care much about vegetarians, though over the past few years that’s started to change. Then I read this article on Eater about a new vegetarian ramen they’ve been serving at Momofuku Noodle Bar with Hozon broth. Hozon is a local company, also owned by Momofuku’s David Chang, that’s been making fermented products similar to miso, and at the Noodle Bar they’ve made it into a ramen broth. It’s not as good as the both at Chuko, but it’s a great bowl of noodles. The broth is salty and rich, and is studded with fried chickpeas, crispy crackers, and sauteed kale for texture. Better still were the noodles; so firm they almost snapped between my teeth, and with an almost buttery aftertaste. I’m glad I finally gave Momofuku Noodle Bar a chance, as I can now cross that one off my list of NYC restaurant experiences.

Momofuku Noodle Bar — 171 1st Ave, NYC

Vegetarian At Rockaway Tacos

rockaway tacos

I’ve lived in NYC for almost exactly 11 years now, but up until recently I had never been to the Rockaways. So on a beautiful summer day I took the train out as far as it would take me and emerged on a lovely strip of beach. After getting my toes wet I was ready for some food, and I knew just where to go: Rockaway Taco. Tucked into a tiny storefront space a few blocks from the beach, Rockaway Taco is a Rockaways institution. I got a couple of tofu tacos, piled high with fresh veggies and avocado. There was no way to eat them without making a mess, but I’d gladly do it again; the tacos were fantastic. Dare I say it — I enjoyed them more than the tacos I usually get at the Red Hook Ball Fields. I don’t know when the next time I’ll find myself in the Rockaways, but when I do I know where I’ll be eating.

Rockaway Taco — 95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Beach, NY

Banana Durian Ice Cream From Morgenstern’s Finest

morgenstern's ice cream

Ignore the pink scoop on top — that was Strawberry Sassafras, which was fine but not particularly remarkable. The pale yellow below that, however, was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten all year. The Banana Durian ice cream at Morgenstern’s Finest, on the Lower East Side, was incredible. Durian is a fruit native to SE Asia, notorious for its unique odor, it’s custad-like texture, and its flavors of cheese and onions. Click here for my reaction to eating fresh durian for the first time. The banana mixed in helped mellow the durian flavor, but it was still quite pronounced in all of its funky glory. My first bite of the ice cream made me sit up and take notice; I was transported back to the streets of Kuala Lumpur. My second confirmed my first impression — this was something special. I couldn’t get enough of it, and even considered going back for a pint to take home. I think it’s better as an occasional treat, though, and there’s something comforting in the knowledge that there’s banana durian ice cream out there, just waiting for me to return.

Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream — 2 Rivington St, NYC

Go Get Portokalopita Right Now

portokalopita

A couple of years ago Donny wrote about the portokalopita from Uncle Gussy’s food truck. Although I never tasted it, I started thinking about it. It sounded so good, but I hardly ever went to Midtown and anyway it’s not something they always have. Made by the owner’s aunt, the cake made of orange zest, cream, syrup, and filo is an occasional special on the menu. Cut to last month, when I was briefly working in Midtown. Donny texted me to let me know that Uncle Gussy’s had portokalopita, so finally my chance had come! Unfortunately Donny was wrong, they were going to have the dessert the following day. So I had to wait another whole day. Anyway, it was worth the wait. The portokalopita manages to feature every fragrant flavor of an orange — sweet, sour, and bitter — and pack them into a delicious cake. So go follow them on Twitter and if you see they have the dessert, go and get it.

Uncle Gussy’s Food Truck

Sheemaker’s Bounty At Untamed Sandwiches

sheemaker's bounty

Here in Brooklyn at a bar called South they serve what they call the Grilled PBJ&J. That’s peanut butter, jelly, and (pickled) jalapenos. It’s an incredible creation, taking something familiar — PB&J — and adding something unexpected — the jalapenos — that makes the sandwich special. The acidity and spiciness of the jalapenos makes the perfect bridge between the peanut butter and the jelly, and the sandwich is grilled so the bread is warm and crispy. I bring this all up because I recently had a peanut butter, jelly, and broccoli sandwich at a restaurant in Midtown. It’s called the Sheemaker’s Bounty, and at first it didn’t occur to me what I had ordered. It’s described as containing “charred broccoli, fried almond butter, and pickled raisin jelly.” As soon as I bit into it I realized that it tasted exactly like a PB&J that someone had jammed a load of broccoli into. Now this isn’t as bad as it may sound. There is actually nothing off-putting about the combination. But unlike the jalapenos in the Grilled PBJ&J, the broccoli doesn’t add anything or enhance the sandwich in any way — well, other than adding some nice green veggies to a PB&J (AB&J?). Does that make it healthier? Anyway, the sandwich was good but I can’t envision going out of my way to get another one.

Untamed Sandwiches — 43 West 39th St

Chocolate Rugelach At Breads Bakery

rugelach

I have high standards when to comes to rugelach. Most people have probably never heard of rugelach, a rolled pastry of Eastern European Jewish tradition. The dough is usually made with sour cream or cream cheese, and the filling is traditionally rasins-walnuts-cinnamon, though fruit fillings and chocolate fillings are also popular. My cousins’ grandmother, Toby, makes amazing rugelach. So when Donny told me that he’d had some great rugelach at Bread’s Bakery, near Union Square, I decided to try them for myself. They are pricey, so I only got four (not that any one rational person needs more than four rugelach). Are they as good as Toby’s? No way. Are they amazing? Yes they are. The pastry dough is buttery, the chocolate rich and not too sweet. If you got these at a bakery in Paris you’d go home and rave to people about the quality of Parisienne patisserie. Having a source of such great pastries right here in NYC is fantastic — but I already have a better, cheaper source. But if you don’t have your own Grandma Toby, and/or you’ve never had rugelach before, Breads Bakery is the right place to start.

Breads Bakery — 18 E 16th St, Manhattan