February 21, 2007

How to buy good corn tortillas

1. Look at the ingredients.

2. Good tortillas have 3 ingredients: corn, lime, water. That's it. If anything else is listed in the ingredients you your tortillas are no good. If your supermarket doesn't have tortillas with these ingredients (and these ingredients only), go somewhere else. As far as I know there is no national brand of real tortillas. Those circular things Mission calls tortillas are lifeless tasteless cardboard-like abominations.

3. If there are no tortillas in your supermarket, find one of my fellow Mexicans. If he has any love of eating at all he will be able to tell you where you can find real tortillas.

In Brooklyn you can find good tortillas here: Tortilleria Mexicana 271 Starr St., between Wyckoff and St. Nicholas Ave, Brooklyn 718-456-3422

In LA you can find good tortillas in little bodegas all over Echo Park. Also at Acapulco Tortilleria @ 1309 S Vermont Ave or at the Santa Fe Tortilleria 1715 W Sunset Blvd


Good flour tortillas:

1. Look at the ingredients. Good flour tortillas generally contain lard, salt, flour, salt, baking powder and water.

2. Good flour tortillas are virtually impossible to find in the US because Americans are terrified of lard. "Lowfat tortillas" are an abomination. Why even bother?

3. Your best bet is to make them yourself. This is a good flour tortilla recipe.

Double bonus:

Sugar tortillas: Right after you put your tortilla dough on the comal you can smear it with a little bit of sugar. Then instead of flipping the tortilla you fold it over to make delicious sugar tortillas, my favorite childhood breakfast treat. Instead of sugar you can also substitute a bit of honey. Equally delicious.

January 29, 2007

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

That's the first line of Michael Pollen's article Unhappy Meals in yesterday's Times magazine on the food industry. Odds are if you are reading this blog you've already read the article, but just in case, there's the link served up for you. We're big Michael Pollen fans in this house and happen to be in the middle of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma which is excellent (Jenn is further through it than I am and keeps hitting me with corn facts... read the book and you'll understand). The Botany of Desire is another must read book we push on all our friends. If you love food and incisive writing, these books are for you.

November 13, 2006

Best Korean Restaurant in Brooklyn?

I'm happy to report that our search for a great Korean restaurant in this part of Brooklyn is over.

To my knowledge, excluding Williamsburg, there are exactly 3 Korean places in Brooklyn, 5 if you are being really broad in your characterization:

Kim Chee is a solid family run place, but it's in Bay Ridge on the other side of Brooklyn.
9324 3rd Ave 718.567.5741

Noona recently opened on the corner Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific in Prospect Heights. Noona is an upscale Korean restaurant with small but tasty portions. While the menu looks fully authentic the dishes appear to be geared towards non-Koreans and many of the dishes tasted somehow muted. Jenn deemed the bibimbop good enough and at $10 it would be a perfect lunch if they were open for lunch, but other entrees were a bit too pricey for this restaurant to be on the regular rotation. The restaurant has potential, but they haven't settled into their groove yet.
565 Vanderbilt Avenue 718.398.6662

Henry's Express is a small stand-and-eat hamburger stand on Henry just past Atlantic Avenue. It's Korean run and on Thursday's and Friday's they serve greasy but edible bulgolgi. It's only worth mentioning because it's a stone's throw away.
331 Henry St. 718.222.0708

The Good Fork is an upscale "Korean inspired" diner Red Hook. This is the type of restaurant that makes eating exciting. The food is totally delicious, but it's not exactly authentic Korean comfort food.
718.643.6636 Location: 391 Van Brunt Street

But our search has now ended with the discovery of Sushi Okdol a Japanese/Korean restaurant above a deli in Fort Green run by a Korean family. Sushi Okdol is a dive decorated with pictures of fish torn from magazines, and a sushi clock, but you won't notice the decor once you dive into your meal. Everything from the panchan to the madoo, karbi, to the bibimbop was hit-the-spot delicious and cheap to boot. The menu is small, but all the standard dishes are there. We'll be back and soon.(pdf of the menu)
497 Myrtle Ave. at Hall Street, 718.789.1373

And since I'm on the topic of Korean food I might as well throw in some of our favorite LA Korean Restaurants, each of which I miss:

Tahoe Galbi - Real open fire, meat in the flames, BBQ. So good.
3986 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, (213) 365-9000

Korean Kitchen - I dream about this place. Everything even the vinegar they used in salad dressing was special. Best panchan in LA for my money.
135 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012
213 680-1039

Soot Bull Jeep - the quintessential smokey Korean BBQ place.
3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
213 387-3865

There was also super family run restaurant in Glendale way down Glendale Avenue near Eagle Rock, but I can't find it on google.

And btw if you ever find yourself in LA and need eating suggestions, it's almost required that you read Jonathan Gold's Where to Eat in the Real LA. Through the book and his LAWeekly columns Mr. Gold has single handedly been responsible for more of my memorable meals than anyone except for my wife, my mom and my grandmother.

Update: Noona is now apparently open for lunch.

September 12, 2006

Frank Bruni on Burgers

A Hamburger Today, my favorite hamburger blog (yes there are several), interviews NY Times critic Frank Bruni on his burger preferences. Interview here.

August 22, 2006

Nha Trang

As far as I'm concerned it's always time for Nha Trang. My order:

2 limeades (because one is never enough)
spring rolls
hot and sour soup with chicken
bbq beef over rice

oh joy.

Nha Trang is @ 87 Baxter. Thaison next door at 89 Baxter is also very good as is Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong @ 73 Mulberry (the order here is the beef in grape leaves). My favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon, has been replaced by Doyers Vietnamese @ 11 Doyers Street. 11 Doyers is delicious, but no match for Saigon which had spring rolls that made you forget your name. New York Magazine touts Spice Market, which calls itself Vietnamese, as as one of the best dining experiences in the city. I disagree heartily. Vietnamese in name only.

I've never searched out Vietnamese restaurants in Brooklyn or Queens (there is nothing in Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill/Ft. Greene), but the chowhounds have a few suggestions. As my family has decamped for a few days I've been thinking of going out to Elmhurst to look for a good meal. Will report back tomorrow.

July 17, 2006

Spanish Cuisine

Sentences not likely to be heard in New York:

"I have just the thing for your son. Brain. It’s in the refrigerator and I can fry it with a bit of butter. It’s from a baby goat slaughtered just a few days ago. Little boys just love it."

"Don't be ridiculous, of course ducks have tongues. The tongue is the tastiest part of the bird. Pigeons also have tasty tongues... so hard to find these days."

"You have a choice between the pig's feet which have been boiled and then fried, or the dried cod."

"My favorite thing in the whole world, my very favorite thing: rooster comb. And here's the tragedy, the portions are always so small."

May 25, 2006

Delicious New York

Blog reader Kendra emailed today, "I'm coming to New York for a Memorial day weekend. Where should I eat? I'm looking for something a little bit offbeat. Asian maybe? Something we can't find here in Tulsa and not super expensive."

Well Kendra, the question is broad (so many options!), but here are a few suggestions that immediately popped into my head.

(in no particular order)

1. The Kuma Inn - 113 Ludlow Street, 2nd Floor. (212) 353-8866
Every time I eat at the Kuma Inn my dinner guests get a little wild eyed with glee. Everything at this Asian Tapas bar is absurdly yummy. The grilled items are especially drool-worthy. Cash only. Reservations recommended.

2. The Yemen Cafe - 176 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn
My own neighborhood is a bit of a restaurant wasteland with many places for passable eats, but few that really knock the ball out of the park. Enter the Yemen Cafe... the kabobs, the lentil soup, and the Yemeni salads are all just about perfect. I always bring out of town guests here and they always leave happy. Cash is king.

3. Pat Pong - Pat Pong, 93 East 7th (212) 505-6454
Thai-Hungarian? Sounds good-awful, but how wrong you are. Turns out kielbasa is just the thing certain Thai dishes need. Order the yum-nuea beef salad, of the scores of yum-nuea's I've had at Thai joints around the city this is one of the few contenders. another review here

4. The Good Fork - 391 Van Brunt Avenue, Brooklyn.
This one might be a bit difficult to find for an out of towner as it's in Red Hook which is subway inconvenient. I ate there my first time last week, but the place instantly went to the top of my list. The best description I've heard of the menu is "Korean inspired diner food." Don't know if that sounds appealing but everything on the menu is knock-you-out delicious. Make sure to order the dumplings. Menus available online.

5. Momofuku - 163 1st Ave (btw 10th & 11th)
I haven't eaten there yet, but Jenn has been raving about Momofuku, a newish Korean noodle bar.

6. Nha Trang- 87 Baxter St.
Vietnamese restaurants in New York have nothing on their counterparts in Houston or San Francisco, but I imagine they are better than anything you can find in Tulsa (do they even have Vietnamese restaurants in Tulsa?)... It's hard to go wrong at Nha Trang where I've rarely had anything less than super-tasty meals. And whatever you order make sure to wash it down with their home made limeade. So good.

Is 6 enough? I could go on, but go through this list first. If you need more suggestions just shout for more... (and fellow New Yorkers are welcome to add their own favs).

March 22, 2006

Good Burger

Tonight I attended a meeting of the New York Burger Club. There were no rules or minutes, just discussions of burgers and burger joints and of course eating of hamburgers. I was the new guy but everyone in the group was welcoming, friendly, and curious. "How do you like your burgers?" was always the opening line. My preference for well done was oohed and ahhed with none of the anticipated distain. Apparently I'm the first in the group to take my burgers this way and that was ok with everyone. One guy confided that each member of the group was on his own quest. Indeed everyone seemed to know everyone else's preferences for thickness, juciness, bun size etc. At one point after a long discussion of meat to bun ratios and whether the meat in tonight's meal had been frozen at some point one of the girls and turned to me and asked if I was ok, worried that it might be too much. "Are you kidding this is my internal dialog every time I pick up a hamburger," I answered. She and the others seemed to relax a bit. I could tell I was amongst friends. Photos from this evening can be found here.

October 21, 2005

Things to Do in LA

I lived in LA for 10 years. For 8 years I hated it, comparing it unfavorably New York. I would say annoying and pretentious things like "there's nothing sublime in LA" and spent way too much time being miserable. But then just as I was leaving I got it. I'm not sure why or how, but suddenly the place made sense to me... Now I often find myself missing the place and pitching it to skeptical New Yorkers... but it's a hard pitch, because LA is at least for me is all about private spaces, little pockets of magic hidden from public view... hanging around someone's pool on a hot summer night watching some minor movie starlet doing cannonballs in the deep end... Hard to explain.

But that's another post.

A buddy of mine asked what to do in LA when he visits. Here's a very partial list compiled with the help of my friend (and master seeker-outer of all that is fantastic) Julien Nitzberg:


Uzbekistan @ 7077 Sunset Blvd - go at night when all the Russian gangsters are there

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles the one on Gower- fantastic fried chicken, open late. I prefer it to the equally legendary (non-fried) Zankou Chicken (some LA folk complain Roscoe's is too touristy, but for me that's part of the fun).

Hirozen - Delicious Japanese. Cucumber sunumono salad. Yum. 8385 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, 90048

Thai Elvis at the Palms -one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. A Thai Elvis impersonator sings nightly. The food is spicy and delicious.

Chung King in Monterey Park - double spicy and double delicious and you get to check out Monterrey Park.

Ktown Restaurants - I particularly
love the Prince @ 3198 1/2 W Seventh for it's lounge lizard off-kilter oddness.

Nanbankan on Santa Monica Blvd (a few blocks past the 405) - My #1 favorite restaurant in LA. People come from Japan for the bacon wrapped asparagus.

And if you want more good eats, pick up Jonathan Gold's Counter Intellegence: Where to Eat in the Real LA. It, and the associated column in the LA Weekly, are indispensable starting points for diving into LA's culinary stew. He writes about food with such enthusiasm that I inevitably would find myself heading out on an adventure after reading his reports.


Free brunch at the Police Academy in Elysian Park on Sundays

Catalina Island - Often overlooked, but a a fun day or overnight trip.

Magic Castle - Where all the kids who wanted to be magicans (and some actual magicians) hang out.

Museum of Jurrassic Technology

Horse Riding in Griffith Park

Black Facts & Wax Museum- 3742 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, Telephone: 323.299.8829 call to make sure they are open, but don't miss this.

Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale - 5110 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91204-1006

Marty and Elaine - Still cool despite their popularity.

Naked Trucker at Largo

Steve Allen Theater

Silent Movie on Fairfax - Try to catch some Buster Keaton.

Watts Towers

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Forest Lawn Cemetery

RoseBowl Swap Meet 2nd Sunday of every month

Barbata's Steak House 20001 Ventura Woodland Hills 91634 818-340-5914; geriatric swing band on Fridays and Saturdays. Dancing 9-2a

The Derby - Non geriatric swing

Club Los Globos - 3040 W Sunset Blvd, This place will blow your mind. Dress sharp. Be prepared to dance.


Cindy Club Thai Restaurant - (4273 Beverly Blvd., Koreatown, 323-906-1640)

La Lucha Libre - In East LA you can sometimes find Lucha Libre matches fought in parking lots and backyards. Ask around the Luchaworld boards to find out where/when.

September 5, 2005

Olivia Aurora's Watermelon Slush

It is midnight in Pennsylvania where we are visiting for the weekend. The crickets and frogs are are out in force and the night is full of stars. I am sitting in the dark with only the computer light and my belly is full of Plum ice cream. My wife and baby are asleep. I hear their overlapping breaths in the next room. They start out the night breathing out of sync, but by this hour are almost in unison. I can't sleep and have been thinking of my grandmother's watermelon slush. As tomorrow is Labor Day I thought I might share the secret recipe. Watch out, it's super delicious.


3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup H20 (room temp)

2 cups liquefied watermelon (de seed before blending... don't skimp with one of those seedless melons, get the real thing. real watermelons have seeds)

1 cup very cold H20
1/4 cup lime juice (small round Mexican key limes are best)

1. Deseed and liquefy watermelon, put aside.

2. Mix 1/2 cup H20 with sugar and boil.

3. Right when the mixture boils add the watermelon, lime juice, and cold H20.

4. Freeze immediately.

5. When frozen. Use an ice scraper or a spoon to scrape out servings.

That's it. Try it, it's so good you'll forget your name.

August 31, 2004

Talking Thai

Jenn and I love Thai food. Over the course of our time together we have eaten hundreds of Thai meals together. In LA there is a huge Thai community and a decent sized Thai town. Jenn and I have been fairly systematic in our exploration.

Our favorites:

East Wind Café 2
7363 W. Sunset Blvd.

This little hole in the wall near the Rock & Roll Ralphs, is run by a grandmother. Every time we go the décor gets more and more elaborate (christmas lights, fake plants, holographic waterfall posters, etc). All the food is top notch (spicy enough to make you sweat), but the Tum Yum Gai is out of this world. The parking lot can be dangerous, leave your car right in front if you can.

The Palms (also known as Thai Elvis)
5273 Hollywood Blvd.

Thai food and a Thai Elvis impersonator... come on, this is genius. Kavee Thongprecha performs virtually every night to a packed room. The food is also darned good. I always go for the boar. Jenn tends toward shrimp or whole fish. Note their version of medium spicy is extra spicy anywhere else. Also you can walk next door to the Thai grocery store if you need supplies.

Mae Ploy
2606 W. Sunset Blvd.

It's all the way out on the ass end of Sunset Blvd, but try their soups. You won't be disappointed. Note: Mae Ploy seems to have 2 or three cooks. The one who works at night is leagues better than the others.

4156 Santa Monica Blvd

Sompum does not serve your standard LA Thai fare. The spring rolls are larger (giant actually), the fish is fresher, and the yum neur deeply delicious. In fact when I think of yum neur, I think of Sompum.

In New York I do not have the Talmudic knowledge of Thai joints that I have in LA, but then again there are fewer places to choose from, they are more scattered, and they tend to expensive relatively speaking (It's not unusual for 2 people to order several plates in LA for less than $20. In NY the prices are double or triple.). But I do have some old favs:

127 W 56th St

Expensive as far as Thai places go, but I always return for the spring rolls (tiny and delicious) and the Thai steak (bbqed with a complex and yummy spicy sauce).

Pat Pong
93 E 7th St

If you can get past the unfortunate name, you'll enjoy the adventurous menu. Some of the items were influenced by the East Village's Eastern European roots (there is a kiebasa dish for example). This might sound awful, it's delicious. Trust me.

Sea Thai
75 2nd Ave.

Sea Thai is best experienced in the late afternoon when it's not too busy. Then, the food is across the board tasty. The portions tend to be small and somewhat preciously presented (I could care less about presentation, just let me eat!). At night Sea Thai becomes a bit of a scene, the waits are long, and the food suffers.

So far all the Brooklyn Thai places we've tried (Lemon Grass and the one next to it on Court street) have been mediocre. We're always looking for recommendations.

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