Ready for sunshine and lobster rolls

Knowing myself, I have no doubt that I will very soon regret ever having said the following statement, much less putting it down in writing, but I’m gonna go with it, regrets be damned: I am ready for summer.

:: Sigh ::

I know, I know. It’s not the oppressive humidity I’m ready for, nor the ever present trickle of sweat running down my back on the subway on my way to work, nor the aggressive growl of my AC window unit adding to the cacophony I already deal with, and it’s definitely not the constant stench of garbage baking on the sidewalk. I’ll never be ready for any of that.

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Is it summer yet?

But after a recent sunny (yet still crisp) early spring Saturday spent walking around Red Hook, I’m ready for something other than grey skies, heavy coats, and frigid gusts of air drying out my eyes and turning my nose into a cherry.

I want long afternoons and late dinners after sundown. I want to hide behind sunglasses and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to throw on a dress, slip on some sandals and be ready. And after lunch at Red Hook Lobster Pound, I want frosty beers to wash down pink, perfect hunks of lobster meat toppling out of warm buttered buns. I want to lick seasoning spices, butter and mayo off my fingers, and think, “Mmmm, tastes like summer.”

Red Hook is one of my favorite parts of town, mostly because be it summer or winter, it always feels quiet and far away, a break from the rest of the city. When you do find a pocket of people and activity, it still feels laid back, cool without trying super hard. That my favorite lobster roll in the city is also found there just makes Red Hook that much better.

While I know I don’t have to wait for summer to go down there and have that buttery, delicious lobster roll, if there’s one thing to make that experience better, it’ll be just a smidge of summer, a warm, sunshiny day and maybe a light breeze. Yup, that’s what I’m ready for.

 

*Note: Yes, I did skip right past spring, because spring in New York is mostly just Winter Lite. It also lasts all of about five minutes, while summer stretches out and feels like an eternity by the time fall rolls around.

A burger for these impossible times

Now that the seemingly impossible’s actually happened, I need to take a break from all the doom and gloom and talk about something else for just a minute. Food’s always been a respite for me, and writing a form of therapy and distraction, so indulge me, will you?

Last week, when the world—while troubled and strange— didn’t seem quite as broken as it does now, I got around to eating something I’d been wanting since earlier this summer when it made its New York debut: an Impossible Burger.

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Oh, that flag.

Made by the creative wizards and scientists at Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods, their burger’s only available at three restaurants in California (two in San Fran and one in LA) and now at  Momofuku Nishi in Chelsea, where I had it.

The crazy thing about this burger, the impossible thing, is that even though it’s made entirely of all natural ingredients and not a single animal, it also looks and tastes like a regular ol’ hamburger made of ground beef. It has the same consistency, the same juiciness when you bite into it, the same reddish-pink inside and the same charring on the outside.

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Would you believe it? Not real meat!

Now, everyone who knows me knows I eat meat and burgers are some of my favorite, but I also love veggie burgers. To me though, they’re two different things. Until now.

Nishi’s burger is served on a soft potato roll and dressed like a pretty standard burger: lettuce, tomato, pickles, a smear of special sauce, and in my case, a slice of American cheese. A heap of crispy shoestring fries comes along next to it.

While I don’t think it’s the best burger out there, I do think it’s the closest thing to a beef burger that I’ve ever tasted in the world of veggie burgers. If I was trying to be vegetarian I would eat these all the time. Even as a meat eater, I’d definitely eat this again.

The fact that it uses way less natural resources like gas, water and land to create it, and also has  none of the crap like antibiotics and hormones that so much of our beef unfortunately has, makes it all the better.

In these impossible times, something enjoyable and less harmful to the world around it sounds pretty freakin’ good to me.

How I beat the heat

Every year I keep my fingers crossed and make all sorts of failed plea bargains with God to make it a cool summer, one where the temperature never goes above, oh I don’t know, say 75 degrees. And every year my prayers fall on deaf ears and the sticky, opressive heat of summer comes down hard and heavy on me. With temperatures in the 90s today, it looks like this summer is shaping up to be more of the same.

So if nature, Earth and the universe itself all insist on another steamy summer, I insist on lobster rolls. That’s just all there is to it and I’m not budging on the matter.

Summer comfort food: New England lobster roll at Greenpoint's Lobster Joint

Summer comfort food: New England lobster roll at Greenpoint’s Lobster Joint

So with the morning off from work and the sun beating down on the city, I decided to walk over to Greenpoint’s Lobster Joint, a cute, casual place serving all things lobster and if you ask me, all things summer. The oyster roll, lobster club and crab cake sandwich were all tempting but the only question for me was how I wanted my lobster roll, New England style with mayo or Connecticut style with butter. With sweat trickling uncomfortably down several parts of my body, ordering anything warm with butter seemed completely out of the question, so I went with the cold-prepped Connecticut style lobster roll, with mayo, herbs and celery.

Nothing pulls me out of the sweaty trenches of a bad mood quite like a lobster roll, especially when it comes with a heap of golden, crunchy-on-the-outside, just soft-enough-on-the-inside fries, a fat, juicy pickle and a little serving of creamy, cool cole slaw. Add a frosty cold Maine Root root beer and you’re looking at an ideal way to spend a sweaty afternoon. I usually prefer butter over mayo when it comes to lobster rolls, but Lobster Joint’s was perfect, with just the right amount of mayo, nothing too slimy or goopy and for under $20 I was shocked at the fat chunks of soft, pink lobster meat bulging out of my roll.

It might end up being an overindulgent, decadent summer if I use lobster rolls to combat the heat, but that’s an issue I’m ready to take on if it means any relief in the months to come.

Lobster Joint on Urbanspoon

Hotel living

C’mon, you know it wouldn’t be a trip to England without a plate of fish and chips. And while it is the quintessential pub grub, probably best enjoyed on an old bar stool with a frosty pint of beer, I decided to have mine in bed.

fish and chips

This is the good life.

I work at a hotel so I’m always on the other side of the fun luxuries of staying at one, but now that I was a guest at a posh Mayfair hotel, I wanted to kick back and enjoy one of the best parts of hotel living: room service. And since I’m all about that when-in-Rome thinking when traveling, fish and chips was the only way to go.

After a long day of sightseeing and walking around the entire city, nothing sounded more appealing than a big plate of soft white fish with golden, fried breading on the outside, fat crunchy fries— ahem, sorry, chips— with a little twist of lemon and a dunk in creamy tartar sauce, all while sinking back into a deliciously plush, clean bed to watch TV. Yup, that definitely beats the pub.

It’s always a good time for burgers

You know how you have to be in a certain mood to eat sushi? Or a hearty plate of meatloaf? Or a tuna wrap from the deli? (Yes, I do sometimes actually want one of those, the kind that are a little goopy and squishy. Don’t judge me.)

Well, burgers, in my opinion, unlike all of those other foods and so many others, are something I could eat any ol’ time, no matter the weather, time of day, season, or physical state I’m in. (Hungover? Yes. Sick with a cold? Yes. Strong like bull? Two please.)

So when I was in Miami looking for a place to eat dinner with my mom, sister and boyfriend, and my best friend (who was also joining us) suggested LoKal, a new Coconut Grove burger joint and craft beer watering hole, I was all about it. Burgers aaaaand beer? DONE.

Now I can add reptile to my list of meats eaten after these tasty fried alligator strips

 To start things off right, and maybe in honor of my being back in the Sunshine State, we ordered a plate of something quintessentially Floridian that I had actually never eaten: alligator. Fat, juicy strips of tender white alligator meat were battered, fried and seasoned with Old Bay, and served with a tangy marinara sauce and spicy mayo. So did they taste like chicken? Yea, kind of. Were they good? Absolutely.

She may not be the prettiest burger, but the Frita makes up for it in pure guava-cheesey-bacon goodness!

The burgers all sounded good, if not completely over the top, with toppings like chili, tons of bacon, blue cheese and one that even came served on a doughnut. I’m a bit of an over-the-top eater myself, so I went with the Frita: a juicy, medium-rare (cause that’s how I roll) patty topped with guava jelly, bacon, crunchy potato sticks, and gruyère. At first I was a little sad because I couldn’t taste the guava, and really that’s what sold me on it, but a couple of bites in I got to it and all was forgiven. The jammy sweetness of the guava, mixed in with the salty crunch of the bacon, the crispy potato bits and the gooey, melted cheese all over that juicy, soft patty made for near perfect deliciousness!  And to make matters even better, LoKal’s patties, ground fresh in-house, are made from free-range, grass fed, hormone free cows, all of which makes me feel much better about the 5 million calories I ingested. Oh and instead of making me choose between regular and sweet potato fries, I was able to do 50/50… at NO ADDITIONAL COST. Can you believe it? All for just $11! In New York, that would’ve been pushing $20.

Key Lime pie, the best dessert to come out of Florida

In keeping with the Florida fat-kid theme, I went with the one thing I absolutelyhaveto have whenever I’m in town, key lime pie. LoKal’s was a huge slice of creamy, cool, zesty lime custard on a crunchy graham cracker crust topped with a fluffy mountain of fresh whipped cream and graham cracker crumbles. It had the all the rights amount of sweet, tart, tangy and creamy that make it one of my favorites. It was the perfect way to end a really affordable, easy and just damn-good burger outing. And really, I’m always in the mood for one of those.

LoKal Burgers & Beer on Urbanspoon

Off to a good start

Maya end-of-the-world prophecies aside, I think 2012 is gonna be a good year. I have no idea what it might have in store for me, but if my first meal of 2012 is any indication, things are going to turn out just fine. They’re going to be delicious, in fact.

Bleary eyed, with a slight hangover and a serious case of bedhead, the beau and I ventured out of the apartment well into the afternoon for brunch at Minetta Tavern (which thankfully I had had the presence of mind to reserve in advance since this particular Keith McNally Greenwich Village bistro is one of those New York restaurants with a charmingly obnoxious way of being impossible to walk into without a reservation.)

Can't go wrong with a classic Bloody Mary

Continue reading

Lobster rolling

Lobster roll and a small mountain of fries at Pearl Oyster Bar

I don’t eat shellfish very often. Not because I don’t like shrimp, crab or lobsters, or even because I’m allergic, but instead because my boyfriend is.

I’m all about sharing food, and if he can’t eat something because there’s a sea creature in it that’s gonna make his lips balloon and his throat swell shut, than I’m not gonna order it. Really, what kind of girlfriend would I be if I did? (And if I were allergic to anything, I would expect the same from him.)

So on the eve of his return to the city, I decided that it was only fitting that I have shellfish, one last time while I still could without feeling selfish. My good friend and soon-to-be-West-Village-neighbor, Vanessa, had recently been to Pearl Oyster Bar and raved about it so we decided that’s where we’d go. (Side note: In case you were interested, yes, the gods of New York city apartments finally heard my prayers.  As of Dec. 1 I am homeless no more.) Continue reading

California eatin’

San Francisco!

New York and I didn’t split up—we’re just on a break. I needed space and time apart, that’s all. And while some people think it might turn into something serious and I keep saying it’s just casual, I’ve been seeing someone new: San Francisco.

I actually miss New York and many of its eccentricities but San Francisco knew exactly how to take my mind off things: food.

Anywhere else and I might be worried about missing out on all the great food options that a city like New York has to offer, but lucky for me, I landed in an equally great foodie haven: San Francisco.

When I bought my Lonely Planet San Francisco City Guide the first thing I did was flip to the section on eating. Tacos, pho, burgers, dim sum, ice cream, burritos! With so much to chose from I wasn’t sure where to start. Continue reading

Shacking up

I grew up with loads of junk food, TV dinners and all things fatty and American. My Italian boyfriend on the other hand, was raised on healthy eats like freshly laid eggs, homemade pasta sauce (never ever the stuff in a jar), and home-produced olive oil.

It’s an interesting dichotomy we have going. He’s all about organic produce, hormone-free meat and staying away from artificial sweeteners and MSG. While I’m all for healthy eating, I’m not as committed to the cause. I indulge in many a treat jam packed with all sorts of ingredients that are terrible for me, and I know it.  That’s just how it is.

But every once in a while, probably because of my bad influence, he surprises me. Of all the things on a menu, he’ll order the one I would least expect him to. That’s what happened recently when we went to Shake Shack, the always crowded, always smile-inducing delicious burger joint on the Upper West Side.

There's a whole lot of deliciousness going on here.

I ordered first: an order of fries and a small cup (which turned out to be a pretty large small cup) of frozen custard in the flavor of the day, “Bee Mine” (vanilla custard blended with strawberry puree, honey and rosewater). Then I slid over to let Flaneur order: a Shack Stack burger and a vanilla milkshake.

“What’s that?” I asked as my eyes scanned the wall-mounted menu, before reaching the last item on the burger list. “Shack Stack: cheeseburger and a ‘shroom burger topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce.”

Wait a minute. What’s a ‘shroom burger then?

“Shroom burger: crisp fried Portobello filled with melted Muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce.”

I was stunned. He was a getting a cheeseburger topped with a big, fat, cheese-stuffed Portobello mushroom on it, basically two sandwiches in once! And so much cheese!

The only way you're mouth isn't watering is if you're a vegetarian or blind.

After waiting and whining about being hungry, then nudging through the packed restaurant, and then staring down people who were done eating and just lingering around, we planted our tray at an open table in the corner.

The burger looked interesting, practically open-faced and oozing cheese from all angles, but there was no food envy from this girl. My fries were fantastic: the ideal size, color, consistency and above all, taste! And I swear I didn’t order them because the menu said, “100% free of artificial trans fats and made from Yukon Gold potatoes, 25% less fat than average fries.” (That was just a bonus.)

Frozen custard, frozen goodness.

My frozen custard, a wonderfully thick love child of ice cream and soft-serve, was rich and creamy with a nice subtle hint of the honey and rosewater amidst the strawberry. And the color was sweet too: a shadowy pink, not the garish, Pepto-Bismol pink of so many other strawberry ice creams.

Flaneur’s vanilla milk shake, made from the same vanilla frozen custard used as the base for “Bee Mine,” was also creamy and dense, much more like something you’d eat with a spoon than through a straw. But it works out better that way. If it were any more liquid, the whole thing would be gone with the first slurp.

But the star of this show was without a question, the Shack Stack burger. The second Flaneur bit into it, his whole face lit up like a Christmas tree. It was a mouthful of happiness.

“You gotta try this,” he said, cheeks puffed out as he continued chewing.

I took the burger, not quite sure how to attack it so that I got a little bit of everything. I must’ve looked like a python about to unhinge its jaw and swallow a horse.

As I chomped down on the Shack Stack, the warm melted cheese oozed into my mouth and mixed with the juicy patty, the crunchy breaded Portobello and the tomato and lettuce, to make for one of the best burger mouthfuls I’ve ever had. And while it probably packed a mind-boggling amount of calories and fat grams, honestly, who even cares?

If my ever-health-conscious boyfriend did, I sure couldn’t tell.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of hamburgers

Say what you will about America, but it really is a great country. After two years in Italy, a land overrun by ass-backwards behavior, I now have an empowered sense of patriotism for the good ol’ U.S. of A. A renewed appreciation for its ideals of freedom, justice and opportunity. But most of all, a sincere gratitude for one of its best attributes: the hamburger.

Got a little squished in transit, but still deeee-lish!

Now, that’s not to say you can’t find good burgers abroad. You can. They’re just better (and more prevalent) in the U.S. So when a weekend trip took me, the bf and a friend to our nation’s capital, it only seemed right to eat burgers while we were there.

Washington, D.C. has lots to offer: museums, monuments and Good Stuff Eatery. Vanessa, the friend who came with me this weekend, was the one who told me about Good Stuff, and well, I basically owe her a kidney for it. Started by Chef Spike from Season 4 of Top Chef, Good Stuff is a casual place with an easy menu: burgers, fries and shakes, with a couple variations on these standard American good eats.

A burger with no fries is just wrong.

So in honor of our being in the capital, I went for a burger named after its most famous inhabitant: Obama.  A juicy beef patty topped with applewood bacon, red onion marmalade, horseradish mayo and Roquefort cheese, all squished between two soft, buttery buns. The President might not have won everyone over, but the Prez Obama Burger? A landslide victory.

But no burger-eating experience would be complete without fries so we split an order of Sunny’s handcut fries. These were good- perfectly salted and just a bit soft, how I like them- but what made them great was definitely the mayo bar: chipotle, siracha, mango and Old Bay mayos to choose from, in addition to the standard ketchup, mayo and mustard. Naturally, I got all of them.

This isn't just good... it's genius.

And last, but absolutely not least, was my favorite part of the meal: the toasted marshmallow milkshake. Thick and creamy, with a couple slightly browned marshmallows sitting on top, this shake was concentrated, glorious gluttony at its finest.

And in my book, that is always good stuff.

(Someone cue the Star Spangled Banner…)