A great, gooey gimmick

No one does over the top, gimmicky food quite like New York. There’s the giant soup dumpling you slurp with a straw, the technicolor rainbow bagel, the cookie dough scooped into cones and eaten like ice cream. The more outlandish and calorie laden the better.

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Grilled cheese fantasies come to life

And while I occasionally roll my eyes at the line of people snaking down the block at any of the places turning out these food fetish creations, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had my share, and I too, have waited in some pretty stupid lines to get a taste of the moment’s food craze. (Cronut, I’m looking at you.)

When I heard about this next thing I immediately thought, “Oh Jesus Christ, that’s absurd” followed immediately by “I must have it.” And so my roommate and I compared schedules, nailed a date, and off we went in search of Clinton Hall‘s Flamin’ Hot Doughnut Grilled Cheese.

Made of gooey, melted mozzarella pressed between two Doughnut Project habanero bacon glazed doughnuts in place of bread, the glorious and oh-so-gluttonous flamin’ hot grilled cheese sandwich is served looped through a hook and dangled over a bowl of thick, hot tomato soup for dipping.

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Worth every last calorie.

Even though doughnuts are involved, the sweet element is minimal here, with just the tiniest, subtle sweetness coming through the layers of cheese and butter and doughy, bacony goodness. The tomato soup, which I  often find to be too runny or acidic, was neither. It was thick and creamy, just the right amount of tomatoey sweet with a peppery kick, perfect to complement the grilled cheese.

Even though Clinton Hall only offers 20 of these per day Friday through Sunday, we showed up  just after noon on a Sunday and didn’t have to fight any crowds or freeze our grilled cheese loving asses off standing outside in any lines. A couple of tables had them and obviously there was lots of gawking and picture snapping, but that’s how it goes with these food fads. But if they’re as good as this sandwich was, I don’t really care who’s watching or taking pictures or rolling their eyes. I’ll be the one licking my fingers and doing the little happy dance.

Pizza worth praising from the mountaintop… or from this blog

I don’t blog about every single thing I eat, and contrary to what my friends might think, I don’t photograph every piece of food I put in my mouth either. When I went to Paulie Gee’s Pizza in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for example, I had no intention of doing either. I was just having pizza. With friends. In Brooklyn. Nothing to write home about, right? Wrong. 

The Cherry Jones pizza at Paulie Gee's is so damn good that it's almost physically impossible to put down after one bite. I ate two slices before I was able to successfully pause the pizza-shoveling. (In the lower right hand corner, the very green and very tasty Arugula Shmoogula.)

Immediately after biting into the Cherry Jones pizza I ordered, I knew I’d have to get my camera out because I just had to show you this crazy-good pizza. Well, it wasn’t quite immediate though, because once I bit into that first slice and got hit with the insane flavors of creamy, pungent gorgonzola, milky fior di latte mozzarella, perfectly salty prosciutto, tart dried cherries and a drizzle of sweet orange blossom honey, I literally couldn’t pry it away from my mouth. I was about two slices in when I forced myself to put down the pizza just long enough to get one decent picture before there was nothing left but crumbs.

I had heard (or read I should say), from a pretty reliable source, that Paulie Gee’s was good, that it was creative and unusual, but I was in no way prepared for just how much I would love the Cherry Jones. I mean, it was outrageously good. It was mind-blowingly good. It was glaaaadly-take-the-stupid-G-train-all-the-way-to-Greenpoint good.

So while I had no intention of getting into all of this with you, the Cherry Jones left me no choice. If you didn’t already know, then it’s my absolute duty as a relatively decent human being to tell you about the deliciousness that is Paulie Gee’s. Be it by train, plane or automobile, or the wretched G train even, get yourself to Paulie Gee’s, cause it’s definitely something to write home about. (Just make sure to snap your pictures before you dig in.)

Paulie Gee's on Urbanspoon

A bit of Firenze in the West Village

Yes, the hilly countrysides were pretty, and all the renaissance masterpieces were nice, but really, sometimes it’s the simplest things about living in Italy that I miss the most, like panini with just prosciutto and cheese. No condiments, no garnishes, no frills. Bread, meat, cheese. That’s it.

And as if the universe heard my internal longing (or perhaps my stomach growling) I found the place to get just that, bread, meat, and cheese, sandwiched together into blissful deliciousness.

Firenze: proscitto di Parma and mozzarella

Il Cantuccio, in the West Village and just a few blocks from my apartment, is like my boyfriend, a transplant from Tuscany, though not precisely Florence and instead nearby Prato. And what I found out when I went there this weekend, is that it’s the perfect place to get a neighborhood fix for the kind of panini I used to get in Florence. Continue reading

“Reunited and it feels so good”

I just came back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Italy. (I know what you’re thinking. Who goes to Italy for the weekend? It was for a wedding, alright? Jeez.) But it wasn’t all about celebrating other people’s love. I was there to see a  couple of my own loves, too. Yes, I’m mainly talking about my boyfriend who’s been flaneuring around Italy while I’ve been in California, but more specifically as it relates to this blog, I was there for something else, my all-time favorite sandwich: the #15 from Antico Noè, served by my all-time favorite, muscly armed panino maker, Luca. ::sigh::

My favorite sandwich of all time, the #15 at Antico Noè

Flaneur and I only had a couple of hours to spend in Florence before having to be elsewhere for wedding festivities, so the million dollar question was where to eat lunch. Now, really, this isn’t a fun question to be asked. I could name 20 places I wanted to have lunch in it. New places, old places, panino places, sit-down places, gelato places (yes, gelato can be lunch), the choices were endless. But since I knew convincing Flaneur to have more than one lunch in the course of a couple of hours wasn’t going to be likely, I had to go with the one place I hold nearest and dearest to my fat little heart: Antico Noè. Continue reading

Arepa appetizer

In all it's round, golden, corn glory: the arepa

I love carnival food but hate carnivals. Street fairs, though, the type that pop up in New York on weekends during the warm weather months, are cool with me. All of the corn-on-the-cob, gyros  and funnel cake I could ask for with none of the roaring rollercoasters, tacky arcade games or screaming children. What’s not to like?

Flaneur and I were recently on our way to get lunch with a friend when we stumbled upon a street fair running along the stretch of Third Avenue near our apartment. I saw a carnival food classic I more closely associate with my Miami upbringing and I had to have it.  I beelined toward the small stand under a banner proclaiming: “Arepas.” Continue reading

Remembering “The Best Salad Ever”

Now THAT’S a good looking salad!

A few years ago during my first summer in Italy, I had a salad so good, so fresh and delicious, so dead-on in hitting the spot on that sweltering July day, that immediately after polishing it off I proclaimed it “The Best Salad Ever.”

I’m not sure anymore if it was the salad itself that was so amazing or if it was just part of an amazing day and that’s why I remember it being so great, but all I know is that no other salad has ever left such an impression on me.

It had been a day ripe with stereotypes of la dolce vita. It was early on in my courtship with Flaneur and to really perpetuate stereotypes about silly American girls and the Italian men that chase them, we decided to rent a Vespa. We were spending the day on the beautiful (and ridiculously packed full of tourists) island of Capri and wanted an easy way to get around. Cramming into a non-air conditioned, overcrowded bus to then ride back and forth through Capri’s uphill twisty roads was basically a recipe for major motion sickness. So off we went, Flaneur driving and me latched onto his back like a koala.

After zipping around the island, soaking up the sun and generally loving life, we drove over to Punta Carena on the western side of the island, Anacapri, to check out the lighthouse.  We walked around the rocky shore, taking in the ocean view and snickering at the many slicked-down-in-tanning-oil sunbathers perched on the rocks, their skins resembling less like skin and more like fine leather handbags. Because Punta Carena is slightly more secluded than the rest of the island, when lunchtime came around there were only two choices: identical outdoor sandwich bars full of bathing suit clad Italians.

We picked one, Da Antonio, and after skimming the brief menu of salads and sandwiches, both of us settled on the same salad.

It’s a salad. No big deal, right? That’s what you’d think. Hell, that’s what I thought as I waited for it to come out. But when it arrived, piled high into a big round bowl, that salad was so much more than I expected. Lettuce, radicchio, tuna, tomatoes, capers, fresh mozzarella, onions and croutons, all under a generous pour of olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper. Again, no big deal, right? Wrong. This salad was great and with every bite came a burst of flavors and textures: creamy, soft mozzarella, round, salty little capers, sweet, juicy tomatoes.

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the fact that we’d built up an appetite. Maybe it was fresh ingredients. Whatever it was, that salad was fantastic, and to this day, the best salad I’ve ever had.

Fast-forward to a few days ago at the supermarket as Flaneur and I tried to decide what to buy and make for the following nights. A lightbulb went off and the idea to recreate The Best Salad Ever was born.

So last night I lovingly rinsed, chopped and mixed everything into a bowl and sat down to enjoy my favorite salad with the person I’d originally discovered it with. But alas, while the salad was good (and filling too) it was not The Best Salad Ever. Maybe it was the cramped living room, the unexotic Murray Hill or the bagged lettuce and canned olives, but the magic just wasn’t there. But the effort was and that made it an enjoyable dinner. And so The Best Salad Ever lives on in Capri and Da Antonio goes up on the places-to-go-back-to list.