Rainy day beach feast

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You know, just a colorful day at the beach.

If I’m at the beach and the sun is out in all its glory and so am I, letting it all (or most of it) hang out in a bikini and sunglasses,  I try to watch what I eat. (Puppy belly’s not a sexy look for me.)

But if I’m at the beach and the sky fills with dark clouds and then bursts open with buckets of rain, the way it did last time I was at the beach with friends, the only thing to do is head for cover… and food.  Since we were near the cluster of food stalls on Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk at 97th St., that’s where we ran, huddled under umbrellas while the rain blew in sideways.

There were lobster rolls, arepas, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos, each stall sounding more appealing than the last, but it was the farthest one, the one tucked away at the very end, that we beelined to: the Bolivian Llama Party. (I told you I love llamas, no?)

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Nachos, Bolivian style.

First out were our Bolivian nachos, a gorgeous, colorful mountain of quinoa tortilla chips and plantain chips under and over pools of black beans, creme fraiche, cheese sauce, scallions, Llajua (a fiery Bolivian hot sauce) and magenta hued pickled onions. And to make a good thing great my friend added pulled pork. While I’m a fan of good ol’ fashioned lowbrow nachos, these were a fun twist, full of zest, flavor and spice.

To take our rain induced gorging up a notch (or three), we ordered the enormous triple pork sandwich, a delicious behemoth of tender roasted pig, thick-cut home cured bacon, and my favorite indulgence, pork belly, this one with just the perfect crackling edges to complement the fatty meat. Topping it all was a spicy mayo like sauce, shredded pickled carrots and cilantro, making this one of the messiest yet most-worth-the-juices-running-down-your-arm sandwiches I’ve encountered.

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A hot mess… in the sloppiest, best ways

For good measure, we also had a few orders of BLP’s papitas, or fries, some of the cilantro kind, crunchy and piping hot, tossed in garlic, white wine and pecorino and drizzled with a bright green sauce made from quiquina, a Bolivian cilantro, and then the queso papitas, also crispy and crusty, coated in a thyme, salt and aji mix.

We needed something to wash down all those delicious carbs and calories, so we also tried both of BLP’s homemade sodas, the golden maracuya, a bright, bubbly passion fruit lemonade and the I-want-a-lip-color-like-this mora-hibiscus soda made from blackberries and hibiscus flowers.

Sure, no one’s tan was any better than at the start of the day, and our hair was more rained-on frizzy than wind-swept beach wavy, but our bellies were happy and full, and mercifully hidden under our rain-spattered shirts.

Mission (Chinese Food) Accomplished

Man oh man do I love the satisfaction that comes with crossing off things on my to-do lists. Even better still when that satisfying feeling of completion comes along with the happy, stuffed high of a great, big delicious meal.

Such was the case earlier this week when a friend and I finally, after talking about it over and over and meaning to go for the past year or so, went to Mission Chinese Food, the tiny, much-raved about Americanized Chinese food joint made famous in San Fran and now also located in the Lower East Side.

Dinner service starts at 5:30pm and hungry folks line up outside before the door’s even unlocked and neon sign turned on just to claim one of the few spots in the no-reservations restaurant. Right there in that line, was us, ready to scarf down our hipster Chinese grub version of an early bird special. Even though I hate early dinners, especially when the sun’s still out, I’d gladly do it again because the food totally, if you ask me, lived up to the hype.

Chili margarita

Chili margarita

To celebrate our success at A.) getting our acts together and finally making it to the restaurant and B.) actually getting seated right away, we ordered ourselves some drinks. The chili margaritas, with their orangey pink color, citrusy bite and toasted chili kick were the perfect way to start things off.

Mapo ramen

Mapo ramen

Food at Mission Chinese comes out as the kitchen finishes it and for us, first out was the mapo ramen, a generous bowl of fatty pork broth, seaweed, coddledegg, mapo tofu and ramen noodles. Like many of the dishes here, this one wasn’t shy about being packed with bright bold flavors and a fiery kick that had me breaking out in full on nose sweats. (You know, when the bridge of your nose beads up with spicy food induced sweat. Not exactly my best look.)

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Why yes, I am a Fat Pig

Sometimes I really over do it. Total overkill in the eating department. Really.

Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Fette Sau, a small, buzzy barbecue joint in Williamsburg where people gladly wait 30 to 40 minutes—outsidejust to get their grubby little fingers on smokey flavored, dry rubbed meat and cold beers was one of those nights. It was one of those nights and then some.  It was not for the weak of heart, the dainty of diets, the graceful, the delicate, the disciplined, and certainly NOT for the non-carnivores.

For size reference, each one of these trays is about 2 ft. wide. So yea, that’s a whole lotta meat piled on there.

There were four of us: three girls, one guy. To eatbrace yourselves cause this is where  things get out of handthere were two giant, paper-lined metal serving trays topped with a pound of pork belly, a pound of beef brisket, a pound of pulled pork,  four generously sized pork sausages, six soft potato rolls, a heap of tangy cole slaw, and a tub of baked beans the size of my studio apartment’s kitchen sink. Oh and for good measure, there was also a small key lime pie tart (just about the only thing we didn’t go hog-wild in ordering).

All joking aside, a good 24+ hours later I was STILL full. Really! It was such an intense amount of food, so much sticky fingered, saucy (meat was all served without, but there were an assortment of bottles at the table),  smokey, gut-sticking, artery clogging goodness. The only thing I was less than crazy about was the pork belly which was a bit on the fatty side (though I guess it’s to be expected of BELLY!) but everything else was delicious. So much so that no one could stop digging in, arms crossing over the table, scooping, squirting, sandwiching, dripping, slopping. Oh! It was gluttonous and awful and… incredible.

I spent the rest of the night (and most of the following day) in a pork and beef induced haze, feeling fat and slow, repulsed by the mere thought of food.

And the best part? Fette Sau means “fat pig” in German. Appropriate? You bet your fat ass.

Food lust

One bite in and it hit me. Pure, unadulterated joy. My whole body tensed up, my eyes squeezed shut, and inside my boots, my toes curled. It took everything in me not to slam my open palm down on the table over and over, screaming “Yes! Yes! Yeeeesss!”

Dinner at The Spotted Pig was a series of foodgasms, one right after the other. One had barely subsided when oh, wait, maybe, ohmygodohmygodohmygod BAM! Another one.

Sage and anchovy crisps

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When the going gets cold, the cold get soup

Hate the cold? Quit your bitching and get some soup.

Twice last week, I woke up to a city blanketed in fresh snow. On Monday, I walked to work, wrapped up to my ears in a thick scarf, while my fingers, though gloved and burrowed in my pocket, went numb.  At 8:30am, the thermometer struggled to creep up into the double digits.

Today, the snow was back, swirling in pretty white gusts outside my window, big fat snowflakes fluttering by dizzyingly.

Needless to say, winter is in full force in New York, and while some people absolutely hate it and are already counting down the days to spring, I for one, am enjoying it.  And why would I not, when there’s so much good soup to be had! Continue reading

Just when you thought pork belly couldn’t get better…

Little nuggets of deliciousness

It doesn’t get more diabolically delicious than fat little chunks of juicy pork belly, battered and deep fried and topped off with Maker’s Mark infused maple syrup. I mean really. Really! Did you process that? Pork belly donuts, people. Pork belly freakin’ donuts. It’s almost wrong how gluttonously awesome I think this is. Almost.

These tender mouthfuls of pork belly, moist and fluffy in their little coats of batter and syrup, were courtesy of  The Sycamore, a funky, laid-back bar in the Mission (where thanks to food like this I now regret not living in). To sell these at a place that focuses on alcohol is just pure evil genius. I’d have a hard time turning these down sober, but put so much as one drink in me and chances are I’m gonna be wolfing these down by the dozen.

Lucky for them they come in orders of six and I was splitting them with two other people. But next time, pork belly donuts? I don’t think you’ll be so lucky.

The importance of appetizers

Appetizers are the foreplay of meals. Great appetizers get you in the mood, they get you excited about what else lays in store for you. Similarly, bad appetizers can get things off to a bad start, leaving you wondering if the rest your experience will be any better. Sure, you can recover from a bad appetizer with a good entree but those points will always be deducted from the overall performance.

Last week, Flaneur and I, enjoying our last days together in New York, went on a serious restaurant bender. I don’t think we ate at home the whole week. It was glorious. One night, we went to Momofuku Ssäm Bar, which had long been on our to-do list. While everything we ate at this East Village hot spot was mouthwatering in its perfection, it was the appetizers that really did it for me.

Bread and butter is a pretty standard pre-entrée feature at most restaurants, from high-end to low, but the bread and butter on this menu was anything but average. Two warm, toasted baguettes came with two ramekins: one with a creamy, pale yellow butter mixed with sea salt and the other…oh, the other… that little ramekin of deliciousness… brace yourself… was filled with whipped lard.

Bread and butter... but better

Yes, lard. Those of you reading this will fall into two distinct groups. Some of you will be horrified. You’re thinking, “Ugh, she’s finally gone too far. She’s eating straight up fat now.” The rest of you I hope, will have had lard before and will now that in small doses and executed correctly, it can be a wonderful, amazingly delicious thing to be savored and drooled over. I felt like the first group until I lived in Italy and was given a crunchy piece of toast straight out of the oven with a thin, translucent slice of lard melting over it. It was simultaneously one of the fattiest and most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. But whipped lard? We’d never heard of that before, but it seemed like a good idea. And it was. At first, we were civilized, using the butter knife to delicately spread the lard over the toast, but after the second or third piece, both of us were using the bread to scoop big globs of lard, leaving the ramekin shiny and clean. Continue reading