Waitrose Food Illustrated, the British magazine put out by the Waitrose supermarket chain, recently listed its “100 Greatest Moments in Food,” and, initially at least, the Underground Gourmet along with the gluttonous staff at Sandwich of the Week couldn’t have been more pleased had someone sent them a six-foot hoagie. Coming in at No. 2 on the list, you see, right after the harnessing of fire for cooking purposes, was John (4th Earl of Sandwich) Montagu’s invention of the sandwich.
“It’s a man’s man’s man’s world,” James Brown once sang. Was it the official anthem of the restaurant world? Sometimes it seems like that, but this week’s issue has eight reasons to the contrary. The names of the first seven are April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig), Rebecca Charles (Pearl Oyster Bar), Alex Guarnaschelli (Butter), Sara Jenkins (formerly of 50 Carmine), Anita Lo (Annisa), Jody Williams (Morandi), and Patricia Yeo (formerly of Monkey Bar and Sapa). All talked about a woman’s place in the kitchen in a special New York forum. The eighth reason? Alex Raij, whose new tapas restaurant, El Quinto Pino, gets three stars from the Underground Gourmet. All this, and a recipe for pan-roasted chicken (plus a video!), come at you in this week’s issue of New York.
A Woman’s Place?Small Is Beautiful In Season: Pasture Raised Chicken [NYM]
There is no end to what you can shove between two slices of bread and call a sandwich, and that, of course, is the beauty of the thing. But is everything edible suitable sandwich material?
That was the point brought up for debate the other night at El Quinto Pino, the new taperia from the Tía Pol folks, where the UG tucked into a ficelle smeared with rich blobs of sea-urchin roe. Oddly, the sandwich in question was listed on the otherwise all-Spanish chalkboard menu as an “uni panini.” It came swaddled in a wax-paper jacket like a Danny Meyer Shackburger, still warm from a gentle turn in the sandwich press and smeared with butter flavored with a zingy Korean mustard oil. And although it was only about the size of a Tootsie Roll and the UG could have finished it off in a bite and a half, it was the kind of toothsome tidbit you want to savor slowly.
When an international celebrity of Luciano Pavarotti’s magnitude dies, it’s only to be expected that there will soon follow a flood of posthumous recordings. But what to make of the posthumous hoagie?
That was the question on the Underground Gourmet’s mind after the Golden Tenor had taken his final bow, and Walter Momente, the owner of the Soho sandwich shop Alidoro, had decided that a fitting tribute to the opera superstar would be to meticulously layer salami, smoked mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and sweet peppers into a titanic semolina loaf and call it the Pavarotti. “We had to do something for him,” says Italian-born Momente. “Besides, I am a huge soccer fan, and before he became a singer, Pavarotti was a very good professional soccer player.”
The current issue of New York features a command performance by Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld. Their extensive guide to the new trend of food markets spun off from restaurants belongs on every New Yorker's refrigerator door these stores are "stocked with the precision and artistry of museum curators." And in their guise as the Underground Gourmet, they introduce us to a former art-supply store now serving what the Robs say is some of the best Mexican food in Brooklyn. Something tells us Dumbo General Store is going to be packed this week.
The annual Cheap Eats issue arrives this week and represents, as usual, a massive compendium of low-end gastronomic wisdom. The Underground Gourmet round up some of the city’s very best cheap eats in the main section, but Adam Platt also weighs in on what passes for cheap in the city’s high-end places, some top chefs give their own picks, and three of the city’s greenmarket specialists vie to outdo each other not just in locavorism but also in “cheapavorism.” Add to that laser-focused profiles on burgers, barbecue, and Korean fried chicken, and you have a Cheap Eats supplement to put all others to shame.
If you saw Page Six last Thursday, you know that there may be a vast meatball conspiracy upon us. A quick recap of the item: Restaurateur Pino Luongo yields to no one in his devotion to the study and the making of meatballs, and along with Coco Pazzo chef Mark Strausman, he is feverishly scribbling a manuscript entitled Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen. Yet Luongo was ignominiously left out of an article by the Lee brothers in the Times’s Dining Section entitled “The Expanding Meatball Universe,” which traced the not-so-recent popularity of the things to the giant beef-veal-and-pork orbs made by Ápizz chef-owner John LaFemina (author of A Man and His Meatballs). Luongo smelled a rotten polpetta.
A good sandwich is a balanced sandwich. This, as any faithful reader of the Underground Gourmet's sandwich dispatches can tell you, goes without saying. Good sandwich-making requires not only skill but also a delicate touch. Frantically stuffing a sandwich the way cartoon bank robbers cram bills into sacks emblazoned with $$$ symbols is considered bad form among the sandwich elite, and emblematic of what is wrong, culinarily and nutritionally, with our Supersize Nation. As Mario Batali once explained to the UG in between dainty bites of a toasted panino,
“The American tendency is to obfuscate the perfect simplicity of the sandwich by putting too much crap in it.” Despite prevailing carbophobic biases and the legacy of a certain diet doctor, Batali asserted, “The bread is the main event. There shouldn't be more stuff inside than outside.”
Eating for a living takes the Underground Gourmet to all sorts of strange and mysterious places — the Upper West Side, for instance — but none more sinisterly exotic than the typical department-store café. As anyone who’s ever lunched on frozen yogurt and cantaloupe at Bloomingdale’s Forty Carrots or nibbled miniature quiche at the American Girl Cafe can attest, these shopaholic fuel stations are not the manliest places to tie on the noonday feedbag. So how the UG found himself ensconced at a petite table at Henri Bendel’s new third-floor Chocolate Bar the other day, God and Ms. UG only know.
Three words the Underground Gourmet never imagined he’d hear bandied about in a nice, respectable restaurant: Pig’s Ass Sandwich. And yet, there he was the other night at the brand-new Casellula Cheese & Wine Café surrounded by otherwise upstanding citizens speaking to their waiters in low, excited voices and putting in their orders thusly: “I’d like the Pig’s Ass Sandwich, please.”
When the Underground Gourmet ponders flashes of fusion brilliance in the sandwich realm, he thinks of Zak Pelaccio’s interpretive Cubano at 5 Ninth, made with prosciutto and Boerenkass; the Greenpoint sandwich, a.k.a., the Polish bánh mì, at Williamsburg’s Silent H; and Sullivan St. Bakery’s deranged but delicious PBM (pancetta, basil, and mango). Add to this illustrious list the tamarind-pork sandwich at Lassi.
One of the greatest gifts to the sandwich world, the Underground Gourmet has always said, is Sullivan St. Bakery’s ciabatta. With its smallish size, not-too-dense crumb, and sturdy crust, it has, over the past decade or so, become the bread of choice for discriminating sandwich chewers all over town, and, consequently, as brazenly knocked off as a Gucci handbag.
When spring comes, branches and leaves appear in the most unexpected places. This week’s food coverage is like that: There are no huge openings, analogous to maples or firs springing up overnight, but rather a rich carpet of new sprouts and saplings. Rob and Robin glory in the pig-out that is Resto, the new Belgian restaurant on Park Avenue South; Gael Greene stops in to enjoy the immense, spanking-new Landmarc in the Time Warner Center; David Chang knows just what to do with the long-awaited, precious ramps in In Season; and other unexpected treats, from a waterside barbecue in one of the Short Lists to a slew of spring Openings fill out the foliage.
It’s a sad fact of life that some of the best things to eat in restaurants never make it out of the kitchen and onto the Underground Gourmet’s plate. We’re talking about staff or “family” meals, of course, those rustic snacks that kitchen crews deem unfit for mass consumption but then greedily hoard behind kitchen doors like hungry wolves around a fresh carcass. Happily, that was not the fate of one of the best sandwiches the UG has ever sunk his teeth into, the tête de cochon at the new Belgian restaurant Resto.
The Underground Gourmet is not from Philadelphia, but if he were, according to a native Philly friend, his natural response upon being presented with Degustation’s new “cheesesteak” sandwich would be to either sue the chef for false advertising or wait for him outside the restaurant with a horsewhip. Of course, Philadelphians are born with Cheez Whiz running through their veins and that tends to cloud their judgment on such matters.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but never underestimate the creative potential of a kitchen staff with time on its hands and a deep fryer at its disposal. Take, for example, the culinary think tank that lies behind the swinging doors at Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Burger.
This week’s food section is all about pressure: A pastry chef has to cook every night for a president who hates pineapples and will send him packing at the first hint of progressive dessert-making; Vinh Nguyen, a first generation Vietnamese-American, rolls the dice with his Williamsburg restaurant Silent H, and, as far as Rob and Robin are concerned, comes up lucky seven; Jeffrey Chodorow, fresh off his battle with Frank Bruni and Adam Platt, opens a big new restaurant and hopes for the best; and four new restaurants open, surely hoping for the best as well. Even this week’s In Season is rife with tension, calling as it does for a delicate filleting operation that could easily destroy a beautifully roasted flounder. The New York food world is not for the faint of heart.
Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but April is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month. In honor of this auspicious occasion, we bring you our picks for New York’s best grilled cheese, from Keller-crafted high to Kraft-oozing low.
There’s more to Easter than binging on Peeps and throwing up in church — 2,000 years of beautiful history, for one, and special Sunday dinners for another. Last week, we told you where to have unusual Seders; this week, Rob and Robin tell us where to get the best Easter meals. Because our Borg-like database must continually grow — it will someday consume us all — we’ve nabbed you the menus. They run the gamut from old-school Easter antipasti and spaghetti with lamb ragù (at Lupa) to whole-roasted lambs (pictured above), rotated on the sidewalk in front of Estiatorio Milos. And none of them, we’re glad to report, include Peeps.
Easter Feasts: UptownEaster Feasts: Downtown [NYM]
There are many delicious things with which you could embellish a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich — if your goal was to make it even more calamitous to the waistlines of the general Filet-O-Fish-loving public than it already is. A Scotch egg, a pound of bacon, or a deep-fried Snickers bar all spring to mind. But if you really wanted to go all out, if you really wanted to vex the fast-food police, what you might do is simply plop an additional Filet-O-Fish on top of the first one.