A favorite hobby of mine is waking up on a weekend and hopping into the city for lunch. This is a way better hobby than getting up and, say, working out. Unfortunately, the prejudices of others conspire to keep us away from lunch menus on weekends. See, for some reason, on weekends, restaurants feel the need to abandon the food that makes them successful, the food which is the manifestation of the chef's vision, the food that makes them stand apart from their competitors, the food that people rave about on blogs, and instead of making that food, they're making freakin' pancakes and eggs and yogurt with granola. Oh, and they mix sparkling wine and orange juice.
This clearly drives me up a wall, and makes our weekend dining decisions that much more complex and time-intensive.
Thankfully there are a few (well, thousands probably) restaurants that will serve decent, non-brunch food in NYC, including Blue Smoke, North End Grill (both being Danny Meyer restaurants...I guess he knows what he's doing), and as we found out last weekend, Fatty Crab.
A recent trip to Tarry Market in Port Chester yielded a nice chunk of guanciale. Normally I'd be making pizza carbonara, but I was looking for a tomato sauce-based pie. The obvious direction was pizza all'amatriciana, based on the fabulous pasta dish.
For the sauce, I use Pomi brand strained tomatoes, right out of the box, just as I always do. I'm not a fan of cooked sauces on pizza. I'm looking for bright, fresh, clean flavors. The rest of the ingredients are simply placed on the pie as it's being built.
Heat some chopped/diced guanciale in a pan, rendering some of the fat (which will be drizzled on the pizza), and giving a nice crunch/chew to the guanciale.
The onions should have been on the sauce, but I just kinda forgot until the end
The dough (made from a sourdough starter, slow rise in the fridge for 3-4 days) gets some salt and pepper, and then goes the sauce. Not too much. Less is more.
Thinly sliced onions on the sauce. They melt away when cooked on a pizza, lending a sweetness and subtle onion flavor. A bit of salt and pepper and red pepper flake as well.
Minced garlic is strewn about.
Throw some fresh basil on there. Why not. I usually dip it in my bowl of Pomi so it doesn't burn in the oven.
A bit of low moisture mozzarella cheese. Again, not too much.
Grated Pecorino Romano, of course.
That guanciale goes on along with a drizzle of the oil.
The pizza is cooked following the method I've been using for some time: two ovens as, hot as they go, preheating for well over and hour, and opening the door to let the air cool down once the element cycles off. This causes the element to go back on, adding more heat to the stone. Both stones on the top(pish) racks, 2 inches from the element. My stone is about 650 degrees when I put the pie in. The pie cooks for just about 2.5 minutes, and then it's slid into the second oven, which has been set to broil at the time I put the pizza in the first oven. This gives that second stone a blast of heat, ensures that the second stone is screaming hot as well, and gets the element screaming hot for the last 30 seconds of cooking. I've tried many variations with the stone placement, and the results are never as good as what I get with this approach. This is how I get 3 minute pizzas (sometimes quicker), from my regular ol' electric ovens.
I should have topped the finished pizza with parsley, but I completely forgot. Next time.
This will be in the regular rotation. Give it some consideration for your own experiments.
Tonight will be pasta all'amatriciana, based on Mario Batali's recipe, and I couldn't be happier.
Table with a view at Sunshine's, overlooking the compound
Sunshine's website says "no visit is complete without a stop in at Sunshine's where you can meet the legend himself, Sunshine." I think they're right.
The colorful little shack call Sunshine's is located on Pinney's beach just south of the Four Seasons resort on Nevis. In a compound which also includes Lime and Chevy's. No doubt you've heard this a million times if you've looked for info on Sunshine's. I suspect the rest of this report will sound familiar as well, but that won't stop me.
Sunshine's interior. Casual and comfortable, much like Nevis.
My expectation was that I'd be going to Sunshine's for their famous rum cocktail called "The Killer Bee." I did not realize that the food is outstanding as well. But first those Killer Bees...
It was Small Business Saturday, and the plan was to support a small business, local to us. That never happened, but we did drive out to Westport, CT, to try the Black Duck Cafe (featured on Triple D a few years back). It was a fine little spot. I mention this because I noticed that right down the street from the Black Duck is Tarry Lodge, the Batali-Bastianich restaurant that I'd long heard about, but never considered driving to. We stopped in for a looksee, and liked what we saw. A bit of googling lead us to the realization that there's another Tarry Lodge, closer to t:e headquarters, in Port Chester, NY. Which is where we ended up for lunch the next day.
And I say all of that to bring me to the Tarry Market, which we found is right next door to the Tarry Lodge in Port Chester. What a great little spot. Artisanal salumi and bacon, great looking vegetables, some ready-to-eat dishes, excellent staff, and a glass-front refrigerator displaying slowly rotting meat. Dry-aged meat, that is to say. I had to get some. At 30 bucks a pound (the same price as the not dry-aged stuff apparently), I thought it was a pretty good deal.
I asked how long the short loin had been holed up in that fridge, and the fella told me "about 50 days." I'm not sure I believe that, as 50 days is quite a long time to dry-age beef. What I do know is this strip steak was incredibly tender, and flavorful, no doubt thanks in part to the butter/fat treatment I like to give steak...
Here's the thing about Peter Luger's steak: it tastes funky. You can really taste the aging on those steaks. I've had dry-aged steak from various sources, at various restaurants, and not one gets to that level of flavor and funk. I started thinking that perhaps that butter sauce of theirs also contains tallow or beef fat. Fat from those big old nasty rotting carcasses. Even if I'm wrong, I've found that this is a great way to get that flavor on your steak. Here's what I do:
Awful Arthur's is located on Beach Road, right across from the beach in Kill Devil Hills. The vibe is definitely "shore" and nautical, and the big long bar seemed packed with regulars and locals. Every single table was taken at lunchtime on a weekday. This place seems to do a business.
We stumbled on The Kill Devil Grill whilst searching for decent places to eat during a recent trip to the Outer Banks. OBX has a shit ton of restaurants, most of which are mediocre as far as I can tell. But, there are a few gems, and The Kill Devil Grill is one of them.
Situated right across from the beach on Beach Road, you'd think it'd be another somewhat sticky, sandy, kitschy place. But it's not. It's clean, sleek, and cool...and somewhat kitschy (a tiny old diner with an addition on the back). More importantly, the food is damned good.
Representatives from the t:e organization found themselves at Rhodes North Tavern in Sloatsburg, NY, recently, and boy were we impressed.
If you're like me, you've probably driven past this place a bunch of times, and thought "hmm, looks like an interesting biker bar," but then never pulled the trigger. That was a mistake on my part, and on yours as well.
Our first impression when pulling into the parking lot was "woah, this place is packed." Thankfully, it's quite a large space, and all of those people from those cars found their way to some place other than the large, square bar, where we gleefully set up shop.
Right from go, we felt as if we were in another world. While Sloatsburg is only a few miles from the New Jersey border, there seems to be a, umm, cultural difference from your average Bergen County restaurant. In a completely good way. Was it due to the country pop music playing over the sound system? Hey listen, I hate country pop as much as the next guy (although I loves me some Big & Rich), but when subjected to it on a Sunday afternoon, you just can't help but think you're on vacation. Like in South Carolina or something. In a completely good way.
Have you had enough of New Jersey? Here at the t:e organization, we get that way, generally several times a year. But, this is a self-proclaimed "New Jersey-centric" blog, so the "editor" refrains, for the most part, from talking about food from other parts of the globe.
On the one hand, I think this focus makes tommy:eats a unique blog; after all, its purpose isn't to focus on the "editor-in-chief" and his personal exploits and various interests outside of food (you know little about me, and I prefer to keep it that way). But rather, its purpose is to focus on the good stuff in, and sometimes around, New Jersey. You come here, and you read about food. No bullshit, no filler.
But, alas, I, the "managing editor" of tommy:eats, do run out of New Jersey-centric topics on which to opine, as any reader no doubt realizes. This is largely due to the fact that I rarely post about a restaurant that I simply do not like...of which there are many, at which many of my dollars are spent. These are wasted meals, and wasted opportunities to share a good experience...not to mention wasted money.
So what's an "editor-at-large" supposed to do? Just ignore his fan base? Well, yes, usually. And you will be especially ignored if you think I fancy myself an "editor." Maybe change the rules a bit?
There is, I should note, a precedent for this rule tweaking. As you no doubt don't recall, I enjoyed the hell out of the navel-gazing Lollapalooza report from my first year with this blog. I wrestled with posting it, as it wasn't NJ-centric. But at the end of the day it made me very happy to share that experience with people. After all, it contained reports of hot dogs, steaks, burgers, pizza, and music. And if you don't enjoy at least one of those things, you're probably not reading this right now.
Something's got to give here at the t:e organization. To heck with it! We love NJ, but there's a lot more good stuff out there, just over the Jersey border somewhere, right? And some of you might even end up where that stuff is.
So who wants to hear about Texas BBQ? WOO-HOO! Let's do this thing.