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Posts from June 2006

Ham/salt/water: from Kings Supermarket


What is it about just about every deli counter person that makes them think that you want your ham/salt/water product sliced super thin?  We ordered the "French ham" (made in Canada - and much much better than the run-of-the-mill ham/salt/water product from Thumann's and others, what with its fat cap and all) from our local Kings Supermarket today, and made the mistake of not following up the order with "not too thin."  If you don't specify "not too thin", you get "too thin."  They should just put it in a bucket and give you a straw at that point.

As I stand there in the kitchen, pulling off little bits of the stuff (since you can't possibly get a full slice out of it), I have to wonder "why?"  So really, why?  Maybe it's easier for them to slice when the slicer is set at a thickness where it's basically just shaving off bits of the ham/salt/water product?  I'm all for easier, and I'm no stranger to taking shortcuts at my job.  But come on.  Do they prefer it this way when they bring some home for themselves?  Or do they put in the extra effort if it's for their family and slice in actual slices.

The good thing about the too thin ham/salt/water product is that I can set it on top of a bottle my (and your) favorite Mexican hot sauce (Cholula, of course), and you can still read the label and see the pretty lady.  But, regardless of how cool that is, I still maintain that you shouldn't be able to see through your pork. 


Nellie's Place: Waldwick, NJ


Update (2015): Nellie's Place has gone through a much-needed remodel. Very much in the Irish-pub theme. The regulars and the excellent pizza remain.

So, as the story goes, one of the people who worked at Kinchley's in Mahwah left and took with him the "recipe" for their thin-crust pizza.  And then he landed at Nellie's Place in Waldwick.

I don't care if the legend is true or not.  All I care about is the pizza at Nellie's.  Because it's really really tasty.  And yeah it's pretty much just like Kinchley's (which, for your reference, is very similar to the Town Pub in Bloomfield, which, as legend has it, started making pizza based on the recipe brought over by an ex-employee of the Star Tavern in Orange.  ahhh, the incestuous north Jersey pizza scene...someone should write a book). 

Other than the pizza Nellie's is largely unremarkable food-wise.  I think:  I've never had anything but the pizza and maybe some wings at some point.  I'm sure they have decent versions of whatever it is that you might order or have ordered, but the real draw here is the cracker-thin crust pizza.  And tonight, I was drawn.

The story of how I ended up at Nellie's tonight is long and boring, and it goes like this:

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craftsteak: New York, NY

Update:  Craftsteak has closed and changed concepts.

craftsteak lives where Frank's steakhouse used to live, on 10th ave at 14th Street.  Frank's was in the middle of nowhere.  craftsteak is in the middle of Morimoto, Chelsea Market, and Del Posto. Times, they be-a changin'. 

My clearest memories of Frank's include a Mark Fuhrman sighting (that detective related to the O.J. stuff back in the day), their enormous and quite delicious shrimp cocktail, and a bachelor party during which an intense case of sun-poisoning kicked in.  That was the most miserable bachelor party you could imagine.

Frank's has since moved around the corner into the Chelsea Market building, and Tom Colicchio moved into its grand old space, bringing with him a total and gorgeous renovation, a bunch of steak from "artisanal producers," a dry-aging room, and a private dining room that seats 40...although I probably wouldn't choose this room for a bachelor party.

With no less than 14 different types of steak from which to choose, you'd do well to review the menu on their website before going.  When I say "different types" of steak, I'm not talking about the typical steakhouse choices, which generally include several different cuts of 28 day dry-aged grain-fed beef and a tasteless filet mignon.  I'm talking about different cuts of steak, several ages of steak, different producers, and hell, different breeds of cow.  So what's the best approach to ordering?  Simple:  get as many people together as you can and order as many steaks as you can and share them.  A steak tasting menu.  What could be better?  craftsteak seems designed for this approach, and they're more than happy to help you sort that out.

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BBQ ribs: here's the rub

Rub_20061BBQ has become a bit of a passion for me over the past year or so.  When I say BBQ (barbeque, or barbecue, if you like), I'm not talking about "grilling," which is generally defined as cooking over high and direct heat, or the event where a bunch of people get together and eat salads and hot dogs and hamburgers and get drunk (nothing wrong with those events, though).  No, I'm talking about good old fashioned American BBQ, which is basically the process of cooking with low and indirect heat and smoke (from burning wood).  BBQ is also a noun, describing the product of the BBQing process.  Now that that's out of the way....

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Oceanos in Fair Lawn, NJ: hitting its stride


From our first to our most recent visit to Oceanos, we've noticed a continuous refinement in the cooking, and the overall approach.  It might be our imagination, but it seems that Oceanos is blossoming into what it wants to, and should, be:  a Mediterranean seafood restaurant with overtones of a classic Greek estiatorio.  At first I thought the combination could lead to, or was an indication of, a lack of focus.  Judging by what has evolved here, I clearly had no reason to worry.

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Mangia Trattoria: Glen Rock, NJ


OK, so, it's immensely popular, extremely family friendly, and generally a zoo.  It also serves lots of Italian-American style pasta (carbonara came in what seemed to be a pool of cream, for example).  So why would I bother with this place?  Well, I have to say, they make a pretty decent brick oven pizza.  You can probably do better at home, but in a pinch, Mangia Trattoria can sate your fix for some Neapolitan-style brick oven pizza, even if they are cheating a little bit.

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pepper and salt pork: at home with Dr. L riesling

Pepper_and_salt_pork1_2"Pepper and salt pork."  "Salt and pepper shrimp."  Goshdamnit every time I see any derivation of those words on a menu I get all crazy.   It's one of those dishes for which I actually get a physical craving:  the back of my throat gets all itchy and feels almost empty.  And if I don't get the flavor of Pepper and Salt Pork, I get all antsy.  And you don't want to see me when I'm antsy. 

These are dishes that are typical found on Shanghainese and Sichuan menus.  China 46 in Ridgefield, of course, has slammin' versions of these dishes.  Oh how I do love China 46.  But honestly, there're only so many times I can go to China 46 before Cecil starts really getting annoyed with me.  So, on occasion, I have to resort to making a facsimile at home.

Pepper and salt pork couldn't be simpler.  The secret ingredient isn't black pepper.  The secret ingredient is white pepper.  Ahhh, they said.  I can't stand white pepper.  It's got a weird fishiness to it that just doesn't compliment beef (beef, of course, gets the brunt of my pepper usage).  I don't even like it mixed in with black peppercorns. I recall a time about 3 years ago that I literally got into an argument with the manager of City Hall restaurant in NYC (known forever after that day as, you guessed it, "Shitty Hall"). <skip this whole part> I was really looking forward to trying their burger, as I had been reading rave reviews on it.  It came to the table, I grabbed the peppermill, and gave it a couple few-4-25 turns.  When my teeth sank into the burger, instead of getting all excited about its wonderful burgerness, I got a palate full of white pepper.  I asked the waiter why there was white pepper in a pepper mill, who said "that's the way the chef likes it."  Clearly a lie.  I asked "does the chef put white pepper on his steaks when he cooks them?"  He offered to get the chef to discuss this with me.  Well, the chef didn't come out, but the (a) "manager" did, and he said that it was a mix of peppercorns, and not white pepper (a mix, of course, is very fancy).  I opened the mill and poured about twenty into my hand, and upon noticing some random colors, he proudly and victoriously proclaimed "SEE!".  My manager friend's brain neglected to process that out of the 20 peppercorns, 17 where white.  Stupid friggin' white pepper. </skip this whole part>

Anyway, I'm almost over that episode, and I've certainly learned that white pepper is your friend (just not on burgers or steaks).  On to the quick, easy, cheap, and healthy process...

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