Previous month:
September 2014
Next month:
November 2014

Posts from October 2014

Vietnamese grilled pork with rice noodles: Bún Thịt Nướng

Vietnamese grilled pork

The satisfaction I get from preparing a simple dish, with (largely) standard supermarket ingredients, with little effort, that ultimately blows me away, is unmatched. Here's another one.

It had been quite some time since I made anything vaguely Vietnamese. For no good reason, really. I mean, we love Vietnamese food, and go to Vietnamese restaurants pretty regularly. Vietnamese food hits lots of marks. It's salty and sweet and filled with different textures. On top of that, it has lots of fresh herbs and vegetables, making it a seemingly guilt-free and healthful affair. Even when you're chomping on pork belly.

Grilled pork belly is one of our favorite dishes at Vietnamese places. It's often served with small bundles of rice noodles and vegetables, with a fishy lemonade dressing. Who doesn't like fishy lemonade? Barbarians, that's who. Of this you are assured. The fishy lemonade dressing is, of course, nuoc cham, the ubiquitous Vietnamese dipping sauce/dressing that I could drink for breakfast.

The dish, served as salad of sorts, is called Bún Thịt Nướng, if the internet doesn't lie. The grilled pork can also be served as bánh hỏi, when served with little bundles of rice noodle--as opposed to free-flowing rice noodle--which is meant to be wrapped in lettuce with the pork and eaten with your damned hands.

As I do, I googled the recipe and came up with a few that looked reasonable. I'll generally ignore any recipes that don't seem to be using traditional ingredients, and then sort of take the parts that make sense to me from the others.

The meat should sit in the marinade for at least an hour. I've done it over night, and that's just fine. This isn't an acid-based marinade, so the meat won't get mushy. As far as the cooking device, I highly recommend an outdoor grill, because shit's gonna get smoky. I also insist that you cook the pork on a grill pan like this one from Brinkmann.   If you cook the meat directly on your grill, chances are it's going to stick. These grill pans allow the flames to kiss the meat, while giving you a preferable cooking surface for this sticky, fatty meat.

The ingredients are very straight forward and widely available, with the possible exception of lemongrass (available near me at Whole Foods and Fairway and of course at Asian markets). Pork belly can be found at just about any Asian market, and also at Whole Foods.

Here's what I did...

Continue reading "Vietnamese grilled pork with rice noodles: Bún Thịt Nướng" »

La Bottega in Ridgewood closed, and is now Bella Notte Italian Bistro [CLOSED]


Update: 2015/03/26 Bella Notte seems to have closed.

Fans of La Bottega were probably shocked when seemingly overnight the restaurant changed names. In the blink of an eye.

Apparently the ownership hasn't changed, but the restaurant is no longer associated with the La Bottega chain. I'm told much of the staff remains the same, as well as many of the popular menu items. So if you liked La Bottega, you should probably try Bella Notte Italian Bistro, even with its unfortunate name. <rant>"Bistro" is French, not Italian. Trattoria or osteria would be more appropriate.</rant>


Ridgewood Jazz Fest: photos from 2014

IMG_4786 IMG_4162

The Ridgewood Jazz Fest is simply the best of all of the Ridgewood festivals. While most (all?) of the other events rely on roaming vendors to provide food, with their mediocre funnel cakes and sausage sandwiches, the folks at the Ridgewood Guild have pulled in local restaurants for this Jazz Fest. Add a beer/wine garden and a few top-notch bands, and you've got one helluva day in the 'wood. The only thing that would make it better is if local businesses were open on Sunday to enjoy the boost.

This year's Jazz Fest was similar to last year's inaugural. The biggest difference was an enterance fee this year (5 bucks I think). Unfortunately, this kept some people from coming. But the event was well-attended on this gorgeous late summer day, and the 5 bucks didn't seem to be bothering most people. It was quite a glorious afternoon all around.


I didn't have much time to check out the various restaurants' booths this year, but I did have some of that great fried chicken from Raymond's. When I tried to convince the owner, who was manning the booth, that they should offer fried chicken at the restaurant more often than just Wednesdays, my suggestion was met with an unforgiving blank stare. The response of "I'll take that under advisement" pretty much solidified my loss in this battle. Hey, people, I tried, OK?

While I didn't eat much, I did manage to have a few beers from the truck. This year's selection was a bit better that last year's. Coors or Bud or whatever it was still dominated the day, but there was also Blue Moon and something from Cricket Hill Brewing, IIRC. Unfortunately, the Cricket Hill stuff seemed to have a relatively high ABV, and didn't make for a long afternoon of drinking in the sun. But I managed.

In the middle of drinking beer and talking with various friends who smartly came to the fest, I took about 1000 pictures. I overshoot. That's what I do. And then it takes me a month to get through and process all of those images. But I do this, for you.

Here are a few of the photos that I didn't have to shitcan. First up, some food.

IMG_4005John from mobile vendor Flirting with Fire, working with A Mano. I have talked with John a bunch of times online through a pizzamaking forum. I introduced myself but he didn't seem to know who the hell I was. Eh, I prefer it that way. Give John a call if you're looking for a pizza party. The guy can make a pie.

IMG_4005Le Bon Choix.

IMG_4005The drinkers were forced to stand behind a fence. As usual. I prefer this that way as well.

IMG_4005Rob, manager of Park West Tavern.

IMG_4005Excellent fried chicken from Raymond's


And now the music. First up, Luba Mason. The initial photos aren't very good as I didn't have my camera set very well. After the jump...

Continue reading "Ridgewood Jazz Fest: photos from 2014" »

B Spot Burgers: Michael Symon's place in Cleveland, OH

B spot wall

We're big fans of (Iron) Chef Michael Symon. He makes us laugh when we watch The Chew. His humor is at times juvenile, and he cracks up at the most ridiculous stuff. This is very entertaining to us (probably because I exhibit the same qualities). Motivated only by this fandom and curiosity, and a hangover, we took the 20 minute drive to B Spot, his fast-casual burger chain. Not the one in downtown Cleveland, since that one is in a depressing-as-ass casino, but rather one of the ones in the suburbs of Cleveland. Way out somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

B spot neighborhood

Did I say nowhere? It could have been anywhere. We pulled into a complex that was designed in a boardroom, presumably to resemble Mayberry-in-Hell. Think "The Truman Show." Or "Long Branch, NJ." Or anything that refers to itself as "Shops at the Promenade." At least there was valet parking on this crappy, dreary, raining day.

Continue reading "B Spot Burgers: Michael Symon's place in Cleveland, OH" »