Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Las Vegas - Um, yikes.

Seriously, this place is so strange. I was looking forwad to elegant meals and so far it's been a total let down. I still have a few days so we'll see what happens.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Daisy May's - BBQ From the Grave

It’s very rare that I visit the graves of restaurants that have been retired to my culinary cemetery. With so many fantastic restaurants in this city, there is almost no reason to return to a place where I have had multiple meals of rudimentary cuisine. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Sometimes my desire for a certain genre of food (Barbeque, Tex-Mex, Diner, etc…) outweighs my distaste for a specific establishment, and despite knowing that my meal will be less than satisfactory, I eat there by default. Other times I succumb to a group mentality, where expressing an opinion will cause more disdain than it’s worth. And finally, there are times when a free meal is a free meal and we’ll leave it at that.

Earlier this week my boss surprised everybody by offering to buy lunch for the entire office. As word quickly spread of the gratis meal, everyone began to opine on what we should order. Some suggested sushi (trite), some suggested deli (boring) and some suggested pizza (not expensive enough when someone else is picking up the tab). As I’ve mentioned before, I am manic for barbeque. There are times when I get such an enormous craving for dry-rubbed, smoked meat that I’ll say anything, do anything and go anywhere (even to some restaurant that I had already sworn off) to get my hands on that tender, sweet good stuff. With that in mind, I boisterously argued that we should get barbeque, knowing full well that (unfortunately) the only place we would be ordering from would be Daisy May’s.

To be fair, I do not hate Daisy May’s but more often than not I have overpaid for an underwhelming meal. The first meal I had there were the Memphis Dry Rub Pork Ribs ($11.50 / Half Rack), which were small, dry and seawater salty (to the point of gagging). Next was the Turkey Leg Special, which was a ginormous sinewy leg of meat that was bone dry and utterly tasteless (except for, of course, the salt). Although two bad meals should have knocked this place off my restaurant list for good, there came a time last winter when my cravings got the better of me and I found myself ordering the Texas Chopped Beef Brisket Sandwich with Pickles and Onions ($9.50). Although the sandwich was tender, moist and covered with a sweet and slightly spicy BBQ sauce, it just didn’t meet the standard of any Beef Brisket Sandwich I had eaten when I lived in Texas. Three strikes and your out: I dutifully removed Daisy May’s and vowed (to anyone who would listen) to never return again.

Or so I thought, because here I was, only a few months later (with my tail between my legs), staring at the newly revamped menu of Daisy May’s. I decided to order a side of creamed spinach ($3.50, tried and true) and wanting to try something new, I ordered the Oklahoma Jumbo Beef Rib ($14). Just before ordering, I realized that all the other rib dishes implied multiple ribs, while this dish implied only one rib. Sure it was a few dollars more than the half racks, but I wanted to make sure that I was going to have enough food. I called over to the restaurant and engaged in a conversation that went something like this:

“Hello, is this Daisy May’s?”
“I’m calling about the Oklahoma Jumbo Beef Rib.”
“Is it only one rib?”
“Will it be enough for a meal?”
(Pause) “Yes.” (Click)

So with that, I pl aced my order and waited to see if the BBQ gods would again frown upon me or, for once, bestow me with saucy smiles of tender goodness.

Permit me to go off on a small tangent and ask, “What should be considered a large portion?” Many people consider that an appropriate serving of food is the size of your two fists placed together and that any more than that is unhealthy, indulgent and, in some cases, absurd. So when my nine-inch, three and half pound rib was delivered to me, it was easy to see that my two fists paled in comparison. At first, the rib seemed more like a visual gag than something I was supposed to consume, but its overpowering sweet smell and perfect, molasses color reminded me that this was something to be devoured, but how to tackle it? I tried picking up the rib, only to have the hunk of meat immediately fall off the bone and back into the plastic tray. My next move was to pick up my fork and attempt to pull apart the meat, which I did with easily. To say the meat was simply tender would be an understatement. The meat was so soft that my fork went through it like a hot knife through butter. The meat dissolved in my mouth and hit all the proper notes of traditional barbeque: a cooked-in-smokiness, an evenhanded mix of fat and meat and a balanced, salty sweet aftertaste. Touché, Daisy May’s, touché.

Needless to say, I polished off the entire rib much to the astonishment of my co-workers and much to the dismay of my stomach. I spent the rest of the day contemplating that rib and thinking about how amazing it is that one dish can change one’s perception about a restaurant. And for those of you who care, Daisy May’s has risen from the grave and received a new lease in my culinary life.

Daisy May's BBQ is located at 623 11th Ave in New York City.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

That Chinese Restaurant, You Know, The One With The Yellow Canopy On East Broadway?

One of the greatest college discoveries I ever made was the discovery of the Chinatown Express. For those who don’t know, the Chinatown Express is a shady network of busses that travel from different Chinatowns for a mind blowing cheap rate. While everyone who has traveled via these busses has their own horror story to share (mine includes massive amounts of blood on a McDonald’s bathroom floor), it’s impossible to deny their efficiency in both speed and cost. Although I appreciate both the break-neck velocity and economical aspects of this travel choice, there is very little else I look forward to when having to travel this way. In fact, the only other part of traveling I look forward to are the self-enforced mandatory meals I eat upon departure. Fast, appetizing and (of course) easy on the wallet, a good meal in Chinatown guarantees both fresh and scrumptious food. Whether it’s a sweet pork bun, a hot bowl of noodles or a crispy brown dumplings, Chinatown is still the undisputed king of delicious, discounted delicacies.

Last week my brother and I were headed home for a small family reunion and instead of the traditional “pork-bun-grab-and-run”, we decided to head down to Chinatown early for a sit down meal. As we exited the East Broadway station, we realized that although we wanted a traditional meal, we had no idea where we were going to dine. We headed towards the bus and we passed a few restaurants, but none that caused our mouths to salivate. As we got closer and closer to the bus, it looked like we were going to be relegated to sweet buns once again, that was until we spied a beacon in the form of a yellow canopy, located at 141 East Broadway.

I will own up to the fact that I have no idea what the restaurant was called. In fact, I really have no idea what the menu was, but when my brother and I saw “Noodles” and “$3.50” we knew we had found our place. As soon as we walked in, we were approached by the waitress/cook, who quickly took our order. Through broken English and gesturing, we ordered the fried pork noodles ($3.50) and the fried pork dumplings ($1.50 for 10) and grabbed seats at the counter. The waitress/cook exchanged a few words with a bored, apron-clad man sitting in the back and with much dejection, he lifted himself out of his seat and grabbed a bowling ball sized bowl lump of dough. At first we thought he was making our dumplings, but we quickly realized that the more he pounded and stretched that unshapely chunk of dough, that it was being transformed into gorgeous links of fresh noodles.

In almost no time at all our meal was ready and let’s just say the prices did not reflect the quantity. Presented before us was a heaping bowl of noodle soup, topped with crispy, golden fried pork, and ten, plump and glistening dumplings. The soup was not much more than the noodles and the pork, but that didn’t matter. The freshness of the noodles cut through the saltiness of the broth, while the moist, sweetness of the pork gave the dish a fully rounded flavor. The dumplings were perfectly fried on the bottom, while nice and doughy on the top. The meat inside was luscious and brackish and cooked to a nice pinkish brown. And with the meal costing only seven dollars (that included two bottles of water) it was the perfect snack to send us on our way home.

The “Yellow Canopy Chinese Restaurant on East Broadway” is located at 141 East Broadway in New York City.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nothing To Report But Grilled Meat and Wet Feet

Between the fireworks, world cup, massive bbq and non-stop rain, I've got nothing. I promise to gorge over the weekend.