House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Pineapple Rum Cake

Lunch at Peche – New Orleans

Peche was the first of Donald Link’s restaurants that we tried, a seafood-centric restaurant in a town leaning heavily towards all things fished from the Gulf.  The space is open and comfortable, the big windows along the street broadcasting light into the high-ceiling’d dining room.  Wooden tables, sturdy chairs, the back-of-house glow of the grill in the passe.  We came early for lunch, before we had to skip town, so the restaurant was just stirring to life, but a few older couples were already at the bar.  Nice way to spend a boozy mid-day in New Orleans, that’s for sure.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Better at Peche than some beer-soaked French Quarter establishment, I guess?

But we came for lunch, goddammit, and lunch we were going to have.  And lots of it.  Starting with this corn soup.  Myra ate all of this soup.  She did not save much for me, but the one spoonful of soup I had was pretty good.  Sweet and rich.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Corn Soup Crab claws, in a mint and shallot mignonette of sorts.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Crab Legs A white fish ceviche (I want to say hamachi?) topped with french fry sticks.  Very citrus-y, not sure how I felt about it.  The fish wasn’t all that noteworthy, was the main letdown.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Marinated Fish Potato Fries By god, these hush puppies.  So good, crispy, hot out of the frying pan (or deep-fryer, I guess).  Sprinkled with just the right amount of salt, and full of delicious herbs (I think scallions).House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Hush Puppies Continue reading

House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Fig Beignets

Dinner at Commander’s Palace – New Orleans

Commander’s Palace, one of the gems of the Brennan family’s wide umbrella of New Orleans hospitality empire, is a beautiful restaurant.  On a lazy, lush-green street (ominously across from a cemetery), the bright sign for Commander’s Palace Restaurant buzzes alongside the row of lanterns.  If I had a horse-drawn carriage, it would seem an appropriate entrance to the scene.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace There are multiple floors, all white tablecloth’d and dimly lit.  I felt transported to a different era, one of antebellum over-civility – and for that reason, I felt slightly out of place.  But would I allow that to get in the way of enjoying butter-laden food?

C’mon.

We kicked off with heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Tomato Bleu Cheese Salad Shrimp with pickled okra and hot pepper jelly.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Shrimp Pickled Okra Pepper Jelly Gumbo.  With smoked ham or ham hock or something fucking delicious.  Rich and smoky and RICH.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Gumbo Continue reading

House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans Louisiana Fried Chicken Lunch

Good God Almighty – Willie Mae’s Scotch House, New Orleans

I’m getting married in New Orleans, so every wedding planning visit is an opportunity to explore the city’s amazing food.  And I am, one might say, a complete sucker for fried chicken.

So I had to make the pilgrimage to Willie Mae’s, which serves up some of the city’s (and the country’s) best fried chicken.  The restaurant is on a nondescript corner of Treme, the neighborhood on which David Simon spent a few television seasons.  At times the line can get pretty long, but it’s worth every bit of the wait.  If you’re a smaller group, like we were, there are seats at the bar as well, where we watched all the to-go orders come out of the kitchen.House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans LouisianaIt’s not the cleanest of restaurants, to be honest, but what it lacked in nicety, it more than made up for in hospitality.  Even while we waited, the place was humming with Southern politesse and thank-you-ma’ams and yes-sirs.  Growing up in Kentucky makes you miss those small things when you dwell in New York, and even more so in uncouth Shanghai.

House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans Louisiana Hot SauceWe each ordered 3-piece combos.  Dark meat, of course.

The batter is supremely crispy, slightly sweet.  It’s different than the breaded crunch of, say, Popeye’s – Willie Mae’s batter is light, thin, flaky, almost airy.  It’s the wet batter.  The chicken itself is tender, brined in Coca-Cola and seasoned with a bunch of secret nonsense.House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans Louisiana Fried Chicken 1There are some old-fashioned side options – mac’n’cheese, peas, cornbread, beans, cornbread, potato salad, etc. etc.  They are really just afterthoughts, pleasant background notes to a chorus of succulent chicken. Continue reading

If I Pie Before I Wake – Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NYC

There’s a butter-laden heaven worth visiting in Gowanus, Brooklyn, called Four & Twenty Blackbirds.  You can smell why when you first walk in, the heaviness of crust, flour and butter and sugar, the citrus and cinnamon and sourness of berries cooking down, tinged with the bitterness of coffee.

I’ve tried the blueberry crumble, strawberry streusel, salty honey, and salted caramel apple pies.  All of them were delicious.House of Haos Four and Twenty Blackbirds Park Slope Brooklyn NYC Strawberry Pie Blueberry Crumble House of Haos Four and Twenty Blackbirds Park Slope Brooklyn NYC Blueberry Crumble

Go to there.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds (website)
439 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Google Maps

Four & Twenty Blackbirds on Urbanspoon

House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Short Ribs 2

Dinner Feast at il Buco Alimentari – NYC

Chef Smillie, who oversaw the kitchen when I last visited, has moved on to his own (Stephen Starr-sponsored) place, and I haven’t been back since, but my last meal (sometime in 2014) at il Buco Alimentari was delicious.  Some of the dishes are now making an appearance at Chef Smilie’s new spot, so all is not lost.

Olives.

House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Olives Crudo.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Hamachi Crudo Crispy artichokes.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Fried Artichokes Cuttlefish with beans.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Calamri Beef tartare with hearts of palm, egg yolk, and seasoning.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Beef Tartare  Continue reading

Lunch at Pok Pok – Brooklyn, NYC

On a sunny summer day, my sister and I ventured to Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s Brooklyn homage to Thai food, a passion that I can absolutely identify with.  There are but a few things in life that I appreciate, and have felt so earnestly, as the wholeheartedness and humility of Thai hospitality.  If I can make a caricature out of it, permit me to do so.

I attended a cooking class with Chef Ricker, and with the same warmth that certain Thai establishments exude through their hospitality, I felt like he had the same intensity and spirit in his dedication to and study of (and love for) Thai cuisine.  This dude was knowledgeable and serious about his Thai food.  In a way, it’s refreshing to see that – usually you see guys go off to Italy or Lyon and come back with this repertoire and adherence to certain European traditions, but here was a dude that slums it to the dirt roads and backwoods and beaches of Thailand to bring back some crazy recipes and preparations that rock my mouth with flavor and spice.

We started with some refreshing drinking vinegars, tart, syrupy concoctions topped with soda.  There are, like, 25 flavors to choose from, so you’ll find something.  Be warned though, the vinegar part is no joke.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Drinking Vinegar A duck salad, with specks of toasted rice to add a heavy crunch to the funkiness of raw onions and duck liver and duck skin.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Duck Larb Ike’s fish sauce wings.  Phenomenal.  Coated with tangy, sugary, spicy sauce and flecks of crispy garlic.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Fish Sauce Chicken Wings Smoky slow-cooked pork ribs.  In retrospect, I would’ve rather tried something else, perhaps a fish, but these were pretty tasty just the same.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Pork RibsPok Pok NYC
117 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Google Maps

Pok Pok NY on Urbanspoon

House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC

Uptown Funk – Dinosaur BBQ, Harlem, NYC

Dinosaur BBQ is a bit out of the way, at an oddly criss-crossing corner of 125th St in Harlem near the Westside Highway.  The squat brick building that houses the restaurant is unremarkable but expansive, so even though it was busy (2 hour wait) when we visited, it doesn’t feel like a crush of bodies.  Very much the opposite, actually: a fun, lively space.  Plus, we didn’t have to tough out the two hours, as we lucked into two comfortable seats at the end of the bar just as we’d put our name on the waitlist, with a prime view of the kitchen and passe.

House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Menu Kitchen House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Sauce A sweet tea, of course.House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Sweet Tea Meaty BBQ wings.  The skin, gorgeously charred, is deceptively crispy – I expected that bitter smokiness, but mostly just texture, and plenty of flavor.House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Chicken Wings Continue reading

House of Haos Maialino New York Bacon Toffee Brioche Bun

Brunch Game Strong – NYC

I have mixed feelings about brunch.  It’s sometimes a pompous social excuse to start drinking and act like douches.  And I know I’m overpaying for eggs.  I get that it’s a great way to restaurants to juice margins and give their dinnertime staff a break.  It’s just that the food usually isn’t as exciting as the dinner menu.  New York offers to full spectrum of brunch-friendliness, some excessively clubby and bro-y, some relaxed and homey, others a bit more formal (sometimes elevated).  Nobu does brunch.  The NoMad does brunch.  Marea, a two-Michelin-star restaurant with a crazy decadent octopus and bone marrow fusilli, has a brunch menu (the fusilli is on the menu).

But it sure is comforting.  It just feels good.  There’s something uniquely satisfying about rolling out of bed at 10:30 (or later), not dressing particularly nicely (in my case, haha), and getting a gussied-up omelette or some butter-charged pastry or fried chicken and waffles, and just enjoying the feeling of the weekend.  That’s probably more what it’s about, an unspoken celebration of things that only a weekend allow.  Relaxed conversation and an expensive juice (maybe with champagne in it), living as if on a staycation in the city.  It’s a chance to enjoy the sunlight and the crisp air of the late morning, when the weather’s nice, or to see friends without the formality of dinner.  It also makes me fat and lazy, and that feels great.  Sometimes, anyway.

Andrew Carmellini does a mean brunch.  We’ve been to the Dutch (menu) more than a few times, for lazy weekend feasts, fried chicken dinners, and a few decadent lunches on days when I was less than fully employed.  Jason Hua and company do good work there.

Soft-scrambled eggs with cured salmon and a sesame bagel.  Fat margins be damned when it comes to butter and eggs.  The Dutch also has some tasty pastries as well – a mildly sweet berry tart, and a tart and gooey peach pie.

And his NoHo spot, Lafayette (menu):

Again, great pastries (the bread basket, with overly flaky and butter croissants) and some heavy All-American action – like a thick burger dripping with cheese on a brioche bun, with a side of crisp fries and candied bacon.  Not pictured, but there’s really tasty (and ridiculously expensive) juice – I had a carrot yuzu something that I could’ve had three more glasses of, if not for the exorbitant price.

On to the next, as they say – Maison Premiere (menu), the hipster seafood-and-drinks enclave in the thoroughly gentrified Williamsburg corner of Brooklyn.  We visited during fourth of July weekend, when the weather was gorgeous and the back patio was bright and lovely and dandy.  Another fantastic bread basket fortified with butter; dollar oysters plump, cold, and crisp; even a Thai iced coffee to go with my steak and eggs.  Myra got an order of duck hash, everything came with wonderfully soft-boiled eggs.  We also got a side of potatoes and really great smoked meats (the bacon was great, the sausages were a little more herbaceous than desired, but hey, when the bacon’s charred and thick-cut and delicious, then all is forgiven).

Continue reading

Cook Your Own Korean Meat – Don’s Bogam, NYC

When my sister was visiting New York, we dropped by Don’s Bogam for what we hoped would be some really good Korean barbecue.  I forget where exactly I’d heard of the place, but I think it was on a mention in passing on Floyd Cardoz’s Instagram.  I’ll take my chances in following the leads of chefs and sommeliers on where to eat.  Anytime.

Don’s didn’t disappoint.  A clean, gas flame and copper grill, with some banchan to nibble on.  Nothing about the banchan was that notable, but the soy-braised lotus roots were pretty tasty.House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Banchan We ordered a seafood scallion pancake to share, as a starter.  Decent. House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Seafood Pancake For meats, we ordered the maeun galbi, a marinated short rib in the chef’s housemade spicy sauce.  Some really top-quality meat, marbled and sliced at a respectable thickness, holding up nicely to the licks of the blue flame.  Fatty and chewy and full of flavor (wasn’t actually very spicy, but also not as sweet as galbi typically is).  The ventilation tube is also positioned strategically right over the grill, so there’s not this overabundance of smoke.House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi 2 House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi 3 House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi 4 Between the galbi and the bulgogi, we split a bowl of spicy bibim-naengmyun, cold arrowroot starch noodles with cold broth, spicy gochujang-based chili sauce, and a hardboiled egg. House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Nangmyeong Buckwheat Noodles We finished with a steaming pan of bulgogi, aromatic and sweet, cooked also atop the gas grill flame.  Generous amounts of halved green onions and enoki mushrooms steeped and cooked in sweet soy-sauce and onion.House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Bulgogi House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Bulgogi 2 House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Bulgogi 3Really good stuff, on par with some of the better meals that Myra and I had had in Seoul, back when we ate nothing but barbecue for about four straight days.  Cordial, attentive service.  But mostly, really delicious meat.

Don’s Bogam (website)
17 East 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016
(Google Maps)

Don's Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon