Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stage Deli

Rarely, do I ever, make it Uptown. It's one of those dogmas set in symbolic stone by Downtowners.

Never cross 14th St. Never fall into the trap of tourist-ridden 5th Avenue. Never, never visit Times Square.

This past night, I completed all of the above. Each and every task, with diligence and a hint of ambivalence. Ok, I was purely disgusted and ashamed.

But besides the downfall of crossing over, I did enjoy a few points.

One, the fact that you can feel self assured that you are a genuine native of the city, unlike the millions of camera-obsessive individuals toddling around, eyes wide open, mouths on the ground. You can pat yourself on the shoulder for never riding those repellent red double deckers. Yes, the tourist buses we copied from London. Can't we at least be original? We're New York City - drive people around in mini-General Slocums for God's sake.

Eventually, I made my way to Stage Deli. Set upon the dreaded 7th Avenue, a mere 100 yards from Carnegie, it was surprisingly in need of customers.

Maybe it's the obscene prices. Or the indecent service? Horrible sandwiches?

Alright, scratch the last one. Identical to Katz's and Carnegie, Stage relishes in charging their 80% tourist-based customers $14 for a pastrami sandwich. Then $10 for a slice of cheesecake. "Real" New York cheesecake.

What a bunch of shit.

For the price you pay, at least you get full. But other than that, the service, prices and atmosphere of tacky tourist-New York is far from worth it.

But it's got everything one could expect of "New York". Dirtied, tiled floors. A Mets game blasting in the background. An old kook of a woman manning the cashier. A half-pregnant gal working the tables.

It's dirty, grimy and full of attitude.

I question though, why these landmarks represent the city of New York. High prices? Fatty, moist, luscious pastrami on Jewish rye? Pickles (Must be Guss', right?) on the side with everything?

It's as if the city were an entire tool for marketing. A product of the economy. Oh wait, Wall Street.

What I left with was more than a bad memory. I left with a distaste for what tourist-hungry spots offer. The sandwich was fine, don't get me wrong - almost sublime. Tender, salty, thick with flavor. The rye, shoddy in durability yet still the perfectly subtle partner in crime. But still, I couldn't get over the fact people fall for this.

A fallacious idea that we live off overpriced pastrami sandwiches. The idea, that the Big Apple is Times Square all over.

Stage Deli, truly sets the stage. It takes it with triumphant chutzpah and wonderfully placed charisma. It lives up to what New York embodies - a case of truth, flavor and artificiality.

So what if my cheesecake looked like heaven, but tasted like paste. That's New York. Beautiful on the outside, magnificently captured and presented in photographs, yet a letdown to those who witness it in person.

The magic ends, the second you taste it for yourself.

Instead, what you realize is that Stage, New York and the sidewalks of our city are as human as any city in the world. So maybe they have the museums, the money and the history. That doesn't necessarily make it worth the ultimate praise.

And just like that, Stage gets the thumbs down. If only we were able to lower this curtain of pretentiousness, we'd be able to satisfy all that came.

Forget the tough guy shit, forget the bloated prices - then maybe, just maybe I might feel like making it Uptown again. And on top of that, referring to myself as a "Real Deal New Yorker". Or as the man taking a photo of his suburban wife in Times Square - "New Yawwker".

Stage Deli
834 7th Avenue @ W 54th St
$14 Pastrami Sandwich
$8 Mini-Cheesecake

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Close to Home, La Casalinga

A true homestyle meal evokes a special sense of emotion unattainable through few cuisines. It brings back memories of family dinners, nostalgic days of our past, and reminds us who the arbiter of homestyle is – grandma herself.

Only a handful of restaurants truly capture the essence of such a meal. Most leave it up to the actual mothers at home or the grandmother you visit every blue moon. But when in need of a fine Italian, home-cooked meal, La Casalinga gets as close to home as you’ll ever be.

A trattoria of bare bones and hodge podge attitude, Casalinga embodies the spirit of a whimsical residential kitchen. The walls are painted white brick, covered in eclectic pieces of art that show no correlation to each other. The music in the background is completely random, ranging from classical rock to reggae and jazz.

A counter filled with the day’s desserts and a couple bottles of beer separates off patrons from its back quarters. Above, rests a wine rack filled to capacity with reds and whites. But instead of finding old mama Maria in the back, a couple of male cooks and the sole waiter hover about busily.

Their dishes are not innovative, trendy or price gouging in the least. Instead, they stick to well-known staples such as pastas, salads, paninis and a couple of braised meats.

My Maiale Ubriaco was highly disappointing, sadly enough. A slow roasted pork tenderloin in an adequately flavorful red wine sauce, tasted of a slightly heated piece of rubber coated in herbs. Beside it, more dependable mates of roasted rosemary potatoes and buttery green beans offered another pathway to satiation.

Unlike the trendy restaurants that pop up here and there, most notably in Hell’s Square of the Lower East Side throughout the past few months, La Casalinga is out to impress few.

They stick to what they know and what they do best. Friendly service, earnest care and capricious check-ups. My waiter, fumbling around as best as he could to find his glasses and the menus, did what he could to make sure all came out well.

When bread was needed, he went to the back and sawed off fresh slices from a sesame loaf. When glasses became empty, he noticed them eventually.

But how could one be mad at a place that lacks a packed house full of snotty customers who come only to be seen. At a high point, the 8-table nook was filled halfway to capacity.

Those who showed up were loyal patrons who came for company, food and atmosphere.

Their pasta dishes are in fact the reason why customers keep showing up. Robust and spicy sauces combined with asparagus, wild mushrooms and goat cheese are just a sampling of what they have to offer.

Sweet and succulent, the pasta is tender yet with a slight firmness in bite. The creamy sauce of the Fusilli agli Aspargi offered a perplexing tang that almost seemed citrusy.

The other flavors play around with a few bits of seafood here and there, along with cream-based sauces and other vegetables. With two dozen to choose from, the menu covers the general hackneyed gamut.

What La Casalinga offers is a home away from home - a meal cooked by the mother not there to cook meals. It is not great nor is it horrible. It merely offers what the name implies, simple “housewife” meals.

For the price you pay the meals are fine. A homemade tiramisu, a bit watery yet still enjoyable, tastes like that a grandma would make. Slightly imperfect and sloppy, yet all the better because its authenticity.

And that is exactly what this First Avenue doll has to offer. Simple meals with a cozy family feel and a dose of fallibility thrown on in.

La Casalinga
120 1st Avenue @ E 7th St
3 – 11:30pm, Sunday - Monday

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gelato: Scoop Up Summer's End

Of all the food in the world, one of the most well-loved and satisfying creations known to man - has to be ice cream. Its flavors are limited only by one's imagination, its availability limited only by the locality you choose to inhabit.

Within the past few years, our nation has witnessed an overly zealous craving for what Italians have been churning out for ages. Wonderful, blissful and most gratifying beyond all means – gelato has swept Americans off their feet and into a lactose-dependent euphoria.

So when the two go head to head, which one comes out the victor? Should our nation continue to nurture the cream-heavy and icy likes of ice cream, or cross over to the decadent and dense allurement of gelato?

In order to better understand which side to take in this butterfat percentage war, I took on the daunting task of sampling a handful of New York’s finest. Tough and painful it was, but necessary even more so.
Alphabet Scoop

My first stop tackled the community-loving, inexpensive Alphabet Scoop. Tucked away in the moniker-suggesting Alphabet City, the small pistachio interior parlor holds a warm sense of friendliness and informality. At first glance, the door sign suggested the store was still closed. Only after oddly poking my head near the window did someone remind me it was actually in business for the day.

Inside, the place is neither showy nor boring. The staff is friendly, if not overly relaxed. After sampling more than a handful of flavors, joyfully handed out without question, I settled on a scoop of the perplexing “Razzle Dazzle”. Thick and moderately creamy, yet not overly rich, the raspberry ice cream had a cold, chunky bite without much aftertaste. Even the miniature dark chocolate bits inside the ice cream had a short-lived intensity of flavor.

Similar to commercial brands, the ice cream was in no way unique. If locally made Baskin-Robbins or Coldstone is what you yearn, this would be the place.

However, I had no reason to be guilty after paying $2.75, for what technically should’ve been one scoop, but ended up as two. With a turnover rate as good as this, you might as well try all 14 flavors.

Mary's Dairy

Further east and down a few blocks you’ll find Mary’s Dairy, a quirky azure and anime-decorated parlor. Slightly tacky, if not overly dependent upon gimmicky oddities - like a giant chocolate bar hanging from the ceiling - Mary’s take on flavors proved to be a tad more daring.

Special “concoctions” by Mary herself (fictional, remember) include four exotic flavors, including “Hawaii Five O” and “Sandy” – a smooth, chocolate fudge ice cream with crunchy bits of pistachio Halvah.

Some of the more memorable flavors include both peanut butter fudge and “killer chocolate”. The former, consisting of extra velvety peanut butter ice cream combined with a dark fudge ripple was lush and comforting. Rich, with a heavy cream taste, the ice cream was much softer in comparison.

Seeing that Mary’s is also a chocolate bar, it makes sense that they have truly mastered a deep, intense chocolate ice cream. The killer chocolate was intense and complex with a fudgy finish. Alongside, begging to be tried next, were Coconut Almond Joy, Cappuccino Kahlua and Dulce de Leche.

The service, somewhat edgy with a dose of ennui, at times can take away from the playful, fun-loving interior.

Overall, Mary’s serves up bold, doughy, cream-heavy flavors. Soft to scoop with a lovely finish, Mary just might be, the self-proclaimed Queen of Cream.

il Laboratorio del Gelato

After trying the Queen of Cream, I asked myself who else dared to challenge. And who better to contend than the flavor-creating genius of il Laboratorio del Gelato.

With more accolades and praise than any other gelato connoisseur within the city, Jon Snyder’s laboratory of gelato churns out more than 50 freshly made, gourmet flavors. Dedicated to providing gelato of only the freshest and finest ingredients, the sole location only stocks a little over a dozen flavors each day.

A 2-scoop cup of hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut I sampled was beyond sublime. Extremely delicate and silky smooth, the rich chocolate tasted of a gently melted candy bar. The hazelnut, nutty and intense, tasted natural and authentic.

Unlike any other ice cream or gelato, il Laboratorio’s flavors have just the right amount of subtle sweetness without overdoing it. And with a list that includes Black Sesame, Buttermilk, and Honey Lavender, to say the place serves those with more “refined” palates would be spot on.


Much further westward, similar in praise but polar in service, Cones on Bleecker offers the Argentinean take on gelato.

Technically “helado”, Cones’ frozen cream is much lighter and refreshing than others. The crystalline and water-like Pistachio was cold, concise and clean to taste. Somewhat granular in texture, the pistachio offered much more flavor in comparison to the vanilla chocolate chip.

The vanilla was crisp and lively, but simple and short-lived. Very shallow and glossy, it reflected the reluctant service I received.

On assumption, it could be because too many kids come in to try flavors, then end up ordering nothing. But the impatient and pretentious attitude of the staff, who limited me to only 2 samples, made me question his desirability of my business.

Half sorbet and half helado, the selection of flavors ranges from tropical fruits to tiramisu and Zabaglione. But for 5 dollars (this being one of the most expensive of all locations sampled), the necessity of making such a trek to Cones is questionable.

Ciao Bella

What was more perplexing and rather interesting, was sampling Ciao Bella, the company il Laboratorio’s Snyder once worked for.

By far the most corporate and expanded of all the ice cream shops, the tiny location on Mott St (one of six in the city), ironically offered a much more intimate feel.

Most shocking, however, was the utter difference of quality in comparison to Snyder’s gelato. Unlike il Laboratorio, the cookies & cream was nowhere near as rich and gratifying in taste. A scoop of Graham Cracker Key Lime was wincingly tart and bland.

From the other flavors tried, including Chocolate and Vanilla, the commercialism of Ciao Bella’s gelato was regrettably noticeable. Pretty and artisanal, in comparison to other grocery store-available brands, Ciao Bella falls short in the race for the best.

In the end, the epic campaign to resolve the gelato versus ice cream conflict remains unsolved. At times, a scoop of rich, creamy ice cream can truly satiate one’s craving. But for a delightful, dense and a gourmet treat, gelato scoops up just as well.

Alphabet Scoop - $2.75
542 E 11th St @ Ave A

Mary’s Dairy – $3.95
158 1st Ave @ E 10th St

il Laboratorio del Gelato - $3.25
95 Orchard St @ Broome St

Cones - $5.00
272 Bleecker St @ Morton St

Ciao Bella - $5.15
285 Mott St @ E Houston St

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kool Bloo Burger

1. Kool Bloo Burger
117 6th Avenue @ Broome St

If there is ever a day that I join PETA, I promise you now, it'll only be because the apocalypse is coming. Not because it's a lifelong goal I plan to check off eventually, but because I'd like to eat pounds upon pounds of ground beef in front of them. Why? Possibly because I'm an overly sadistic, blood-leeching porker. Or, I just really have a thing for burgers.

Assuming you like to think of me as the latter, I like to assume burgers are also nutritionally beneficial. Hence, my consistent desire to substitute them as meals.

Kool Bloo offers the same thing you see everywhere. Burgers, fries, shakes, wings, grease and grime. Painted in a disgustingly tacky, yet attention getting safety-orange, it beacons all hungry souls to the 5 x 30 ft oddity of a burger joint.

But as obscure is the size and shape of the Kool Bloo, so is their way of advertising products. Nowhere to be found, or unless I'm blind, is there an actual complete menu. Posted about the area are paper print-outs of meal specials and $7.95 chicken strips, but nowhere was there a damned list.

Luckily, ingenuity kicked in as I found the take-out menu and proceeded to skim across the twenty something burgers. Burgers inspired by U.S. states, politicians and even King Edwardo (who the fuck?) made me question the principles Kool Bloo had in mind.

Were they actually trying to create fine, healthy meals (as said in the company's mission statement), or pile whatever ingredients they found in the local supermarket?

But who am I kidding, all of the combinations made sense. Discretely altered renditions of each other, prices run between $7-13 for an 8oz. patty. Elsewhere on the menu you'll find one-too-many chicken burgers, Philly Cheese Steaks, Wings, Salads and all sorts of typical grub normally carried at Steak & Shake and sports bars around the country.

My fellow patrons seemed far and few, a jumbled mess of hodge podge individuals lost between the West Village, Soho, Noho and No-No.

A business man scarfing down a burger, a couple of pre-teens fresh out of Forever 21 and a stout and scruffy looking gentleman kept me company at the 'Bloo.

The burger, along with the fries, were a stimulating combo - but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of bringing back memories of Kobe beef, fine dining in Europe or favorite meals, I reflected on nostalgia of the past. In school cafeterias.

Its patty was well charred, tender and quite juicy - but peppery and dissimilar from beef. What different parts of the cow were melded together, in order to form such patty, I questioned profoundly after my meal.

Vegetables were simple, average and fresh. The cheese, American, uninspiring and banal.

As for the fries, the Ore-Ida style was in full swing. Artificially crispy on the outside, un-potato like in the inside, and sprinkled with that seasoned salt & paprika mixture so prevalent in school cafeterias, I couldn't help but think of the past.

On such a windy day, why I ordered a vanilla shake, I have no idea. But good thing I did. Ideal in thickness and subtle yet noticeable in flavor, it served well as a burger-bite sidekick.

Though the experience was not the finest, or the menu the most refined, I left a satisfied man. It's filling for what it offers, but really only that. Nothing special, nothing worth coming back for necessarily, other than the Huckleberry shake if you truly care.

For the price you pay ($17 in all), there's far more options out there.

Be wise, be aware and use common sense. The place is painted safety-orange for a reason. Not to beckon you towards it for a bite, but a warning to all that Kool Bloo just isn't all that cool.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

East Village Eats

Recent eatings:
1. Balthazar Bakery
80 Spring St @ Crosby St

Roasted Peach Pastry Tart

When it comes to Balthazar,  there are basically three types. For one, there are the tourists and New York Mag disciples that go wherever the all-knowing "Critics Pick" check is. They come for the big names, look for the "recommended" dish, then leave feeling satisfied and genuinely New-Yorky.

Then there are the pseudo-foodies. The ones who want to think they live in Soho, can only consume the finest of foods, and thus result in stroking McNally's ego. They prefer to be known as "cultured", find satisfaction in ordering expensive dishes and at times pretend to appreciate all that goes into the dish.

Lastly, there are those who go just because of what it has to offer. Good food, bloated prices, and a respectable interior. It's good food, looks pretty, yet at the same time you're paying solely for the name.

My tart was delightful. It was complex, had a dark and rich syrupy taste to the peach and a wonderful crust. Mind the fact it was gone in about four bites, I'd say they were quite cherished.

There really is only so much one can explain about the tart, so I'll leave it be.

2. Westville East
173 Avenue A @ E 11th St

8 oz. burger w/ Gouda Cheese
Served on Portuguese Muffin (English)
Side vinaigrette salad

As a disclaimer to all, the chaotic interior of Westville may be a tad bit frenetic for the faint at heart. But if you can get over the fact that you're sacrificing square inches for a pleasurable meal, you might end up enjoying the place.

From what I've heard, service at times can be a bit unprofessional and forgetful. Our server of the night was neither an embodiment of such said traits, but at the same time, if compared on the street to a passerby, one might be unable to indicate the employee.

My burger was large and hearty, juicy and flavorful. Though there wasn't much in terms of a char-grilled taste, it was refreshingly light in comparison to the all-too-common clump-of-shit patty.

Though 70% of the plate consisted of a sparingly dressed mesclun salad, I have little room to complain in value. Unlike the art-deco inspired plates of haute couture dining, the entire meal was both filling and satisfying. 

The bun, less bun and more English muffin, is what Westville likes to call a Portugese Muffin. How it differs from an English one, I have yet to decipher.

Overall, the scene is friendly and quite East Village. On a blackboard in the back, hand-scribbled in a somewhat intelligible typeface, are a list of the day's specials. Generally consisting of what they refer to as "The Market" (a handful of playful vegetable dishes), run between $4-7.

Some of the more popular dishes I saw on tables around me included the Niman Ranch weiners along with homestyle dishes of Mac-n-Cheese, corn on the cob and the timeless grilled cheese sandwich. 

If friendly service and homestyle food is what you want, this is your place. Save the grumpy attitude at home, and enjoy all that you can, of this fine little space.

3. Hearth Restaurant
403 E 12th St @ 1st Avenue

$9.50 Rogue Amber Ale (Oregon)
$3.25 Corsica Blend Coffee
$11 Upside-Down Plum Cake
w/ Lemon Sabayon & Candied Pistachios

In order to celebrate my birthday as best as possible, I opted for a nearby restaurant worthy of at least a couple stars of Critic's checks of approval. Thankfully, Hearth didn't let me down.

As much as I hate to do it, on this fine evening my meal consumption sadly was to only involve dessert. After mulling over the wonderfully enticing regular menu, giving in to the dessert menu at the meal's start is a crime all in its own. Luckily, it was my birthday. Almost like a get out of jail free card.

From the attentive service to the dashing decor, the desserts and coffee trip was quite enjoyable. My only complaint in regards to the service though, was the lack of attention at times when a mug or cup needed refilling. Though one should not expect a constant 30-second, cyclic waiter's lap around my table, at times a little attention would've gone a long way.

The punctuality of the desserts weren't exactly the most impressive, but if a slowed-down, relaxing atmosphere is what they're going for, they've surely achieved it.

On first glance, the upside-down cake looks that of a mini-bundt cake stacked with glistening fruit slices. Rather uncomplicated to construct, and surrounded with mildly candied pistachios, the presentation is not necessarily top notch.

But the soft spongyness of the cake and softness of the sweet fruit proved to be a marriage worth approving. Matched with the pea-sized bits of pistachio and a lick of the sabayon, the melded mixture was quite marvelous. 

Not exactly nirvana-inducing, but surely the best at the table (in comparison to some sorbets, a peanut butter tart and a panna cotta), the dessert held its own. Whether or not it's worth going back to for, I'm learning more towards the "No".

But they did remember to greet me a Happy Birthday and I did enjoy the company of friends. If only their desserts could be a tad more succulent, I might be more inclined to believe their pastry chef came from Gramercy Tavern.

Until then, I think I'll stick to the always dependable $3 carton of ice cream sitting in the freezer. And that I can access anytime, any day and definitely more than once. Ok, maybe only three or four times before it's finished.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Salt & Battery

In the realm of top-notch cuisine, the Brits hold very little ground in terms of respect.

From their females to their automobiles, all things British are known to deteriorate, succumb to age and result in much displeasure.

Yet the renowned British dish of Fish & Chips has stood the test of time. In any pub, bar and British-Irish restaurant you'll find the money making meal. 

It's symbolic and nationalistic. It's what hot dogs do for Chicago or what pizza does for New York. And since Mat Arnfield, head chef of AS&F realized capitalizing on Bangers & Mash or Yorkshire Pudding might not be as successful, what better way to incorporate English cuisine into Americans' diets other than Fish & Chips?

His menu highlights everything someone might expect a Brit to have. Heinz Baked beans, a handful of battered white fish & chips along with a few meat-filled pies. Disgusting, yet continuing on with the deep-fry-it-all theorem, he's even got fried Mars bars and chocolate sandwiches. The latter even comes with ice cream.

As expected though, the true frontrunner remains the Fish & Chips. Freshly fried to order, to a golden brown with orange tinge, my cod was impeccable both in taste and texture. A most perplexingly light batter held a crunch so delightful only to be met with a flaky, soft cod filet inside.

One of the few qualms I have though, even if trivial, is the skimpy amount of tartar sauce that comes with the fish. Amazingly creamy with just the right amount of tartness served as an excellent sidekick to both the cod and shrimp, but came up empty halfway through the meal. 

In a way, I suppose it could be a sign that you should become more dependent upon the Brit style of enjoying your Fish & Chips with malt vinegar. And well, that's just what I did.

Their chips, proudly referred to as chips and not fries, are pleasant but not memorable. Crisp and stout, they're easy to pop back unknowingly alongside the fish. Some came out soft and mushy, others burnt and crumbly. Yet when the good ones did become uncovered, their pillowy potato taste came through.

Next time around though, I'll definitely have to look into the battered pork sausage and try a steak & kidney pie. Equally worthy in sampling within the fish department though, are the Haddock, Sole and Whiting, all for reasonable prices.

Overall, the food is excellent. If you can handle the suffocating, oil-permeated air, you're in for the clear. If only most pubs could serve out such satisfying fish & chips, I'm sure I'd be spending a lot more time around Boddington's and Newcastle. And that's where the Brits truly succeed.

A Salt & Battery
112 Greenwich Ave @ W 13th St
Fish Combo (Cod/Shrimp), Sm. Chips

Sunday, September 2, 2007

W 14th St Food

Since the purchase of my bike just a few weeks ago, getting around town has been easier than ever. Besides dodging taxis, surviving oncoming traffic and the hidden pot holes of death - it's not too bad. You get exercise, build quad muscles and get to burn calories.

Ah yes, burning calories.

After burning all those calories, one can only be expected to fill themselves back up with energy-providing food. And when that one person just happens to find themselves in the lovely, quaint, cobblestone-infested land of the Meatpacking District where better to satiate one's hunger other than a pie shop and burger joint?

How American.

In an article I did for Valentine's Day '06, I made sure to highlight Little Pie Company for its famed Sour Apple Walnut. Decadent, blissful and buttery throughout - I knew I had found the ultimate pie slice of New York. Yet in the back of my head, I always had a desire to try the dark cousin of Sour Apple, Mississippi Mud. How it's a cousin, or even related to the former, I have no idea.

However, after trying it just the other day I've come to the conclusion that this mud pie definitely has the consistency of bottom-of-a-river mush. True to what I'd expect the Mississippi's riverbed to be like - covered in silt, oil and sludge from all those Old-Bessie boats - the pie was dense, rich and mucky.

Sadly, it was too mucky. Too leaden, too viscous and overly gummy. Lacking any sort of pie-like construction, this plop of brownie-epoxy kept me wondering if any form of food in the shape of a triangle could pass for 'pie'.

It's flavor was that of intense dark cocoa and butter. Had I been in the need of a deep-moisturizing lather that day, I could've rubbed Mississippi Mud lovingly across my body. Only with the assistance of a sad, whipped cream blob to the side was I able to gulp each slice down.

Horrible, not so much. But in need of a layer of either solid chocolate ganache or a discernible crust (for structural purposes), yes.

If the authenticity of mud is what Little Pie Company was going for, they got it. But if taste and enjoyment - similar, if not paralleled to cousin Sour Apple Walnut - was what they're trying for, I suggest keep searching.

But I'm optimistic, since there's always room to grow for the little guys.

Little Pie Company
407 W 14th St @ 9th Ave
Mississippi Mud Pie

Pop burger = horrible, peppery, all eye candy, insipid thousand island dressing. Worst idea ever. Overcooked meat, tasted of pepper-meatloaf and wished I had never felt the emotional need to try the place. But I'm sure stoners would love the place. Or those in search of a New York White Castle substitute.

Pop Burger
60 9th Ave @ W 15th St
(2) Pop Burgers

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Eat More

When it comes to food, few subjects hold a spot so dearest in my heart.

Some might see this obsessive attraction as an unhealthy neurosis. Others - usually those with an optimistic outlook on gluttony - tend to support my continual, minute-to-minute banter about culinary complexities.

Possessing an attraction towards food is, in all actuality, nothing really new. It's not different, innovative or in anyway unique to an individual. People eat everyday, cook everyday and consume for their personal existence. Some better than others due to numerous, individual reasons.

In my case, my personal desire to pursue the finest aliments the world has to offer, began at a young age. My mother raised me well, fed me well and taught me to understand cultures. Why people dress the way they do, what they eat, how they live, etc, etc.

Over the past few years, however, my desire to learn everything there is about food oddly and randomly occurred.

It was a brisk, chilly and rather mundane wintery night. Dinner had ended at a suburban, midwest restaurant and dessert was to be consumed at the table. My mother asked me what I might be having this fine evening. Not at all a bizarre question.

Yet for some odd reason, I had no desire for dessert that night. At the time, I was struggling with weight issues and daily food-intake restrictions. A low dip in my life, if you will.

To fast forward things, from that day on, for roughly the next year my goal was to lose weight, fend off hunger pangs and shape myself up. By shaping myself up, I mean losing half my body mass. During that time, when not consuming food, I spent hours upon hours reading about, well, food.

I read books, cooked for the family and explored all that cooking had to offer. Since then, it has never stopped.

An interesting story, not so much. But understanding the origin of what my life has sprouted from, yes.

I created this blog as an outlet to share stories of daily eatings, write hodgepodge reviews and post attractive photos of food you may wonder why I even ate. Basic thoughts on food, reflections on meals long forgotten, along with anything generally food related.

When I'm not criticizing, critiquing or griping about the temperature of my steak or palatability of dishes for my newspaper - I read, contemplate and think about food. Somehow, with a sporadic dedication towards exercise, I keep myself reasonably fit.

So to say I enjoy food, might be an understatement. But what fuels my life and keeps me happy, I can only hope in some way does the same for you. From this day on, I'll do my best to continually update and keep The Last Bite invigorating and inviting. Food is meant to be enjoyed together, so why not share a little. Savor it all and appreciate gastronomy. From the time it touches your lips, to the very last bite.