Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LA Food in NY Style: Red Hook Ballfields

quesadilla at Red Hook Ball FieldsWhen I arrived in New York, fellow foodblogger Eating in Translation recommended I get an unlimited ride MetroCard and explained that to eat the best New York has to offer, I'd have to get out of the Columbia environs as much as possible. While increasingly difficult econ homework makes the latter less and less likely, I do have the unlimited card and I've corralled a group of fellow grad student food lovers with the hope of heading out of Morningside Heights at least one weekend every month for cheap, tasty food.

grilled corn at Red Hook ballfields
Our first excursion took us to the Red Hook Ballfields, home to extremely popular Latin/Central American food stands. The Homesick Texan recommended them as an antidote to my longing for a cheap, decent taco. These stands have inspired extreme devotion from foodies, and so far the Health Department regulators have been kept at bay.

fruit drinks at Red Hook Ballfields
Having only one stomach, I was unable to sample the wealth of goods at the park, but I was more than happy with my spicy, limey grilled corn on a stick and my gigantic "quesadilla"--a tortilla filled with cheese and heated, then filled with your choice of meat, guacamole, salsas, lettuce, etc. Another highlight were the myriad fruity drinks--in addition to the standard jamaica and tamarindo, I also spotted watermelon and drank a subtly sweet lemon-lime.

I felt like I was back in LA, minus the driving, and, oh yeah--what's that I see from the Smith Street subway stop? The Statue of Liberty. Viva Nueva York.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Harriet's Kitchen Puts Shake Shack to Shame

Harriet's Kitchen cheeseburgerAlright, I've only had one Shake Shack burger, and that was a few years ago. But I remember the pleasure of eating outside in Madison Square Park as the highlight of the experience, not the burger itself.

The surroundings in which I ate my cheeseburger from Harriet's Kitchen on the other hand, were not nearly as lovely. This dingy Upper West Side hole-in-the-wall has just two tables wedged in front of a take out counter. But the burger--oh! the burger--if Harriet's required me to eat it on a West Side Highway traffic island during rush hour, I'd comply.

The thick patty was truly medium rare, charred to a perfect crisp on the outside, bursting with juice on the inside. A toasted sesame-seed-sprinkled bun was sturdy enough to absorb the juice, and the burger itself was smothered in a thick layer of cheese topped with a tangle of sweet sauteed onions. This was a burger I couldn't put down, except to eat some equally perfect french fries-deep dark golden brown with potato peels on.

So, skip the line at the Shack, hop the 1 train and visit Harriet's. You're even close enough to Central Park that you could get some take out and improve your surroundings.

Harriet's Kitchen
502 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10024
between 84th and 85th Sts

Sunday, September 09, 2007

In a Grocery Fix, Pork Chops Soothe the Pain

Fresh Figs from FairwayThese figs came from Fairway, and I had to fight off the fig fanatics of the Upper West Side for them.

Aargh, am I annoyed with grocery shopping in New York. The overpriced Gristede's on my corner makes me grumpy, while the Gourmet Garage doesn't have 1/2 of what I need. The Westside Market has dreamy cheese and charcuterie, but abominable veggies. I think the contents of Fairway's aisles might make me swoon if I could pause long enough to look without getting run over by an impatient 80 year old's shopping cart--today while waiting at the deli counter a gray-haired little lady called the man next to me a jackass because he didn't move out of her way fast enough.

The closest I've come to grocery shopping heaven is the greenmarket at 97th and Amsterdam on Fridays. Imagining a couple of stands a la LA's Silver Lake market, I was delighted to discover a block chock full of veggie and fruit stands, plus a free range pork and beef stand, a dairy dealer, and a turkey guy. I breathed a sigh of relief as I chatted with farmers and filled my bags with lovely local produce.

Saturday night J and I turned my market bounty into the first real dinner to come out of our New York kitchen--we even lit some candles and used cloth napkins! The pork recipe comes adapted from Epicurious, and you could easily use apples instead of the Asian pears. Also, I brined my chops for about 7 hours--about 1/4 c. salt, 1/4 c. sugar, 5 cups water and a handful of cloves and star anise. These chops were so delish, I forget all about the difficulty of city shopping.

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops with Asian Pears and Onions

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 small Asian pears, seeded and quartered
2-3 small sweet onions, quartered
3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 large egg
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 boneless pork chops (each about 1-2 inches thick)

Preheat the oven to 425.

Heat a large, ovenproof saute pan over medium heat. Add butter and olive oil, then the pears and the onions.

While the pears and the onions begin to cook, mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, sage, and lemon peel in a wide, shallow dish. In a separate wide, shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg. Pour the flour on a separate plate.

Salt and pepper your pork chops on both sides. Dredge in flour, then dip in the egg. Then dip the chops in the bread crumb mixture, pressing down on both sides to help the crumbs adhere.

When the pears and onions are lightly browned, move them to the side of the pan so there's enough room in the middle for the chops.

Add pork chops to pan and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Place the pan in the oven and bake until chops are crisp on the outside and lightly pink on the inside, about 20 minutes.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sculpture and a Scoop

Gelato and the Richard Serra exhibit, MOMA
Though the gelato at the newish UWS spot Grom inspires long lines, it certainly can't inspire the awe that Richard Serra's massive steel sculptures do. Serra's Torqued Ellipse IV (1998) and Intersection II (1992) currently sit in the sculpture garden at the MOMA, where you can gaze in wonder while savoring Il Laboratorio de Gelato's intense dark chocolate gelato. The Serra exhibit closes September 10, so get there soon!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Taqueria y Fonda--Morningside Heights

Taqueria y Fonda, Morningside Heights, NYC
On a quest for a taste of LA, J and I descended on Taqueria y Fonda Saturday afternoon. This Mexican dive serves your standard burritos, tacos, enchiladas and tortas (Mexican sandwiches) for student-friendly prices. Though a taco costs a whopping (by LA standards) $3, the huge burritos clock in around $7 and my big-enough-for-two chicken torta was $6.25.

The salsas that came with our free chips were the standout of our meal--two green and spicy, one red and smoky--but they deserved better, saltier chips. J's cesina (dry beef marinated in lemon and herbs) burrito could have fed a small army, and my torta, smeared with refried beans, and stacked with onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, cheese, and charred, juicy chicken (but not the promised avocado) was similarly large. Both were tasty enough that we'll return to sample other menu items, but if we didn't live nearby I doubt we'd make a special trip to visit.

The seating's cramped, but the service and fellow patrons (a mix of Columbia students and Mexican families) are friendly. Unlike most LA taco stands, beer is available, as is delivery (and take out). The specials ("authentic regional dishes from southwestern Mexico" according to the menu) cost between $10.25-$10.95 and include chicken with pumpkin seed sauce, mole rojo (red mole), mole verde (green mole), and one of my favorites, chile en nogada (stuffed peppers with pork, raisins and bananas in a creamy sauce.

Taqueria Y Fonda
968 Amsterdam Ave (between 107th and 108th)
New York, NY 10025
212-531-0383 or 212-531-0325
delivery from 86th St to 122nd St

Taqueria Y Fonda la Mexicana in New York