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June 9, 2010

The Black Keys – She’s Long Gone by Toblerone
N.B. – I think for at least the next couple of posts, I’ll continue with The Black Keys as soundtrack. Objections? Oh, wait…doesn’t matter; I won’t be changing my mind regarding the Keys.

Sooo…been quite awhile since my last post.  I started a new job writing for a website back in March, and since then, it’s been kind of a struggle to find the time and motivation to do some work here. However, for the time being, I’m feeling inspired.  Onward into the abyss…

So back in the beginning of April (shit!) I did a post about some of my favorite restaurants in the city where you don’t have to spend loads to eat well and enjoy yourself.  Well, let’s make good on that claim! (However, I’m not going to write about the exact three I said I would previously. I’ll get to all of those…just not right now.)

Grand Sichuan International

To my knowledge, I believe there are five outposts of the Grand Sichuan located throughout the city. There’s one a few blocks from my apartment at 24th and 9th, and Marjorie and I have gone there twice in the last month. (In case you are wondering, Marjorie is my girlfriend. I used to mention her before, but then kind of stopped, but not for any particular reason at all. Lately, she’s really been giving me grief about it and requesting an alias, haha. Well, there it is. She’s eaten with me at every single restaurant I’ve written about).


Marjorie after a rough night out.


Why all of a sudden? I’ve really put a nice crack in the binding of the Momofuku Cookbook lately (probably gone through the whole thing at least four times) and D. Chang mentions Grand Sichuan on multiple occasions.  After that, I looked up their locations, and found there was one close to me.


Interior of Grand Sichuan in Cheslea at 24th and 9th. (


The food is really, really good, and the prices are extremely reasonable.  I don’t have pictures of anything we ate because I don’t bring a camera to meals (and neither should you).  However, this is the rundown over our two trips.

The cold spicy Sichuan noodles were, I thought, just cosi-cosi.  Marjorie enjoyed them because she’s a fanatic for sesame noodles, whereas I’m lukewarm on the subject. I felt like these were just a slightly spicier version of sesame noods, while I was expecting something new and different. They weren’t bad, but weren’t necessarily great either. Dan Dan noodles on the other hand are pretty much just about my favorite thing to eat right now…proverbially, “the shit.” Thick chinese noodles (about the diameter of bucatini, except not hollow) covered in über-spicy broth/sauce and topped off with crispy bits of fried pork then finished with Chinese spinach. They’re really, really, really good…really good! Chicken with spicy green peper was…really, really f’n spicy, but also delicious. If you like the burn of chilis, you will love that dish. Dried string beans with ground pork were, for such a simple dish, amazing. A whole plate of these were consumed at our table, and mind you, the portions are more than generous. Shredded chicken with garlic sauce was tasty, but not memorable; fried pork dumplings were a let-down, and a little bit funky.

If there’s a Grand Sichuan near you, it would behoove you not to consider any alternative the next time you’re in the mood for the fiery delights of Sichuan Province (or any kind of Chinese food). 謝謝!!

The Spotted Pig

Anyone who knows anything worth knowing about food knows about The Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield, Mario Batali, and Ken Friedman’s West Villahhge gastropub.  It’s nothing new to the city (neither is Grand Sichuan) but I’m just coming up on a year in NYC, so it’s something worth writing about in my eyes. It’s a pretty hip spot, and the food, I think, is awesome.


The interior at The Spotted Pig. One day, I'd like to have a place in my home that looks like the inside of this restaurant. (


Marjorie and I rolled in here on a snow day, from work for her and school for me, and had a really, really awesome late afternoon lunch. Things kicked off with their pickle plate; cornichons, roasted red pepper, pearl red onions, I think some radish, and I don’t remember what other veg. Everything was pickled, deliciously crisp, and pleasantly briny. The pickled, roasted (I think) red pepper was especially enjoyable. For mains, I went for the burger; a hunk of delicious Pat LaFrieda special blend beef made especially for the Pig that is perfectly, perfectly cooked and smothered in roquefort.  On the side, the honest to God best shoestring fries I have ever had in my entire life. They’re tossed with fresh rosemary and sea salt right out of the fat…I ate every single one of them on my plate. I couldn’t stop eating them. The burger was nothing short of, for the day, time, and weather, absolutely perfect…burger-vana…I would do unspeakable things for one right now. Marjorie, being the intelligible young lady she is, went for the grilled cheese with onion marmalade and mustard. It was the single best bite of grilled cheese I’ve ever had…and that was all she shared. I think Marjorie enjoyed it. The bread was crisp and buttery, and the cheese was in the right state of gooooooo.


On a long list, The Spotted Big's burger is up there with the best of all my experiences involving ground animal meats. (


It goes without saying that The Spotted Pig is just plain worth it. We made it there with about a foot or so of snow on the ground, and then waited for roughly 40 minutes. It was worth every minute of walking and waiting.



Exterior of Co. (


Co., short for Company, is another Chelsea fave of mine, and the brainchild of Sullivan Street Bakery’s Jim Lahey; in my opinion, the preeminent bread guy in NYC right now. (Aside – if you shop at a Whole Foods in the city, look for Sullivan Street’s bread; in particular, the stirato, which is essentially an Italian riff on a baguette.) Co. is an upscale pizzeria featuring salads, some Greenmarket offerings, and a fantastic selection of beers. At Co. instead of ordering a pitcher, you get a growler (see below).


A growler, and two pours that would leave most beer drinkers dumbfounded. (


I spent the evening sipping on Six Point Sweet Action courtesy of Six Point Craft Ales in Red Hook, BK. It has quickly become one of my favorite local brews to go for when I have the chance. It’s got a nice hoppiness, isn’t too bitter, and is, truly, just a tiny, tiny bit sweet. To start, we went with bread (I believe Sullivan Street’s pugliese) and fresh ramp pesto. It was delicious because ramps are delicious. Everyone should eat them.


Jim Lahey, buddha of bread, in the kitchen at Co. (


From bread and pesto, we moved on to pies and ordered two. First, the margherita. Marjorie is never a big fan of this move, but when I eat at a pizza place for the first time, I always try to get the plainest pie I can. Any respectable pizza spot in NY serves a margherita, so it’s a good benchmark for comparison; Co. is no exception, and theirs was exceptional.  Next, we moved on to the meatball pie; veal meatballs, gaeta olives, carmelized onions, mozz, rosemary, aged pecorino.  The meatballs were top-notch (I love meatballs), and played well with everything else, except the olives.  Olives on pizza are, I think, really tough to pull off because they have such an intense and concentrated saltiness.  At least on this particular occasion, Co. fell just short of really good with this one.


Margherita at Co. (


For anyone who really enjoys pizza, Co. is a must-try.  Lahey’s wizardry and grasp of baking is too good not to at least give it a shot.  In my view, even if the toppings miss the mark on occasion, it’s some of the best crust I’ve ever had in my life…and I don’t normally eat mine.

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