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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pleasures of the Pie

Went to two tavern style pizza houses this weekend: Lynwood, Cafe in Canton, Mass. and Colony Grill in Stamford, CT.  Both great.  Perhaps I like Colony Grill more?  Yes I do like it more.  The pizza with hot oil and onions is REALLY GREAT.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

My Favorite Movies

Quick list, not thinking about this very much, just putting this out there, in no particular order...
  1. Being John Malcovich 
  2. Fargo
  3. No Country for Old Men
  4. There Will be Blood
  5. Gettysburg 
  6. Last of the Mohicans
  7. Casablanca (is this really one of my favorites, or am I putting this here to seem classic and cool?)
  8. The Ten Commandments 
  9. The Godfather (perhaps also Part 2) 
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey 
  11. Paths of Glory 

Sophie's Choice

How hard is it not to have a macchiato and pastry every morning?  Answer: VERY HARD.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Dispatches of the Food Media Elite

Like, oh my god.  This week is going to be super cray.  Danny Bowien is opening up a new Mongolian noodle parlour in Inwood, and April Bloomfield is opening a new bistro in Prospect Heights.  Not to mention I need to write my regular weekly roundup of recaps of critical reviews, plus my regular weekly update on minor openings and closings, plus I need to update the Top 50 Hottest Restaurants in Manhattan (and the other one for Brooklyn), plus my 10 other required filings.  Like, seriously?  But I love this, I love this world of food.  Oh, I need to, like, write a tweet directed to some hot food media person that shows I'm funny and sweet, congratulating that hot food media person on some incredible accomplishment, like being promoted to chief Staten Island correspondent.  That person so deserves it!  But not really - it should have been me.  But seriously, food is important.  It tells us who we are and who we want to be.  Because I'm a food writer I can write with authority about the meaning and politics of food.  Oh my god! Ok, gotta go meet someone for drinks but don't worry I'll tweet it!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Mystery of Sal & Carmine's

In the summer of 2000 I moved to New York, my first apartment on West 98th Street near Broadway.  I walked around my new neighborhood and one night happened upon a slice shop with neon signs, signs that beckoned to me.  I entered.  I ordered a slice.  It was great.  An incredible New York slice, with salty, tangy cheese.  The two Italian men manning the shop were efficient and gruff, one slightly more pleasant than the other.  I had had my first Sal and Carmine's experience.

Sal (the more pleasant one) passed away in 2009.  Sal's brother Carmine, and grandson Luciano, continued making some of the best pies in the city.  Carmine, sadly, seemed to decline, but he was usually there.  Luciano carried on the tradition.  Around 2013 I left the neighborhood, but would return now and then for a slice, and Luciano was always there. 

Fast forward to late May of this year.  I went to Sal and Carmine's, and upon entering, Luciano was nowhere to be found.  There was a man I had never seen manning the pizza oven, and a young lady (who was way too friendly for Sal and Carmine's) taking orders.  Normally at Sal and Carmine's, there would be maybe 3 or 4 pies, often less, sitting on the counter, waiting to be ordered.  This time, there were far more, including a white pizza with globs of ricotta.  I hesitatingly ordered a regular slice, but something wasn't right.  In recent years I did notice that Luciano had people working for him, but Luciano, the heir, was always there.  Was he taking a day off, and leaving the shop in the hands of others? 

I took a bite of the pizza, and it just wasn't the same.  The crust was not the same.  The cheese didn't seem as tangy.  It wasn't a bad slice, but it didn't possess the Sal and Carmine's greatness.   Interestingly, I noticed new pictures placed on the wall, pictures of Sal, Carmine, and Luciano.  But where was Luciano?  I started to feel queasy.  Had Luciano sold the family business?

Yesterday I returned and, again, Luciano was nowhere to be found.  The same man who had manned the oven the previous time was there, this time alone.  There was the white pie, and also a pie with lots of veggies on it, a pie that would never have been sitting around in the Sal and Carmine, or Luciano days.  "Where's Luciano?" I asked?  The man said something about not seeing him recently.  "Does Luciano still own this place?" I followed up.  The man seemed a little nervous and said "yes."  Perhaps Luciano does still own but has completely walked away from the operation?  Or perhaps the business has been sold?

All I know is that Sal and Carmine's feels different.

Friday, August 10, 2018

What's in a pita?  Anything you decide to put in it!  There's a new pita joint called Miznon in the Chelsea Market brought to you by Tel Aviv-based pita maestro Benjamin Netanyahu.  The pitas themselves are fluffy, tender, and actually taste like something.  There are all sorts of fillings, some you might expect, and some you might not (cheeseburger, for instance). 

I had a pita filled with thin slices of ribeye - some of the finest "gyro" style meat you can imagine.  There was tahini.  There was tomato salsa.  There were pickles.  The meat was extremely flavorful and juicy.  The juices from the meat pooled at the bottom of the pita and mixed with the tahini to create incredible flavors!  The last bites of the pita were reservoirs of immense pleasure, the juicy tahini waters melding into the pliant, sturdy pita.  Bring on the flavor reservoirs! 

Chelsea Market, New York

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Simplicity of the Pizza

It's dawn.  The pie maker wakes, splashes cold water on his face, drinks black coffee, and travels to the pizza shop.  The flour, salt, oil and yeast.  Jesus the special simplicity of the ingredients.  Flour permeates the air, it's breathed in like asbestos at this point, but it makes him one with the dough.  The mixing and kneading, the smooth motions, just right.  The simplicity of the ingredients.  OF THE INGREDIENTS.  And oh they are wholesome, fresh, simple, honest ingredients.  The balls of dough are laid aside to rest and ferment and rise, RISE.

Now it's later in the day.  The helper is prepping, thinly slicing fresh garlic, plucking basil leaves, but no one touches the tomatoes and cheese and dough but him.  The waitress sets up tables, the line is forming outside.  The brick oven is heating up.  Today is the day, today is the day I will make the perfect pizza.  Yesterday, that margarita I made at 7:00pm was masterful, but not perfect.  The marinara at 8:52?  Magnificent!  But again, not perfect.  Can I make the perfect pizza?  Can anyone?  If anyone can, I can.  But is it possible?  Do the conditions of the world allow for it?  This buffalo mozzarella is sublime today! Was the milk taken at just the right moment?  It's so creamy and velvety oh god this cheese is so supple with a slight tang.  Maybe today is the day.

They enter, most of them fools, none of them understanding the craft, the flavors, but most importantly the simplicity of the pizza.  Someone orders a filetti.  "Yes, can you ask the pizzaiola to not create such a predominant, puffy cornicione for my pie?"  Oh you son of a bitch!  Who are you to tell me how to make my pizza?  What do you know about corniciones?

Later, a margherita is ordered.  There is a fresh coolness outside and the air is filling the restaurant.  He takes a ball of dough, and he feels different.  Is this the eighty-thousandth margarita he has made?  He feels it doesn't matter.  He's entered a new level of instinctual action.  He pats the dough, you couldn't say he's stretching it, the dough almost follows his movements, as if it's expanding itself like the moment after the big bang.  The dough is placed on the marble, and a waddle of tomato is splurted onto the dough.  The cheese, that incredible buffalo mozzarella is placed in bits across the pie, not too much, not too much. The extra virgin olive oil is applied.  Something is different.  The concoction enters the oven.  He watches.  Is this it?  Will this be the perfect pizza?

"Damn it there's too much cornicione!" someone yelps out.

--In tribute to the re-opening of Una Pizza Napoletana in New York