This month, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation blog posted an article, The Restaurant Toolbox: Menu Options for Saving Important Food Establishments. The article outlines actions we can take as consumers to help support our locally owned restaurants and food businesses. The #1 thing we can do is to think about where we eat and shop. Make an effort to patronize businesses deeply rooted in the community. By doing this, we help ensure their survival in an ever-increasing-rent climate.
The article also outlines what businesses can do to help themselves, as well as what policy makers can do. It’s very well written with great suggestions.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today, I’m celebrating Mexican food with a trip to Arriba Arriba, the popular Mexican spot in Hell’s Kitchen. This place is always packed and has outdoor seating if you like to dine al fresco. It can get a little loud inside and with the low lighting and pounding music, it has more of a lounge vibe.
Arriba Arriba makes the best cheese enchiladas mole served with Spanish rice and a salad.
The alambre–marinated shrimp, steak and veggies skewer with rice and sauces.
And my favorite, the delicious huge burritos.
This year for Easter, I made an Italian Easter rice pie. I’ve written before about the Italian Easter pies, the pizza chiena, or pizza rustica, and the pastiera, or pizza grano. This is a variation of the pizza grano. The pizza grano is a Neapolitan wheat pie served at Easter. My family traditionally made this pie at Easter time. Part of my dad’s family is from the area near Benevento, Italy, and there they make a variation with rice instead of wheat. So he grew up with both the wheat and rice pies at Easter.
I wanted to be ambitious this Easter/Lent and make a lot more, but I haven’t had the time. I had wanted to make hot cross buns, but instead just got some yummy ones from a bakery. I’m also going to make a pizza chiena. My grandma has a variation of the pizza chiena that is vegetarian, using mashed potatoes. I don’t think I will be making that one this year though, as I don’t have time. Now, I do have a homemade crust recipe, but I can’t publish it or else I may get the malocchio from my aunt.
Italian Easter Rice Pie
1 1/2 cups whole milk or 1 cup skim/1/2% milk and 1/2 cup light cream/half and half
1/2 cup rice
1 cup sugar
1 pound ricotta (I use Calabro brand.)
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. candied citron (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)
1 deep dish frozen pie crust
1 regular frozen pie crust
Cook rice according to package directions (with water). Add milk and cook on low until milk is absorbed. Cool. Beat eggs and beat in sugar. Add ricotta, orange blossom water, vanilla and citron and stir. Put into deep dish pie crust and top with top crust. (I used a regular pie crust for the top and cut strips with a pastry cutter.) Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Cool and serve.
Posted in Cheese, Dessert, History, Holiday, Italian, New York, Pie
Tagged Benevento, citron, Easter, Italian, Italian Easter pie, Neapolitan, orange blossom water, pastiera, pizza chiena, pizza grano, pizza rustica, rice pie, ricotta, ricotta pie, wheat pie
New Taste of the Upper West Side is coming up in May. I’ve been to this event, and it is a great way to try food from the area’s top restaurants. The 7th annual event runs from May 27th through May 31st. It includes A-list talent such as Travel Channel’s Adam Richman and Food Network’s Alex Guarnaschelli, who will host Comfort Classics on Friday, May 30th, and TODAY show contributor and New York Knicks broadcaster Jill Martin, who will host Best of the West on Saturday, May 31st, with honoree Daniel Boulud.
photo used with permission
Participating chefs include Jacques Torres, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Christina Tosi and many more. Some of my favorite places will be represented, such as Gazala’s, Big Daddy’s, Treat House, Sugar and Plumm, The Meatball Shop, Bar Boulud, Blue Ribbon, Porter House NY and Rosa Mexicano. I have yet to try Red Farm, The Smith, The Lincoln, THE LEOPARD at des Artistes and Parm, so it will be an opportunity to try them. The event is presented by the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District, the area from West 67th Street to West 82nd Street, including the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Historical Society. New Taste of the Upper West Side celebrates chefs in the area, and all net proceeds from the event go toward neighborhood projects.
Theodore Roosevelt Park photo used with permission
Professional food photographer Bill Brady helps businesses sell a product or a lifestyle by creating a certain mood through his photos. He writes, “Crumbs wants the public to crave their Crumnuts, T-Fal displays their perfect and dependable cookware, and the Quinoa Board must express that ancient grains equal a healthy lifestyle.”
With his new food art exhibition at the Martin Vogel Photography Gallery, he gets to do the opposite. “Rather than objectifying food as an object of beauty and desire,” he writes, “food becomes integral in the play of color, light and composition. The result is abstract, sometimes beautiful, other times shocking.”
He adds, “Reducing foodstuff to its lowest common denominator, it becomes the raw material of expression rather than the end product. Just as a traditional painter uses oils, watercolors and acrylics, I use condiments, sauces and food. Common objects like candy or frozen peas become an elevated mode of expression.”
To see Candyland
(pictured above) and other pieces in the collection, visit Food Art from March 6 through April 29 at the Martin Vogel Photography Gallery at the Port Washington Public Library
. The opening reception is Saturday, March 8th from 2 to 4 p.m. Bill will be lecturing on Monday evening, April 7th at 7:30 p.m.
I’m rounding out famous New York City steakhouses with Sparks Steak House. From the moment you are greeted by the host, you feel the classic, upscale feel of Sparks. The dark wood and large-framed Hudson River school landscape paintings on gold and burgundy walls evoke a time gone by. The bar has quite a hopping after work suit crowd. Clearly, it’s still a place where the good old boys do business meals and deals.
On my visit, I got a steakhouse classic, the sliced tomato and onion salad.
For sides, we shared the creamed spinach and hash brown potatoes.
I got a filet mignon.
My friend got prime sirloin steak.
For dessert, I got the house special, strawberry Romanoff, a special cream made with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and Grand Marnier.
My friend loved his steak and the sides. My steak and salad were good. The dessert wasn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be by the sound of it. But I highly recommend Sparks as it is a great steakhouse with a classic New York atmosphere and good food.
Wasabi, a London-based Japanese fast food chain, will open its first U.S. location in Times Square at Seventh Avenue and West 40th Street on Monday, February 24, 2014.
From the English site, Wasabi looks like a fun place to get Japanese favorites like sushi, bento boxes and noodle soups. Everything is made in-house every day. They use sustainably sourced yellowfin tuna and salmon. There are at least 50 types of sushi to choose from in the form of hosomaki(thin rolls), futomaki (fat rolls), nigiri (thinly sliced fish over rice), gunkan (torpedo-shaped pieces), hand-rolls and onigiri (triangles of rice wrapped around a choice of savory filling). Also, the sushi is individually wrapped.
Not sure what fast-food ramen would be like (isn’t that an oxymoron?), but Wasabi has ramen as well as soumen, made with super-thin rice noodles, and tanmen, made with thick rice noodles.
Caffe Dante on MacDougal Street is closing on Sunday for renovations. It looks as if it will reopen with a different concept. It’s sad to see it change, as it has been there so long and is one of the Village classics. I loved sitting in Caffe Dante, writing in a notebook, sipping a cappuccino or eating some delicious gelato. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here, so much so, that when I was gone for a long time and finally returned, the man who worked behind the gelato counter would ask where I’ve been.
Change is the only constant, and with classic NYC restaurants like Gray’s Papaya and Milady’s closing, it’s no wonder that older establishments are looking for ways to survive in the days of the ludicrous rent hikes.
But nothing said the Village like Caffe Dante.
It’s funny, I took this picture a few months ago when I was walking down MacDougal Street because I said to myself that I don’t have a picture of Caffe Dante and I should take it so that I can remember it. Well, one doesn’t have to be Sylvia Browne to see that the Village is morphing from a place with ethnic diversity, class diversity, artistic and individual expression to one of stale gentrification.
So the big NYC food news is that Gray’s Papaya is closing its West Village location due to a rent hike. It is iconic, known for its super cheap hot dogs. I admit, though, that I only ate there once, while a student at NYU. I’m not a big hot dog person, so it wasn’t top on my list. But it’s always sad to see an iconic restaurant, especially one in the Village, close.