Thursday, August 25, 2011

Times Square kiosk awardees come forward

August 25

I just got off the phone with my friends at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, who I think were bursting with desire to share the news that they’re one of four restaurants that have been granted the right to set up a kiosk in the unbelievably high-traffic area of Times Square. 

The other three are international empanada stand Nuchas; Snack Box, a creation of Jonathan Morr of Republic and Bond St., which will be serving espresso, milk shakes and gourmet hot dogs; and panini stand Salumè.

They told me Salumè would open this week, and the rest will open in the coming weeks. Rickshaw's targeted opening date is late September or early October.

All of the kiosks will be opening on Broadway Plaza, the pedestrian zone that Broadway has become.

A press release the Rickshaw folks forwarded to me from the Times Square Alliance said construction of the Salumè stand would start tomorrow, between 46th and 47th streets, and that it would open by mid-September. 

But of course a restaurant’s not open until it’s open.

And once these particular spots are open, I suspect they’ll be mobbed. 

So, congratulations all around.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Family & Friends night at Frankies 570 Spuntino

August 19

That picture on the left is what the outside of Frankies 570 Spuntino looked like last night. You really need to be confident that you’re in the right place to open that door.

It struck me as being very much in the style of Franks Castronovo and Falcinelli, who own and run the restaurant and who, if they didn’t invent the current fashion of Brooklyn grunge chic that dominates large chunks of that borough (and maybe they did), they’re certainly the poster boys for it in the food world.

They have that we’re-so-cool-we-don't-need-to-shave-or-even-trim-our-beards-and-we’re-certainly-not-going-to-try-to-impress-you-because-we-don’t-care-what-you-think vibe that, damn it, is quite alluring.

I was invited to family-and-friends night at their new West Village restaurant, which isn’t even slated to open for another month, hence all the construction materials and building permits and hidden entrance. Eventually it will have a perfectly nice and conventional entrance with big windows letting natural light into the restaurant.

But last night, with the walls boarded up, it was dark, and I could barely see the food at my candle-lit table.

But the cool insider people were there. Life and Style reporter Juliet Izon swung by my table to say hello (we periodically eat together on expeditions organized by New York Post reporter Max Gross to iconic or merely awesome restaurants in the outer boroughs, such as Pirosmani in Brookly and Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan in Queens).

I ran into Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin on my way to the bathroom. Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit, who I never see anymore, sat down at my table and snacked on the cheese from my antipasti plate while we mused about changes in the food scene. His two-year-old daughter Julep snacked on my salumi, which is fine. There was plenty to eat.

What I ate:

three crostini: sungold tomato and basil; white anchovy, avocado and setti anni peppers; and rocotta with speck and honey

saffron arancini stuffed with bolognese sauce

vegetable antipasti including broccoli raab and a variety of olives

farmhouse cheeses

cured meats including capicola and two types of sopressata.

baked clams

heirloom tomatoes and pickled market beans

fennel, celery root and parsley salad

grilled squid with pickled peppers

cavatelli with hot sausage

meatballs with pine nuts and raisins

egg yolk & cauliflower ravioli with brown butter, almonds and anchovy

Mast Brothers chocolate ganache tart

red wine prunes and mascarpone

Friday, August 12, 2011

What to do with an oversized zucchini

August 12

I've spent the week visiting family in Denver, which is always fun. I've played Guitar Hero and run around at Chuck E. Cheese's, had my breakfast burrito at Pete's Kitchen and calmed my stomach with a Colorado Smashburger after indulging in the rides at Elitch's. I've examined the local beer just to make sure it's still awesome. I'm somewhat despondent that the peaches are not yet in their prime, but I'm working through that heartache.

I've even done some cooking.

We had some family over for dinner and mostly had it catered: We drove to Tacos y Salsas and bought 30 assorted tacos. But I thought some sort of vegetable was in order. So I looked in my mother's refrigerator and was confronted with a giant zucchini from the garden.

My eyes narrowed. When I was growing up, the family custom was to slice zucchini into rounds and saute them with onions, peppers and tomatoes. The mushy centers of those rounds still haunt me.

So I started by peeling the thing, slicing it into quarters and scraping out that damn mushy middle. Looking at the seeds that came out with the gunk I was instantly reminded of making Jack o'Lanterns, and the side activity of toasting pumpkin seeds.

I'd never heard of toasting a zucchini seed. But I separated them out and set them on a cookie sheet to dry.

I decided to dice the zucchini flesh and blanch it in salted water, mostly as a delaying tactic while I thought of what else to do. But actually it blached beautifully. I dropped it into salted boiling water and then drained it and rinsed it in cold water as soon as the water started boiling again.
The zucchini was tender, but still had body. And it tasted fresh and green, like an August evening.

I had thought of making a salad out of it, but I didn't think it needed to be buried in vinegar and olive oil, so instead I just picked some basil from the garden, tore it and added it to the zucchini, along with black pepper and some salt. Then I stuck it in the fridge because it seemed like something that should be served ice cold.

I had dried the seeds in a 200 degree (Fahrenheit) oven, and they already started to get crunchy and nutty. I heated the oven to 400 and promptly burned most of them. But the ones that survived were very much like smaller versions of the pumpkin seeds of my childhood and would have been a great addition to my zucchini dish, but we ate them beforehand.

Anyway, the zucchini was a hit. Next time I'll add some blanched, diced garlic, as well as toasted seeds, which I'll toss in a dry wok instead of trying to toast them in an oven. They cook really fast.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Bluefin jerky

August 8

Not everything I learned about bluefin tuna could fit into the feature aboout that fish that appear's in this week's issue of Nation's Restaurant News. Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to talk more about the different bluefin fisheries or the different farms and ranches that are raising the fish.

One thing I wanted to share was what Troy Guard, chef-owner of TAG in Denver, learned to do in Hawaii, where he trained under chef and restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi.

There the chefs would save the blood line of the tuna that runs along the fish's spine.

They'd sprinke it with local salt and dry it in the sun. They's serve it as a type of jerky.

"We called it something coo and crazy, like 'sun-dried tuna blood,'" Guard told me.

Guard orders a ranched bluefin tuna to cook at TAG most weeks, but he hasn't tried serving the bloodline there yet.