Monthly Archives: September 2011

Lombardi’s v. Grimaldi’s

Since we’re on the comparison track, another quest of mine in NY was of course, the pizza quest.  Needless to say that Binks and I are huge pizza fans and you really just can’t go to NY without getting a NY slice.

After some minor research, we compared the highest and most popularly rated pizza places in NY according to Yelp – well minus a few that I didn’t get to try.

First, to Lombardi’s.  After we walked from the Lower West side to SoHo, we were famished.  Upon reaching Lombardi’s we were concerned about the stated wait time of approximately 45 minutes.  What was supposed to be a long wait turned into a 15 minute rest time as many people whose names were called, I think, just didn’t hear it.  So, we were immediately seated and given a menu.  We knew what we wanted.  Half of the Original Margherita and half pepperoni.

Delicious.  Let’s start with the crust as it really was my favorite part.  Usually unnoticed, this crust was perfectly chewy and had a taste – and not just a ‘I’m there as a bread’ taste.  Second, the sauce was quite flavorful without being overpowering for the pie.  I preferred the margherita, but Binks favored the pepperoni – probably for the added saltiness. Can I say that b/c of this experience, I now am requiring (to whoever will listen) that all my pizzas come with fresh basil baked in?!?!  Hello Flavor Town!

I left a very happy and satisfied blimp.

A few days later, we took some cousins, my sister, my mom and my aunt on a trek to Grimaldi’s.  We met them up near Wall St., which I discovered is not that large of a street at all, and decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.  Slightly over a 1 mile walk, at around .25 miles, my mom and aunt started wondering how much longer it would be.  Oy ve.

Once we got there, around 7:00 p.m., the line was discouraging.   For our group of 6, this seemed daunting as we were sure that the 2-person groups would be picked over us, which was happening.  But, 30 minutes later, the Grimaldi’s person came out and said, who was that group of six?  We raised our hands – how polite.  He said, “You’re up – come on in.”  You could feel the tension in the line.  And the happiness on my mom and aunt’s face.

We got in and got seated.  We ordered one margherita pie and one pepperoni.

This is what I managed to get a picture of after our hungry group saw the food.

I have to say, didn’t beat Lombardi’s.  And, I was expecting it to considering that everyone says the best pizza comes from Brooklyn.  Everyone I talked to anyway.  Tell me if you know different.  I liked it but it left me wanting something more from the slice.  For instance, the crust lacked real flavor to me.  While cooked perfectly, I wished for the texture of the one from Lombardi’s.  Also, (again b/c I was spoiled), there was a lack of flavor in the sauce – especially the basil flavor.  And, unfortunately I know why.  Watching them making it, I noticed that at the end of the assembly, the man simply throws a pinch of (what I saw of) Italian seasoning and basil right in the middle of the pie.  So if you look at the slice above, there is a basil leaf there and aside from that, no real depth of flavor compared to my previous experience at Lombardi’s.  We all picked the pepperoni – the other one was deemed too plain.

So, in this comparison of Grimaldi’s v. Lombardi’s – Lombardi’s takes the pie!

Oh and turns out – there’s a Grimaldi’s in Dallas – whomp whomp whomp.

Other places I wanted to (and one day will try) – DiFiara’s and Lucali – obviously, this list is not exhaustive.

Have you been to either?  Do you agree or disagree with me?  Are you a NY pizza fan?  What’s your favorite NY place?

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Filed under Italian

Bouchon v. Levain

As you may or may not know, a week before my dad’s passing, Binks and I went to NY for a cousin’s wedding.  We took 4 days for the wedding and an additional 3 days of non-wedding time (can we say too much extended family time?).

Call it a Babymoon if you will – I will not.  Rather, the appropriate term would be my search for the best food ever.

I have an affinity/bias/love-affair with NY.  When my family first moved to America, we moved to NY for about a month.  We didn’t stay long but it left a lasting impression.  From things I remember as a kid, I remember having the best Indian food in NY (heard of Jackson Heights anyone?), obviously killer pizza and the like.

This time, was really my first time in NY.  Usually we spend our time with family and were deemed too young to travel outside of Queens.  So, Binks and I made full use of the times we got alone to walk the streets of NY.

One day, as were heading out of our hotel, a girl walked passed me with the most delectable chocolate chip cookie in hand. I wanted one.  Not just one.  I wanted to try as many chocolate chip cookies as possible and find the best in NY.  Call it pregnancy cravings if you will – I will not.  It’s just me being me.

Here are my requirements for the perfect chocolate chip cookie:

1.  Texture – Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  This is a balancing act like none other.  And, while I enjoy a good slightly under-cooked center as the rest of us, I don’t want the whole cookie to rest on that.  (You should remember that Otis – although I will devour you any day and in anyway!)

2.  Chip/cookie Ratio – Definitely more cookie that chip for me.  If it’s too much chocolate chip, then I miss the whole point of a cookie.

3.  Taste – buttery, deep, not too sweet, hint of salty – I know you know what I mean.

My first stop – Bouchon Bakery.

Luckily we had a bakery just one block from our hotel.  Talk about tastefully convenient!

And speaking of tasty – this was just that.  Dare I say perfect?  I do.  The dough is fantastic – sweet but not overly so with a nice rounded out flavor.  What stood out the most was the chocolate.  Far superior to any other chocolate chip I have had.  Overall, I was one happy NY foodie tourist.

Then, came Levain.  Known to many as offering the best cookies ever, I had to try.  We were walking around the Upper West Side (Binks wanted to see where Seinfeld lived), we trekked south towards our hotel before catching a bus to the airport.  With our time constraint, and the distance, I was sure we wouldn’t get time for a visit.  But, this is when determination hits hardest.

I told Binks that I would gladly walk another 4 miles just to get this cookie.  And, Binks being Binks, obliged.

Meet the chocolate chip walnut from Levain.

This is a beast at the least.  Heavy and dense.  A Goliath among chocolate chip cookies.  I broke into one to discovery an ooey and gooey center.  Yes, “ooey” and “gooey” is the ONLY way to describe it – I dare you to say differently.  It quite literally melts in your mouth.

I loved it.  The taste was there.  Full of chocolate chips and who could ever complain about portions?  Perfect?  Umm…..don’t hate me but No!  While nothing less than delicious, Bouchon ruined me (maybe for life).  I prefer a thinner chocolate chip cookie.  Levain was more like a giant dough ball.  Again, while I love an under-cooked center, this was too much.  And, there might have been too many chocolate chips.  Binks, the president of the chocolate addict club, agreed.

I said don’t hate me!

Would I ever deny myself one in the future?  Nope.  But if standing in a line offering Bouchon or Levain – Bouchon for me, please!

I do have to say there were many places we didn’t get to try:

–  Max Brenner
–  Pret A Manger
–   Almondine

Tasting only two cookies in my quest for the perfect cookie.  Call it a failure if you will – I will not.  Rather, I’ll be back – with a vengeance.

Tell me about your favorite chocolate chip cookie.  What do you look for?

13 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Favorites, Vacation

And the {Real} Cheese Stands Alone

I was selected to participate in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s program for Sargento Natural Cheeses.  So, yesterday, I picked up some Sargento cheese (Sharp Cheddar and Colby-Pepperjack) and fixin’s, and headed over to my mom’s to participate in a little foodie fun.  And by fun – I mean eating.

It should come as no surprise I love cheese.  But, I’m not a cheese snob.  In fact, I’ll readily admit that my sister and I ate American processed cheese slices in our sandwiches until college-age and loved every minute of it.  It wasn’t until college and I did my own shopping and label reading that I switched over to other options – like cheddar, which I used to think American was – but is clearly not.

So, when Sargento asked us to make a comparison to American processed cheese, I was ready for this challenge.  My mom and sister didn’t know anything about it.  Binks, a cheese fan, was more than ready to participate in the middle of his P90X routine.

I introduce to you the most pathetic looking cheese plate I have ever seen.

Let me introduce the contenders.

In the top row we have our usual: (left to right) 1. Name Brand American Cheese (White), 2.  Grocery Store Brand American Cheese (White), and 3.  Name Brand American Cheese (Yellow).  I always ask what the difference is between white and yellow American and no deli person has ever given me an answer.  

In the bottom row we have the newbies: (left to right/two slices each) 1. Sargento Natural Sharp Cheddar and 2.  Sargento Natural Colby-Pepperjack.

On the side we have rice crackers and grapes (my pregnant-lady substitute for red wine – again, pathetic, excuse me).

We started in the order listed above and 3 out of 4 of us agreed on a winner between the top row and the bottom row.  This is what we had to say about each:

1.  Name Brand American (White)

Can I note that Binks bent this a lot and it took a while for it to actually break.  We had to actually rip it like cloth – not the nicest way to describe cheese.

–  Me:  Bland, but the taste is very familiar and almost nostalgic.
–  Binks:  There is no real taste.  I hate it.
–  Sister:  I like it.  Tastes creamy.  Oh wait, that’s just sweaty.  But, I like it.
–  Mom:  It’s okay, not great.

2.  Grocery Store American (White)

–  Me:  Has a stronger taste than No. 1 but still doesn’t taste like anything.
–  Binks:   It has a stronger taste, but still bland.
–  Sister:  It’s creamy/sweaty and stronger, which I like.  This tastes really familiar.
–  Mom:  It’s okay.  Not great.  Better than No. 1.

3.  Name Brand American (Yellow)

– Me:  Tastes just like No. 1
–  Binks:  Tastes like No. 1
–  Sister:  It’s sweaty and bland like No. 1
–  Mom:   The cheese is not good.  I don’t want to eat anymore cheese.

4.  Sargento Natural Sharp Cheddar

Notice the folding difference.

– Me:  It tastes like cheese.  Tastes like actual cheddar cheese.  Great texture.
–  Binks:  My favorite.  Tastes the best.
–  Sister:  I don’t know.  It has a sharp taste to it.  It tastes like something.  Binks:  Cheddar?  Sister:  Yeah!  It tastes like cheddar.
–  Mom:  I like it.

5.  Sargento Natural Colby-Pepperjack

–  Me:  Spicy and creamy – love it.
–  Binks:  I don’t usually like pepperjack but I could eat this one.
–  Sister:  It tastes like something.  Binks:  Cheese?  Sister:  Yeah, plus something.  Binks:  Pepper?  Sister:  Yeah!  It’s fresh tasting.
–  Mom:  This is my favorite.

Why did I tell you all of this other than to waste minutes from your life?  Well, let me tell you.  Binks and I were in complete agreement.  My mom was busy tasting and saying how she can’t eat anymore cheese to really be included in my serious count.  My sister threw the whole thing off.  She kept insisting on the American cheese.  I didn’t understand but I figured she’s entitled to her opinion.  She definitely didn’t get the foodie part of my dad.

Then, after a couple of hours, she comes to me and says:  “You know, the American cheese reminds me of school and all the sandwiches that were prepared for us by mom and dad.  I don’t think I generally like the taste as much as it reminds me of being a kid.  I could eat this (American cheese) all day mindlessly.  The others actually taste like something, which I’m not used to.

I would be lying if I didn’t have the look of “What the hell are you talking about?!” on your face.

Either way – she gave me some kind of conclusion, which is this:  A lot of times we eat just because we want to eat or are familiar with something, and sometimes we forget that food should taste like something natural in this world.

My poor sister – she needs some serious cheese education.  Because my friends, cheese should have a taste, right?!  It should taste sharp and like cheese – not a random taste with creamy (even ignoring the sweaty) as the only saving grace.

So, the results of this match:

Sargento Sharp Cheddar – total winner for everyday use.

Sargento Colby Pepperjack – my favorite for spicy snacking.

American – Total cheese fail for everyone except my sister, who didn’t know that cheese should taste like something.

Are you an American cheese fan?  Did you grow up with it?  Still eat it?  Have you made the switch? To what?

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Filed under Appetizers, Uncategorized

Hello.

Hi friends.  I know it’s been a while.  As you can imagine, life here has been a bit turned upside down.  But, our family has been strong and is getting through the loss of my dad one day at a time – there really is no other way.  It’s probably the saddest and strangest thing I have ever been through.  Saddest for obvious reasons.  Strange because you know that one day it will happen, but you never are ever ready for when it does.  And especially when it’s sudden.  You guys have been such a wonderful support and just getting messages and posts with nice words have really helped more than you could ever know – so thank you again!

In my eulogy I talked about how my dad influenced my life and I mentioned how he got me interested in critical thinking, which eventually led me down the attorney career path and the like.  A week ago (I cannot believe it’s going to be three weeks on Friday), I started thinking about one of the biggest influences he had in my life – food.

My dad was in the hospitality and catering business for a long time (pretty much all his life).  When we were little, he would cook for us on occasion.  But when he did – it was marvelous.  I remember him putting so much attention and love into what he cooked and maintained a creativity about it all.  It really did inspire me to be the foodie I am today.  In fact, thinking back far, he would talk to me about food all the time – and what he liked to cook and eat.  Thinking back not so far, the last interaction we had was over family dinner and we were discussing food again – our favorites, what we hated, what we loved to cook, etc.  Don’t get me wrong – my mom is a fabulous cook but it’s my dad that had a real passion for it.

This has really been inspiring me to get back into the kitchen and start creating again, and sharing (with you) again.  

What’s also strange is how life moves on.  It’s as if my world was turned upside down but people kept going.  I’m scared that I’m going to forget what he sounds like, laughs like, looks like, what his hands feel like, smells like, etc.  And I’m sad he won’t ever get to meet Baby Binks.  And, I don’t have any nice words of wisdom because we’re all just figuring it out right now.  All I can say is – one day at a time.

11 Comments

Filed under Life