Thursday, July 29, 2010

Olio E Piú

Things that are amazing about my job.

1.  Eating
2.  Eating
3.  Eating

Did I mention it's amazing and awesome that I get to eat for "work?"  Sure, it gets a little rough.  Like when you end up eating 120 cupcakes over three weeks in pursuit of New York City's greatest cupcake.  Honestly, I think that is one of the most difficult things I've had to make it through.  I'm not kidding.  I thought I was going to ralph more than once.

So, moving on from that last positive note, today's awesomeness came in the form of checking out a new pizza place.  Olio E Piu opened on Sunday in the West Village.  It took over Go Sushi's old locale.  The vivid grass green exterior is hard to miss.  At first glance, I was loving the colors of the interior.  First off, for a New York restaurant, it is rather spacious.  Secondly, the mixture of woods, a few vintage pieces, high ceilings, wood ceiling beams, and bright, creamy walls was visually appealing.  After I'd spent some time there though I reconsidered my original evaluation and felt, perhaps, the place was a bit stark.

Everyone in the restaurant was most certainly friendly and passionate about the subject of pizza.  Giulio Adriani, the owner, is fresh off the boat from Italy.  His oven is as well, straight from Napoli, capital of delicious and fresh pizza.  I enjoyed watching him work the oven while preparing our pizzas.  I also had amazing lunch companionship in the form of Adam Kuban, Ed Levine, and Nick Solares.  Very entertaining lunchmates indeed.

We ordered four different options:





The Margherita was the best which normally is your indicator that the rest will be good as well.  The Amalfitana seemed promising and interesting with "lemon slices."  It seemed the acidity would be a potentially amazing contrast with the mozzarella and Parmesan.  Unfortunately, the lemon slices were much too thick to work.  Because they are so newly opened, I'm going to give some allowance on this one.  Giulio came over to my table to check on me and my companions and sought our opinions.  He said he is using the changes for improvement.  The crust definitely has a decent chew on it and the Margherita will leak yummy sauce all over your plate that you'll have no choice but to sop up with said crust.

So, if your pizzas are more pizzalike than salads with a little crust under them, thank me.  Or if your lemon is shaved super thin.  I'm sure it was all my doing.

Olio e Più on Urbanspoon

New York Pizza: A Growing Addiction

So, it's 6:36 p.m. and I'm getting ready to leave the Serious Eats Headquarters for the day which means I'm thinking about what to do for dinner.  You should know that today I've consumed three types of noodles from Xi'an Famous Foods, four wraps from The Kati Roll Company, a salad and some Tikka Masala from the Whole Foods bar, oh, and eight different cupcakes from the CakeLab (by the way, amazingly awesome cupcakes - which I should know after having sampled 50 cupcakes on Friday.)

So, it only makes sense that I'm hungry.  I don't know what it is but I'm pretty much always in the mood for a slice.  If you can find a good slice your stomach can always make space.  What makes up a good slice?  Crisp, chewy crust, fresh uncomplicated sauce, and light on the cheese.  Heavy on the cheese and I think it must've come from Pizza Hut.  I seriously don't understand how Domino's stays in business in New York City.  Shouldn't people know better?

On to the business of actual eating.  My most recent tastes:


I was fortunate enough to partake in Adam Kuban's bachelor party at the SE office.  Motorino's did us a solid and delivered many delicious pies.  We had many different flavors but I'm going to post just two of them.  Motorino's is considered (by Slice'rs at least) to be one of the best pizzas in town.  They do it Neapolitan style and are in fact delicious.  Great chew to the crust, char as well.  Cheese, sauce, toppings - all perfection.  A definite new love.  Even better, if I'm too lazy to walk down my five flights of stairs, I'm within their delivery zone (although eating pizza at the actual location when it's fresh out of the oven is always best).


Brussel Sprouts - they actually found a way to make them taste good!

  Ray's Famous Pizza:

World Famous Ray's Pizza - is it really famous?  Also, I have to ponder a pizzeria's decision to claim "famous" over "best."  The obvious choice would be that they are not the best but rely on business from tourists that don't seem to know any better.  Is it an insult to the New York slice? No.  It falls somewhere in between. 

I ordered a sausage and pepperoni slice.  Crust had some decent flavor for a bite on its own.  Too much cheese for a New York slice.  At 3.60 for two toppings falls a little on the expensive side for a mediocre slice.  Okay if you're in the area but definitely don't go out of your way to get a slice here.

If you can believe it, I actually have three or four more pizzerias to post about here but I don't want to overwhelm you.  Just know that if you're ever in New York, give me a buzz and I'll steer you towards the right spots and far, far away from all the tourist crap.  

So, what's the verdict?  I'll be eating pizza but one pizzeria may not be sufficient.  This girl has to get as much of the mouth-watering, crunch noise inducing as humanly (or maybe not humanly) possible before she has to leave her mecca.  Sigh.  

Bleecker Street Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life Changing Salted Caramel Sauce

Freaking Awesome Salted Caramel Sauce Swimming Atop Ice Cream from Guerrilla Ice Cream

Holy freaking crap.  I can't help it.  This sauce is that freaking good.  My palate is blown - in a really, really good way.

Tomorrow at the SE office we are conducting a microwave popcorn taste test.  We put feelers out to our community about their thoughts and tomorrow we will take yet another one for the team and subject ourselves to a ridiculous amount of food in a short period of time.  As often is the case, we have an extra person or two that comes in on these marathon taste tests.  This time it is someone bringing ice cream.

Naturally, I googled popcorn ice cream as soon as I heard.  And this is what popped up.  I knew what I had to do.

I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home and picked up the ingredients which was a sacrifice in itself.  The Whole Foods @ Union Square if freakin' nuts.  Seriously people?  It's not that amazing of a store.  Please, disperse to your own local stores.  Thank you!

Let the cooking commence!

Here's what you'll need:

2 c sugar
1 2/3 c heavy cream
2 tbsp salted butter
1/4 tsp fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

I want to say this isn't difficult to make - which is true.  But if you're timid in the kitchen this may not be for you.

Step 1:

Add sugar to heavy cast iron pan.  I only have one temperature setting on my stove in New York, so high heat it was.  The point is to melt your sugar - so it's all good.

When it begins to brown (see above)  gently move the sugar around so that the unmelted sugar gets its chance to melt too.  You'll have some chunks but if you're patient, they'll melt.  Stir gently.

The directions said the caramel would smoke and not to worry.  I may have heeded that advice a little too closely.  Fortunately, the smoke alarm did not go off and my apartment aired out fairly quickly.

Take two on the sugar.  (at least it was something I had extra of)

Step 2:

So, pretending that my caramel was perfect (which it was the second time around), once it has a smooth and even texture, remove it from the heat.  Add about a quarter of the cream while whisking quickly.  It'll bubble up pretty good so you may get a splash or two.  Just be very, very careful.  I'm pretty sure this would hurt like the dickens if you got it on yourself.

Continue to incorporate the cream until the 1 2/3 c measure is all added.  Then go ahead and stir in the delicious makers - butter and salt.

Step 3:  (the eating part)

And this is what you get!  I used a spoon for tasting and then I fell to the ground in a delicious coma.  AM-freaking-AZING.  Seriously, it's that good.  You really should make this.  And if you don't want to, try to con someone else around you to do it for you.  Because now that you've read this, you cannot live life the same as before.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New York Wins: Ciao for Now

On the way home from the amazing 4th of July fireworks event in New York City, I had one of those funny "only in New York City" moments.  My husband was out visiting and we had earlier seen a friend   and former coworker post on Facebook that he was also visiting the city.  We'd been at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog eating contest that morning so didn't see his post until 5:00 p.m.  Figuring it was too late to catch him we continued on with our plans.  So, what happened?  We randomly run into him while exiting the L at 1st Ave and 14th Street.  Crazy, right?  Out of 8.3 million people we ran into the one we knew.

I swear there's a reason to this story.  As we continued our conversation on how crazy it was, the odds, and also updates on how life was, we discovered that he was visiting his girlfriend who happened to only be living blocks from my apartment.  Since it was late and we were all hot (muggy, humid subway) we concluded that we should have brunch the following morning.  A call around 11ish was arranged (hey, we're not all morning people.)

Insert mention of Ciao for Now.  Ciao for Now happens to be across the street from our friend's place so it became our meeting spot.  Even though it was a Monday, Ciao for Now was kind enough to offer their Brunch Menu (it was after all, a "holiday," sort of).  I ordered the Hungbuster.

 Hand grated potato, rosti style with two sunnyside up eggs on top. Add pork, chicken or veggie sausage or bacon — $2

What did I think?  The eggs were phenomenal.  The bacon exceeded my expectations.  I love bacon but I find that so many places can't seem to get it right - at least, what I deem to be right.  It was perfectly chewy and crispy all at once and thick cut.  I'd return just for that.  I can't say as many positive things about the potato.  We had a discussion over at Serious Eats about hash browns vs. home fries.  The conclusion from our site and discussion was that we preferred home fries when done right but ordered hash browns at places that hadn't mastered home fries.

Sadly, Ciao for Now has not mastered their version of "hash browns."  They were mushy and honestly had an odd flavor.  Sad.

I still give Ciao for Now a thumbs up.  I visited their cute little shop this morning to pick up some cupcakes for a tasting and while their hand grated potatoes were a fail I have a hard time not loving this place.  They are ever so friendly and I can tell the owners take pride in their food.  The cupcakes weren't too shabby either.  The cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cupcake was actually close to perfection.

Ciao For Now on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 12, 2010

New York Wins: Di Fara Pizza and Sweet Revenge Bakery

Living in New York can be tough.  Mostly because there are oh so many meals that are worthy of being shared.  Either because they are truly that fantastic or not worth your time in a town filled with saliva inducing dishes.

Dom, Pizza artist

Last week I had the opportunity to experience what is considered to be one of New York's best pizzerias, Di Fara's.  I was not let down.  It was truly delicious.  In the blog world there are many harsh critics.  Maybe for the simple fact alone that it's easy to be critical or throw out judgments when it's not face to face.  Also, pizza eaters can be quite fanatical and passionate about the beloved subject.

Anyway, here is a write up from Serious Eats (including my own two cents.)  I highly recommend going if you have not had a chance.

I've also been doing some cupcake eating as of late.  I tasted a Dulce de Leche cupcake from Sweet Revenge which led me to the decision that I needed to venture to the bakery myself to try more.  The frosting was rather creamy and amazing, the cake flavorful but dry.  I wanted to know if this was a fluke or the norm so I ambled over to The Village to check it out.  Service was not phenomenal but I guess the upside was that I had ample time to decide what to order.

I landed on the Sweet Revenge (Peanut Butter Cake, Ganache Filling with Peanut Butter Fudge Frosting 3.50) and the Pure (Mexican Vanilla Cake with Mexican Vanilla Buttercream 3.50.) A guy sitting at the bar swore by the Pure which is what led me to order it. I was actually leaning towards the Dirty (Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Truffle 3.50) or the Crimson & Cream (Raspberry Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 3.50) prior to his offered opinion. Sorry bar guy, flavor failure. His palate obviously sucks.

Very Pirates of the Caribbean, no?

I had help with these babies but the conclusion was the same as before.  Sweet Revenge makes an excellent cupcake BUT their cake is dry.  I don't get this.  Can someone explain to me how a bakery can successfully make a cupcake that has great flavor and creamy frosting (harder to do then you'd think) but can't seem to pull their cupcakes out of the oven in time?  Come on people, seriously.  Not rocket science.  

I may however have to try just one more time...

Sweet Revenge on Urbanspoon

Di Fara Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fat Witch Brownies: Worth Getting Fat?

I first became aware of this bakery when my husband and I booked our trip to visit New York for our anniversary and my interview at Serious Eats.  We were booked at Gild Hall and had a screaming deal thanks to Priceline.  I was a little uneasy about the hotel as it had antlers as decor which is not so much my style.  But I felt better about it as I read the reviews on Trip Advisor.  Being the eater that I am, I was especially excited at the thought of having brownies left on my pillow in place of chocolates.  Which led me to Fat Witch.  Apparently Gild Hall gave up this practice a few years ago but when they did leave brownies they were Fat Witch's.  I loved the unique idea used by Thompson Hotels but also loved that they were supporting a local business.

But I digress.   Since I had been disappointed in April by not receiving my Fat Witch brownie "pillow mint" I had to remedy the situation.  Fortunately, I work in Chelsea and the Chelsea Market is relatively close by.  

I ended up with two brownies (do I ever buy food for one person?  Answer, always no.)

Taste results?  Original Fat Witch: check no.  While moist, the brownie was devoid of any real brownie texture and overly buttery without the necessary fudginess to make it a brownie.  I'm the type of girl who appreciates MORE chocolate added to brownies (in the form of chunks, chips, Hershey's kisses, etc.)  

Caramel Fat Witch:  check yes.  Maybe it was a fluke on this one but it actually had some crustiness to the brownie which added the needed texture the original Fat Witch lacked.  It still wasn't my ideal brownie but the caramel added to it and made it a bit more interesting.  The original just lacked any pizazz that would lead me to return.  

Verdict?  Great packaging and name.  I'll consider giving it another go but I suspect this is a meh in the brownie world.  

Fat Witch Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mistakes I've Made: Ben's Pizza on MacDougal

Ben's Pizzeria on MacDougal

I realize I'm opening myself up here by entitling this post, "Mistakes I've Made," but it just fits.

Pizza Box, Ben's Pizza, 123 MacDougal Street

When I lived in New York before I spent most of my time in Greenwich Village.  I settled on Joe's as my favorite place for a NY slice and didn't continue my search.  This time out here I have a list (which grows by the day) of places I must try.  Ben's Pizza on MacDougal was on this list.  As some consider Ben's a rival of Joe's I had some expectations.  When I walked past Washington Square and arrived I had a deja vu moment.  I realized I had eaten here before.  That pretty much summed it up right there.  Not memorable.

I ordered a plain slice and a white slice.  Here they are...

Ben's Pizza on MacDougal White Slice and Plain Slice

They look decent from afar albeit the crust looks a little flat.

I'm not going to say they were horrible but if you're living in New York City and have pizza that actually qualifies as good then it kind of makes you want to stop eating.  The cheese was far too thick on both slices.  The ricotta on the white pie was ridiculous.  While they had heated both slices before handing them to me (which is key to having a good crisp, gooey slice) they cheese was still lukewarm.  I'm sorry to say as a sometimes cheap person that I threw the pizza away after trying it.  I thought about finding someone to give it to - but anyone in New York would have known better than to take these slices off my hands.

I'm told that this is good pizza when you're drunk.  I guess I'll never know...

Ben's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How I Started My Day: With a Chuckle

Serious Eats was contacted by a PR agency to see if we had any interest in attending the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.  I've watched it on ESPN and have also watched MTV's True Life, "I'm a Competitive Eater" and thought it sounded like fun.  I'm not sure that the 95 degree weather with 90% humidity will be fun though.

Anyways, I responded to the agency, and lo and behold this is what arrived today.  The Pepto Bismol was just a nice extra I guess.  They know me all too well.  This weekend will probably need an antacid of some type.

So, check out the contest this Sunday.  ESPN will begin broadcasting at 11:00 a.m. EST.  You may just see me up there, trying to beat Joey Chestnut's 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes.