Monday, October 17, 2011

Noodle Up! The Noodle War Saga...

It's a shame I arrived in NYC too late to fight as a foot-soldier in the Forsyth Street Noodle Wars.  But that doesn't mean I can't do some research into exactly what those doomed fools were fighting over.  So while waiting for our hair to be done, me and my new friend strolled over to Kuai Le at 28 Forsyth St., followed by Xi'an Famous Foods just down the block.  This branch of Xi'an is takeout only, and although Kuai Le has some tables, the sound of toothless old men sucking shin bone like it was their long lost mother's teat, is simply, shall we say, off-putting.  Got it to go, and anyway, didn't want to mess up the hair.

Ooh baby you are going to flip when you see my wash, set, cut, perm,cap, foil, wax!
The battle, it appears, is between 'hand-pulled'-which is the traditional guy-in-the-window twirling fat strands of dough until they become smaller strands of edible size (although at Kuai Le they do their twirling in the kitchen); and 'hand-ripped', which is dough that is first flattened into strips, then slapped on the counter, and finally ripped into uneven lengths (see video below).  One is elegant, the other is rustic.  One slides into the mouth and down the throat, the other must be heartily chewed.  I'd like to say which is better (they are both great examples of simple, homemade food turned into something extraordinary), but at this point in the battle, I'd say it is time to, um, do more research.  I'll get back to you after my next hair appointment on the 'Corridor of Hair' on East Broadway, or as I like to call it, 頭髮走廊

Quart of soup with a fried egg on top from Kuai Le

CU: Fried Egg 

Hand-pulled noodles with baby bok, baby bok, baby bok

Meats, skins, tripes


Cute packaging from Xi'an Famous Foods

Vegetarian Style with baggie of secret sauce

Not tofu but wheat gluten


Sauce got all over the place.  Gigi's gonna be pissed!

Same Noodles with cumin lamb

...and in soup

Lots of hot oil

Noodles at rest

Chewy and Umame-ish

This is the hand-ripped from Xi'an.  So simple I think the little girl enjoying a lamb burger (more on that next time) could do it.  But I think she is still too young to suit up for this battle, even though she looks ready.  So for now, there seems to be a truce in the noodle wars.  If only for the sake of the children....

Kuai Le
28 Forsyth St

Xi'an Famous Foods
88 East Broadway (located on Forsyth St side of building)
Other Locations and Menu at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don Q? You're Welcome! The Weekday Weekend

One thing or another (job, business) has always had me working a lot of holidays and weekends.  You're at home with your family on Thanksgiving, I'm frantically trying to run down the satellite coordinates of  the clean feed of another shitty Lions game.  You're carving a beautiful turkey and inhaling Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale by the case, I'm eating catered gravy by the ladleful from a steam table and eyeing the Bunnomatic.  When normal citizens gather for the weekend festivities, I'm waking early, sober and confused, and going to bed, 18 hours later, sober and and just a little less confused.  But come Monday, it's industry night, freak.  I worked through your weekend, and now it's my weekend.  
Conveniently, Monday nights at the restaurant Lani Kai are 'Tiki Monday with Miller' an homage to Donn Beach and Kon Tiki from pirate captain and celebrity doctor (of mixology-NYC's Pegu Club and Death & Company), Brian Miller.  There are buckets of Don Q Rums, both Gold and Cristal, y Añejo también.  Don Q is a Puerto Rican rum, and that is all you need to know.  Because Miller knows the rest-fresh fruit juices, syrups, special spices, bitters, liqueurs, amaros, and for some reason (believe me, it works), more rum.  Venezuelan Añejo Rum, Bermudan Dark Rum, Overproof Demerara Rum, Jamaican Dark Rum, and Black Strap Rum.  Also gin, absinthe, and a couple of fey flower and straw garnishes.  It's the gay pirate thing, out at sea for months, etc. Who am I to judge (see below)?  It's intoxicating and the bathrooms have no locks.  Happy Hour is 6-8PM, so come early.  

For some reason, you can't just drink these cocktails normally

Just trying to wrap my tongue around this one (foto by weinoo)

Steeling the Mates (foto by weinoo)

So how is Norway?

The Boss showed up

Shots of Ramazotti?

Norway is good!

Tuesday evening started with a bang-up dinner at Neil's, a legendary Upper East Side Coffee Shop of which there are probably a hundred, but used to be a thousand, back when a 'regular coffee' meant coffee with milk and sugar and you got it handed to you by someone who just didn't give a shit what your name was.  (When I'm in Starbucks and they ask me my name to write on the cup, I usually say, "Fedoon."  When they call out "Fedoon?", you can literally feel the whole place tense up.  Try it some morning-fucking hilarious.)  Autographed photos everywhere, including, of course, Liza Minelli AND Tony Randall.  Super classy.  The older gentleman I was dining with ordered the chicken noodle soup, and pronounced it to be a fine homemade broth, whose noodles were "al dente".  He actually said "al dente", referring to coffee shop chicken noodle soup.  He is a  truly classy elder statesman married to a  former Upper East Side socialite.  I had the BLT on rye, and pronounced it edible.  The waiter called me 'boss', as in, "would you like me to crumble those crackers for you, boss?  You look a little tired."  And I settled on calling him 'chief', as in, "I don't eat crackers cause they're bad for my dentures, chief."  Super classy all around.
After we picked our teeth, we walked over to Hunter College to see Patti Smith read poetry and play some songs with daughter Jessie and guitarist Lenny Kaye.  Very funny and charming when she forgot the words to 'Because the Night', the hit she wrote with Springsteen, and had to start over after a giggling fit.  As she and Lenny both turn 65 this year, my drooling companion and I actually felt young for a few minutes.  But then those Hunter co-eds set us straight-they were not having any of THAT.  But we try not to let it ruin our weekend.  After all, it's a Tuesday night, freak!

NOT Campbell's

Excellent half-a-sour pickle

Patti's thoughts

Lani Kai 
525 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013
(646) 596-8778

961 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10021-5160
(212) 628-7474

Friday, October 07, 2011

Wake and Bake

Eating a healthy breakfast is supposed to be the cornerstone of a productive day.  That goes a long way to explaining why nobody has a job in this country anymore.  The line of people waiting to inhale industrial machine-made gross globules of animal grease and chemicals in various states of matter, ranging from Super-Solid (McGriddles), to String-net Liquid (Dunkaccino®), is ponderous, to say the least.  Ever had a pumpkin scone from Starbucks?  The consistency reminds me of Chinese drywall.  Remember the controversy about Chinese drywall?  How it all contained mold and all the new houses had to have their drywall ripped out and replaced because homeowners’ kids were getting sick with asthma from the mold?  That’s a scone from Starbucks.  Drywall avec mold. 

Fortunately there is one of those greenmarkets on the corner of Broadway and Chambers that seem to be on every corner in NYC, right where they used to have that ratty-salt-and-pepper-dreadlocked skate-punk with his Mexican blanket laid out, selling books by Hubert Selby and CD’s by Serge Gainsbourg.  He also sold weed, by the way, and many’s the day I saw otherwise buttoned-down punters walking away with multiple bindles of cheesle.  But he don’t pay no rent, so him gone.  And now you can buy fresh water-tower bamboo-planking honey, and locally-sourced sea cucumber, right in front of City Hall.  Maybe take some down to the occupy wall streeters, help the kids keep their strength up. 

Mornings are a little rough for me, contemplating the imminent cloud-filled sky of the day’s events I am about to  be covering, so I like to start my day with the whimsical mini-tarts and quiches that are made from scratch by The Orchards of Concklin.  Sounds a bit dramatic for a farm, I know, but the list of ingredients for the quiche starts with, ‘Fine assortment of cheeses’, so they come by their bravado honestly.  Light crust, just enough heft.  It’s healthy, it’s tasty, it’s two bucks.  Nice little treat, makes you feel good about yourself.  If you need to carb-load, then I would suggest you walk up a few blocks to Chinatown, where the breakfast of champions is the green tea waffle.  You can get it stuffed with anything from whipped cream to peanut butter.  Although it is usually eaten for dessert, by the time I finish my Banh Mi from Paris Sandwich on Mott St., I’ve had enough, so it always gets eaten for breakfast the next day.  It’s good to plan ahead.


What delightful filling is inside, you may ask?

I already scooped it out with a spoon, so you'll never know

But if you’re truly feeling like you need to shovel some nasty shit down your rusty gullet in the A.M., you can always try this wonderful fall holiday recipe from Cooking with Dunkin’ [pumpkin gravy breakfast made from Dunkin' Donuts muffins and coffee]  It is so grotesque I feel uncontrollably drawn to it.

And it actually goes great with a big bowl of cheesle. [Smiley]  

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

New York on a Dollar (Dumplings) a Day

New York has the reputation of being a very expensive place to live.  It is well-deserved.  Money goes flying out of your pockets faster than a $20 blow-job, which, by the way, in New York, is $100.  Fortunately, there are a lot of cheapo breakfast and lunch spots for the working types: your egg-on-a-roll, your meat-on-a-stick, your dollar-slice, your dollar-dog, and your halal lamb-and-eggs, all of which can satisfy the most basic hunger and then get you back to work in a New York minute (which is officially four seconds).  The five-for-a-dollar dumplings craze is still popular in Chinatown; so popular, in fact, that they are now four-for-a-dollar.  The dumplings at Vanessa’s seem to be bigger than most, and their other menu items make it worth wading through the grime of non-gentrified Eldridge St.  Although if you’ve never seen someone empty their nostrils, one at a time, by holding one and blowing the viscous stream of gungess out the other onto a city sidewalk, then you might consider that a plus.  My point is, watch where you walk.

Lunch at your Desk

Look Inside for your Prize!

Buns of Pork

Eight Fat Dumplings, Two Thin Dollars

All This for $7-That's a full quart of Congee, FYI

The ‘sesame pancake sandwich’ is a big round of lightly fried dough more than two feet in diameter, that is then cut into slices like a pizza.  The spongy slice I had was stuffed with ‘Peking duck’-duck meat, hoisin sauce, scallions ($2.50).  Was it enough for lunch?  Possibly.  But since I had already made the trip, and dodged the dregs, I got a few other items-the ‘pork fried bun’ (3/$1); a large bowl of ‘mung bean congee’ ($1.50), great on a cold day and as a hangover cure; and of course two orders of the titular 'chive and pork fried dumplings’ (4/$1).  All this food actually lasted for two lunches, so my total of $7 was cut in half, or $3.50/lunch per day.  There are also a bunch of vegetarian items for those who swing that way, and they sell frozen dumplings, 50 a bag, for $9 (chive/pork) and up.  And if you don’t want to make the trip, they do catering-although you’ll miss the tiny lady flipping the giant pancake, which brought squeals of delight from the Dutch tourists next to me.  And you can’t put a price on squealing Dutch girls.