Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Bon Voyage!


Friends, Fans & Foodophiles,

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all! During this time of joy and reflection, I hope you find yourselves surrounded by loved ones and the spirit of giving.

As of 8pm PST tonight, I will be embarking on a journey across the world to visit Australia, home of hit crocodile based caricatures, famous Hollywood actors, and the "barbie". Along with my two travel companions, and my family abroad, we will explore the culture, social scene and FOOD of the Land Down Under.

I hope you all have a blessed and safe holiday season. Here's to new beginnings in 2010!

Regards,
The UE

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Social Drinking


Don't you just love when you start out the night with good friends a a couple of social drinks, and you wake up the next morning with great stories and mood to match?

My night started with sake, and in the traditional style, the cups never emptied and the bottle stayed full.

It's been happening for centuries. Why fight it? Thank you Japan.

How Should You Serve Sake?
Although sake has traditionally been served warm, advances in brewing technology have led to sake flavor profiles that are destroyed by heat. Nowadays, most premium sake tastes best when slightly chilled. If sake is too chilled, however, many of its flavor components are masked, just as a wine's would be. Sake, also like wine, presents a different personality at different temperatures. Each sake has its own optimum temperature, and this will vary, with the sake as well as your personal preference. As a general guideline and staring point, consider the following:

- Ginjo and other premium sake are good lightly chilled.

- Junmai, with its slightly fuller flavor and slightly higher acidity, often comes into its own slightly cool or at room temperature.

- Sake that is warmed should not be too hot, but rather just above body temperature, about 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 45 degrees Celsius).

Warming Sake
Sake is easily warmed by placing a filled flask in a saucepan of hot water or in a microwave. However, allowing a chilled sake to warm up and into room temperature, tasting it all the while, is an excellent way to find what works best for a given sake. It will help you match it with food as well as determine your own preferences. Warmed sake should be just above body temperature, about 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 45 degrees Celsius). However, the sake introduced at this site is best served slightly chilled. Warming the sake has a tendency to mask the true flavors intended by the brewer.

Pouring Etiquette
With sake as with beer, pouring for others is a common custom in Japan that takes a bit of getting used to but has a wonderful charm and appeal once ingrained. Small cups (called ochoko or guinomi) and a larger serving flask or vessel (tokkuri) allow for frequent refill opportunities, each of which is a miniritual of social bonding. In formal situations, the tokkuri is held with two hands when pouring. Likewise , the person receiving should lift his or her glass off the table, holding it with one hand and supporting it with the other.

The more formal the situation the more such etiquette is observed. Even in informal situations, pouring sake for one's table companions is the norm, although pouring and receiving parties generally revert to the more natural one-hand grip. Among close friends, after the first round or so, all pouring rituals are often abandoned for convenience. Pouring for yourself is known as tejaku.

Your companions may feel an uncontrollable urge to refill your cup when it is empty. Resisting their entreaties for more is generally futile, so the best approach is to allow your cup to be filled and then take tiny, tiny sips so that it never goes dry.

Storage and Consumption Tips
Each eSake product is of premium quality, and is best enjoyed cool or chilled. We do not recommend warming our sake, as this tends to mask or destroy various flavor characteristics of the beverage.

- If you don't plan on drinking your sake soon after it arrives, please keep it refrigerated or in a cool, dark room. Prolonged exposure to heat or direct light will spoil your sake.

- It is generally best to consume your sake soon after you purchase it. Although sake is sometimes aged, often with wonderful results, the sake we sell is best consumed within a few months after purchase.

- Once you open your bottle of sake, we suggest you enjoy the complete bottle within two or three hours, and if you have friends over that's not too hard. If you simply can't finish it all, please store in your refrigerator and drink the remainder within the next two days. Premium sake, once opened, begins to oxidize, and this noticeably impacts the taste.

Source: http://www.esake.com/Sake-Food/Etiquette/etiquette.html

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Friday, November 20, 2009

The Perfect Pair


Probably one of the most expensive meals I have ever had was my recent trip to Momofuku Ko here in Manhattan. I had been blessed with an offer to swipe someone’s dinner reservation (which is not easy to obtain in the slightest). The excitement built steadily as the day approached. I had heard wondrous, legendary tales of how good the food was at this restaurant, and was eager to see if the bar had been set appropriately high.

I sat and began the 10 course tasting, relenting through one dish after another. The ingredients of the meal were exquisite. The flavors - genuine and bold. And the ambiance was unparalleled. Though alone, these pieces would have been worthy of acclaim in their own right, the combination of these pieces harmonized into a more grand masterpiece. Such a well thought out, almost poetic progression of flavors, textures and ingredients deserves praise and awe for the difficulty to weave such a perfect tapestry was only out done by its holistic simplicity.

But something was missing. That pocket square in a bespoke suit jacket. The staccato in a masterpiece symphony. That subtle dramatic pause in an award winning soliloquy. Something needed to be the propellant that shot this experience from great to eternally memorable.

And then there was wine

Wine, much like women, has the power to compliment a dish and elevate an experience into the ethereal. Wine can be the nightcap you've sought all week. It can be the gentle touch after a long day at work. It can be there for you in ways you couldn't even conceive you needed.

This is why the Italians do food so well. They know a dish, much like a person, cannot be complete without the partner that makes it better, that takes it to a new height of sensory experience and teaches all who encounter this pairing a deeper appreciation for themselves and their universe. Hence, why their wines have been historically vinified to only be their best when taken with food. Most wines can placidly exist next to a plate, forcing one to rationalize its right to be there. But a special wine – the right wine – can be the reason a meal replaces all priorities in your life, and becomes the memory of a lifetime.

The thing that put this meal above all else; the aspect that made me commit to elevating this experience above all else so far; the juno se qua;

Was the wine. In each pairing, the perfect combination vitis vinifera and gastromic creativity. To you Madam Vinifera, I salute. You are as beautiful as you are elusive.

The UE

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Onions and Demons


on⋅ion [uhn-yuh n]
1. a plant, Allium cepa, of the amaryllis family, having an edible, succulent, pungent bulb
2. The bulb of the onion plant
3. Former kryptonite to The UE

I used to hate onions. Hate them. HATE THEM. Onions were the scourge of my world. I can’t even begin to tell you how deeply I despised those wretched bulbs for the disgusting, awful, sour vegetables that they are.

But as stated in past posts, I have come to appreciate the onion for its value. The seasoning it provides, the slight amplification in flavor it can offer, and the dish textures it enhances. Onions aren’t too bad to me these days.

In the past, I have internalized this personal growth as an indicator that if you are open, whole new worlds can become available. However what I did not appreciate in my own introspection of my relationship with onions is just how long I let this veggie hold power over my life. For years, decades even, I used to avoid them like the plague. I would root them out of every burger, every sauce and every garnish in which they would come standard. In hindsight, I expended volumes of energy fighting the battle against onions when in reality I was failing to face the inner demon that held me back from letting onions no longer control me – my past experiences with onions.

When I was a young man, my mother used to put onions in everything. She loved the spicy white onion in particular. Her belief was that onions added such a robust, enjoyable flavor to every dish, the concept of “liberal application” no longer applied. So I was forced to eat onions as a child. Children, as we all know, dislike any vegetable as our young palates have yet to acquire the comprehension necessary to enjoy the more complex flavors of vegetables versus the naturally sweet and agreeable flavors of fruits.

So I hated them. And because I had them in my meals so much, I deplored them. And because I deplored them, I sought any means possible to rid myself of them as quickly as possible.

– I cut a hole in the window screen of my room so I could toss them out of the window when no one was looking

– I would finish my soda quickly and stuff them in the empty can to be thrown out with the rest of the trash

– I would chew a big bite and excuse myself to the bathroom where I would flush them down the toilet

The Young UE reserved no creative avenues in battle against the onion (sorry Ma, I know you read my blog). It took a lot of brainpower to outwit my parents and dispose of the much hated, layered beast. However as I matured, I began to approach my life with a more open perspective, and at some point, decided to face my demons. Onions, I decided, would no longer be the steward of my meals. I would now decide the fate of a dish, not the ingredients within. I began buying onions for soups. I started mincing onions to give my burgers a little extra juice. I even ordered hot dogs with extra grilled onions. And I ate every last bite.

A whole new world of flavors and possibilities wsa opened to me once I made the decision to stop living in the then of my unpalatable memories and start living for the flavors of the now. In that realization, I began to understand that in order to truly live life, you have to let go of your demons from the past.

Farewell to all you ghouls, goblins and specters!

- The UE

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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Lingering Taste…


I know I’m not the only one who gets cravings for indulgent meals from the past. You hear about it every day – people at work suddenly get the itch for a juicy, soft cheeseburger, those gooey chocolate chip cookies they just couldn’t put down, or the ever amorous chocolate covered strawberries. Why is it that it’s always the cookies or all the other things so bad for you linger in your minds? Sure, you’re eating healthy now. Maybe you’re even working out 3-4 times a week, like the doctor says. You are living your life in the food lane middle of the road. But all that wellness won’t do a lick of good when that need to stuff a whole pizza comes late at night. Some of the best foods, which almost always are some of the unhealthiest foods, tend to imprint themselves in your memories. Difficult to justify having, but even more impossible to forget, once in a while you have to admit you want something that’s just so bad it’s good.

Now, I’m not one to revisit the past too often, but I think we all at some point or another have had a meal that make us smile when we recall the memory. For me, it’s always those spicy, rich, amatory foods of Southwest Texas. Sure, if you walk down the right street in New York you can almost catch a hint of brisket spiced with jalapeños on the wind…but as quickly as it comes, it vanishes leaving me ruminating why I ever left in the first place. Did I really think New York was THAT much better that I would leave such a loving, attentive temptress like my favorite Tapatia nachos behind? How foolish could a young boy have been to flee from the arms of some of the most romantic and accepting foods he’s ever had?!

Science tells us that cravings are the body’s way of giving us a heads up on what we are missing. In other words, when our body is depleted in resources, such as sugar or serotonin, the brain needs a quick pick-me-up and so turns to satisfy itself with cravings. These primal lusts are no more than your body screaming to you what your mind can’t comprehend – you NEED it. But how strong are these cravings? How much power do you let them have over you? I often let my mind wander to meals past and relive the glory of the ordeal. That slight hint of cayenne, spicy yet playful, teasing my palette through a mélange of cheese, cumin and sage. I ponder the kitchen, where flavor melds to smell, sensation unites with satisfaction and from whence this rapturous affair found its origin.

Alas…imagining is never enough. Sometimes, you just have to give in. Sometimes you have to listen to what your body’s telling you. Sometimes…you need to just need to eat the cookie and get it off your mind.

It’s ok to swerve in the food lane just a little.

- The UE

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drop the Fork and Step Away from the Table!!!


My demon for the week has been my inability to put my fork down. I know when I've eaten more than my fill. All the studies and science I have read over the years has given me the right perspective on portion control, the calories in any food, and even tips on tricks on how to help yourself stop eating when you know you should be full but your body hasn't recognized it. But can you ever just eat 2 forkfuls of tiramisu?!

Who came up with these farcical rules anyway? What masochistic scientist decided that we only need to eat 2,000 calories? I mean seriously, who only wants to eat half a scoop of ice cream? When did it become important to watch things like “sodium” or “blood sugar”? Has anyone out there actually ever SEEN a “cholesterol”?

But in reality, these things do matter. I, myself, have been recently reminded of my own predispositions to mortality in certain food areas. In moments such as those you have to ask yourself if a piece of silky, entrancing, tantalizing tiramisu worth risking the magnanimous future you have yet to create, or the regal family you have yet to see reach their fullest potential? Sometimes it is (have you been to the Palm???)…but oft times it’s not.

Everyone has areas for growth. If you take an honest inventory of your character within and find areas not up to par, it shouldn’t be a cause for shame. We all want to be better versions of ourselves. But, for change to stick, you need to admit there is a need for change and seek the help and support requisite to ensure success in your evolution. Well, I am admitting that I need to work on acting when I know I'm full and my body just hasn't caught up with my brain. I am a human, and sometimes I need help remembering when to drop the fork and walk away from the table.

- The UE

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Musings on a Cold, Late Night

Things From Home I am Currently Missing:

- Good nachos

- Brisket without having to pay an arm and a leg

- The smell of fresh cut grass

- Short pants

- Smiling faces to share all this good food with

- The family


Events I'd Like to Attend but Can't Find Time:

- Spirits classes at Astor Center

- The free broadway shows going on in NY right now

- A cardio class at my gym


What Get's Me Through the Day:

- An Imperious spirit, too strong to bend

- Homecoming

- My family's legacy

- The thought of a Shipley's chocolate donut with sprinkles



The UE

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Photos from E Village Food Tour

The account info is user: theUE pswd: foodie1

Enjoy!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Urbane Adventures - East Village (The UE's BDay Celebration)



Friends, Fans and Foodophiles,

It is true, I have grown another year older. In light of my newfound maturity, I will be foregoing the typical club party in deference to something more in line with my tastes...

Life in the Food Lane presents the next installment of its beloved Urbane Adventure series that will tour some of my favorite eats in what is quickly becoming my favorite neighborhood in the city - the East Village.

Please join me in celebrating my 26th birthday! Since this food tour will be taking the place of my birthday party, apertifs (read: booze) will be provided. All you need is $20 cash and an appetite!

Date: Saturday, Sept 26th
Meet: In front of Starbucks on St Marks & Lafayette (6 train to Astor Place / R&W to 8th Street NYU)
Time: 12 - until
Cost: $20 cash on arrival
Contact: 404-964-7667

See you then!

The UE

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Subway Series - Fusion



Once upon a time I ended up in a Cuban Italian restaurant for mojitos and pasta cubano (ground pork meatballs on spaghetti tossed with marinara, pickles and a touch of sweet cabbage). Strange as it may sound, this was not the first time I have visited a mixed race restaurant. Fusion has become increasingly popular over the years, starting with proximate pan-asian foods, and expanding to combinations never before conceived. Before we knew it, the French were in bed with the Japanese making Steak au poivre with Kobe beef, Indian curry was seducing its way into Dominican tamales and the Texans were corralling chipotles to scintillate their brisket (thank you NAFTA). This got me wondering - could fusion be the answer to the world’s cultural problems?

Having an affinity for multiple worlds is one thing, but being of them is a completely different experience. Is culture learned or a birthright? Can you truly call someplace home if you have no tangible ties to it other than current location or the short visit last year? Can someone truly understand another's culture just because they were raised by people of said culture? Such abstract questions arguably define the appeal and character of a fusion restaurant.

Some will argue that specializing in one cuisine will offer you stability, solidarity and a well defined community. You know which people are your mates, and you have clear lines along which to draw the borders. Though I don't totally disagree with this perspective, I personally believe having a foot in multiple worlds solves more problems than it causes. While you don't have clear definitions and rules to easily and systematically define what something should be, the confusion and identify crisis such a lack of framework can cause inspires exploration and assimilation of more information from the different cultural offerings of the world. In seeking the identity of a dish that has no rules, one must search for the meaning and context which appeals to their individual spirit amongst the innumerable available. Sometimes, seeing how people of another world live can better your understanding of your own culture. It can also help deepen your appreciation for the beauty of other cultures in the world and inspire you to make their strengths a part of your own. I find the opposing view somewhat banal, for if you already have a recipe and know what the end product is going to be, there is no need to seek out an answer or deeper meaning. But when you don't know, the journey to the end product can be one of the most fulfilling aspect of the dish.

Kibito might just have been on to something...

- The UE

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Subway Series - I Am Pei


Food is an art form just like anything else. In the most obvious sense, it can be creatively and enticingly presented, using colors and textures to emulate visions of daily life and abstract thought. However, in its most primal sense, food is art of the body. It is experienced, absorbed, and used to fuel our daily life. So too does the great artist have an uncanny ability to experience something - a place, a time, a love affair - absorb it and use it as the fuel to create something exquisite and memorable.

I often find myself contemplating what drives the people who become the Van Gogh’s and I.M. Pei’s of the world. I imagine what goes on in their heads, and even go as far as to envy those people who are so visibly capable of taking experience and translating it into some tangible form to which an audience can immediately respond. To me, a day in their head must be like seeing music and hearing colors.

I sense the key lies in their ability to communicate something to me without the use of words. Take a painting – mere strokes of paint over a surface, but potentially moving to tears. A symphony can create joy as much as the rich baritone can inspire seductions.

The same should be said of food. A chef travels the world and draws from the sights, the flavors, the experience of the locals. Every time I shop for groceries, I get swept away into the memories of where I have been and who I have met. Every ingredient holds its own special place in my life, taking me from the humid streets of Houston to the arid valleys of LA. I hear and see a whirlwind of life and times spinning before my eyes but out of plain sight, and each time I prepare a meal I use some of myself for seasoning. Perhaps I am closer to Van Gogh than I thought...

- The UE

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Subway Series - Eating Out

Comfort is something I take for granted. Let me explain.

When I go out to eat, I meet all types of people – black, white, rich, poor, funny and awkward. Very rarely have I found myself in a situation where I haven't been comfortable. True, this comes after years of figuring my identity out after a lifetime of racial ambiguity, but I notice the same is not often true for others. So many people have a limited bandwidth for new people

They are too crunchy

They are too clean cut

They are ugly

They are picky

So many qualifiers block us from enjoying a new experience. Well I’ll tell you this - I love food far too much to let an all Spanish speaking crowd scare me away from some of the best tacos in the city.

What do you love enough to cross boundaries and comfort zones to find?

The UE

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Subway Series - A Collection of Thoughts


While traveling in the underbelly of New York City, one finds themselves with time to ponder their lives and muse over the quirks of existence in general.

Recently, I have found myself with a lot more free time on my hands, and while I have been out socializing more, I have found my brain has had a lot more time to wander into creative reflection. This series is a collection of those thoughts and musings written on the subway, in a cab, or random parks at 2 in the afternoon.

Enjoy!

-The UE

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Latin Libations - Photo Slideshow


As promised, a photo slideshow of the beautiful people in attendance at Latin Libations.

It wouldn't have been a party without you! Hope you can join us for the next one.

-The UE

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Instant Picnics in NY

Who doesn't love the thought of a nice outdoor picnic. Living in New York, you rarely get to take the time to enjoy a nice, lush green space. The birds chirping, the sun shining, a little fermented fruit juice to cool your mood. When you do, more often than not you have little time to properly prepare a wicker basket of goodies to go along with the red and white groundcloth event...

Well per a Tasting Table post this week, here are some suggestions for pre-made picnics and the perfect liquid refreshment to accompany, all at reasonable, effortless prices! In typical NY style, all you have to do is call ahead, pick it up, and voila! Instant picnic. Who said urbanites dont appreciate the great outdoors?

Enjoy!

Taken from Tasting Table Post dated 7/29/09

The Highline (map this planner)
Eat: Make for the city's newest green space with a Southern-style hamper from Braeburn. Studded with chunks of bacon, the chilled potato tart ($9) leaves typical potato salad in the dust and makes a happy companion to the sweet pulled-pork roll ($9). Don't miss the fried chicken ($15), in turns perfectly moist and crispy. Order a day ahead and the restaurant will pack your meal in an insulated bag.
Drink: 2008 Yellow + Blue Torrontes ($12) from Appellation Wine & Spirits; appellationnyc.com
~*~*~
Madison Square Park (map this planner)
Eat: Don't let an overwhelming line at Shake Shack kill your picnic plans. Instead, head to Boqueria, where you can get a Spanish basket for two ($50) that includes cheese or charcuterie, a salad and two bocatas (sandwiches). A house-made fig marmalade is the perfect foil to duck confit in the bocata de pato, while classical romesco sauce is seasonally reinterpreted with sugar snap peas in the bocata de pollo.
Drink: 2008 Martinshof Zweigelt ($14) from Bottlerocket Wine and Spirit; bottlerocketwine.com
~*~*~
Central Park (map this planner)
Eat: Save breakfast in bed for winter and instead greet the day with a morning picnic from Bouchon Bakery. Order a day ahead and the bakery will fill a canvas tote with still-warm pastries and your favorite caffeinated beverage ($32). The spread includes two croissants, two pains au chocolat and your choice of muffins and scones. For late risers, there's an equally enticing lunch tote ($42).
Drink: 2008 Sepp Moser Gruner Veltliner ($13) from 67 Wines and Spirits; 67wine.com
~*~*~
Bryant Park (map this planner)
Eat: When La Cense decided to open a burger truck to feature its grass-fed beef, the company tapped chef Adam Perry Lang for his perfect burger recipe. Topped with caramelized onions and a swath of melted cheese, Perry Lang's blend of four cuts (loin, rib, round and chuck) makes for a serious meat bomb ($7.50). The truck often sets up shop around Park Ave. and 47th St. (track it on Twitter), in perfect proximity for an impromptu alfresco lunch on the grass.
Drink: 2008 Mas De Gourgonnier Rosé ($14) from Morrell and Co. Wine Store; morrellwine.com
~*~*~
Prospect Park (map this planner)
Eat: For a simple French spread, ask the staff of Bklyn Larder to suggest some cheeses to pair with pork pâté ($16 a pound) and house-made pickles ($5). Or choose a concoction from the chalkboard of sandwiches ($8.50 each): One pairs hard-boiled egg, bacon, mayo and frisée on white bread; another smothers foccacia bread with ricotta and sautéed beet greens. Round out your bag with cold chickpea salad ($9 a pound) and a pint of house-made toasted-almond gelato ($9). Drink: 2008, Verderol "Spring in a Bottle" Verdejo ($14) from Sip Fine Wine; sipfinewine.comMcCarren Park (map this planner)
Eat: The folks at Urban Rustic, Williamsburg's larder of locally sourced foods, know that hipster-watching can work up an appetite. So they've launched the Fine & Dandy food cart to feed you while you observe the locals biking around on their fixies. Grab a huge slow-roasted pork sandwich ($5)--topped with provolone cheese, crispy potatoes, peppers and onions--and some fresh-squeezed lemonade ($3) to wash it down. The cart is at the corner of Driggs Ave. and N. 12th St. on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Drink: 2008 Arregi Txakoli ($17) from Blue Angel Wines; blueangelwines.com

-The UE

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Latin Libations - After Thoughts

This Saturday, Toloache hosted the latest leg of Urbane Adventures. Latin Libation, a tasting event of several specialty Latin summer drinks, was one of the most well attended, festive and memorable events to day. The event surpassed my wildest dreams, and with only a few emails and text messages, we managed to pack the house. This event would not have been what it was without those of you who attended. You Urbane People made this Adventure a smashing success. A good time had by all.

Thanks for stopping by!

The UE

PS - Photo slideshow coming soon!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Death to Food Network (and Thank You Anthony Bourdain)

DISLAIMER: All opinions expressed here are the sole view of the Urbane Epicurean and should not be taken more seriously than the ravings of a madman. With that being said…



Where are all the REAL foodies?! I don’t mean those people on TV either. You know the saying “real recognize real”? The landscape of food focused individuals is beginning to look real unfamiliar right now. Why is it that every freaking food show or writer is some slightly varied interpretation of the stay at home mom who is very pleasant to speak with and who will teach you how to bake / fry / wash dishes while giving you advice on how to keep your husband happy? And no, not the dirty type, more the listen-when-he-speaks-and-learn-how-to-make-his-favorite-drink type. It continues to amaze me how many people think that to be a good food advocate you have to have some banal, bland, egg shell white persona. If not for the Bourdains and Ruhlmans of the world, I would pull my hair out at the grade school level antics these people use to entertain me and discuss food. I mean come on people, are we really ok with our TV personas being limited to chippy catch phrases (BAM) and quiet talk? Food isn’t just sitting around a stove preparing some recipe that smells “…mmmm so delicious”. It isn’t only about the latest or quickest recipes. Food life in real life is similar to the solar system – it revolves around the sun that is the dish, but ignoring the beauty of the other heavenly bodies would be simply foolish. I believe that food media these days is scorching our eyes by forcing us to only look directly into that bright, beaming sun.


My main issue is that there isn’t enough coverage of people LIVING food. So much of why food has managed to captivate so many people extends beyond just the flavors, tastes and preparation of a dish. It also encompasses the fringe details – the experience you have with your dinner party, the context of why you are together, the history of the ingredients and how someone brilliantly pieced them together, the vibe of your location, the excitement before a great meal adventure, the trends in seasons, the restaurant booms and busts, the gossip – all reasons why people flock to food. For all the damn reality shows on Bizzare Eats and Throwdowns, can we at least get a show that has No Reservations about how food can be cool?!

Why can’t food be cool? Why can’t we meet rockers, rappers, politicians or artists who also live to eat? I’ve met plenty of people in all walks of life who think the same way I do when it comes to every last bit of savory morsel on their plate. But do you see them on TV? No! Have we ever had a special episode dedicated to the trials and tribulations of finding delicious late night post-drinking meals that still taste good when you are sober? Absolutely not! What about food for the organically spirited? And I don’t mean yogurt, I’m talking that dreadlock, Bob Marley, yoga with incense kind of organic. For all the diversity in the world, the media seems fixated on homogeny.

I’m sure many of you would agree, the Food Network is the epitome of this modern day communism. Much like BET, this network only serves to further the negative stereotypes and controversial imagery associated with its target market. In this case, it’s all the sweet talking, entertaining enough that you don’t want to punch them in the face, quirky but not that funny food “personalities” getting airtime over the people you and I can more easily connect with. Not to say there isn’t a market for that sucrose content, but most of the real Urbane people are enjoying their meals in stride, working hard and keeping themselves entertained by the various offerings of the city night life.


Well I say no more! I am the Tank Man, seeking to stop the advancing enemy. I, too, will throw myself in the path of the machine in hopes that they recognize the decency within themselves and halt it from steamrolling over us all with its continual softness. Today I declare war on the niceness in food media, and will no longer support those innocent recipe-huggers (yes, like tree-huggers, only worse) of yesterday. This is the 2000s. Isn’t it about time we had food icons fit for our century?

That’s it, I’m done…

- The UE

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Urbane Adventures: Latin Libations

Urbane Adventures is back!

Latin Libations, the latest installment of the much loved food tour series, will be a tasting session in which we will have the option of sampling 7 drinks for the recession friendly price $25.

Please join me and the rest of the food frenzied crew for an afternoon of drinking and laughter at Toloache, 50th and 8th, at 3pm on Saturday July 25th.

PLEASE NOTE: To have an accurate head count for the bar staff to prepare the appropriate amount of drinks I NEED EVERYONE TO PURCHASE PRESALE TICKETS. Please follow this link to purchase yours (www.latinlibations.eventbrite.com)

I can't wait to see you guys there!

The UE

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Hunger Inside Me



Friday night I was starving…

This was not your typical hunger. The entire week I sustained myself on a meager diet of shredded wheat and NutriGrain bars from the office kitchen. My projects just had me too busy to find a proper meal. At night, I would satiate my grumbling stomach with a protein drink, in hopes of being both healthy and nutritious (eating a full steak dinner after just leaving the office at 11pm didn’t seem like the right move). A man-sized hunger was slowly creeping into my stomach. Day by day, the low rumble soon became a roar and on Friday, as the phones stopped ringing and people began leaving for the Hamptons, I became less interested in eating and more interested in the weekly ritual emancipation from bondage. In the spirit of both Fridays and June 19th, I shed the oppressive shackles of Park Avenue and expeditiously joined a Texas compatriot on his roof for mind expanding conversation.

Then the hunger struck. Much like Audrey II, my stomach began pleading with me “feed me”. Starvation can lead to desperation, but the levelheaded foodie knows in times of extreme hunger, you go to what you know. And I know tacos.


A taco is an exquisite creation, a small bit of heaven stuffed into small, hand sized tortillas for your enjoyment. Though most people today classify this as a post-colonial Mexican snack, it is actually a gift from the Aztecs, who would use tortillas as a utensil to roll food. Tacos have a poetic existence, interpreted by everyone a little differently into all shapes and forms. More traditional pounded corn tortillas have given way to the ultimate double-decker, cheese, sour cream and refried monstrosities we know and love, and everything in between. I will admit, I have enjoyed in a crunchwrap or two in my day.

Unfortunately, tacos are incredibly commoditized these days. Mass production, as it usually does, has distracted us from the soft, flavorful light snack that the taco was originally meant to be. As with all good food, a good taco takes time and love. Real corn tortillas take time to pound and roll. Great salsa isn't just something that comes out of a bottle; it takes fresh ingredients and balance. Being in New York, I have been privileged to some delicious and authentic taco dishes that have utilized traditional methods and ingredients to produce what a taco originally should have been. However, not much creativity has been shown to this tortillian ambrosia in the tri-state area. It’s either Rosa Mexicano or Chipotle. One or two food trucks have tried to carry the banner in the battle against cookie cutter tacos, but they have not had the broad reach, or the juno se qua that makes food so heavenly.




But this Friday I was shown a light beamed down from heaven and reflected off a tortilla. Only recently have I been introduced to the gourmet taco - more artisan than food. Fresh, colorful ingredients blend with innovative and intelligent techniques produce an incredible amount of flavor in a tortilla. Torchy's in Austin was my first true excursion into this forum. A nod of the head should go to the titles of these tacos, with such witticisms as “The Republican” and “The Democrat”, but even with these titles, the offerings still candidly represented the local fresh flavors of well seasoned, slow cooked beef or fresh jalapeños and cilantro. Unfortunately in NY I find myself too often disconnected from those flavors. Until I went to Snack Dragon, a small taco shop in Alphabet City that slaps you in the face with levels of flavor unbeknownst to the Yankee. At a place where the most a taco cost was $5, I spent over $30. There seemed to be no limit to how well this shop could construct a taco – from the texture and flavors of the tortilla to the harmony of the sauce dancing to the syncopation of the meats and salsas. A west coast, almost Portland style, taco shop by nature, this place had everything, from lazily tacked up posters of obscure rock and roll bands, unidentifiable but strangely alluring music playing in the background, and even the BYOB privilege (a must for bohemian food establishments). Snack Dragon was one of the best taco experiences I have had in this city to date. Not just because the food was great, but because it was refreshing to finally experience an interpretation of a classic that didn’t just plain suck. If you don’t get it, just ask yourself: after being almost convinced Michael Keaton was Bruce Wayne, who would you rather watch play Batman, Val Kilmer or Christian Bale?

- The UE





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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Big Apple BBQ

All too often, backyard barbecue goes wrong, especially in New York. People often mistake grilling, when you toss some meat on some coals in your Weber (direct heat), for true barbecue, which should be prepared with some form of smoke (indirect heat). People around here just don't get it. Arguably, the most disturbing image that has repeatedly appeared in NY is the sight of a group of men with pink sweaters thrown casually over their shoulders, huddled around a small grill on their fire escapes, holding Heinekens, purring with manliness. Something about that just doesn't sit right...

But if you are good, brush your teeth and clean behind your ears, then once a year the stars align, time stops, and the Barbecue Gods bless this barren Yankeetown with the rural fixins of the lands below the Mason Dixon line. That's right people - it's BARBECUE FESTIVAL TIME!!!!

Join me this SATURDAY, JUNE 13TH at 1PM in front of the Flatiron Building (23rd and 5th) so we can stuff ourselves to our heart's content.

Some of the best pitmasters from Kansas City, Memphis, South Carolina, and of course, TEXAS, will be in attendance to treat our stomachs with everything from fatty, juicy brisket to fall off the bone ribs.

The festival only takes cash, so please keep some in pocket. I have a Fast Pass, so if you give me money, we can just skip some of the lines.

See you Saturday!

http://www.bigapplebbq.org/

-The UE

PS - Southern Style Medicine (aka Bourbon) will likely be provided :)




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Love and the Food Lane

Love is more than just a word. It is a tangible expression of an emotion. Some would argue that emotion is simply electrical, instinctual fight of flight reactions, but there must be something more when the word “feeling” is a synonym for our emotions and actions.

I believe love has a symbiotic and inspirational attachment to us. We cannot live without it. From the moment we are born we seek the loving embrace of our parents. We spend a lifetime and millions of dollars searching for the perfect love, our soul mate. Love drives us to be foolish, to move mountains, and to create unforgettable works of art.

I once met a man who said the sum of his grandmother’s love could be understood by watching her in the kitchen. A silent woman, this mans grandmother made statements through her food, meticulously preparing every detail of the meal, from dawn kneading bread, chopping vegetables and simmering meats, until dinnertime was upon her and she could bask in the satisfaction of knowing she filled the tummy of her grandson with the best food she could. A love so pure, that only hours upon hours of work in the kitchen would be good enough for her loved ones.

I remember love like that, a love so enveloping that you can't put it away, you can't stop kneading once you start, and you can't help watching the pot boil. Not being able to relax until every garnish looks absolutely right, because you are giving a part of yourself. The self you pour into this dish, the self who tirelessly slaved to create the perfect something for that special someone. The self that says “please like it, I really tried for you”.

Love and food often go hand in hand. Love is expressed through food, whether it’s trying to impress a hot date, or just ensuring your child will live another day. I often contemplate just how much this world’s relationship with food can differ from place to place, culture to culture. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But who actually believes this? Can you actually make someone fall in love with the flick of a whisk?

-The UE

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Urbane Nightmares

Dark...

Cramped...

Immobile...

Sounds of restlessness surround me. Impatience builds to desperation, and soon we are clawing at the walls.

A subway car can be a nightmare. Subterranean conduits propelling workers, warriors, queens and drones to and fro in the colony that is New York, subway systems have some amazing advantages. The release from the responsibility of defensive driving and the fear of DUIs are incredibly compelling, but what price freedom?

In the winters, we shuffle around like penguins in mass exodus, traveling across the frozen tundra, huddling together underground for warmth, hoping our neighbors won't notice us snuggling just a little closer. In the summer, the locals resemble satyrs more than humans, violently emerging from the sweltering below, sweaty and full of rage from having to put their face in their neighbor's foul underarm to inhale the fragrance of commuter freedom.

Is descending into the abyss, unsure when or if you will emerge, worth it? Only if there is a hot meal, cold drinks, and great friends waiting on the other side.

-The UE

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Price of Red Meat (From NY Times)

By JANE E. BRODY

There was a time when red meat was a luxury for ordinary Americans, or was at least something special: cooking a roast for Sunday dinner, ordering a steak at a restaurant. Not anymore. Meat consumption has more than doubled in the United States in the last 50 years.

Now a new study of more than 500,000 Americans has provided the best evidence yet that our affinity for red meat has exacted a hefty price on our health and limited our longevity.

The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from one of our two leading killers, heart disease and cancer, than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods.

Results of the decade-long study were published in the March 23 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine. The study, directed by Rashmi Sinha, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, involved 322,263 men and 223,390 women ages 50 to 71 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Each participant completed detailed questionnaires about diet and other habits and characteristics, including smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, education, use of supplements, weight and family history of cancer.

For the full text, click here

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Texas Shooters

Andrew shows the world how to properly eat Texas oysters!


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Personal Prohibition

Spirits have been an integral part of society for centuries. The ancient Romans drank wine to toast their victories. The legendary Egyptians brewed ale to satiate their innovative minds. Alcoholic beverages, whether for their nutritive properties or their ability to lift a patron from the doldrums of his surroundings, have been a cornerstone of society since the moment it was created.

And for Lent, I gave it all up.

Such blasphemy! The noble notion of making a sacrifice to honor that of the penultimate Christian savior requires a deep cut beyond the normal pound of flesh. So in considering what to give up, I went through sweets, swearing and even meat. Admirable candidates, but none more omnipresent in my life than booze.

I have specific drinks for socializing with specific friends…

I have wine preferences for certain meals…

I have cocktails I only imbibe during certain seasons…

The list goes on and on and on. So to take one on the chin for God, I made the ultimate sacrifice. No more wine with dinner. No more beer after a long football game. Not one drop of gin in my ginger ale.

40 days later…



My fast has finally ended, and though it was an incredible struggle, I will say I learned some incredibly valuable life lessons. I have earned the ability to say no through sheer conviction. Not just to drinking, but to foods and experiences I don’t want at the time. I have learned self discipline, and I have learned the satisfaction of remaining steadfast through life’s most egregious temptations. I would say that the most difficult part of this journey would be the over-hydration from drinking tonic water instead of booze during my all night outings :-)

I’ve been more energetic, incrementally lucid, my digestive system is stronger, I make more healthy food choices and I remember everyone I meet. So why bother going back?

Have you ever had a glass of silky Bordeaux with a braised lamb shank? Or a refined quadruple with a brat?

Q.E.D.

-The UE


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Friday, March 6, 2009

Homemade Meals


New Years is a time for reflection and goal setting. This year, the occasion found me in Los Angeles, the surf-town meets glam megapolis of the west coast. Aside from confusion over who to fear more, Crips or the LAPD, I found myself a tad perplexed on the direction I wanted to take over the next year. So many opportunities were open to me professionally and personally, and I believe I possess within myself the ability to take my life successfully in any direction I decided upon. So I was left at a roadblock.

But then, I played Clay.

Clay, for those of you unexposed, is not a board game. It’s not even a game. No, it is an organizer filled with 36 different colors of clay and several tools at your disposal for crafting whatever your mind can conceive. And so I faced the same roadblock I faced with my New Year’s Resolutions. With no limit or framework on what I could do, what should I do?

So I sat for a minute.

And I thought.

And thought..

And thought…

Finally, I considered the frequent criticism I have to offer the TV when watching competitors on Top Chef. Too often they try to live up to a challenge in a way that they have never been comfortable or they haven’t previously tested out, and in trying to reach some unproven concept the chef consistently falls short on the goal. The people who achieve their goals and wow the judges, however, have one main thing in common. They take the challenge, and twist it to their talents so what results is what the judges asked for, only enhanced by the years of experience held by the creator.

So what did I do? I made a clay Italian dinner. Something I know and love. The marinara sauce came garnished with basil and parmesan. The fish had scales and the broccoli had some of the most realistic clay stalks anyone had ever seen. Judges challenge bested.

But that brought me to a startling thought. Am I limited by my experience? Other people around me were making expressions of love and graphics and designer beads – all functions of what they knew. I am enamored with Italian food, so that was my first thought. Was I victim to tunnel vision? And if so, how do you defeat this tunnel vision?

I concluded that life, much like a chef’s palette and repertoire, is made up of a series of experiences. This ultimately brought me to the Resolution I think I am most proud to have made so far. When a chef becomes dissatisfied with the recipes he has and the foods he has been making, what does he do? He travels. He seeks new ingredients or unique ways to interpret old ingredients. He experiments. He experiences. Since people suffer and benefit from the tunnel that is their experience, I have decided will begin construction to widen my personal tunnel. This may sound revolutionary, but I think we all do it in bits and pieces. This blog was my first step. Now I will be taking another, joining book forums to discuss new and classic literature, finding debate forums to sharpen my pith, and continuing full speed with my self-directed cooking courses. Where will it take me? Who knows? If you make life all about the kiln, then you’ll forget how much fun you had playing with the clay.

-The UE

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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Mad Scientist



Dr. Frankenstein’s got nothing on me.

Let me explain. A good friend of mine hosts an annual beer tasting in Hells Kitchen, and since the first one, his offering has grown in both size and sophistication. As such, I felt it was only appropriate that the dishes brought by someone who has made the 1 year mark in writing about life through food should follow suit.

So I sat and brainstormed, evaluating exactly what foods would both pair well and appeal to the masses. Of course I started with the timeless rule of “if it grows together, it goes together”, and looked at the selections of beer. Most were Belgian, as any beer aficionado would expect of a high brow tasting. My thoughts naturally ran to the grassy hop filled lands north of France and west of Germany. Images of waffles, pirogi, and all types of savory wursts danced in my head as I contemplated how to compliment these exquisite beers with a stellar dish. But none of them really moved me. I mean, who really wants to make their own sausages? Whatever this dish was going to be, it had to be filling, delicious, and heavy enough to soak up all the booze that we were sure to imbibe.

I brainstormed….I researched…I drank some beer for inspiration…and eventually, I passed out watching Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Somewhere between Aqua Teen Hunger Force and my innovative subconscious, the idea came to me – Macaroni and Beer Cheese. Eureka! But how would I make this concept into a mouth watering reality? How could I possibly infuse cheese with the tangy and complex overtones of beer without losing the wondrous creamy gooey experience we all know and love? What beer would I use? What recipe for macaroni and cheese? Hell, what cheese?! The internal debate went on like this for about 2 days. Finally, I decided if I was going to learn anything about making this recipe, I had to experiment. And so, much like the good doctor of folklore, I too set out to wield the ultimate power and give life to an inanimate creation.

The Beers
Three Philosophers – a blend of malty ale and cherry lambic with overtones of chocolate and nuttiness
Chimay White – probably the most recognizable Trappist beer, with a velvety body and hints of floral and sweet fruit
Arrogant Bastard – a strong IPA that goes great with BBQ because of the hop’s ability to cut through spice and grease to deliver flavor to your palette (always in stock in the UE’s fridge, just for the name alone)

The Cheese
Hoch Ybrig – a nuttier hard cheese, with a more bitter finish
Prima Donna – a gouda-like hard cheese that has a great creamy taste with a slight tangy finish
Fontina – everyone’s favorite creamy soft cheese

With the help of my own personal Igor, we set upon coordinating flavors of beer with flavors of cheese, testing out which combinations made the most sense. And just to add another layer of complexity, we debated using a roux base (which is mostly milk and a small bit of flour), or a béchamel cream base (mostly butter and cream). We began by tasting the beers and the cheeses, getting a sense for their individual flavor characteristics. Then we tasted them as a pair, and came up with the below grid:


Now the fun part!

We grated cheese. We boiled Macaroni. For the roux, we warmed milk in a pan. Added some butter. Mixed in the flour. BEER! A little cheese. Poured the macaroni into the pan, stirred, and placed the mixture over the rest of the cheese in the test container. And did it again, and again, and again, and again. Even threw some pancetta in one of the mixes to even out some of the bitterness from the cheese and beer. (As a side note, it is now my belief that pork is the duct tape of the culinary world – if it tastes weird or bland, add some bacon of some sort and voila! Instant delicious)

As I stepped back to watch the process, I noticed big grins on both of us. We were playing God to the macaroni world, bringing life to what was a mere concept, living out our thesis out in the microcosm of the test kitchen. I felt drunk with the power of creation, knowing that at any time I could take away the life given to these recipes with a fell swoop to the trash. The power of life giving was almost maddening, and after a short time of baking, our many Frankensteins were alive! Live you delicious aberrations of life, LIVE!!!!

Wouldn’t you love to taste the results?





-The Mad Epicurean

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brooklyn Food Tour Revisited



I conceived Urbane Adventures as a way to combine two things I love very dearly – food and good people. I believe very much that this city offers the most unique food experiences in the entire country for the simple fact that you can have both authentic and innovative foods from all over the world within a relatively small area. Given people, such as myself, can be preconditioned to avoid leaving the safe confines of their everyday lives, I decided it was time to force them to experience the city – the food, the people, and the neighborhoods. On the first tour, 7 of my friends joined me in a hunt for good eats in Jackson Heights, Queens. This time, around 32 people decided that discovering taste was worth giving up a Saturday to travel around Brooklyn. To be totally honest, I did not expect so many people to show up, but from the moment we all congregated to the moment we ate that last bite of sinfully rich chocolate cake, it was a Saturday that I will forever remember. My deepest thanks to every person who came and walked the miles, ate the food, and made the event what it was. Without you, it would not have been possible.

Enough mushy stuff, lets get to the food!


Oasis
Oasis, our first stop, is a small falafel shop on 7th and Bedford, right on top of the Bedford Ave stop in Brooklyn. I was introduced to this gem by Viridian Sun who had so graciously shared a small part of her crunchy Brooklyn life with me. Falafel, as you may know, is a dish common to many Arab countries, and is essentially a ball of fried chick peas served with various sauces. I will concede, Oasis quite possibly has the best falafel in the 5 boroughs, but that was not the source of my pride for this destination. Given their expertise with the chickpea, they also have an astounding offering of hummus. Let’s be clear, I live on hummus. Sometimes I will eat it alone just for dinner. I made it the purpose of my previous travels to seek out, far and wide, the best hummus (ok, I was really on vacation in Dubai, but you get the point). As a side for the falafel plate, Oasis offers some of the most flavorful, robust, and creamy hummus this side of the Mediterranean.
$6 / plate


Vinnie’s Pizzeria
Serendipity is defined as good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries. What more appropriate word could be used to describe the second stop on our tour? As you may notice from the map provided, we originally were to stop at Brick Oven Pizza, but apparently it doesn’t exist where it should. Thankfully, my strawberry blonde savior thought of a place to go that was near Oasis, so we doubled back to Bedford Ave on 9th St. However before we even got to that place, I spotted a pizza place that seemed good enough, so I stopped the group to take a chance on an unknown. What we discovered was an amazing hidden gem! Vinnie’s is a gourmet pizza shop, more art than slice, offering everything from tortellini pizza to taco pizza! Though the herd was rowdy from realizing we walked in a total circle, they were soon cooing with contentment at the experience of Vinnie’s Pizzeria.
Slice ~$4

Raymund’s Place
What do you think of when you hear the word “pirogi”? If you’re like me, you think “what the hell is that”? I had heard of pirogies, but never actually seen or tasted one, and since my roster of Polish/Czech/Slavic friends is relatively short, I figured we might as well crash the party and see what all the noise is about. What we discovered was that pirogi are a small fried dumpling stuffed, in this instance, with potato and cheese, served with vegetables and vinegar cured bacon bits. Now, if you are reading this blog, you probably already have a pre-disposition to food, so you understand just how ethereal bacon is by itself. To add this as a garnish to a savory, crispier version of a pot sticker is to be knocking on heaven’s door. Pay a visit if you are in the area. Not only do they have amazing pirogi, but their apple pancakes are a great comfort food, and they have a large supply of Zywiec (pronunciation here), that is crisp enough to wash food down, light enough to not overwhelm the pirogi, but still distinctly individual with a light touch of hop and spring flavors peeking through.
Pirogi Plate - $6.75


It was right about here we made the transition to Park Slope. I will take a point of privilege and say DAMN YOU F TRAIN!!!! If you went on the tour, you understand why.

Roots Café
Southern food is in my blood. As previous posts will tell you, I am from Texas – no apologies about it. However, when I think back to my roots, I never considered bologna and cheese to be a staple of that region. Nor would I consider green eggs and ham a usual breakfast meal below the Mason Dixon. Leave it to a homesick southerner to interpret ghosts from the brown bag lunches of childhood into an innovative recession friendly luxury. Roots Café was our first stop in Park Slope, and after a long journey, we were starved. This café not only offers a great ambiance similar to coffee shops in the Bay and Portland, but also some great down to earth paninis. We sampled the Green Eggs and Ham Panini, which is a scrambled egg sandwich with avocado mixed into the eggs. We also sampled the Bologna and Cheddar Panini. Both of these sandwiches were a stellar example of how down home food can still be good even if it’s made into gourmet remix.
Bologna & Cheese - $3.50, Green Eggs & Ham - $6.75


Tacos New Mexico
This was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip. Not so much for the food, but for the humor. Tacos New Mexico is a traditional Mexican diner, serving everything from tostadas to horchata. I decided we would have a sampling of tacos, and to my excitement, their menu had 8 distinct types. I figured it would be fun to try something unusual, so I ordered beef and pork tacos. After a few minutes of waiting, I brought them out for people to eat, and as they devoured the offering, comments started circulating. “This one’s so fatty”. “That’s a unique texture”. After people had tried enough of the tacos, I dropped the punch line. Yes, these were pork and beef tacos, but specifically, they were veal brains and beef tongue, amongst the regular tacos. Tongue was a favorite on the last tour, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
~$3 / taco

Park Slope Fish and Chip Shop
You have to love the British. For all their pomp, they have given us some timeless classics. Big Ben. Tea. And on this trip: Fish and Chips. Frying foods has always been a way to make a less than phenomenal cut of meat taste great. Though there are many variations of the fish and chip, Park Slope Chip Shop offered us fried cod. Along with the accent and the fish, we partook in some fried mac and cheese – not specifically from the UK, but just too hard to pass up. This place offers both take out and restaurant seating, but we opted for the street. Granted it’s difficult to make bad fish and chips, but this place truly paid attention to the details. Our fish was fresh, the fries were crisp, and the British accents were hilarious. This place is definitely shaken, not stirred.
Fish and Chips Basket - $12, Fried Mac & Cheese - $5

Los Politos
In the food world, I often liken chicken to a blank canvas. A great artist can take control and make it into something memorable. The spit roasted chicken at Los Politos demonstrates exactly what that means. We stopped by the last savory destination on the tour quickly, grabbed the food and walked on. To everyone’s amazement, the chicken was bursting with flavor. Spit roasting had given it its juicy, tender flesh, but someone at that restaurant seasoned this chicken much like Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Magnifico!
Whole Roasted Chicken - $7.65

The Chocolate Room
If chocolate is an aphrodisiac, then this place needs to be moved to a red light district. I’ll be honest, the hour was getting late (thanks to that awful F train), and I was getting restless. I wanted everyone to be happy with the tour, and given the length of time it ran, I thought people might be getting antsy. But just as a good stew or brisket becomes more flavorful the longer you cook it, so too did our enjoyment increase over time. We had spent so much time laughing and eating together as a group, that we barely noticed the time. Chocolate Room was the last stop on the tour, so I was convinced that we should finish strong. This dessert shop is purported to have some of the most divine chocolate cake and brownies in the city. I was a bit skeptical, because nothing can ever be that good (especially when Oprah makes a recommendation), but lo and behold, when we bit into the first bit of icing on that chocolate cake, I went into full fledge shock. To this day I’m not sure if it was from diabetes or elation, but in either case, this little dessert shop lives up to the hype.
Chocolate Layer Cake - $6, Brownie - $6

All in, a delicious day, and all under $20 / person. Here’s to good eats and good friends!



-The UE

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Urbane Adventure - Brooklyn Video Slideshow

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Friday, February 6, 2009

La Inquisición de Hamburguesa


Cheeseburgers have mistreated for years.

Ok, you’re probably thinking meat, cheese, bun…not really sure how to abuse those. A Cheeseburger is a quintessential aspect of American food culture, and rightfully so. It is simple to make, filling, and highly caloric, providing everyone from the blue collar worker to the white shoe executive a fulfilling and cost effective hand held meal. But lately, I have been saddened by the wave of gourmet burger that use arugula instead of lettuce, gruyere instead of cheddar, and caramelized onions instead of ketchup!


Cheeseburgers originated from hamburgers, which go as far back as the 11th Century when the Mongols carried flat patties of meat with them on long horseback trips. The actual hamburger bun is said to be invented in 1916 by Walter Anderson, a short-order cook and founder of White Castle. One claim of inventing the actual hamburger sandwich comes from Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin, U.S., who tried selling fried meatballs at a county fair, but customers found them hard to eat while walking around the fair, so Nagreen flattened it and made it into a sandwich he called the “hamburger”. Hamburg, New York, U.S. also claims credit for the invention of the hamburger at its Erie County Fair in 1885 by the Menches brothers. Similar claims are made from almost every US state.

What is known is that the first official Cheeseburger was either created between by a chef named Lionel Sternberger in Pasadena, California, USA who supposedly passed a homeless man who suggested he add a slice of cheese to his hamburger order, or by Louisville, Kentucky-based Kaelin’s Restaurant, which claims to invent the Cheeseburger in 1934.

In any case, the Cheeseburger has been around for a long time. The option of having meat, dairy, and bread in one simple creation satisfies our most primal nutritional needs. If fried chicken was originated out of thrift and convenience and delicious taste, the popularity of Cheeseburger couldn’t be too different.

But then something happened. People started getting testy. The “regular” didn’t satisfy them anymore. The population needed something to distinguish class from class, person from person. Texas doused barbecue sauce all over the burger. California implanted avocados into our poor Cheeseburger. Soon the whole world was a mad scientist, experimenting on a voiceless subject with no regard for its soul, all for the absurd need to bring distinction to an already universally loved food product.

For years, people of the world have dressed the Cheeseburger up and down, added and subtracted ingredients, offered different gimmicks and toys to get the consumer to want and appreciate it.

But has anyone asked what the Cheeseburger wants?

Well no more! I am here to stand up for the rights of the Cheeseburger. Stop dressing it up in fancy cheeses and over-conceptualized sauces. No more will Cheeseburger Everyman be a guinea pig to the culinary whims of an ambitious chef or bored stay at home mom. Cheeseburgers didn’t make Ronald McDonald an international icon by being pretentious and overdressed. Nay, I say, learn ye how to create this delicious and universally beloved dish in the time honored tradition it was meant to be made. Stop distracting me with chipotle mayos and Cheddar-Jack-Munster hybrids that mask the demon within – bad burger making skills. If you can’t get the fundamentals of a burger right, you shouldn’t be near the bun. Give us meat, cheese, a toasted bun and maybe ketchup and mustard, or give me death.

-The UE

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It Was Only a Matter of Time

I guess it was inevitable - I got into a comment war on a food blog. Hard to believe right? Me getting into an argument with someone. And of all topics, because I commented about someone writing pretentiously about blue collar foods. And what happened to me? Hilarious accusations of my hypocrisy due to my distaste for pretense.

I think you guys know just how pretentious and not pretentious I can be. This discussion was really funny though, so I thought I should share. I actually have a draft of a post entitled "The Cheeseburger Inquisition" I was writing earlier this week, and decided it was time to stand up for the cheeseburgers. I guess not everyone shares my perspective that you cant wear heels to the beach.

Enjoy, make fun, its all good!

-The uh...Urbane Joe Six Pack

Check out the comment war HERE

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Urbane Adventures - Brooklyn [UPDATE]

To My Readers,

I hope you are all well. The food tour is a go this weekend. Lets plan to meet Saturday, February 7th at 1pm in front of the Whole Foods in Union Square. As you can see, we have a lot of ground to cover so please bring comfortable walking shoes, $20 cash to contribute to the pot, your metro card, and a BIG appetite.

I hope to see you all soon. Please text my cell if you have any questions, the weather looks good relatively speaking, so I dont expect a cancellation due to inclimate weather.


404.964.7667


-The UE

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Meaning of a Meal

When someone asks you to share a meal with you, what are they really asking of you?

What do you think?

Before the nightclub, designer drugs and Entourage, society used meals as a focal point to gather and commune. A meal can mean love. A meal can mean long laughs. It can mean surprise, disappointment, lust or even heartache. It means support, it means sustenance. But most of all, it means time. A meal can mean hours, and it can mean a moment. A meal is the most socially dynamic event in any person’s life, but yet no attention has ever been paid to the intangible nutritional values.

To its most primal core, a meal provides us with sustenance in all forms the human needs. Protein gives us the building blocks for muscles to grow. Fruits and vegetables give us the requisite vitamins to aide in our health and strength. Starches give us the fuel to face another day. A balanced meal, according to the food pyramid, can give us all the tangible inputs to sustain human existence.

But one thing ignored in the guide to health was the intangible benefits of food. Sitting down for a meal means more than just consumption of calories. It means consciously taking time out of your schedule, whether it’s a long formal dinner, or just a quick run to McDonalds, to spend with a special person. Whether it’s a business person aiming to close that next big deal, or a newlywed couple celebrating their first night on honeymoon, people use meal time to pause and focus on some particular topic. Human beings all need to eat. One of the most powerful historic images of the power of a meal continues to be the Christian image of The Last Supper. If Jesus could find time to break bread with those whom he loved so dearly so near to his prophesized demise, can we not take time out to share a meal with those around us, loved and unloved?

No one has quantified the health benefits of a good conversation with friends. Or how about the antioxidants produced when your mother cooked your favorite meal after the big game when you were a child. But the next time you sit down to your meal, whether in a restaurant or at home, be sure to season your dining table with the healthiest of ingredients – good people and positive energy.

To your health!

-The UE

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Urbane Adventure - Brooklyn Food Tour

Friends, Fans and the Epicurious,

It’s that time again! I would like to extend an invitation to join me and the dedicated food fans of my blog to tour parts of the Brooklyn borough. For those uninitiated, there are vast amounts of food and culture in various parts of Brooklyn, and to not visit while living in the city would be a disservice to your palette.

If you are interested, please let me know. As those who have attended in the past can tell you, it promises to be filling and fun.


Date: Saturday, February 7, 2009
Time: 3pm (tentative)
Location: To Be Determined

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Monday, January 5, 2009

A Lesson Before Dining: Chapter 2


This week’s lesson covered some of America’s favorites - frying and sauce making. The participants met at the test kitchen, unplugged the smoke detector, and got to work. The menu was pretty robust, covering a southern classic, Fried Chicken with Country Gravy and Cheese Grits, and a twist on an Italian classic, Salmon Croquettes on a Bed of Spaghetti with Homemade Tomato Sauce. The beautiful thing about these two dishes is they encompass so many transferable chef skills. For example, making croquettes requires the same breading, egging, and chilling time as any good burger or meatball would. And making country gravy requires you to understand deglazing, reducing and thickening, which is requisite for many pan sauces. It was a meal of creativity, of patience, and of overcoming fears (have you ever been scalded by hot grease?!) In the end, the meal was spectacular enough to change people’s perspectives on fish dishes and fried chicken. Mmmm Mmmm!!!!

Below is a recount of the participants’ experiences:



The UE said…I hate frying. HATE it. So when designing the coursework, naturally I had to add a unit sizzling food in inches of hot liquid fat that could burn the paint off the space shuttle. Being burned by grease is something I do not like and do not seek, as I constantly attempt dishes that require little to no pan frying. Alas, if I am to ascend to the gilded ranks of the imperial chefs, I must learn to fry some good meats. So I stepped up to the plate with long sleeves and a confident gait. We chopped and breaded and dredged and plopped. Soon, the meats were sizzling, and I was excited. I hadn’t historically had much success frying foods, but this felt different. I could feel it coming in the air.

We started making tomato sauce, which is always enjoyable. I have made tomato sauce before, and the key I think is slow loving. Let the tomatoes have time to meet the herbs. Give the garlic space to flirt with the shallots. Soon you will have a velvety sauce that melts in your mouth.

The chicken and croquettes were fantastico! Some tips I learned from observation of my friends helped this batch come out better. First – bake the chicken, either before or after frying. You don’t need to let the grease cook the meat, it will just make it unhealthy and soggy. Fry to a golden crisp and then bake. Second – use a lid! My biggest folly in frying had always been open air frying. If you close the lid, it will fry safely and trap heat, helping the process. Just be wary the steam on the lid doesn’t drip into the grease when you take it off, else it will spatter the grease.

Lou said…KFC and Popeye’s make it look simple, but frying chicken is no easy feat. I was much more comfortable skinning and preparing the chicken this time around, but I was scared of the frying process. After hearing horror stories about people being burned by grease and kitchen grease fires, I made sure to stand back any time the chicken made the slightest sound in the frying pot. The efforts paid off in the end, but I’m definitely not comfortable enough to fry anything by myself. One of the highlights of week two was creating the spaghetti sauce from scratch (I’m becoming much more confident with the knife and chopping and mincing—finally!). I’m glad to have cheese grits in my arsenal; I had never tasted them before, but they seem like a quick way to supplement a meal. The salmon croquets were fairly simple to make and delicious to taste and the two dinner wines added to the total presentation/experience. The best part was seeing our tasting guest go back for seconds and depart with a smile on his face…. Mission complete.





Dishes
Fried Chicken
Country Gravy
Cheese Grits
Salmon Croquettes
Homemade Tomato Sauce

Suggested Videos & Readings
http://www.ehow.com/how_2043727_deglaze-pan.html
http://video.about.com/chinesefood/Tips-for-Deep-Frying-Food.htm
http://video.epicurious.com/?fr_story=62371093a42c46151cf9c0572c2fb628465b7a01&rf=bm


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