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?


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;
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;
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;
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;
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;

-The UE

Read More......

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!

Read More......

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

Read More......

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 (

I can't wait to see you guys there!

The UE

Read More......

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

Read More......