Tag Archives: food

Weird Gristedes Sign

I walked into Gristedes to find this sign on the door and then again inside near the stacks of baskets. Although the phrase is virtually owned by Seth Myers and Amy Poehler, “Really, Gristedes?” How many ways can you apologize for a typographical error by replacing it with a grammattical one? Were masses of peach and strawberry loving customers complaining about the sign? How bad is the error? “Three strawberries for $wehatepuppies”?

Idea: just change the original peaches and strawberries sign. We wouldn’t have known.

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We’re not kosher. Seriously, guys. We’re NOT kosher!

I noticed a sign on the door of Chickpea on 23rd and Lexington and couldn’t help but wonder why it was that important to display a “non kosher” status. I’m a pisher when it comes to kosher diets, but it seems that unless you say you are kosher certified, most would assume that you are not.  Intrigued, I decided to research the Chickpea chain and their history with kosher oversight. The result is a saga so long and winding it needed three whole paragraphs to detail.

In January, 2009, the kosher food blog and online community thanksaglatt.com cheered Chickpea for becoming kosher again. Again?  Even though the blog showed excitement for the new status (there was an exclamation point in the article title) the last sentence gives Chickpea two weeks until they convert back to just another gentile joint. It was clear — the kosher chaos had been blessed long before.

The discussion board of Chowhound.com is riddled with Chickpea posts dating back to 2007. One visitor writes:

“Was Chickpea (the one at Astor Place) ever kosher? I thought it used to be, but when I went by there the other day there was no hashgacha…”

The real kicker comes from the home page of Koshertopia, announcing Chickpea’s new kosher certification.  The problem?  There’s no article date!  It’s on the home page so one would assume it’s new. The title even says “NEW”. Unfortunately, without knowing for certain the last time Koshertopia was updated I’m afraid I’m left wondering.  Was there some sort of shemozzle?  No matter, it doesn’t feel right.  The next time I’m out for something to nosh on, kosher or otherwise, I think I’ll choose a place more consistently focused on the needs of its customers and quality of the food.

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The Biggest, Baddest Lamb Spit in Manhattan

Ok, I’m not absolutely certain about that claim, but the lamb spit/creation/work of glorious art that spins at Yatagan Kebab House in the West Village is certainly a sight to behold.  Especially when it’s being cut by a guy with a full-on sword!  This McDougal Street shop is one of my favorites.  From the random wall decorations (brick, a newspaper clipping, and a pair of antlers) to the copper top tables, this place is a legit “what the what?” of New York eateries. (It’s ok to steal lines from 30 Rock, right?) 

The standard falafel sandwich is plenty big and at $2.50, pretty much the best deal in town.   Smother some cucumber sauce, some other stuff, lettuce, tomato, onion and you’re good to go.  For an extra buck you can put a heaping glob of hummus in the pita pocket sandwich. Beware the hot sauce though. It’s a killer.

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Kettle of Fish: Doesn’t the Sign Go on the Outside?

The sign used to be outside, at the bar’s old location. And when I say old, I mean it. Kettle of Fish has been around in one iteration or another for 60 years, always in the Village, always a good time. In the 50s the beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who has a photo of himself in front of the then outside ‘BAR’ sign) and the like would hang out there. Since the beat went on, a host of journalists, musicians and New York personalities have frequented the place.  Students in my writing class have even met there to review work (even though the famous beat poets never hung out at this location) and I give it my drinking stamp of approval, for what it’s worth. Just don’t look for it by the side. Sometimes they draw the shades.

Check out this video from the bar’s website. It pretty much says it all.
View Larger Map

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The West Village’s Best Kept Morning Secret

I’m sitting here in the Path Cafe in NYC’s West Village. If you exit the Christopher Street Path train station and turn right you can’t miss it. It’s so close my seat rumbles every time a train passes underneath. The place has free internet, decent coffee, average-price but tasty soups and paninis.  I just finished a delicious breakfast sandwich with fluffed egg whites, sauteed spinach and melted low-fat Swiss cheese on a 7-grain roll.  The best part — I’m the only one here.

I do a lot of writing. And, when you live in a Smart Car-sized apartment, you need to find good places to clear your head and write.  I’ve tried Starbucks, and I continue to try Starbucks all over the city. But, oh my God are those places busy and noisy and becoming scenes more and more each day.  So far, the Starbucks at 18th and Park is the only one where I’ve churned out more than a paragraph without spazzing.  There’s a Starbucks just three blocks from where I sit now and I bet it’s packed. I’ve tried to write there often before work only to get so frustrated that I leave and end up at work early. Can you think of anything worse?

Why aren’t there more people here? Maybe it’s because the restroom is for customers only.  Bruce, the man behind the counter, is a nice guy.  For the few people that have come in, he knows what they want before they finish, even remembering that one woman eats her bagel with tomato, cream cheese and “hot sauce.”  And the music is good too.  It’s chill.  Bob Marly’s “Stir it Up” is playing as the sun peaks over the roof of a building on Hudson and Christopher. Life is good at the Path Cafe. I just hope it’s good for the owners too.  I’d like this place to stick around for a while.

The Path Cafe – 131 Christopher St. NY, NY

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The Woman Who Talks to Pigeons

I was walking through Father Demo Square in the New York City’s West Village when a woman in a thick blue jacket began to throw bird seed on the ground from a plastic bag she held at her hip. Instantly, she was surrounded by pigeons, diving this way and that, swooping in for whatever scraps they could pick at.  She must have dropped eight or ten handfuls of the stuff, because soon she was once around the water fountain and pigeons filled the square.

As always, I had my camera with me so, like the birds, I swooped in. After snapping off only a few photos I heard someone behind me clapping and shouting “Fly home! Fly home!”  I turned around to see the woman who had just fed them staring at me with a concerned look on her face.  I smiled back.

“They don’t understand,” she said.  “They think that you’re trying to feed them, not take pictures.  And they need to go home.”

So, apparently, pigeons don’t understand the difference between feeding them and taking pictures, but they do understand the words “fly home.”  Thanks for the reality check, Dr. Dolittle.  Why don’t you tell them to stop pooping on statues or help fix the MTA’s budget deficit. Use those powers of pigeon communication for good, not the mundane.  And while I apologize for confusing the pigeons maybe you should just fly home too.

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Pat LaFrieda says “Eat my meat.”

Usually, when one comes across a cut of meat, or even a sign for meat, he thinks, “Meat? I eat that stuff.”  To trim away any possible confusion when faced with a thick, juicy rib eye or a chicken wing, wholesale meat purveyor Pat La Frieda has a sign that is sure to help. Eat the damn thing!



It seems that every New York publication and “you got to try this” website has come across Pat’s wholesale meats at one time or another. The company has a long standing history in New York City, and I’m sure that they offer nice product. Over 400 of the city’s restaurants seem to think so. And the coolest thing about Pat LaFrieda Wholesale Meats is that it’s located at the corner of Washington St. and Pat LaFrieda Lane. How cool is that?  His own street in New York! How can you not eat his meat?

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Where can a guy get a damn cupcake around here?

Sweet Revenge: The Next Best Thing to Beef Jerky

Sweet Revenge: A Real Man's Cupcake Joint

Let me just say that the sangria was seriously strong, ok?  Like, taking a shot of Jack and doing push ups while watching the training scene in Rocky IV kind of strong.  Oh, who am I kidding?  The sangria was perfectly fine and the cupcakes were on the verge of to die for.  Wait, did I say cupcakes?  Cupcakes and sangria?  Please, don’t take my man card away!  I was only at Sweet Revenge, a West Village cupcake, artisan sandwich, savory cake and wine/beer bar with a few women from my writing class.  I mean, a few dudes I trade motorcycle accident stories with.

Sweet Revenge is a hip place and I really respect the owner, Marlo Scott, who I only later learned was the woman working behind the bar and serving tables.  (Click here for her story)  I’d never experienced anything like this place before — cupcakes paired with wines or beers.  You can order separately, but I was so curious as to how one pairs a peanut butter and chocolate ganashe cupcake with booze that I had to try it.  You should too. So good.

Sweet Revenge: 62 Carmine St. between Bedford and 7th Ave.

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Home Depot Umbrellas on Halal Street Vendors

Walking around New York City you’ll quickly see that not a spec of space is sacred. Everything, except maybe the squirrels, is open to advertising. The popular food carts have long had signs on them promoting Gyros, local business and even specialty food brands. Today I spied a vendor with two outrageous Home Depot umbrellas on his cart. You’ll have to go to 23rd and 5th, to see it.  Boy, does it stand out.

Home Depot Decorates

Home Depot Decorates

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West Side Supermarket Speaks With Sushi

D’agostino Supermarket at 666 Greenwich St.in New York City’s West Village displays a robust assortment of prepackaged and deli-style goods. Their staff is as friendly as it gets, always speaking to me about new specials, the day’s weather and one worker’s obsession with CSI and David Carouso.  “Ooooh boy!” she says. “Dat David Carooooso eez faeeyn!”

But the past two days I noticed that the staff of D’agostino was speaking to me not only about their products but through their products — sushi in particular.

Good Luck sushi!

Good Luck sushi!

Monday’s sushi message was “Nice week.”  Today’s, as you can see, is “Good luck.”  Subtle niceties like these from the D’agostino staff, particularly the tiny Asian woman who hand rolls the sushi everyday, are more than welcome.  They remind me that sometimes, with all the stress of this world, we just have to stop what we’re doing, take a breath, look to our food, and read the messages written in spicy sauce. 

What’s next in the sushi wheel of fortune? What other 8-letter combinations can I expect?  Maybe tomorrow’s will say I love you. Perhaps Friday’s will say Party on!, including the exclamaition point.  What if she starts dropping me hints?  Wet floor.  And God forbid I buy my spicy tuna six pack only to see Dog meats written on top. What happens then?

If anyone has comments on this or has seen messages written in food in other locations throughout the city let me know, I’ll check it out or add it as a post.  And in the words of yesterday’s Spicy Tuna Roll, have a “Nice week.”

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Spaghetti Primavera is a Rock Star?

Can you imagine a time when spaghetti primavera was “the most talked about dish in Manhattan”? Or even discussed outside a conversation between a patron and the waiter taking the order? I certainly can’t. But the New York Times just put out an interesting piece on the dish and it’s heyday in the late 70’s. Apparently the spaghetti primavera at Le Cirque was a bonafide rock star.

Le Cirque’s Spaghetti Primavera
Published: May 17, 2009
Meant to be an expression of spring, the mad jumble of vegetables over pasta was mostly an expression of the death match between French and Italian cuisine. Click here for the full article.
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Still No Energy Kitchen in Flatiron, NYC

On February 27th I reported that the Energy Kitchen is coming to Flatiron. 23rd street to be exact. I promised to keep you updated. Well, it still hasn’t arrived. Everything looks the same as it did and I’m not sure what the inside scoop is.

Click here to read the original post and see a shot of the storefront, unchanged. https://ispynyc.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/energy-kitchen-coming-to-flatiron/

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The Sunburnt Cow Bends Over Backwards

Although it sounds more like a yoga position than commentary on a lively East Village bar, my experience at The Sunburnt Cow (137 Avenue C) this Saturday left me reflecting on the value of customer service in a city where the pool of customers is seemingly bottomless.

Our group was large – 13 for dinner – with a few more meeting up later for drinks in celebration of my girlfriend’s birthday.  The Sunburnt Cow stood out in our choices of a location because of the party space, cheap food and a $20 all you can drink for two hours special.  It’s a funky place with one full wall of exposed brick, a projection screen video playing an assortment of clips behind the bar and of course, red cow-print bar stools and cow-print pillows lining the lounge section. Sealing the deal for us – it was named by New York Magazine in a piece on the Top 5 Bars for Birthdays.

Although our 9:00 reservation had been changed to 9:30 by the bar two days before, everyone in our young and energetic party accepted the time as New York normal. We waited outside and chit chatted for a bit, content that we’d be seated soon. Instead, 9:45 rolled around and the group occupying our table hadn’t even ordered desert. We waited.

Playing the in-control boyfriend role, I went inside to either get a time when we would be seated or to tell the manager that we were leaving to get a few slices across the street. I made sure to hand off my party bag of Crumbs cupcakes to a friend who stayed outside before heading in. You simply can’t argue with someone while holding a bag full of rainbow sprinkle cupcakes.

My quest for answers brought me to Heathe, the owner of The Sunburnt Cow and Bondi Road, a beach-themed bar/eatery at 153 Rivington. He’s had the place for six years and it would quickly become apparent why the Sunburnt Cow has lasted in a time when many bars and independent restaurants have had to close up shop. With a growling stomach I reminded Heathe of our reservation and that I had twelve people outside whose sole purpose for the evening was to eat and drink in his bar.

“You’re all waiting outside?” he asked in a thick Australian accent. (The bar serves a few Australian brews like Cooper’s and Toohey’s.)

I told him about the 45 minute wait, the birthday and a litany of other concerns.

“Well, hell mate,” he said, “bring everyone inside for a round of drinks on me. Whatever you want. That table’s just not budging right now. I’m really sorry.”

I thanked him, still trying not to appear a pushover, but in my mind I was thinking hmm, that was actually pretty nice of him. All things being equal, it was more than frustrating that the group in front of us was carrying on well into our time, but what could the bar do at this point? Make them leave?

Without hesitation, the bartender gave us whatever we wanted to drink. The cold booze was helping to smooth things over, but the party in front of us still showed no signs of leaving. They hadn’t even gotten the bill.  Every now and then, Heathe would come by in a rush, apologizing and expressing his hopes for the table to open up. “Soon, friends. Soon!” he’d say. Ten more minutes went by and he came by with a suggestion.

“How about some calamari and appetizers at the bar on me?”

As our drinks dried out the scramble for food began. Four bowls of calamari and three sundae glasses loaded with what they call the Classic Aussie Shrimp Cocktail lined the bar. The calamari was good, crispy, what I’d expect. The shrimp cocktail was more like a shrimp slaw than a cocktail, with a hint of lime juice to cut through the mayo. I’m guessing that’s the “Aussie” style.

The table didn’t open up until 10:30. When it did, Heathe or a welcoming waitress was by every few minutes or so to make sure that we had everything we needed. Sometimes we didn’t – an order taking longer than hoped for, a missing drink – but overall the servers were trying their best amidst a bar packed to the doors and a kitchen staff who should have been washing dishes at this point in the night instead of plating them.

We were offered the table for the remainder of the night and even though we decided to meet up with other friends at another bar, we could have just as easily stayed and drank for the rest of the night for $20. As my girlfriend and I were walking out Heathe stopped us to share a birthday shot of blended fruit juice and vodka. It was a nice way to cap off the visit and a nice touch by a guy who, frankly, couldn’t have done more to help us have a great time.

Would I go back? Yeah. We did later that night for more drinks. I’d hesitate to go again with such a large party for dinner unless we could secure an earlier reservation. Ten o’clock is simply too late to eat at a place where the bar is the main attraction. But maybe it was just a tough night and maybe it would have been different had we been able to reserve the spacious, full-service back room.  After all, it was a fun atmosphere and everything is VERY reasonably priced. If you’re a day drinker, The Sunburnt Cow offers a popular brunch menu, where $18 gets you everything, including all-you-can-drink Moo Mosas, Moo Marys and Fosters.

Overall, in a city where smugness is chic, it is beyond refreshing to find people like Heathe and his staff bending over backwards to see to it that their patrons are satisfied. Their unflinching optimism, inclusivity and Aussie hospitality help to make a bad situation bearable and a good night great.

Check it out for yourself at 137 Avenue C, New York City. For info on The Sunburnt Cow or Bondi Road, go to http://www.thesunburntcow.com.

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NYC Burger of the Month Club

My spying on all things NYC is not relegated to the physical world I walk through every morning on my way to work. Gems like this NY Times article are always finding their way into my inbox. If it’s started with a burger of the month club when will things evolve to include a pizza slice of the month club? I’ve been a proponent for quite some time now of an organized pizza crawl (possibly in conjunction with a pub crawl) but I’ve been told that it just sounds gross.  Anyone up for it?

Turkey Burgers Don’t Count
Published: May 6, 2009
One Monday a month for the last four years, the Burger of the Month Club has sampled a burger — bacon-cheddar whenever available — at a different New York restaurant… (full article)
Or click here http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/dining/06burg.html
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Oatmeal

I see this stuff all the time and finally decided to by some today, go figure. The packaging alone is stand out. But it’s the certificate of Award Uniformity of Granulation that gets me. I hate when my oatmeal is in all sorts of crazy shapes and sizes.  Thank you McCann’s and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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