Saturday, October 03, 2009

Atlantic Antic Tomorrow

Just a reminder, tomorrow is the 35th annual Atlantic Antic street fair in Brooklyn - the best street fair in all of New York.

Be sure to be there if you can. It should be a lovely day and great fun will be had by all.

Easy to get to as well. Just take about any subway that goes to Brooklyn (and that is most of them) then get off in the Borough Hall area. Or you can take the LIRR to the Atlantic Avenue Terminal and you will be right there.

Friday, October 02, 2009

At Last, Armando's

Armando's had their grand opening on Monday, but, because I went to the worst Yankee's game of the year, I missed it. I did finally got there though and, much to my surprise and delight, the old sign was back in its rightful place.

Up We Go

Like An Old Friend

I talked to another old friend, Peter, the owner. I apologized for missing the grand opening and he said it was just as well I did. He said the place was packed and kind of a madhouse. It packed up pretty well tonight, too. And most of the people were old-timers stopping in for the first time since its reopened. A lot of shaking of hands and hugging. Kind of touching.

I congratulated Peter on the sign being back up and he said he still might have trouble with the permit. He asked me if I would speak up if there was a public meeting on it. I said, of course. Seems kind of silly though, the sign isn't that big, and it isn't like that stretch of Montague is residential. It is all commercial with a lot of signage.

We got to Armando's fairly early and managed to score a table right under Marilyn.

Right At Home

Marilyn wasn't exactly in her old place. Armando's has been opened up a bit and the solid wall creating a couple of smaller nooks has been replaced by glass cases holding bottles of wine. The place looks real nice, but it was a bit disquieting. Just enough different but still similar to make you feel somewhat disoriented.

The service was very friendly but, again, it was an entirely new staff. And Armando's was a place where the staff stuck around long enough so that the old waiters were kind of like friends. Same with the bartenders.

Most upsetting was that the menu had changed. No longer the old Southern Italian comfort dishes, the good stuff, real country food. Now the menu was smaller, much more upscale and, of course, pricier. Most of the Mysterious Chinese Woman's and my favorite dishes were gone. In fact, they all were.

Oh well, you can't fight change and at least Armando's was back. Peter said that we could always ask for a dish not on the menu and if they could make it, they would. Hey, I will drink to that.


We started out with a couple of appetizers, clams in a tomato sauce and grilled octopus.

The Clams

The Octopus

Both of these were very good. The clams were perfectly done and the sauce was really nice and spicy. The octopus was more like an octopus salad, pickled rather than grilled. I asked about that and the chef said they were grilled before they were pickled. Not sure if I believe that. Nobody ordering grilled octopus would expect to get this. But it was really, really good. The pieces were fairly large and had just the right chew. Kind of like pickled pig's feet, which I love, but with an octopus flavor, whatever that is.

I was going to order the salmon but the Mysterious Chinese Woman warned me I would be disappointed because it wouldn't be as good as her's. Maybe she was just afraid I would think it was better. I opted for the tuna.

Tuna With White Beans

I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. But then I seldom like tuna in restaurants. Usually it is too thin and too over-cooked. Even though this piece was red in the middle, the middle was kind of small.

I like my tuna just seared on each side. But, of course, to serve it that way you have to have top-of-the-line sushi quality tuna, and that costs a fortune. Most restaurants opt for a lesser cut so they can price it more reasonably. Then you need to cook it a bit more and then you get what I got. Decent, but just okay. The beans were very good though.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman opted for the sea bass and she was very happy with it. It was kind of bland for me, but it was very nicely prepared.

See Sea Bass

If I am going to have sea bass I would rather have it at the Thai place. But that is just me.

And, as tradition requires, I finished up the meal with a Strega.

It's A Witch, But Someone Has To Do It

For those of you who may have missed the pun, Strega means "witch" in Italian.

I am glad Armando's re-opened, and I will certainly be back. But I think that for the next couple of visits it will, more than anything else, evoke a feeling of nostalgia. The old Armando's was the first restaurant in this neighborhood I ever went to, even before I moved here. And I will miss the old waiters and bartenders. And the food.

Ah, snap out of it and move on.

Armando Restorante on Urbanspoon

Knockin' The Knicks

You kind of know it is going to be another horrible year for the Knicks when the sports pages run a countdown to the number of days until LeBron James becomes a free agent. I mean, really, that is all we have to look forward to this year?

Oh, and after the Knicks have another terrible year, do you think we will get a good draft pick out of it? Oh no, that's right, we traded our number one draft pick in 2010 away as part of the deal to get Starbury. Even after Isiah Thomas is gone we are still paying for his bad decisions.

Maybe if the Knicks had that number one draft pick LeBron might be a little more willing to join them.

Personally, I think LeBron would be crazy to come to the Knicks. In my opinion, it is more likely that he would want to go to the Nets, who might be playing in a new arena in Downtown Brooklyn.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Attempt At Culture

Last Friday was a delightful day, warm and sunny, much too nice to stay inside. The Mysterious Chinese Woman decided it would be a perfect day to visit an outdoor art fair down in the DUMBO neighborhood. You already know my feelings about contrived names for neighborhoods (BOCOCA) so I won't go into my normal DUMB OH BOY rant.

We made it to within a few blocks of the art fair, but then I decided that I needed to stop in for a wee bit of a cocktail. We had been in here before when it was a different restaurant. In fact I think we have been in here when it was at least two different restaurants.

No. 1 Front Street

This current incarnation has only been open a couple of months. I chatted with the lovely bartender, Anita, a bit. She seemed quite knowledgeable so I was surprised when she said she had only been bartending a few months. Guess this must be her first job. She must be a quick learner.

The Lovely Anita

I asked her how she made a margarita and she said tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice and some sour mix. I asked her if she could just add a bit more lime juice and leave out the sour mix and she said "No problem." That, for me, is always a good sign and means I will probably return.

Barman And His Custom Margarita

The Mysterious Chinese Woman had a strawberry something or another. Anita said it was like a mojito but instead of rum you use strawberry vodka. And let me tell you, the Mysterious Chinese Woman reeeeeely reeeeeely liked it.

Simply Delicious

They had an eclectic decor, but there was obviously a bit of an Asian slant to it.

Striking A Pose

We next split a Negroni and then I noticed the bottles above the bar. I recognized what they were from seeing similar ones in a Russian bar in Manhattan. I commented upon that and the owner came over and said he went to that bar. That is where he got the idea. The ones here he makes himself. I ordered a chipotle infused tequila and then the owner gave me a sample of a couple of blueberry vodka infusions he was making.

The Lure

Well, you can probably see where this is going. By this time neither of us were in any shape to be heading to a street fair. We did get as far as the place nextdoor, though.

Five Front

I consoled the Mysterious Chinese Woman, who was a bit upset that we didn't get to the art fair, by telling her that some of the art from the fair was on the walls in here.

An Artful Deception

Feeling much better, she proceeded to order bubbly for everyone.

Just Small Bottles, Though

As you might imagine, we were a bit peckish by this time and they had a nice looking menu. We started out with the mussels and they were delicious. Great flavor and done just right, just a bit of a puff to them.

Puffy Mussels

The Mysterious Chinese ordered those little potato dumpling things, gnocihi. Gnochi means little lumps of boiled potato dough. They suck up flavor though. She thought they were tasty, but were over-cooked and a bit doughy.

A Bit Flaccid

My short ribs were, on the other hand, simply delicious. Falling apart tender without being a bit dry. Something I would come here and order again.

Repeatable Ribs

After eating and drinking our fill we hailed a taxi and headed home. A very nice day that didn't turn out as planned, but was a lot of fun.

Five Front on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Brilliant Idea

While getting money out of an ATM this morning Barman started to think. This is always bad, and particularly so in the morning. Nonetheless, it occured to me that in addition to a PIN, you should also be assigned an ALERT PIN.

You read so often about someone who is accosted and forced to use their credit or debit card to withdraw money from an ATM (and I know a lot of these claims are suspect). If you had an ALERT PIN you could enter that instead of your regular PIN and this would set off an alarm
and immediately flag your account as having illegal activity.

Barman is bit cynical about some of these claims though. I spend a fair amount of time in Mexico and have heard all sorts or tales about people being accosted, usually late at night, and being forced to withdraw money from an ATM. Often, it appears, it is someone who has just run out of money, wants to continue partying (and this includes buying drugs) and then makes up a tale to cover up where the money actually went.

Sometimes the tales are quite ludicrous. My favorite was told by three fellows who claimed they were accosted by the police after they left a club early in the morning and forced to withdraw money to "avoid being arrested." Of course these people couldn't even agree on what color uniform the police were wearing or how many policemen there were. Kind of makes you suspicious.

But I digress. I still think my idea about the ALARM PIN is a good one and fully expect to be compensated if it is adopted.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Worst Ticket Of The Season

The View From The Subway

Hey, I wasn't the one who said this, it was Filip Bondy, sports-columnist for the New York Daily News.

Oh, the Yankees won alright, beating the Royals 8 to 2, and Robert Cano did hit a grand slam. But we are talking about a game that was delayed a couple of hours because of rain and without Derek Jeter, Alix Rodriquez, Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, or Johnny Damon. I guess after the Yankees wrapped up the division the night before everyone went out to celebrate with champagne. They were probably all still pissing foam at game-time.

The New Stadium didn't really impress me either. But then, admittedly, I did have grandstand tickets, and the seats out there are no place to wait out a rain delay. In fact, there aren't many places to stand to keep out of the rain. I don't know how you can spend all that money on a stadium and still have it be so inhospitable looking inside, all exposed concrete and battle ship gray. The restrooms were nice, though.

Rain Delay

Not that much of this mattered to me. After finally hooking up with the people we were supposed to meet and waiting for an hour or so for the rain to stop, Barman had enough and went home.

And meeting up was no easy task due to the somewhat confused layout of the stadium and one person's decision not to meet us where we had out seats, but went to another section of the stadium where the seats were not exposed to the rain. Meeting up involved going up and down steps and ramps because you can't simply walk to some other sections on the same level like you could in the old stadium. Then we had to chase down a slice of pizza for my niece who was starving to death. And this involved more ramps and steps.

By the time I got home the game still had not started. Not to worry though, after I had gone to bed and fallen asleep my niece thoughtfully called to tell me that I had missed the grand slam.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Moving Right Along

Just a quick post on how the pulled pork turned out - quite good.

Did my normal routine in the 185 degree oven for about 14 hours and again, it was perfectly done and just fell off the bone. The only thing I did differently, in terms of cooking, was to brown it up before putting it into the oven.

And Out It Pops

After I pulled the pork I heated the drippings in the pan, scrapped up the stuff from the bottom, and spooned about five ladles over the meat. I sprinkled the meat liberally with Kosher salt and then mixed it all up.

I modified the South Carolina style sauce a bit. Here is the recipe that I used this time:

3/4 cup French's plain yellow mustard
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon chipotle hotsauce

Just whisked it all together, poured it over the meat and then mixed it in.

Ready For Mixing

I thought the pulled pork turned out even better than last time. Not hot, by any means, but a bit more flavor to it. My friends all agreed.

As I mentioned, it was Bob and Loretta's anniversary so the Mysterious Chinese Woman made them a nice chocolate cake, from scratch, and then applied her formidible artistic skills to decorate it.

Happy Anniversary Bob And Loretta

As you probably know, my predictions for yesterday's game didn't turn out exactly as I had, well, predicted. You do have to admit, though, that the Vikings win wasn't an easy one. Still, Brett's last minute touchdown pass did kind of drive a dagger through my heart. I apologize to my friends who are Vikings fans, and I have a lot of them, but my dislike for Brett transcends those loyalties.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fearless Football Forecast

Barman, on occasion, expresses his opinion about upcoming football games that are of interest to him. Most notably he predicted that Miami would beat the Jets in the last game of last year's season. Despite being accurate, it won him no accolades with his many friends who are Jets fans.

Here, however, are my fearless picks for today.

The Jets will prevail and the Vikings are going down (unless a Viking runs a kickoff back over 100 yards and Favre throws the game-winning touchdown with just seconds left to play, but c'mon, lets get real, like that is ever going to happen).

I am about to make my pulled pork sauce this morning, the pork turned out falling off the bone tender again. I will post a couple of pictures later on or tomorrow. My buddy Bernie will be swinging by at 10:00 A.M. so we can head out to Bob and Loretta's to catch the game.

It is Bob and Loretta's anniversary so the Mysterious Chinese Woman baked a chocolate cake from scratch to help them celebrate. To my knowledge this is the first cake she has ever baked. From the "little taste" that I had it is pretty good. Once she has it decorated I will snap a picture of it and post it.

I talked to Sam at Pete's Waterfront Ale House yesterday about the pork. When I told him how I cooked it he kind of laughed. He said I was supposed to cook the pork butt until it had an internal temperature of 185 degrees, not cook it with the oven set at 185 degrees. He was thinking the oven should be at 225 degrees. When I told him how well it turned out he said if it works, keep doing it. My philosophy is that if the oven is set at 185 degrees eventually the pork butt will get to be that temperature as well and you have no chance to overcook it.

Of course Sam said he usually cooks about 30 pork butts at a time, so his method would be a bit different than mine. And he keeps an eye on his meat while it is cooking. I just go to bed.

He did give me a tip for ribs. He says he marinates his ribs with apple cider overnight, then pats them dry and applies the rub. He also said he keeps a spray bottle of apple cider handy and peridoically gives them a spritz while they are cooking.

"Edible Brooklyn," a free magazine that has food-related articles featuring Brooklyn establishments and residents has a full page article about Sam's Famous Hot Sauce. If you ever stop into Pete's Waterfront Ale House be sure to try some. But be careful, it is hot, hot, hot.

Just a reminder, next Sunday is the Atlantic Antic, the best street fair in New York. Sam will have both pulled pork and pulled beef brisket sandwiches available for your pleasure.

Waterfront Ale House on Urbanspoon