Saturday, April 02, 2011

Back Home Again

Oh, I know, I have been back in Brooklyn for almost a week now, but I don't really consider myself to be back home until I have popped into Waterfront Ale House.  I could have gone earlier in the week, but I like to wait until Gaid, the world's friendliest bartender, is on duty.  I hear that Waterfront Ale House actually considered changing their "Happy Hour" sign to "Angry Hour" when he is on duty.  I guess that wouldn't be inappropriate for a bar that boasts of warm beer, lousy food and an ugly owner.

World's Friendliest Bartender (archived)

First thing I had to do was peruse the day's offerings.

Plenty To Chose From

I chose the Bluepoint Hoptical Illusion but then spotted the Brooklyn Main Engine so I thought I would try that and give the Hoptical Illusion to the Mysterious Chinese Woman. But Gaid couldn't find the Main Engine and said they didn't have it. So I switched to the Kulmbacher Eissbock, a dark and hearty beer, not for the faint of heart.

A Chewy Beer

The Mysterious Chinese Woman enjoyed her Hoptical Illusion. I was afraid it would be too hoppy for her, but I think it was a welcome change from drinking nothing but Corona, Pacifico and Tecate for four weeks. My most flavorful beer was a Dos Equis, and most bars don't seem to carry it.  Not that I don't like Mexican beers, because I do.  But I also like variety in my beers, and that isn't something you find too much of.  I will make and exception for Minerva, a Mexican micro brewery that puts out a line of craft-beers which are almost impossible to find in bars and restaurants.  There is a beer store near where I stay in Puerto Vallarta, and they stock it.  It is a bit pricey and the alcohol content tends to be higher as well.  But I digress.

Quite Delish, Said The Dish

Gaid was a bit harried because there was a table of non-regulars who were ordering all kinds of bizarre drinks. Some of them with Ginger Beer and one that nobody seemed to know how to make so it became a two-man collaboration. When Gaid finally finished making it and, believe me, it wasn't easy to watch, I said that it looked so good I wanted one too. You can imagine Gaid's response. Suffice it to say that I didn't get one (whatever it was).

With my help Gaid managed to find the spigot for the Main Engine so I ordered one of those.  The handle looked like a train engine, so it was kind of hard to spot.  Brooklyn Brewery should put out Caboose, that way the handle would be red and much easier to find.

Me And My Main Engine

The Main Engine was, in my opinion, just so-so.  And it tasted a bit watery, but that might because it was chasing my chewy beer.

Now Jim, the cook, also aware of Gaid's command of cocktails, suggested that I order a double Negroni. But that would have been easy. And Gaid does have a good command of standard cocktails, just not ones that involve a great deal of muddling and ginger beer.

Anyway, the Mysterious Chinese Woman said something to about a Negroni sounding good. Then we reminisced about a time when I ended up getting everyone at a Greenwich Village bar drinking a Negroni. Now that was a fun afternoon.

But the Mysterious Chinese Woman said she couldn't drink a Negroni on an empty stomach. So she ordered a bowl of French Onion Soup. And the soup here is delicious.

Tastes As Good As It Looks

Then, when she was finished eating, she said she didn't want a Negroni because she would be too drunk to walk home. The Mysterious Chinese Woman isn't much of a drinker. Somehow I decided we would have a Negroni after we got home. So I made us up a batch.

A Classic Cocktail In A Classic Shaker

Just one-third gin (I used Blue Saphire) one-third Campari and one-third sweet Vermouth (I used Noilly Pratt). Then you just shake vigorously with a lot of ice and strain into the appropriate glasses.

Came Out Perfectly

Mario Batali once said that the Negroni was the best cocktail in the world. That got me to thinking, if I could only drink one type of cocktal for the rest of my life (God forbid) which one would it be. Certainly a Negroni would be up there. I don't drink them very often but always wonder why because I do like them. But a really well made Margarita would probably be my cocktail of choice. I wonder if Gaid could make me one.

I try to explain to my friends in Puerto Vallarta how, in some ways, where I live in Brooklyn is very similar. Of course Downtown Brooklyn doesn't have the beaches (got to take a subway and go to Coney Island for that) or, for now at least, the warm weather and sunshine. But according to Conde Nast we are one of the top fifteen places in the world to visit. And the article urged travelers to check out the trendy bars, restaurants, galleries and shops. I would also strongly recommend that they check out some of the non-trendy bars as well. OH NO, maybe Waterfront Ale House is now trendy? That would help explain the rash of requests for strange cocktails, some of which I had never heard of. The only thing that I can think to make with Ginger Beer is a Dark and Stormy, which is just Ginger Beer and Rum. Montero's Bar & Grill certainly isn't trendy.

Friday, April 01, 2011

No Accounting For It

Ah, what a change.  From bright and colorful Puerto Vallarta to dull and gray Brooklyn.  I did manage to find a little bit of color as I headed to the subway for my annual visit to my accountant.

One Bright Spot

My visits to the accountant are pretty painless.  I just bring him my folder of tax-related documents and then go home and wait for my completed taxes to be messengered to me.  Of course the real pain occurs a few weeks later when I get the bill for these wonderful services.  One of my foolish pleasures, though, having someone else take care of my taxes for me.  I think of it as a mini-vacation, and it costs just about as much.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I decided to stop into the Oyster Bar Restaurant in Grand Central on our way home.  I hadn't eaten there in ages, and it is a real New York classic.

The Oyster Bar Restaurant

We got there a bit before its 5:00 PM opening so we popped into the adjacent Saloon for a before dinner beer. I had an excellent draft Chimay and the Mysterious Chinese Woman had a Brooklyn Brewery Lager.  I noticed a couple of guys sitting next to me at the bar eating oysters and drinking Martinis.  One was wearing a Yankees cap so I asked them if they were at the game.  Well, obviously, they weren't at the game, they were sitting next to me at the bar.  But they had been at the game.  I liked the looks of their Martinis, just the right size, not the overly large ones you usually get, with a bit extra in a glass on the side.  This comes into play later.

Okay, not much later.  After finishing up our beers and waiting for the Mysterious Chinese Woman to stop belching (she said I made her drink too fast) we headed into the dining room.  Now, she wasn't really belching, I just put that in for comic effect.  She complains when I make up stories about her, like her hollering BINGO when she didn't have a card.  I tried to tell her that the Mysterious Chinese Woman in my blog isn't really her, just a character loosely based upon her.  That got me nowhere.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman, What A Character

With thoughts of Martinis running through my brain I realized that I hadn't had a Gibson in ages.  I figured if anyplace could make them the Oyster Bar Restaurant would be the place.  And I was right.

Not A Martini, But A Gibson

It must be hard for most bars to keep those little onions in stock.  Probably not much call for them.  Kind of reminds me of buying hazelnuts for a bar so they could put them into my Rusty Nails.  That didn't work out very well, but that is another story.  And probably one you have already heard.

Now if you are at the Oyster Bar Restaurant you would really be remiss if you didn't order oysters.  They have several different kinds and they are, like the fish they serve, absolutely fresh.  And delicious.  I ordered half a dozen raw oysters, two each of three different kinds, and wolfed them down before I even took a picture.

Just The Empty Shells

They serve them with a couple of house sauces, but I prefer mine with just horseradish and a dash of Tabasco sauce or, better yet, a dash or two of Cholula Hot Sauce.  And they provided both.  The Mystereious Chinese Woman had fried oysters for her appetizer and there weren't even any shells.

For dinner I had the pan-fried lemon sole.

A Simple Preparation

They adhere to the less-is-more style of cooking here.  Nothing at all fancy and no added flavors.  The fish is the dish, lightly browned and served with lightly roasted vegetables.  Quite delicious.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered shad that came with its own roe.  We had gone to a shad festival one time but never actually ate any so she wanted to try it.  I was surprised by how dark the meat was.  For some reason it was served with bacon.  My mother used to cook liver with bacon, the theory being that the smell of the bacon disguised the smell of the liver.  I hope that wasn't the thinking here.

Bacon And Shad, Goes Together Like...?

Actually, she said it was very good.  I never did taste it though, but why would she lie to me.

If you ever are in Manhattan you really should visit Grand Central.  It is especially nice now that it has been all fixed up, and there are a number of good drinking spots in there.  A couple of them on the balconies at either end of the main hall.  There is a Michael Jordan's Steak House there too and it is quite good.  And by all means check out the Oyster Bar Restaurant.  It is very classy and like stepping back in time.  Well, except for the prices.

We caught the subway home and I still had a hankering for another old-style cocktail.  I had just gotten an email from Esquire with a few classic recipes.  One was for a Manhattan that they claimed was close to the original, half Rye whiskey and half sweet vermouth with no cherry.  I think they may have gotten the Rye part wrong because they suggested something like a Wild Turkey Rye whiskey.  The original Manhattans were made with Canadian whiskey that they call rye.  Oh well, I went the non-traditional route and used my go-to Bourbon, Maker's Mark and mixed it half and half with Vya sweet vermouth.  Well shaken and served straight up it was a perfect nightcap.  So perfect that I had three.  But they were small.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Really Our Last Dinner

Okay, this really was our last dinner in Puerto Vallarta.

BUT..., before I get to that, I have to share what I now consider to be the most scurrilous ripoff I have ever heard of, charging extra for ice in your drink.  Yep, you heard it right.  The Darby in, where else, Manhattan charges you an extra two dollars if you order your drink on-the-rocks.  So that means your $13 Grey Goose Vodka will cost you $15 if you want it with ice.  When asked about this the bartender hemmed and hawed a bit and then said it was because you got a bigger pour when you ordered your drinks on-the-rocks.  Excuse me, since when, exactly, did that start to happen.  Rest assured that you will not be seeing Bar Man in The Darby anytime soon.  Although I do have an urge to go in and order a Grey Goose straight up then add ice that I have brought with me.

Okay, on to more pleasant thoughts, although adding my own ice was kind of a pleasant thought.  Our last dinner in Puerto Vallarta and we went to No Way Jose! with Bill and Marcie.  You may recall that the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I were there once for cocktails when we were barred from the Mexican Bingo game going on downstairs.  I think our reputation as being Mexican Bingo sharps had preceded us.  That and the Mysterious Chinese Woman jumping up and shouting "BINGO" when she didn't even have a card.  We also had our Valentine's Day dinner here, but that wasn't nearly as eventful.

No Way Jose!

Now the Mysterious Chinese Woman is always accusing me of taking pictures that make her drink look much bigger than it really does.  But really, she is the one who orders them so big you need two hands to hold it.

Does This Picture Make My Drink Look Big?

Now Bar Man knows how to order more photogenic drinks.

Smaller, But More Potent

And our friends Bill and Marcie just stuck with wine.

So Sophisticated

We got the upstairs seating area which, on as lovely a night as it was, was where you wanted to be.  Of course we had to stare at this sign all night.

The View From Our Table

Now this wouldn't have been so bad when everyone assumed it was a pepper.  When I suggested it looked like an erect penis wearing a very small reservoir-tipped condom the view suddenly got much worse.  But funnier.

I started out with a wild mushroom appetizer.  What the hell, you only live once so you might as well go while writhing around on the floor in agony.  No! No!  I knew they would be perfectly fine.  All of the produce and stuff in Mexico is so flavorful and good.  I have already mentioned the eggs many times and the same is true for chicken, beef and especially fish.  A gourmet's paradise.

A Delicious Wild Mushroom Appetizer

For the main course I ordered ribs in pineapple sauce, a big mistake.

Bar Man Drops The Ball

Now I don't want to suggest that my meal was bad, it wasn't.  What it was was out of context.  I can't remember exactly how the menu described this dish, but I thought it would be more, well, more Mexican.  Instead this tasted like something I would expect to get in a Chinese restaurant or, perhaps, in a Tiki Lounge. Probably not at Frank's Tiki Lounge in Las Vegas, though.  So it was good, not great, but good, but just not what I really expected or wanted.  More my fault than anything.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman got the Chicken in a Mole Sauce and it was delicious.  It was what I should have gotten.

The Real Deal

Those colorful sprinkly thinks you see all over the food are roasted sesame seeds.  They mush have gotten a good deal on them or they are somehow trying to make them their signature, somehow.  It was just funny that they seemed to be on everything.  But so what, I like toasted sesame seeds.  I even like those middle-eastern crunchy sesame seed candy bars they have.  But I digress.

The chicken was done to just the right amount of tenderness and the mole sauce was one of the best I have ever had.  As good as what I had at the Botanical Gardens, but different.  This one was much spicier, and by that I mean more picante, I guess mole sauces are like hot sauces.  I may have several favorites but they are different enough so they don't really compete.  Did that make sense?

Okay, so what.  On to the next dish, and I am not really sure what it was.

The Magical Mystical Meal

I think Bill and Marcie split this and, I think, it was some kind of chicken in some kind of a grey looking sauce  that nobody could really identify, shrimp and vegetables.  Needless to say, Bill was not overly impressed by the sauce, but he said the chicken and the shrimp were good.  I may even have seen him eat a vegetable, but that would be improbable.  Marcie seemed to enjoy even the brown sauce.  Well, at least she tried it.

It was another great dinner and, if it is still around next year, I will go back and get one of their mole dishes.  I hope it will be back, but that location seems to be bad luck.  Several restaurants located there have gone belly-up.  But No Way Jose! always seems to have a good crowd and two new condos just opened up a few block away so that may give them a bigger customer base.

We passed on the deserts but some of us couldn't pass up an ice-cream cone on the way home.

My Last Desert In Puerto Vallarta, This Year

And that was my last night in Puerto Vallarta.

Hey, do you think you could make money selling ice-cubes in The Darby for, oh, say a buck a glassful?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Goodbye Dinner

Nothing like stretching out your goodbyes.  In fact the night after this we had yet another farewell party with a few more friends.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

We went to a really lovely restaurant, El Palomar de los Gonzalez, up above the downtown area of Puerto Vallarta.  I should have taken a picture of it from the outside but was too distracted by our cabbie telling us that if we wanted to go to a titty bar we wouldn't have to pay the cab fare.  That if we spent twenty-five dollars each the titty bar would reimburse us.  I suspect that we got this offer because it was the three hombres who rode in the car together.  Lord knows what offer the women got from their driver.

The restaurant offers great views of the city and the bay beyond.  This time of year you don't get a really good view of the sunset, but you do get to see the lights come on and the city begins to twinkle after sunset.

A View Of The City And The Bay

The restaurant itself has been around since 1987 and is inside of what looks to have been a very posh old-style villa.  Very elegant.

And Elegant Customers As Well

We started out with cocktails, of course.  A stiff margarita on the rocks for me.  Usually I like them straight up, but in Mexico it is generally too warm to get them that way unless you are in someplace with air-conditioning.  And we most certainly were not.

Sharon and Paul started out with a Cesare salad for two made table-side.

The Show Alone Is Worth It

The mussels here in Puerto Vallarta are really big and juicy so I opted to share the mussels with a cheese sauce with the Mysterious Chinese Woman.

Mussels And Cheese

Actually, it was more like mussels with melted cheese on top, and plenty of it.  I thought the mussels could have used a bit more flavor because the dish was a bit bland for my liking.  But that is just me.  The mussels were tender and the cheese was a type that I like.

For the main course both Paul and I got the grilled rib-eyes, and they were delicious.  Done medium-rare, just like we asked for and simply prepared, just grilled with a minimum of seasoning.

Paul Thought Mine Was Bigger

They were both plenty big.  I only managed to eat half of mine and then ate the second half cold for breakfast the next day.  Even cold it was still juicy and tender.

I am not sure what Rico ordered, it looks kind of like a chicken burrito.

A Big Chicken Burrito

It Was Beef Fajitas For Sandy

The Mysterious Chinese Woman opted for the Minoneta Shrimp, a tasty looking dish of shrimp with a chipotle sauce topped with melted cheese and bacon.  Now that is a meal that will stick to your ribs.

Rib Sticking Good

I think Sharon just had a bowl of tortilla soup and I didn't get a picture of it.  It was a pretty good-sized bowl, though and tortilla soup is very good.

We hombres consoled ourselves from having to decline the cabbie's generous offer by ordering after-dinner Palomar Coffee.  It has Brandy and Kahlua, but not topless, it is topped with ice-cream.  But we did get a bit of a show because it is prepared at the table.

Our Table-Side Entertainment

You Wouldn't Want This In Your Lap

The coffee was great and it was another delicious meal with a bunch of friends.  This is the first time that I have ever been to El Palomar, but I will sure make a point of going again next year.  I have to thank my friends Ira and Linda for prodding me to go here, it is one of their favorite restaurants.