Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinco de Mayonnaise Malaise

Well, here is another example of how the person working at a bar can make all of the difference in the world. I decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mysterious Chinese Woman by going to one of the most authentic looking Mexican restuarants in my neighborhood. I mean this place does look like it could have been plucked out of a small beachtown in Mexico.


I have been here before and given it a pretty favorable write-up so I was hardly prepared for what I experienced today. Now, first of all, it was about 3:00 P.M. so it wasn't exactly the busy time of day. The outdoor deck was, however, almost full. The only tables available were in the sun and it was quite a hot day. We decided to sit inside where it was a bit cooler and there was only one party of two already seated. In other words, the place was just about empty.

As we were waiting for someone to take our order a group of four young women came in who wanted a table for six. They were curtly informed that couldn't be seated until their entire party arrived. Again, this in a place that was almost empty. They said they just wanted to sit and have a drink while they waited for their friends but were again told that wasn't permissible. So, they left.

Then the same guy asked us what we wanted and we said just a couple of margaritas. We were told that if all we wanted were drinks we would have to either sit at the bar all the way in the back or at a table outside. We said that we really didn't want to sit at the bar where it was dark or in the sun on the deck but couldn't we just sit at the table inside by the window looking out on the deck. We were told no, even though, again, there was only one other couple inside. Who knows, maybe if the fellow had been a bit nicer and we liked our drinks we would have stayed to order some food. But, who needs the aggravation. We got up and left.

Pacifico on Urbanspoon

Cafe Tabac

I guess, to make a point, we decided to head to a French Bistro that we liked to "celebrate" the French's ultimate victory in the war. Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates a fairly impressive victory by Mexico over invading French forces during the war, but about a year later Mexico lost the war.

We decided to have a bottle of wine and an order of mussels, some of the best in town, and were able to enjoy them at a nice sidewalk table.

A Nice Repast

We could have sat there even if we didn't order the mussels though and the waiter was a very pleasant fellow. We talked a bit about Tony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential and former executive chef of Hales, a very good French bistro in Manhattan and now starring on No Reservations, a television show on the Travel Station. He had made a comment about eating mussels in restaurants in his book and I paraphrased it and told our waiter that I would eat mussels in Cafe Tabac anytime.

Here is what Tony said:

"I don't eat mussels in restaurants... More often than not, mussels are allowed to wallow in their own foul-smelling piss... I have had the misfortune to eat a single bad mussel... sent me crawling to the bathroom shitting like a mink, clutching my stomach and projectile vomiting."

But hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Ours were delicious, as usual, and the bread to sop up the juices was just what you would expect in a French bistro. Even the French fries served with both catsup and mayonnaise were good.

Raising Our Glasses To French Hospitality

I finished up with an espresso and a glass of Ricard, similar to Pernod, before we meandered on home.

Bar Tabac on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 01, 2006

The New Harry's

Harry's Cafe

Harry's used to be a venerable old bar and steakhouse down in the Finacial District of Manhattan and conveniently located right across the street from where I worked for a number of years. It was largely populated by those who worked on Wall Street and there was a large ticker display running along the wall. Lots of suits and cigars and very good steaks. There was a large U shaped bar that was generally jammed from about 5:00 P.M. until everyone headed home in the early evening. Unfortunately it has been closed for about three years so it didn't make it as one of the thousand bars I visited last year.

It has now re-opened, although the official grand opening won't be until May 12th so they were missing a few things, like draft beer. Also, the place has been remodeled and doesn't quite have the old charm. It has been split into two with the steakhouse on one side and a smaller bar on the othe side in the cafe part. That is where I parked myself with a couple of buddies for a few libations.

We started out with a Bombay Martini followed by a Chimay. Ben and I had the Blue while Ronnie had the red. Very good and I shall review them in the not too distant future.

The bartenders were very friendly and recoginized me as the Bar Man, and that was flattering.

Mike And Carolina, The Bartenders

A fellow seated next to us said he followed my blog and was pleased to meet me. He just moved here from Boston so was happy to meet someone who could give him some bar recommendations. And I was more than happy to do so.

Mike, A Fan And Now A New Yorker

Harry's Cafe, it turns out, has a very good selection of beers so we decided to sample some. Carolina said that they would be getting some nice ones on tap too, including at least one Belgian.

Our next beer was an Innis and Gunn:

My friend Ben, who is a real beer maven, started talking about it and, after I figured out he wasn't talking about Guinness, we decided to have one. It is one of the best beers that I have ever had. An amazingly complex set of flavors that has elements of carmel or toffee, nuts, honey, vanilla and more if you roll it around on your tongue long enough. It is aged in for 30 days in oak casks which are then emptied into a marrying tun where it is aged for another 47 days to allow the flavors to blend. It is brewed in Edinburgh, Scotland. However I have also heard that it is brewed by Caledonian for Innis & Gunn. Well, whoever makes it, I strongly recommend it.

After that our discussions about beer continued and we got around to talking about hefeweizen beers and whether they are a heavy or a light beer. Ben seemed to think they are heavy and Carolina agreed with him. Ronnie and I, however, thought they were more on the light side. To settle the arguement Carolina suggested we taste one so she popped the top on a Franzikaner Hefeweizen and poured us each a taste.

"Hefe" means yeast and "Weizen" means wheat so it is no surprise that Hefeweizens are made with wheat and are a top fermented, unfiltered, bottle conditioned beer that usually has a noticible yeast deposit on the bottem and can be somewhat cloudy. These beers are popular in both Germany and Belgium but in Belgium they often add coriander and other spices and botanicals. They are also called Weissbiers or white beers because back when most beers and ales were dark these were the exception to the rule.

This particular beer was a bit sweet and fruity and was, I have to admit, guite full-bodied. It was very good.

We decided to see what else Harry's had to offer and Carolina said they had a nice Australian beer. Now I was hoping that it wasn't going to be a Foster's, and was pleased to find out that it was a Coopers Original Pale Ale.

Not a very good picture I am afraid, but the beer was very good indeed. It has a bit of a citrus bite to it with a slightly bitter aftertaste. But bitter in a good way. It is supposed to be brewed using the "Burton on Trent" brewing style, but I will be damned if I know what that is. A lot of good beers are, indeed, brewed in Burton on Trent, a town in Straffordshire, England that straddles the River Trent and grew up around the monastery of St. Modwen. The water there contains a lot of dissolved salts from the gypsum in the surrounding area and this gives the beers a somewhat unique taste that is thought to be desireable.

Ben Enjoying His Coopers

Ronnie, Ben, and Bar Man Enjoying Our Beers

Ben is quite self conscious about his height so we got him a telephone book to sit on and took this picutre too.

Revised Picture Of Ben And "Friends"

Sorry Ben, I couldn't resist. Ben is actually not short, he was sitting and we were standing.

Ronnie And The Normal Sized Ben

Ronnie had to leave to catch a ferry so Ben and I had one more Innis & Gunn for the road before heading of into the night.