[This dinner took place on November 24th. Yes, I wish I updated more often. No, I have no idea why I don't. I think I'm stuck in an alternate universe where a day has 20 hours instead of 24. If you want to jump around you can read about my Thanksgiving and my lunch at Shopsins.]
"Justin wants to go to Otto," said Kathy as we walked around midtown last Saturday.
"Ohh...okay," I half-heartedly replied. I like Otto, but I wasn't feeling "pizza" that night. In response to the piercing coldness, I was wearing a hat with ear flaps, a cashmere scarf with matching gloves and my heaviest coat. Otto didn't fit into the weather conditions. I didn't realize why at first, but then it hit me.
"Their pizza is so...flat. Flat food doesn't seem satisfying today, you know?" I envisioned the pizza in front of me. And then I envisioned devouring the entire thing. And still feeling hungry afterwards.
"Yeah, you're right!"
"I want a...a mountain of something. Like tofu stew." [Insert drooling sound effect.]
"Oh, Justin had that earlier this week..."
We hm-ed. We mulled. About non-flat food establishments.
I mentioned Blue Ribbon Bakery as a "reach" restaurant. Why a reach? I love it, but it's a smidge out of my (and probably most students') price range for a casual dinner. While walking to the 51st Street subway station, we relayed the suggestion to Kathy's friends—Justin, Steph, Marie and Shann—and crossed our fingers.
Initial response: "Justin still wants to go to Otto."
Second response about a minute later: "Okay, let's go to Blue Ribbon!"
And that's how we got this awesome bread basket of white, something off-white (probably not the real name of the bread) and something peppery and perhaps slightly cheesy. The best of the bunch was the simple white—pillowy soft guts protected by a thin, crispy golden crust that shattered/exploded when crushed by my jaw. Those crusts are hard to find. When you find it, you have to hold onto it for dear life. Marry it, maybe. ...Or just eat it. Yes, that works too. Except then you run out of bread and want more.
And we did get more. Since there were six of us at the table I would say we only mildly pigged out by eating two baskets. Per Kathy's request, our basket came with fat slices of challah bread. If you have a hankering for a specific bread, ask if they'll give it to you. They'll also warm your basket if you ask, and you'll want to because this stuff tastes 500% awesomer when its the same temperature as a baby kitty. ...A live baby kitten, I mean.
As soon as my eyes hit the magic words "duck confit" on the menu, nothing else mattered. I cannot resist duck cooked in its own fat. And neither can you. ...Unless you're a vegetarian. I guess.
The duck confit, while not as brain meltingly delicious as duck confit I've had in Paris (a tough comparison, I'll admit), was very good and easily a gazillion times better than the version I had at Les Halles (which I hope to write about at some point, although the one-word review for their duck confit goes like this: SUXORZ). You shouldn't need a knife when eating duck confit—that's the rule I made up and was fulfilled by Blue Ribbon. The meat should pulsate so vigorously with its own fatty juices that it just falls off the bone without leaving any trace of muscle fiber. That's good eatin'.
While I generally love fried potatoes that come with duck confit (or any fried potato bits), I liked the sautéed napa cabbage more for the way it mellowed out the heavy meaty goodness of the duck. The potatoes weren't memorably good. Or bad. They were...potatoes. Potatoes are good. Yes. ...Why am I talking funnily today? Do I usually do this?
Kathy just had one thing on her mind: soft, gelatinous inner tissue from cow bones. Gets the salivary glands a-flowing, doesn't it? Since I never had bone marrow before, I tried a splodge of hers atop a piece of the accompany grilled challah bread.
But that bone marrow...it's a tricky bastard. Or Blue Ribbon doesn't provide the best marrow-digging implements. A little mildly forked wooden stick is no match for blubby fat globules that refuse to detach themselves from their skeletal tubes. Just when you think you've got it, when you're thisclose to victoriously releasing a chunk of marrow, it goes shwoop back into the bone like an alien recoiling back into its alien home. Or something. Shwoop.
After the struggle (which, you know, took a few seconds to resolve, but whatever), I was left with a large pea-sized grayish blob on my bread. It tasted of fat. And stuff. Like if fat had other nutrients swimming around in it that turned it a gray color. I think they dress it with red wine reduction and give you a dish of salt that no one in their right mind would use in its entirety for a reason—you're supposed to use them. For the flava. I'll try that next time.
Ohjebus, sweetbreads. Justin generously shared his sweetbreads (with grilled onion compote, fennel and herb salad, but who cares, it's all about the sweetbreads) with the rest of the table. A split second I after popping that little chunk into my mouth I declared it to be awesome-good. Like light meaty fat with a fine crust. And I mean meaty fat, not fatty meat. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you best go find yourself some sweetbreads, for they are HEAVENLY BLOBS OF GLANDULAR MATTER!
After our nearly gut-busting meal, we walked up to Billy's Bakery and peered into a fully lit store...with empty cases. It was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Oh poop.
It was for the best. I'm not sure how well a cupcake would've settled atop the pile of bread and duck and potato and various fatty things that lay dormant in my belly.
What did I do for Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving was just a simple dinner for my mum, brother and me. No crazy party. No annoying crowd of relatives to deal with. ;)
I thought I should take this opportunity to quickly prove to you that I can cook, if I feel like it, Thanksgiving being one of those rare days when I do feel like it. That's all the holiday is to me. I guess I'm supposed to give thanks as well (ohhh so that's where the name comes from), but I mostly see it as "the day I eat shitloads of mashed potatoes and bake a pie."
So, the menu:
One Foolproof pie dough crust. Not only was it the easiest pie crust I ever made (out of the two or three I've made, alright), but it was also the best. It came out disarmingly flaky and tender. Vodka is a pie crust's best friend.
One batch of Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie filling to go into the dough. And later in my belly. Besides that it took a lot longer to bake than the recipe said, it turned out great.
Cranberry sauce cooked with some orange juice. I liked it when the cranberry exploded. If only I could hear their screams.
A half-recipe of The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. So easy, so creamy, so awesome. I. Love. Potatoes. In mashed form.
Turkey, of course. Nothing fancy here, just...straight up poultry. It ended up being a little dry, but that's what gravy is for!
...I have no photo of the gravy. It's brown. A bit goopy. You know how it is. I made it out of some of the turkey liquids my mum set aside (with butter and flour), but I didn't realize until it was too late that it was just the liquid she cooked the organs bits in. Hello, no sodium! Hello, no taste! I had a lot of fun trying to even that out. Haha. God, I don't know how to salt anything.
But it came out fine in the end and that's what matters: edibility.
Uh, and family.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Ed randomly decided to take the office out for lunch at Shopsins. Never heard of Shopsins before? Well...it's got a bit of a reputation to the point where a documentary was made about it, but it's somewhat infamous for these reasons: 1) their menu is obscenely huge with huuuundreds of items, many combinations that you're likely to find at any other restaurant, squished onto two sides of a large piece of paper like puzzle pieces that don't quite fit and 2) the owner, Kenny Shopsin, is a bit eccentric and can refuse to serve you for a multitude of reasons, such as being a party of five, if two people ordering the same thing within the same party, using a cell phone, sensing that you're an asshole, etc.
However, since we were with Ed, who's been one of his friends since before I was born (1985), we got away with breaking the rules. We had...gasp, five people at our table and there was some cell phone usage. I dunno how strict he is with the second rule.
Shopsins used to occupy a large space in the West Village (now Market Table) but moved to a corner of the Essex Street Market. To make best use of the space, it seems like most of the supplies were out on the shelves around the seating area. It felt nice in a neatly cluttered way.
Oh, you probably shouldn't take shittons of photos if you eat at Shopsins. Kenny is not too fond of journalists, it seems. Seems. He likes Serious Eats and some other food blogs, but I wasn't about to get him to pose for the camera. Helllll noooo.
So. Kenny sat down on a nearby chair to talk to Ed while we were eating, which was...eye-opening. I mean, it was nice to see what he was like aside from what I witnessed in I Like Killing Flies, in which he was kind of frightening. Not in a way where you thought he actually hated you, but...well, I'm not sure about that, actually.
Anyway, after hearing him converse with Ed and losing track of how many times he said "cocksucker" (a lot), I'd say he's pretty nice. If you don't suck. I don't know what kind of impression I made—I just sat there and ate, mostly. (I'm afraid he'll forever refer to me as "the girl who takes a lot of photos.")
Oh, what did I eat? That's what I'm here to talk about, isn't it...
I ordered the Cuban II, filled with smoked brisket, swiss, andouille, and jerk bbq on ciabatta accompanied by a salad of baby greens (mm babies!), a slice of watermelon and a bag of Ruffle potato chips. With all that meatiliciousness, of course it was awesome. The spicy peppery andouille was my favorite part, although I'd say the other juicy meatstuffs and the melted cheese and the soft, chewy bread also played major roles. The whole thing cost $13, which is a lot for a sandwich (everything at Shopsins is kind of expensive), but for some reason it's worth it. Because...you're keeping the Shopsin philosophy alive. And a large part of the philosophy includes tasty sandwiches.
The star of the table was the High School. When the bucket of hot turkey sandwich, stuffing, and mushroom gravy was placed in front of Alaina, we were all like, "...WTF. Sweet jesus." Or that's what I was thinking. I mean, that's what I think 50% of the time that I'm awake. The spoonfuls of thick white bread soaked in savory gravy juices smothered in the comforting combination of turkey-celery-carrot-stuffing bits seemed neverending. Which was great, because we didn't want it to end. Even though four of us helped Alaina eat it, we still couldn't finish it off.
Of course, it was sooo good (said in the style of Teen Girl Squad). And it was $14. But you should get it because you won't find this dish anywhere else...except maybe a high school cafeteria where the cooks have gone haywire with leftovers.
Adam ordered a plate of sliders (mini-burgers) with cheese and maybe onion...
Raphaël continued the mini-sandwich theme with smoked pork bbq sandwiches...
And Ed went with a giant bowl of chicken cheddar bacon corn soup. Chicken. Cheddar. Bacon. Corn. I don't know why this isn't a more common combination on soup menus everywhere.
In conclusion, THE FOOD IS AWESOME. YOU WILL BE SATISFIED. OR AT LEAST VERY FULL. I PROMISE.
Damn, just missed the midnight mark for this to have been posted on Thursday. Well. Happy Friday, everyone.