A bunch of stuff happened since I went to Honolulu. Because that was three months ago. Yeah. To summarize things, I present you with five-ish of the most memorable places I digested stuff in May.
Serious Eats won a James Beard award back in May. I don't think I mentioned it here, but if you read Serious Eats (and you should!), you already heard the news. YAY WOOT rock.
So we had to throw a party. And a Serious Eats-style party means reserving Motorino in Brooklyn for a night of pizza partying and packing in as many Serious Eats contributors and friends as we could.
The fire-roasted chicken wings were awesome, and I say that as someone who isn't that into chicken wings. Thin, crisp skin + juicy meat = success! Unfortunately, I don't know if they're serving them now since I don't see it on the menu and this meal happened almost three months ago. :(
The main draw is the pizza, of course. My favorite pie of the night was a tomato sauce-less version covered in lots of cheese.
Not sure if it was the quattro formaggi on their menu, but even if it wasn't, there's no way that four-cheese pizza could be bad. It's a stracciatella pizza topped with garlic, olive oil, sea salt, and basil, no tomato. No wonder it tasted like awesome. Thanks for the heads up, Amy!
Later in May I ate brunch at the East Village Motorino for the first time, accompanied by Alex, my brother, and my brother's two friends. Going to Motorino for dinner can result in an hour-plus wait and a grumbly belly, but at noon on a Sunday most of the world apparently prefers sleep over pizza, resulting in a gloriously half-empty restaurant. ...Glorious for us and not having to wait, I mean.
The pizzas were excellent as always—poofy, chewy crust with skillfully plopped toppings x 4. Alex ordered a brussels sprouts and pancetta pizza sans the pancetta since he's vegetarian, while the rest of us shared three pizzas: prosciutto (this may have been a special that day), three eggs-n-pancetta (made for the brunch crowd), and soppressata piccante (spicy sausage).
At the end of May I went to Philadelphia with Ed to do some research for our Serious Eats book coming out next year (hopefully). Unfortunately, the trip wasn't as successful as we wanted it to be—Capogiro and Paesano's were the best out of seven places we tried that day—but 89-year-old Italian bakery Termini Bros stood out for its charming "hasn't changed much in the past 89 years" ambiance.
The pastries were beautiful to look at, but the few things we tried weren't as delicious as we hoped they'd be. My favorite was their cheesecake.
The bakery is worth checking out if you're in the area though, even if you're not that into Italian pastries. You might get a live music performance from these dudes sitting by the entrance.
And for no reason besides that I liked it, here's a sign I came across that day in Philly. If you want my attention, just make a huge sign that says "CRABS" in bold red lettering.
The next day I met up with Angeline at Shake Shack on the Upper West Side for her first Shake Shack experience (she was visiting from Toronto). I usually go with a single Shack Burger ($4.75), aka a burger with all the fixings: American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Thousand Island-ish Shake Sauce. Everything is just right: the meat is adequately salty and fatty (I've heard complaints that Shake Shack's burgers are too salty/fatty; like, yeah, that's why they're delicious), the toppings are fresh and complement the beef, the sauce isn't excessive, and the squishy potato bun is nicely toasted. It's a burger that makes me look at my partially eaten food and think, "WHY IS THIS THING I'M EATING SO AWESOME?" (or perhaps, "WAH IF THIF THIN [chew chew] AM EATIN [chew chew] SO AWFOME?") That doesn't happen much.
A week later I went to Shake Shack again, this time in Madison Square Park, to meet up with my friend Sandy and her husband Chris visiting from Vancouver (ALL THE CANADIANS ARE COMIN'!!). This time I went with a Shroom Burger ($6.75), which in theory is a breaded and deep fried portobello mushroom "patty" filled with muenster and cheddar cheese, but in reality is a giant slab of cheese wrapped in a barely perceptible layer of portobello mushroom, breaded and deep fried to a molten goo. If they got rid of the mushroom and just make a deep fried cheese slab burger it probably wouldn't taste that different, unless the mushroom provides crucial structural integrity. If you're into crispy-and-explosively-goopy cheese in a bun, you'll love this.
Day 2 For an Out-Of-Towner: Shake Shack, Top of the Rock, and Grand Sichuan
Top 5 Burgers in NYC + Recent Episodes in Extreme Shake Shack-ing
Shake Shack, Lombardi's, and Stuff in Chinatown
BURGER EDITION: Shake Shack and Rush Hour
Alex, Amy, and I shared four veg-friendly dishes. My favorite was the simple horiatiki ($10), a large bowl of halved tomatoes, sliced onions and cucumbers, capers, kalamata olives, and a few slabs of feta cheese dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. I ought to just make this sort of thing myself. And eat more salad.
My second favorite was the haloumi sote me stafylia kai tsipouro ($12), thick slices of sautéed haloumi cheese topped with a grappa reduction, halved green grapes, and toasted pine nuts. Gooey cheese is great, but so is chewy (like pressed tofu), crispy cheese. Salty cheese and sweet grapes is a great combination. Someone should put that in a sandwich. ...Yes.
We also tried the spanakorizo ($6), a spinach rice pilaf with feta, lemon, and black pepper, and the anginares moussaka ($11), artichoke heart moussaka layered with caramelized onions, herbs, and three Greek cheeses, and topped with béchamel sauce. I don't remember these dishes as well as the first two, but we polished off everything so...methinks they were good.
The food was a bit more expensive than what I usually eat for dinner, but it was also more refined. In the end I was pleasantly satisfied without the blimp-like feeling I have 90% of the time.
Memorial Day Smoke-A-Thon
For the third year in a row Michelle of Thursday Night Smackdown invited me to her annual Memorial Day Smoke-A-Thon, which meant for the third year in a row I spent my final Monday in May lounging in her charming Jersey City backyard, stuffing my face with ribs and pulled pork while stewing in my own sweat (seriously, the last three Memorial Days have been hot as balls...and by that I mean "the sun is ungodly bright and burny and pissed off" hot). And since Michelle has a lax guest policy, I brought eight friends. Everyone wants a piece of the action! For good reason:
POTATO SALAD with THREE KINDS OF POTATOES!
SLAW and ORZO SALAD and CANTALOUPE SALAD and BEANS!
Craptons of BOURBON-GINGERSNAP BANANA PUDDING!
'Twas a fantastic day. Thank you, Michelle!
366 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024 (map)
11 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010 (map)
Three new Shake Shacks opened this summer, on the Upper East Side, near Times Square, and in Miami. Check their site for more info.