I wanted to write a megapost about ten awesome things I ate in June (only three months behind, woohoo), but ten was too much for one post. Here's the first five; I'll get the second part up soon.
At the end of the post I put up my travel plans for the month, which will interest...not most of you. (Although if you live in Austin, I may request your navigational services.) But in case anyone tries to contact me and doesn't hear back for a while—which is admittedly not very different from when I am chained to my computer 24/7—I have a legitimate reason this time: I will be unchained from my computer! And I don't have a smartphone. WEEEE technology fail!!!
Homemade Pizza Suprema Party
In the spring of 2009, my friend Lee Anne was all kinds of excited about starting her first post-college job in Washington DC, working for the government. They told her it could start as early as the summer of 2009!
But it didn't. So she waited!
And then it didn't some more. So she waited some more!
And then it didn't some more. ...Yeah....
And then a year later*, after her family and her global network of contacts were fully checked out, she finally got the thumbs up to start her job. Up until then her homebase was my apartment. I live with her boyfriend (or she's my roommate's girlfriend; either way works), so it was a beneficial situation for all of us...aside from Lee Anne not knowing when her life would include a steady income.
*One of my friends waited two years for clearance, so I guess it could've been 100% worse.
To celebrate the government finally deeming her a safe person to absorb into their workforce, Lee Anne wanted to throw a homemade pizza going-away party. But when the dough proved too difficult to pull together in time for the party, she figured she could buy dough from a pizza shop. Except you can't if you want dough from Pizza Suprema, one of our fave pizza joints in the city for New York-style pizza. They won't sell you raw dough; you have to buy it in baked pizza form.
But you can get free dough if you're...me. Don't ask me why. I mean, they obviously know who I am—they're a friend of Serious Eats and only located a few blocks away from our office—but considering I have no part in Slice, I never thought my name could garner me access to exclusive dough. Those two heavy glutenous plops were by far some of the best things my food blogger status has ever gotten me.
Lee Anne baked up a medley of rustic pizzas, thick and oblong, and topped them in various combinations of fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, tomato sauce, basil, and cured Italian meats. From the first bite to the last, the pizza was fan-fuggin-tastic. She used a baking stone to get a great crunchy crust, and beneath the crust the dough was soft and chewy, resulting in the kind of bread that would taste great even without anything on it. I didn't know our oven could churn out something like that, but it was all about the dough (and Lee Anne's pizza craftsmanship—the toppings were awesome). As much as I love Pizza Suprema's thin crust fresh mozzarella with basil pizza, this fat and slab-y pizza is the sort of pizza I'll long for again. I wish Pizza Suprema could make these in addition to their regular pizzas.
What's the point of telling you about pizza you can't eat? Um. ....Sorry. I had to mention it so I could 1) thank the crap out of Pizza Suprema and their generosity (THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU)—their dough resulted in an apartment-ful of happily stuffed people that night; and 2) show what their dough can do in a different application.
If you've never been to Pizza Suprema, go and get in on the fresh mozzarella action! The thick crust upside down pizza (mozzarella topped with tomato sauce) is also worth getting.
I've been to Rub BBQ six times. Each visit has resulted in me eating a burger. And each visit was on a Monday night. Because their menu only includes burgers on Monday nights. Hopefully this will change someday so the other six days have a chance to share the burger love, or they'll open a separate burger restaurant, because their burgers are awesome.
I prefer flat-and-charred to fat-and-juicy (not that I don't enjoy the latter as well), and they've got that style down pat. They manage to make the outside of the thin patty crusty and smokey while have it retain a bit pink on the inside. I've never specified how I want the burger done—it automatically comes out about medium rare, never dry. They offer plain hamburgers and cheeseburgers, but I've always gone for the special of the week or the Rub Burger ($7.50) topped with sautéed oninos, Velveeta (methinks), pickle chips, and chipotle aioli, all on a perfectly soft and squishy toasted bun. It'd probably taste good without all the fixings though; the patty is pretty beefy and salty on its own.
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
I remember when I first heard about the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party about five years ago. It sounded like sweat-soaked clusterfuck not worth the sauce-laden meatstuffs—no matter how delicious they were—that lay at the front of the hour-long lines that more resembled a chaotic sea of humans. Not my cup of tea. I'm weaksauce; I wouldn't endure that for any food. Or anything else for that matter.
They've definitely improved it over the past eight years. I took advantage of my media pass—a Fast Pass without any credit on it, unlike the ones that are sold to the public—and spent the day with Greg and friends waiting reasonable amounts of time (I don't know what it was like in the non-Fast Pass lines) in pleasant weather and eating on the lawn in Madison Square Park. It was still sort of hectic, but not, "OH GOD I AM THISCLOSE TO STABBING MYSELF AND TAKING Y'ALL WITH ME TO GET OUT OF THIS HELL," hectic.
The food is kind of a blur by this point. I remember being fond of the fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs from 17th Street Bar and Grill, but that may have something to do with it being the first thing I ate that day. I ended up going the second day of the event as well to help Greg use up his credit. It rained, so it was considerably less crowded—and infinitely less enjoyable.
The event was fun and something I'd go to again, but not something I'd knock down my grandma to get to. (Not to say that other people would. ...I do not know.) I don't like being stressed out when I eat, and events can't help but be sort of stressful. On the upside, the BABBP felt like a breath of fresh air—because I had plenty of breathing room—compared to Village Voice's Choice Eats or the Rachael Ray Burger Bash, where breathing room was less copious.
La Taza De Oro
La Taza de Oro is one of those places that has stuck in the back of my mind for years, but I never ate at because...I have no idea. It jumps out at you with its bright red facade and neon sign, and if you peek through the window (which I had done a few times—no, not in a creepy face-pressed-against-the-window way) you'll see a row of stools facing an open kitchen surrounded by wood paneled walls that look like they haven't changed in decades. Basically, it looks like the sort of place I'd love to eat at (and photograph). But I didn't actually step inside until Joyce suggested it for an inexpensive weeknight dinner near my office. And indeed, I loved it.
In particular, I loved the arroz con calamares (also known as arroz negro) simply described on the menu as rice and squid, but also mixed with bits of onion and green pepper, with a bit of roasted red pepper on top. Every grain of rice was coated in squid ink goodness. And fat. The squid chunks had just a bit of chew, nothing near rubbery. I need to eat at La Taza de Oro more often, or find more Puerto Rican/Spanish places like it.
I'd also go back for the fatty pork chunky pernil (roasted pork shoulder). But it'd be in addition to my squidy rice.
La Taza de Oro
96 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10011 (at 15th St; map)
I've eaten lots of burgers in the East Village. My favorite is still the one from Veselka, but Zaitzeff would be number two. The patty had exceptional beefy flavor, plenty of juice, and came on a great toasted Portuguese bun that was crispy inside and out. If you want to know more, I wrote a more in depth review on A Hamburger Today.
Travel Plans GaloreThis is mostly for the benefit of friends I see in real life, but for those of you who are curious, I'm going on a bunch of Serious Eats-related trips for the next month to take photos for our upcoming book about the best food in America (and eat a crapload of food in the process). Why so much traveling in one month? Because I, along with three of my coworkers, bought All You Can Jet Passes from Jet Blue and we need to milk those babies for all they're worth until they expire on October 6.
Here's how it's going down:
- Sept. 7: New Orleans, with Erin, Carey, and Ed. For one day. Yes, this seems nuts, but we still need to come back to the office and get some work done. :[
- Sept. 9 - 11: Seattle, with Carey. Gonna stay with Rebecca, woo!
- Sept. 14 - 15: Austin, with Erin. Not sure if we have any contacts in Austin. Um. ...Doodeedoo. Do I have any readers in Austin?
- Sept. 16 - 20: Chicago, with Carey and Ed. We're exploring other cities near Chicago that we can drive to as well. Not sure what the itinerary for this is, but it will involve many hours in a rental car.
- Oct. 6 (pending): Phoenix, with Erin. Planning to meet up with Lee Anne's sister, Kimberly!
And on top of that, from September 22 to October 2, THE NORWEGIANS ARE COMING!!! Yes, those Norwegians as previously seen in...um, Norway, Italy, and New York City. Morten, his girlfriend Behnaz, and Kåre are visiting, which means I'm planning to be plenty occupied even though I won't be leaving the city.
In conclusion, SEPTEMBER IS A CRAZY MONTH! CRAZY AS BALLS! I don't know what that means. REALLY CRAZY! EXCITING CRAZY! I hope to not emerge from it 10 pounds heavier.