While I'm not one to set goals for myself (because goals = POTENTIAL FAILURE; also, I'm a crap role model for kids), I have foolishy not abandoned all hope that I will catch up on what I ate in June, July, and August...
...Wait, that's three months of eating. Over a hundred meals to sift through and compile for easy Internet reading. Fuuuuuu—
Anyway. I'm going to break my rule of blogging in order, whiz by my some-hundred photos of summer eats while making this face (spoiler: the link directs you to a photo a sad cat, followed by more photos of sad cats), and catch you up on the latest in exciting Robyn eats: WEEGIE WEEK 2010!!!
What? Weegies = Norwegians. Still lost? If you're a new reader, let me catch you up on how a girl from the suburbs of northern New Jersey become besties with some swell dudes from Bergen. [flexes fingers]
Sometime in high school I became good Internet friends* with Morten, who lives in Bergen, Norway. In 2006, I took the Internet friendship into REAL LIFE MODE (against my mom's wishes) by visiting Bergen (with Diana) to meet Morten and get my first taste of the weegie lifestyle that Morten loved so much (for good reason: it's da bomb. Except, perhaps, in the winter when it's perpetually dark and cold, which sounds like a potent formula for depression). During that trip we met one of his best friends, Kåre, a most excellent human being whom I didn't get to really know until our next encounter: when Morten, Kåre, Diana, and I went on a trip to Bologna in the fall of 2007. A relaxing two and half weeks of brain meltingly good gelato, tortellini, mortadella and then some (Venice will forever mar our impressions of Italy) made us better friends, and I realized, "Oh shit, Kåre is awesome!" (Many will attest that he's sunshine and rainbows in human form.) So, in the fall of 2008, he made his first trip to the US by visiting me in little ol' South Williamsburg, a trip that left a good enough impression to garner another visit just two years later to coincide with Morten and his girlfriend Behnaz's week-long trip to New York City at the end of last month. (And to complete the weegie timeline, I also shared many calories with Morten and his then girlfriend Giso in the fall of 2006 in Paris when they were on vacation and I was studying abroad.) Overall, I've spent a helllllluva lot of time with these guys, hours that collectively amount to more time than I've spent with most of my good friends, such as those who live within a five mile radius of me instead of 3,500 miles away.
So. Um. I guess it was good to flesh that all out, even if it's not important for the purpose of writing about food. JUST TRYING TO GIVE SOME CONTEXT. Now you haz it.
Kåre arrived two days before Morten and Behnaz on Wednesday, September 22, and the mega-feasting didn't really begin until the following Saturday since Morten and Behnaz arrived late on Friday the 24th. I consider the stuff that happened before Saturday "pre-weegie week." Here it is.
Wednesday Night: Seoul Garden
On Kåre's first night, I brought him to a group dinner at Seoul Garden organized by my friend and founder of Korean food blog Zen Kimchi, Joe McPherson, during his visit from South Korea. (I first met Joe during my visit to Seoul last May; definitely a cool dude to know if you ever visit Seoul or are interested in Korean food.) It was the second time Kåre had eaten a proper Korean meal—which for my purposes I'm defining as a meal with lots of banchan and such and the possibility of barbecue, whether or not that's a good definition—not for lack of want, but for lack of Koreans in Bergen. When was his first Korean meal? During his last visit to New York City.
We came hungry, Kåre more so because he had spent the whole day sitting in airplanes and airports and not giving into whatever "eat only when desperate" sustenance they offered. Nibbling at the eight or so kinds of banchan gave way to eating chunks of squid (I forget what the dish was called, but it was good), which gave way to slurping down spoonfuls of soondubu, which gave way to eating sweet, tender chunks of grilled beef and pork, which, when cycled through three or four times, gave way to pained-and-happy stomach bloat. I'm no expert on Korean food, but I found it satisfying. If I want to do a group meal in Koreatown I head for Arirang, but Seoul Garden seems like a good choice if you want more variety (although the variety won't include dough shard-laden kalguksu).
Many thanks to Joe and his friends for feeding us!
Thursday Night: Paulie Gee's
After we attended Greenpoint Open Studios' benefit pie bake-off (I voted for Laurel's Peanut Butter and Concord Grape Mousse Pie, but a Bacon Bourbon Pecan Pie won—come on, people, bacon does not make everything better), Kåre and I, joined by Dan, Miko, and Kwan, headed to nearby Paulie Gee's, certainly one of the best and most creative pizzerias in the city run by one of the nicest pizzaiolos you'll ever meet. Although we weren't that hungry considering that our stomachs were padded with a medley of semi-digested pies, we ended up trying six pizzas, plus one dessert pizza. (This was partially because later one of Dan's friends joined us and his was his birthday, but even then we didn't need that many. I think.)
The dark, woodsy, tavern-like atmosphere of Paulie Gee's is great for relaxing in, and shitty for taking photos in. Sorry, Paulie; you have so much faith in my photography skills, but I think I'll have to bring my flash next time (although that would ruin the mood) to do your pizzas any justice. Clockwise from top left:
Anise and Anephew: ($17) Fior di Latte, braised fennel, anisette crème drizzle, Berkshire guanciale, and fennel fronds.
Sweet Regina: ($15) Fior di Latte, Italian tomatoes, Pecorino Romano, olive oil, fresh basil, and sweet Italian fennel sausage.
Fire Up the Delboy: ($16) Fior di Latte, Italian tomatoes, sopressata picante, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Mike's Hot Honey.
Baconmarmalade Picante: ($16) Fior di latte, spicy Baconmarmalade, and sliced red onion.
Rooftop Red: ($17) Italian tomatoes, marinated kale, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and mild aleppo chili oil. Watch a video of Paulie making it here.
Cherry Jones: ($16) Fior di Latte, Gorgonzola, prosciutto di Parma, dried Bing cherries, and orange blossom honey.
My favorites were the Cherry Jones and Rooftop Red. The Cherry Jones makes me wonder why more places don't put dried fruit on their pizza. Or just...fruit. Figs work too. FRUIT IS DELICIOUS. The burst of sweet cherry mixed with the sharp tang of Gorgonzola and a sheer layer of salty pork, tempered by the fior di latte and given a little boost of sweetness from the honey, is full of win in my book. Mega-thumbs up for expanding the world of sweet and savory pizza.
Topping a pizza with hearty kale and firing it to a crisp, as in the Rooftop Red, is another win. Cruciferous vegetables and pizza just go together; refer to Motorino's brussels sprouts (and pancetta) pizza. I'm also a big fan of pizzas covered in a shitton of arugula.
Of course, all these toppings are nothing without a good crust to support them. There's nothing more I want from this blistered, puffy crust: It's soft, chewy, and flavorful. Although thin, the dough doesn't become a soggy mess. I'll admit that I put most of the crusts aside so I could try all six pizzas without exploding, but I would've been happy to eat them in their naked unsauced, uncheesed glory if I'd been hungrier.
Friday Night: Taim
I have no photos from this night. Or, hell, the entire day.
...What's wrong with me?
[curls into a ball, rhythmically rocks back and forth, squeakily wimpers to self]
Seriously, that's weird. I was off my game. Now you'll just have to trust my memory. My non-photogenic memory.
Good thing I've been to Taim so many times that I no longer have to take photos of their falafels. Their glorious falafels. After I was done with work, Kåre and I moseyed over to Taim for a late night dinner; I got the green falafel (parsley, mint, and cilantro), he got the red (roasted red peppers). The falafels are consistently light, flavorful, and crispy, and come in some of the best pita—fluffy and slightly chewy—I've ever had. Methinks they crisp it over the burner before giving it a quick slice and generously stuffing its belly with hummus and alternating scoops of Israeli salad, cabbage, tahini, and freshly fried falafels. It's not just the ingredients that are top notch, but the balanced composition as well—there's no awkward fishing around for a bite of falafel to go with your cabbage when every component is next to one another. You know how some places shove a bunch of stuff on top, cramming the falafels deeper into the pita, ever distancing them from the possibility of integrating with the toppings? I'm not down with that.
SO, HOORAY FOR TAIM!
Lee Anne and Chris met up with us as we took up the bench in front of Taim's window. We awaited news of Morten and Behnaz's arrival. They were staying at a hotel in Tribeca, not very farm from Taim on the subway, but this being their first night in New York City I was afraid of them getting lost. Any minute now...any...minute...
When I realized they wouldn't make it to Taim before closing time at 10 p.m., I got two falafel pita sandwiches to go, by which point Taim had run out of hummus and replaced it with baba ghanoush. Morten and Behnaz were so hungry by the time they made it up to our neighborhood just around 10 p.m. that their enjoyment was probably more in the category of, "OH GOD, REAL FOOD, AHHYEAAH [cue happy belly fireworks / rapid jaw motion]" instead of, "Well, this is some mighty fine falafel craftsmanship worthy of contemplation." Either way, I think they enjoyed it.
The best way to follow up dinner at Taim is to get gelato at L'Arte del Gelato, my favorite stand-alone gelateria in the city. Not that there's a whole lot to choose from. But it reminds me most of Italy compared to other places, and Morten seemed to get the same sense as he stepped up to the display.
(Sidenote: I can still hardly believe I didn't take any photos that night. And amazed that I didn't even notice this until today, over a week after the fact. MAN, check out all this fail. I'm swimming in it.)
I went with pistachio, as I always do when it's available, and paired it with...peach sorbet. ...Maybe. This is what happens when you rely on photographs 99% of the time: Without them, your memory goes to poop. I think I got peach, but I could be wrong. Eeh. Well. Their pistachio never disappoints, and I'm a big fan of their fruit sorbets.
We spent the rest of the night hanging out in Washington Square Park. Morten bestowed me with the gift of a beautiful cookbook, En Smak Av Norge, featuring the cuisines of different regions of Norway, compiled into a tome slightly larger than my brick-like high school yearbook and about the weight of a dictionary-shaped baby. It's all in Norwegian, so I'm going to have to consult with Morten before dabbling in the culinary art of...[flips through pages]...helstekt reinsdyrflatbiff or...[flippy flappy]...[flip]...tiulår med rødvinssaus og dampet pastinakk. Perhaps this is how I will learn Norwegian—by starting with food vocabulary and recipe instructions.
Another lovely gift was from Morten's friend Petter, whom I've never met but have chatted online with since high school. Using Morten as a chocolate mule, Petter gave me four plank-like slabs (I like the way you think, weegies) of Norwegian chocolate by Freia (a company that is now owned by Kraft, but...whatever!): Daim, milk, milk with hazelnut, and—the best one—Walters Mandler, milk chocolate mixed with salted, roasted, caramelized almonds. It's as good as it sounds. This combination needs to happen more often.
I brought the chocolate to work the next week; none of it lasted long at the hands of nine Serious Eaters and four interns. Heehee. Thanks, Petter!
What's to come in the following week? Dim sum in Flushing, Shake Shack, hot pot in Bensonhurst, a lil' place called Per Se, and more. This may take a while.
222 Waverly Place, New York, 10014 (near Perry Street; map)
L'Arte del Gelato
75 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10011 (at Barrow Street; map)