About four weeks ago (yes, I know I am very, very behind here) I met up with Jeanne, on vacation from California, and her friend Stephanie to eat at Bon Chon, one of many Korean fried chicken joints that have been popping up lately. Or later than lately. I didn't even know fried chicken was a popular dish in Korea until I read the NYT article. Even after reading the article I was only slightly interested in checking out the craze; even though I like fried chicken, I'm not crazy about it.
But this is not the fried chicken I used to eat at Popeye's and Roy Rogers when I was a young little fat-blob-in-training (oh, how the training paid off). Korean fried chicken is really really...awesome.
Bon Chon sits on the second floor of a building that otherwise looks boring, and by "boring" I mean "lacking in food". The elevator was not the most promising entrance with its hastily taped on sign, as though Bon Chon were just a temporary fried chicken joint filling in for whatever was officially inscribed underneath the sign.
Thankfully it was a legitimate establishment with some kind of sleek industrial/metal/concrete theme going on and REALLY FREAKIN' LOUD MUSIC. This place may specialize in fried chicken, but it feels more like a bar. I think the alcohol may be the most important thing, chicken secondary, and your eardrums somewhere at the bottom of the list. After a short wait we were seated in the corner with a huge-ass speaker. Oh...crap.
We started with fries, expecting something like the regular McDonald's variety, or at least a quantity of potatoes that was worth $8, but found out that Bon Chon's idea of fries more resembled wedge-like home fries in a "this isn't worth $8" sized pile. Not much crispiness here, just lots of fluffy potato innards. Which isn't...horrible. But it wasn't what we were expecting. Meh.
Thankfully the chicken made up for it. We shared the large assorted plate, half flavored with soy garlic sauce, other half with spicy sauce. If you can't handle spicy, avoid this at all costs—it's quite burny. I happily fought through the pain though while crunching through the paper thin, not very greasy skin (I could say "ungreasy" but ye know, there's gonna be some grease after its been dunked in fat) to reach the juicy meats. It was some of the best fried chicken I have ever had, possibly the best.
Wing after wing, drumstick after drumstick, I just kept going. This fried chicken doesn't weigh you down. Not at first, at least. Your belly might feel the effects later (I expect to look back on this experience when I'm a senior citizen with multiple organ failure and think, "Probably shouldn't have eaten all that fried chicken...but it was really good!") but when you're in the moment you have no trouble cleaning the flavorful meat and skin off of each bone. Keeping in mind that I'm horrible at eating meat off the bone (while growing up I could get maybe 50% of the job done and then pass off the rest to my family members, all more adept at ripping apart meat than I was), getting so much out of the fried chicken was a big feat for me.
Since the weather was comfortably warm (just a little bit cooler than it is now, which to me is on the border of "too hot", "too hot" equating to "I SMELL FOREVER LIKE B.O."), we headed down to the newish "healthy frozen dessert" outpost Yolato for a temporarily temperature reducing treat. Although the name gives the impression that all they have is yogurt-flavored gelato, they primarily have regular gelato with a separate machine that churns out the yogurty stuff. At least, that's the impression I got. It ended up that their yolato machine was broken when we were there.
I ordered a cup of peach and Ferrero Rocher (actually wanted mango instead of peach, but I didn't realize the mistake until I was eating it outside the shop, at which point I figured, "...Eh, whatever"), both of which were okay, not in the category of "awesome". The peach tasted too much like peach candy and the Ferrero Rocher tasted like...well, Ferrero Rocher, which is candy. I definitely liked it better than the peach. Ignoring flavor, I at least liked the soft, creamy texture.
I'd rather go to Pasticceria Bruno for gelato if I happened to be in the area, which is cheaper and has better flavors than Yolato. Cones is another good ice cream choice in the neighborhood with lots of flavors, but I think their opening hours are shorter and it's more expensive than Bruno or Yolato.
Jeanne and Stephanie were great fooding partners! If anyone else wants to go on another fried chicken/gelato expedition, just let me knoooow.
Maoz is a vegetarian falafel sandwich chain based out of Amsterdam that has recently made its way to NYC. Seeing the bright red sign made my heart squeak since the last time I had seen it was in Paris near Saint Michel. I never tried it in Paris because as you may or may not remember, the area around Saint Michel is laden with meat. In the form of gyros. Beautiful gyros. Given the choice between a pita stuffed with juicy, glistening meat chunks and generously salted fries or stuffed with falafels and hummus, I choose the former.
Since Union Square has no gyros stuffed with meat and fried potatoes, John and I braved the bright green falafelrie and its command to "Feel Your Falafel", a phrase whose meaning I haven't yet completely deciphered. I mean...feel it physically or psychologically or stick a chunk of falafel in my soul or WHAT, WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO, the choices, they confuse me.
After you order your falafel sammich you're instructed to top it with whatever you want from their salad bar before they neatly wrap it up for you. It's a cool idea, but there's hardly any space in the falafel-exploding sammich for any toppings to be...topped. I squished in whatever I could to get the most out of my free salad.
John and I took our brown bags of vegetarian friendly goodness to Union Square Park where we battled against strong winds that threatened to take away our falafel goodness. Displacement of air, I say, SCREW YOU! And stop taking my napkins, you don't need them!
My "Maoz Royal" pita sandwich stuffed with lots of falafels, some eggplant and plenty of hummus was surprisingly huge. Although I ended up eating the whole thing (because I tend to eat everything against the wishes of my belly), I'd go with the "junior" size next time, which I assume still packs a dense chickpea punch.
These falafels were in my opinion better than average, but not as good as Taim or Mi-Va-Mi for any of you Parisians. [tumbleweed rolls by] Maoz's mini muffin-shaped falafels were a little too dense for my liking and only sometimes crispy, although on the upside they were moist and the pita was soft and fluffy. The falafels had a slightly sweet flavor sans-sugar that I liked but couldn't put my finger on. I'll go with chotda's suggestion of fennel and fenugreek
Neither John nor I had any complaints about the rest of the food. The medium-thick fries were crispy enough (as in it hadn't been fried to the crispiness of a potato chip) and well salted.
I was most excited by the option of getting carrot juice with my combination meal. CARROT SQUEEZIN'S?! Say it ain't so!...wait, I was kidding, gimme my carrot squeezies. For whatever reason, I love carrot juice. Because it...tastes good. Yes, that must be it. It's not as sweet as fruit juice, but it's still sweet. And it has beta carotene! It's like eating a carrot without the pesky chewing. Also, I dunno about you but I'm pretty bad at digesting raw carrot. As for how I know that, you can use your imagination.
I'd go to Maoz for convenience's sake, such as being too lazy to go to Taim in the face of a falafel craving. Maoz does have a nice salad bar though; perhaps I should try that next time.
A while ago I went to Bouchon Bakery to take photos of their special Wagyu beef sliders (basically miniature hamburgers, a place of which is like eating one normal burger) topped with tomato marmalade and ricotta cheese. You should check out what Ed Levine wrote about them on Serious Eats since it's a helluva lot better than anything I'd come up with. The general story goes...
"I had some Wagyu beef trimmings from the Per Se kitchen and the pastry department had a little leftover fresh ricotta, so I decided why not go for it," McDuffee said. He told me they blew through all 45 orders in an hour.
I took something like a gazillion photos in varying degrees of awesomness and then Ed and I brought the sliders back to Serious Eats HQ to share with the others. I suppose they're worth the $15, but that's easy for me to say since I didn't have to pay for em. Bwahahaaa aahhahrr! I mean, of course they were delicious. The huge salt chunks on the bun made quite a difference.
Ed, Alain, Meg and I met up at Bouchon Bakery last Friday since they were offering the sliders again (burger lover Adam was unfortunately on a furniture buying assignment at IKEA and couldn't join us). The four of us shared three orders of sliders and...
...an order of grilled cheese and tomato soup (grilled cheese = awesomely butterfied, soup = alright) and...
...complimentary bread basket with a little tub of butter.
Our uber-rare burgers were a little different from the previous versions, this time smooshed with oven roasted tomato goo and melted taleggio. I think I liked this one better just because of the melted cheese. I like my cheese gooey, as opposed to ricotta-y. These little suckers were surprisingly dense; I could only down two of them before my stomach in the towel. (I also ate a huge muffin for breakfast. And some of the bread. And the grilled cheese. Er. Whatevs.) I feel like I should say more about these burgers, but...I dunno what else to say. They're very neat, moist without the dreaded meat juice pee everywhere and have a good meat to non-meat-substance ratio. They don't erupt with that salty goodness that Shake Shack's burgers have going for them, but not everything needs to be doused with sodium. I guesssss.
After we finished our meal, we each received a complimentary box of macarons. I believe that somewhere under the Thomas Keller empire there are awesome macarons being churned out, but Bouchon Bakery's are so lacking in filling, eating one is like...tearing a hole in my soul...with a cannon ball...a really big cannon ball...oh never, it's nothing like that. I just look at both sides of the macaron as they almost touch and think, "WTF, they shouldn't be touching, the filling should serve as a forcefield that prevents the two cookies from getting so dangerously close to one another, for if they touch BABY JESUS WILL CRY!!!?!?"
Or something. Ahh god nevermind, I'm sleepy. Really, I thought I would take a nap but instead I decided to update my blog...and drink a lot of water and waste time on You Tube.
Anyway, to whoever makes the macarons at Bouchon, here my cry: just give that piping bag or whatever it is you use to fill the cookies another squish. ONE MORE SQUISH. PLEEEASE? Also, put a lighter hand on the sugar. Or something. And put in more flavor. I couldn't tell what two of the macarons were supposed to be, as they both tasted like almond. Which makes sense, but there's usually another flavor in there. I think one was vanilla because it had vanilla specks in int, but the pink-ish one was a mystery. Also, don't sell macarons that have become too dry/chewy (each of the three macarons I had was at a different stage of moistness!) because that just kinda sucks.
Update (2:45 AM...why?): I didn't really describe the macarons. Probably should've done that...a few hours ago. The best was the lemon blueberry for being the freshest (as in the cookie didn't resist too much when I cut it with a knife) and most flavorful. I could tell it was lemon and blueberry! Because it tastes like lemon and blueberry! Swell! As for the others, I couldn't discern the flavor because I wasn't trying hard enough and they probably weren't intensely flavored enough for my weak taste buds. Out of the other two cookies, one of them was much too chewy, while the other was okay. The filling in the orange one tasted very buttery, which is okay except I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO TASTE LIKE. Ugh.
Okay, I need to sleep...or something.
OH, I want to say hello to Anastasia, who recognized my photography obsession from afar while I was at Bouchon Bakery and came around the table to say hello! :D You made me feel oddly special for a day. And then I slunk back into mediocrity! Hehehe!