i’ve been doing a decent job lately with getting my ass out of the house for good eats. i schlepped out to bay ridge on monday for a little century 21 action, and the brooklyn branch is conveniently situated just a mere block or two away from karam, an excellent lebanese joint with pita bread (the artisanal, non-uniformly shaped kind with charred patches) stacked in the glass case, and a steam table set-up with mujaddara, hummus, and many variations on an eggplant theme. unfortunately, the counterman and i didn’t communicate so well, as instead of my beloved lamb shawarma, i received a heaping plate of the chicken version with a little tomato-onion salad and some of that eggplant. the chicken was certainly good, but after my revelatory lunch at reef cafe, i felt let down. turns out actually that i should have gotten the veal tongue sandwich (natch). next time, next time. and let me now just lay to rest the myth that the brooklyn c21 is better. it ain’t. granted, c21 requires a very particular shopping mood and i think is optimal when one visits without mission or objective (which i had).
i took the 7 train out to jackson heights on thursday for some filipino meat overload : karihan ni tata bino serves “nueva ecijano cuisine,” which apparently means lots and lots of pork, in all its myriad and beautiful forms. we had the crispy pata, a delicious, fatty and huge pork knuckle, breaded and deep fried (such glorious, glorious crunchy skin); sisig, or grilled minced pork ears and liver with chopped onions and pepper; the very similar-in-appearance kilawing kambing, or goat seasoned with tropical spices; and laing, taro leaves cooked in coconut milk. all very, very good. thankfully, their ears are similar to the way my mom does hers (soy saucy), except they have that less texturally-pleasing dice cut and not the preferred lateral slices. laing is wonderful, and my well-informed dining partner likens its flavor to something west african. and, if ever you are looking for a caterer, you can order lechon from these guys — 45 lbs of charcoal cooked pig. and trust me, these guys know their pig.
last night, amy, anne, and i went whole hog at the tasting room (which i have now dubbed “the cult of colin”) and got a serious, serious tasting menu from the chef, which included a lovely, sweet and briny oyster with a shallot vinaigrette (a high-flying version of mignonette, methinks), venison tartare on okra goo (my words, not theirs), trout “en trousseau” (their made-up name for cooking the fish in the cheesecloth used to poach foie gras torchons in), foie torchon on a little pear cake, and here, my memory starts to get a little fuzzy. i remember having a few more courses, and a couple desserts, but after a glass of gruet bubbly, then glasses of, let’s see, riesling, viognier (from willamette valley?), chenin blanc, belgian beer, and petite sirah (was there a dessert wine in there? dessert remains a total blank in my memory), i wasn’t really in full possession of all my faculties. and of course, i don’t remember any of the winemakers, but i do know that the i loved, loved, loved the riesling, beer, and petite sirah. yowza. and who doesn’t love renee and colin? they are the sweetest, sincerest people in the industry, and you can taste that in the food. they even shared some of their kitchen parlance with us: their three favorite BOH titles right now are “pot jockeys”, “garnish monkeys”, and “chocolate bunnies”. which are so right on, no?
note to self: one should not attempt to drink every last drop one is served in such a situation. the morning after is not pretty. not at all.
today, i got some hangover recovery at el huipil in red hook. i’m especially proud of myself for taking the bus out there. i think i may be a bus convert now — it’s definitely an underappreciated and misunderstood form of public transportation. we got the pozole estilo guerrero, a restorative soup made from white hominy and chicken that is accompanied by avocado, onions, jalapenos, tostadas, and supposedly chicharrones and lime (but we didn’t get those for whatever reason); a rajas tamale, which includes jalapeno, tomato, cheese and epazote; the mole de pollo, guerrero style; and the pipian de puerco. i definitely have to go back for some tongue tacos or the pierna de puerco torta. and if that ain’t enough, there’s always baked, that new trendy bakery that just opened up catty-corner across van brunt. i picked up a lemon bar and some carrot cake, and they still await judgment.