Sunday, September 28, 2008

Coal Fired Pizza

I went to New York pretty naive about "New York" pizza. I figured it was just like Neapolitan pizza and the antithesis of thick Chicago-style pizza.

I just assumed that NY pizza would be wood-fired, cracker-thin and soggy in the center like it is in Naples. Don't get me wrong, I love VPN, i.e. Vero Pizza Neapolitana. Move over Luigi - I think I've found a new love.
There are two key differences between thin-crust NY-style pizza and Neapolitan pizza. 1.) The water. Evidently the tap water in NYC is a key factor in making the crust so chewy, yet crisp. 2.) The coal-fired oven. OK - coal is just wood, right? But this seemed super-heated and added such a nice char to the bottom and sides of the crust.

These two differences help NY-style pizza do what it does best. Behold - the Manhattan Fold....

We ordered the basic pizza - tomato sauce, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. Combined with a couple of cold beers - it was the perfect lunch.

We were dining at Lombardi's - a venerable pizza joint in the heart of Little Italy. After passing up up row upon row of sausage and pepper sandwiches out on the street we made out way to Lombardi's because we'd heard it was "the best" and "the oldest." NY shops and restaurants throw this out at any and every opportunity. I thought Lombardi's was being pretty honest actually. This was the best pizza of our trip. I couldn't get this "coal-fired oven" out of my head, though. I asked if it would be possible to see the oven - or if it was back it the kitchen. The server said - no, it is just over there. And pointed me in the right direction.

There it is - 1905 - tiled right onto the outside of the oven. I took a couple of snaps when the guys behind the counter said, "No, you have to get in close and look inside." That is how I got the cool shot above of the burning coals.

My favorite picture though, has to be this one:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dinner out at Prune

We did a lot of reading and research when deciding which restaurants to try in New York. We also asked around for recommendations. We got a solid rec for a place named Prune, in the East Village. I did some online research to back it up and then made a reservation about a month before our trip.

Many restaurants - especially the ones that are popular or well-known - book up quickly. They only allow reservations one month in advance however, so some advanced planning was needed. Some only reserve by phone but lots you can book online at This was great for us because the reservations would open up one month prior at midnight EST, which was only 9pm in Seattle.

Prune is precious and matchbox-sized. It obviously has quite a following because on a Monday night - it was packed. The service was great, the menu stellar and the kitchen was open for us to watch the chefs in action. One of them looked just like the kid in Ratatouille, so I asked Gavin to pretend I was taking his picture so I could sneak one of the chef. Doesn't it make you want to ask him to take off his hat?!

They had marrow bones on the menu, which are such a rich and indulgent guilty pleasure. Since those are the new darlings on Seattle restaurant menus - we knew we could live without them. Plus, they had a grilled ribeye for two that sounded perfect, and well, marrow and steak would be a little indulgent donchathink?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Little Italy

This week is the Feast of San Gennaro, so we ventured down to Little Italy where a massive street fair was taking place.
The whole way there, we joked that we were going to walk along the rooftops and "follow the black hand." The Little Italy of 2008 however, is much different than the Little Italy of the early 1900s portrayed by Scorsese.This being a street fair, there were the usual stalls - carnie-types at the game stalls, stalls selling trinkets and cheap t-shirts and lots of deep fried food. The place was crawling with Italian-Americans - wise-guy types and women dripping with cheap costume jewelery.

Lots of stalls were selling zeppole - deep-fried balls of dough covered in powdered sugar and sometimes filled with custard or jelly (think mini donuts). They were also selling funnel cakes, which I don't think are particularly Italian (in fact, where did they come from?!). I suppose the logic is that if you have a vat of hot oil, you might as well fry up a bunch of other shit too. Every one of these stalls were selling deep-fried Oreos too. I walked past probably a dozen of these before I couldn't take it anymore. I had to try one. It was equally disturbing and delicious. The batter softened the cookie and the hot oil warmed the entire thing and made for a crispy exterior.
A lot of stands were selling "Sausage & Peppers" too. These looked - and smelled - great. We had out heart set on more pizza however, so that is exactly what we had. More on that...later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In Search of NY's Best Pizza

If you know me at all, you know I consider pizza one of the four food groups (bacon, bourbon, and beer being the other three). Not just any pizza of course, but good thin-sliced Neapolitan pizza. We have some great pizzas in Seattle these days, but outside of Naples, Italy - NYC is supposed to have the best pizza anywhere.

We have a few pizza places on our list to try during our week in La Grande Miele - Lombardi's, Una Pizzeria Neapolitana and Otto. During our explorations of our home base neighborhood today though, we passed Patsy's Pizzeria. It looked great and got great reviews on Yelp, so it was added to the list.
Sunday afternoon we met up with our Seattle friends Sam & Cameron who happen to be in NYC this week too. We met them and their baby boy Henry at the Museum of Natural History (just for the A/C and dinosaur replicas in the free foyer). We all decided a late lunch and some cold beers were in order - and being on 81st, it was just a short walk to Patsy's on 74th.

The menu at Patsy's has lots of choices for calzones and pastas. The pizzas however, are listed in two flavors: pizza and white pizza. Gavin and I clued into this immediately. Pizza - must mean pizza margherita, pure unadulterated pizza. Nothing more than sauce, mozzarella and basil. This was exactly what we had in mind.
It was great - Patsy's was a gem. They had Bass Ale on tap (albeit at $6/mug), plenty of seating and pretty good prices. The sauce had a nice sweetness to it and there was just enough cheese and basil to round out the flavors.


I love visiting food shops - even grocery stores - wherever I travel. Near Gunny & John's apartment are two of the greatest food shops in the world. Fairway and Zabar's. We stopped into Zabar's after breakfast this morning just to browse around. The main floor is food and the upper floor is kitchenwares. Even though we had just eaten, I got hungry again. There must be 500 kinds of cheese here and loads of prepared foods, an olive bar and huge smokes fish counter, fresh knishes and plenty more.

The crowds in these stores are amazing. People watching and listening to people is hilarious. Definitely a different pace from the west coast. We are loving every minute of it!

Eggs and Bennie

We are so happy to have the entire week off! It was such a relief to wake up this morning and not have to face house/yard projects. It is Sunday, so naturally brunch was in order. The popular brunch spots in the neighborhood were packed, so we returned to a little diner we ate at five years ago - the last time we were here. Five YEARS - I can't belief it has taken us this long to return to New York.

We love going out for breakfast, but hadn't really worked it into our eating itinerary (more on that later). But today, we are just going with the flow, since it is our first day. I had planned on going light on breakfasts on this trip - since there are lots of lunch and dinner spots we want to hit. I was able to justify a big fat Eggs Benedict breakfast today though, since I think it will help stretch and prepare my stomach for the rest of the week.

I can't say "Bennie" without thinking of the "super" at Gunny & John's building, because his name is Bennie. He is supposed to be a great guy and quite a character. My parents LOVE him - and of course have partied with him. We have yet to see him or meet him, but I have to admit that I am a little anxious. The only thing I know about supers is that they can be quite the characters. I know that this is 100% a result of an episode of This American Life - episode #323 called "The Super." If you haven't listened to it, you must. It is probably my favorite episode.

Late Night Arrival in Manhattan

We arrived late Saturday night into Manhattan. My aunt and uncle are in NYC visiting their new granddaughter (AKA - thecutestdamnbabyever), so we have keys to their sweet apartment on the Upper West Side. They'll be back on Tuesday, but until then we have the place to ourselves.

We are on W 78th - between Broadway and Amsterdam. Total foodie heaven - with lots of restaurants and cafes nearby not to mention Fairway Market, Zabar's and H&H Bagels. It was midnight though, so we weren't up for a big meal. A mere snack was what we needed. Late night + snack + NYC + UWS = Gray's Papaya Hot Dogs!

This place is somewhat of an institution as far as I know. I love hot dogs and take advantage of eating them anytime I can. These are no polse, but washed down with a papaya drink - they totally hit the spot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Airport Seating

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SeaTac airport is about as stylish as any airport - but they do have some of the greatest seating around. These are Herman Miller and have matching benches as well. I covet these so much that I would probably trade in every chair in my house to get them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eat Pancakes - Support the MS Society

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My company has a team each year that participates in the MS 150 Bike Ride to raise money and awareness for the MS Society. They have been doing lots of fundraisers, but I think my favorite so far is the "all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast" they did this morning. Tom made wicked pancakes with cinnamon and vanilla in the batter and there was blueberry compote, fresh fruit and sausage. The whole office smelled heavenly and the best part was that for for $5 I got a belly full of pancakes and made a donation towards a worthy cause.

You can check out the team's page and make a donation.

Tom's MS Society Pancakes
2/3 C Flour
1 ½ t Baking Powder
2 ½ t Sugar
¼ t salt
Cinnamon to taste

½ C milk
2 Eggs
½ t Vanilla
1 T Vegetable oil

Sift together dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl and add to the dry. Mix until just blended - the batter may be slightly lumpy. Cook on a lightly oiled hot griddle (about 350 degrees) until bubbles form and then flip! Enjoy with your choice of toppings. Donate to MS Society.

Makes about 4 - 4” pancakes. Multiply by 16 to feed staff.