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How I learned to stop worrying and love Tony Bourdain (a bit long)

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How I learned to stop worrying and love Tony Bourdain (a bit long)

Fydeaux | Nov 20, 2005 02:31 PM

Having only been contributing to Chowhounds since this past Spring, I have always kind of questioned my own status as a Chowhound. There is SO much discussed here that I have no knowledge of at all (in terms of ingredients, cooking techniques, ethnic cuisines, et al). Plus, I am the type more likely to rejoice in a cook who does wondrous things with corned beef hash than a chef who does wondrous things with hummingbird tongues.

Dont get me wrong; I will try anything once (twice if I like it). But I am not passionate to try a dish ONLY because I have never had it before. And the idea of taking three trains and two buses to get to a restaurant that serves the best duck confit in the western hemisphere is just not me. (In my defense, I did once drive from Madison to Milwaukee to bring a friend what I thought was the best Kosher Salami sandwich in the world.)

So with my status as only a minor league pioneer of the palate, I went up to the land of Pastrami, Steak Frites, Fried Mac & Cheese, and Hummingbird Tongue Vinaigrette: Manhattan

We arrived late on the night of Friday, 11/11, too late to do anything other than check in to Hotel 31 (it had been a LONG day at work followed by traveling).

Saturday morning we headed over to Sarge's Deli on 3rd Av between 36th & 37th, having heard that this was the best deli in area. We were VERY pleased. I had a tongue omelet that was perfect and exactly like I hoped it would be. My wife had Challah French Toast that was also excellent, and a huge portion besides.

We did not eat again until the wedding that night that was the excuse for coming to NYC in the first place. It was at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (a lovely setting) and the appetizers were superb: there was a station with carved beef and turkey, another with rice noodles and various things to stir in, another were sushi and sashimi were being made, and one more with hummus and other middle eastern chazzarai. The dinner itself was disappointing considering that this was supposed to be one of the finest caterers in town, but pretty much what I was expecting, never having had really good food prepared for a group larger that 10.

Sunday we walked down to 2nd Avenue Deli where I had Matzah Brei and my wife had fried eggs. I dont think it was just comparison with Sarge's from the day before; the matzah brei was genuinely unsatisfying. It was extremely bland; if any butter or schmaltz was involved, you couldnt tell from tasting.

The hamentaschen and B&W cookies that we got from Moishe's Bakery (kitty-corner across the street from the deli?) were infinitely better.

Dinner on Sunday was at Cho Dang Gol (35th St near 6th Av). It was wonderful! We started with some kimchee pancakes called Fin Chi Jun. I had Gob Dol Bi Bim Bob (which thanks to a thread in one of the other boards, I knew the proper "protocol" for eating, I think to the amazement of our server). My wife, much more a veteran of Korean food than I, had Jap Chae, which she said was as fine as any she had ever had. The only negative was the Miso soup that came with my dinner. It seemed to cool VERY quickly, and was much better while it was still hot.

Monday had us starting the day at L'Express for a toasted tartine and fried eggs. It was very good, and I have made a note to try a more extensive meal there next time we are in town.

We were in the village for lunch. After a stop at Puerto Rico Coffee, we took a chance on Abbondanza's, having heard good things about it...somewhere. My wife's sandwich (I dont recall what she had on it) was delicious and enormous, enough for two meals. I had Fried Calamari and loved it. At about $17.00 (including soft drinks) for the two of us, this was the budget meal find of the trip, and very very good food besides.

After seeing TAMING OF THE SHREW at a small theatre in Tribeca on Monday night, and my wife preferring Italian to Chinese for dinner, we walked to Little Italy to see what was available (cue the groaning). We settled on Casa Bella, were my wife had Penne with Broccoli and I had Linguini with Clams. Both were quite good (the clams were large and with good flavour) but not necessarily distinguished in any way. I can understand why most Chowhounds dont look here.

Breakfast and lunch on Tuesday were fuel stops only and not worth mentioning. But Tuesday night was anything but. We met up with two friends, recent transplants from London, at Les Halles (cue more groans). Both the food and the service were superlative, and most unworthy of the slams I have seen of this place on this board. My wife and I showed up at 7:00 without a reservation and asked if a table for 4 was possible. We were graciously assured that it was, and we waited at the bar until our friends showed up, about one drink later, at which point we were promptly seated.

My wife had Mignon de Porc Maison. My Brit friend had Boudin aux Pommes, absolutely thrilled to find blood sausage on a menu in New York City. His wife had a fresh Tuna dish, the name of which I neglected to note. After a recommendation from this board, I had the Steak Tartare. Unexpectedly, it was prepared tableside with great care and panache. (Note to Milwaukeeans: the cannibal sandwiches you ate on Superbowl Sunday are NOTHING like this!)

All of us proclaimed our food to be simply perfect, and impeccably served. With cocktails, a lovely bottle of Beaujolais, and tip, our tab came to around $200.00, which I considered to be excellent.

Wednesday was to be our last full day in town, and we went exploring in Chelsea, ending up at Chelsea Market, where I treated myself to a Lobster Roll from The Lobster Place. Along with the Oyster Po Boy I had at Coop's in New Orleans last June, this may be the best sandwich I have ever eaten. (My wife wasnt hungry.)

Finally, Wednesday night we were taken by cousins to El Charro Espanol on Charles St in the Village for dinner. The taste of garlic still deliciously lingers from an octopus appetizer (Pulpo Al Ajo Arriero?). I had Paella A La Valencia, my wife had Pollo A Arroz Y Chorizo. I neglected to note the exact names of what my cousins had (he had a fried chicken dish with red peppers of some kind; she had a large plate that included shrimp, clams, and something else). Everything was excellent and the portions huge.

And on Thursday we returned home (just in time as I have run out of descriptive terms) to siding on our house damaged by wind, my son's car not starting, and 250 emails offering me penis enlargement, stock tips, and mortgage refinancing.

Cant wait to get back. Thanks to all the Hounds who replied to my earlier posts looking for information; Y'all helped greatly.

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