Dinner: Le Bacon Cheeseburger, with Fries and Salad

As this blog can attest, I love a good burger. But, for me, eating a burger is not synonymous with eating french fries.

photoIn fact, most often I’d prefer the burger to come with a nice side salad … and maybe a dozen fries. But you can’t order a burger, with a side salad, and get a dozen fries. You have to get a whole separate side order of either fries or salad. And so I usually skip the salad and just go for the fries because even though I won’t eat them all, the ones I will eat I want more than the salad. … Although for nutritional balance, I would have enjoyed the salad more. 

Le Bacon Cheeseburger at A.O.C. is the answer to this vicious cycle of indecision. At $14, it’s not cheap, but it’s a great burger — always cooked to order, generously seasoned with cracked pepper, spices, and served on a fluffy French roll — that comes with a generous side salad and a heaping mound of pommes frites.

Problem solved.

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Lunch: Chef Yu, I Knew This Day Would Come

The last time I picked up lunch at Chef Yu, I predicted that, despite the mediocre food, I’d be back again.

photoToday was that day: Driven by the need for a reasonably-priced lunch menu, with a spicy tofu dish, within ultra-close proximity of my office, that takes cards for orders less than $10 — well, Chef Yu was the only place I knew of within a few-blocks radius that met the bare-minimum requirements, the most important being the spicy tofu dish.

Why the insistence on a spicy tofu dish when changing up the food would open up a whole new world (comparatively speaking) of options? Well I’ve had an eye on Szechuan Gourmet’s “Ma Paul Tofu” after reading about it on Midtown Lunch a few weeks ago, a craving that’s only intensified after the discovery of this photo of the gorgeous, dark-red braised tofu dish in EatinginTranslation’s photo stream, and that has only further intensified today with this feeling of a cold coming on. (Whenever I start to feel under the weather I crave spicy Asian comfort foods like kimchi stew or Thai curries, and hot fresh ginger drinks.)

photo(2)Which is how I wound up at Chef Yu — again. No Szechuan Gourmet, I’m sure, but the “tofu Szechuan style” was an improvement from the cloyingly-sweet lemon chicken I had last time. The silken tofu floated buoyantly in the dark red sauce, very savory, a little smokey-flavored with a touch of heat (not enough for my taste), and stirring in the brown rice gave the dish an enjoyable stew-like consistency.

The verdict: Last time I predicted some set of circumstances will drive me back to Chef Yu. This time, I’m going to do my absolute best to stay away, with so many better lunching options just a few more minutes’ walk away, but I’m not saying there’s not a chance … [inverse Dumb and Dumber quote, sic.]

Breakfast: “Go Rah” Bar Come … and Gone

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s raw nut-and-raisin mix called “Go p_1600_1200_CF0AADE6-D189-4161-B4A5-D0B5163706AB.jpegRaw Trek Mix,” so I was kind of excited about the discovery of a Trader Joe’s “Go Rah” bar in the cabinet this morning: Same-ish sounding name, same blue color packaging, could this be the bar form of my favorite nut mix?

Answer: Nope. Not entirely sure what the correlation between the two product lines (or if there even is one), but the Go Rah bar is a pretty straightforward granola-nut bar … That, according to TraderJoesFan.com, was discontinued early April. Odd to discover I’ve been blogging about a food postmortem.

Sunday: Roasted Suckling Pig and Garlic Sauciness

photo(7)I think I’ve only seen suckling pig in cooking shows, and/or travel food shows, where the small pig is served whole, which makes for quite an impressive presentation.

It’s the only thing I can think of to explain why I was somehow surprised that the suckling pig entree we ordered from Havana Alma de Cuba (“Lechon Asado al Estilo “La Floridita,” $18), looked basically like, well, pulled pork. It was delicious, ultra-tender, slow-roasted pulled pork, but headless nonetheless. A classic Homer Simpson “doh!” moment. 

photo(6)Another winning pick was the calamares appetizer ($10), pan-seared baby squid served in a lucious garlic sauce we ended up pouring over everything. At one point, the side of cassava that came with the pork was outright turned into the sauce, giving the bland root vegetable a whole new reason to be eaten. Such a lovely and simple meal for a quiet Sunday evening.

Saturday: Tacos at Red Hook (The “Yes, They Are That Good” Post)

Making it down to the Red Hook soccer fields to check out the food vendors that set up adjacent the soccer fields each weekend has been on my “to-do in New York” list for way too long.

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So I’m happy to report that I finally made it! There were about a dozen vendors set up on Saturday, selling everything from tacos and agua frescas to pupusas and cerviche. 

photoThis was just an exploratory adventure — plus, it’s pretty impossible to do a serious tour of all the vendors in a single day — so we started with the basics: A variety of tacos from one of the simplest looking trucks in the row (top left), and a couple of agua frescas and a horchata, the milky, sweet, rice-based drink, from a fruit and juice truck, that was irresistibly colorful (top right). 

photo(4)The tacos were beautiful: Chicken, goat and steak, folded into large corn tortillas, each topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and your choice of a half-dozen homemade salsas that stood in buckets on a table adjacent to the truck. 

Tacos are a deceptively simple food: Easy to make but nearly impossible to make in the traditional, home-style way these tacos epitomize; these tacos taste as if they’ve been made by the hands of cooks who have made hundreds, thousands of tacos in their lifetime, which is just right, in an immeasurable way.