Breakfast: Double-Cupping at the Deli (Sshhh…)

I wonder how much overhead at the large, bustling delis of Midtown go phototowards hot and cold cups, plasticware, those little shitty tri-fold napkins, salt and pepper packets, coffee and tea accouterments and other condiment packets? And what sort of hit do the delis take because of people like me who are constantly pocketing a little extra to stash away in office desk drawers?

One of my moves is to double-cup my hot tea. I have to sneak it past the ladies who would rather I just have a single cup and put the cup of hot liquid in a small paper bag — a ridiculous idea  to begin with. Plus, in turn, I use those two cups to make about a week’s worth of tea in the office. (I don’t add milk, that would be gross.) It’s $1.50 well spent.

At the end of the day I don’t feel so bad … I’ll be back soon enough to pay $1 for a 12 oz. soda, $1 for what is ordinarily a $0.50-cent bag of Wise chips, and then some.

Lunch: Deli Sandwich Symmetry (How Do They Do That?)

I want to take a brief moment to appreciate the craft of the deli sandwich.

photoThis is a simple fresh mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, onion on toasted rye ($4.50) from Blue Rose Deli in Midtown, which may as well be any one of a thousand nondescript delis in New York City. (Check out the Google search returns on: blue rose deli nyc. Pretty much radio silence.)

But just look at the construction: Somehow, the clerk at the sandwich station has managed somehow to build the sandwich so that two flimsy pieces of rye bread are actually able to contain it all. Look at that: stacks of cheese, a heaping pile of lettuce (shredded, nonetheless), multiple slices of tomato.

And you could get a sandwich just this anywhere. I consider it a small marvel of the culture of deli food. Don’t believe me? Try this at home … you’ll have lettuce, cheese and tomato slices sliding everywhere.

TIP: There’s a great blog, scanwiches.com, dedicated to scanning and studying cross-sections of sandwiches. If you geek out about this sort of thing, check it out.

Lunch: The Opposite of Meat

photo(3)In anticipation of the barbecue dinner at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem this evening that has the potential of being epic, I’m eating not meat for lunch:

Vegetable stir-fry from Amici 36, done Mongolian barbecue style where they pack noodles, vegetables and other savory flavors into a bowl, and they keep packing and packing, and by the time its ready to go into the wok, it’s a small mound of goodness.

The cooking bit is actually a two-wok process: The vegetables go into a wok bubbling away with boiling water for about two minutes, a quick blanching effect. They’re removed with a large, circular slotted tool and tossed into the hot oil in wok no. 2 with the protein and noodles.

photo(2)I order mine spicy, which means the finished product is laced with a Sriracha-style hot sauce.

For a mere $6.25, it’s a damn good lunch.

Lunch: Friday, April 17, 2009

photo47Trick of the lunch trade: If you have to eat something boxed/canned/frozen, add something fresh. Plus, you’ll get in a serving of vegetables (good for you!).

Chunky guacamole and grilled chicken from Amici 36‘s huge sprawling hot-and-cold lunch buffet — the photo below is just one third of the offerings — made this photo216Whole Foods “Whole Kitchen” bean and rice burrito taste, well, not authentically Mexican, but pretty delicious anyway.

And with the rest of the guac sort of coated the greens below, I didn’t even need salad dressing. Mmmm … avocado…

COST: >$5
PREP TIME: Stroll to Amici 36 and back, plus 2 minutes in the micro

Lunch: Thursday, April 2, 2009

photo22I vacillate between being utterly repulsed, and utterly enamored, with New York’s salad and hot food bars. To better sort out the bad eggs (gratuitous food pun), I’ve developed some general guidelines for tastiness:

Try using the small clamshell to keep your price point under or around one pound ($6.99/lb + tax at Alpine Gourmet Farm). Who really needs to eat more than a pound of food in one meal anyway? Think about it.

Start with some salad base, but avoid greens that are either photo24drenched from dressing or soaking wet from being washed — adds water weight.

Keep the weight of all the food items in mind, which is why I generally steer clear of items like cucumber, orange rounds and potatoes in favor of roasted vegetables, noodle salad combos and leafy greens.

Be picky in what you choose in a macroscopic sense — inevitably, all those items are going to mix — and in the microscopic sense — avoid anything that later you might find questionable-ish— the point is to pay for only what you’photo1ll actually eat.

Hot foods tend to be more of a gamble to begin with since they sit there cooking and cooking all day long. Once the hot food looks about as appetizing and ambiguous as road kill avoid at all costs.

COST: $5.68 at Alpine Gourmet Farm
PREP TIME: 5 minutes