A Day Of Impossible Eating

24 Apr

It started out innocently enough. I wanted Chinese. He wanted Slovakian.

And so like any rational couple we decided to have both.

For lunch.

The View From Sunset Park

Saturday was glorious. Is there any better way to celebrate the first truly spectacular day of Spring than to eat yourselves silly and walk yourselves into the ground? I didn’t think so.

The View From Sunset Park

I don’t normally write about our meals outside the home. Why? Because I have an irrational fear of taking pictures in restaurants. Either we’re eating at a place where I don’t speak the language and fear being unceremoniously thrown out on my patookis and never allowed back, or we’re someplace terribly chic and expensive where I refuse to take photos of my food because I don’t want to disturb the other patrons. I hate it when people at neighboring tables do it to me. I firmly believe in that whole “Do unto others” thing. But I digress…

The View From Sunset Park

So why am I breaking this unwritten Granny Cart rule? A. Because both lunches were so good they deserve some mention, and B. At the one restaurant we were the only patrons and the dish was so ridiculous that I had to take the risk of being chewed out by a surly Slovakian.

Lunch #1. Lan Zhou Hand Pull Noodle – 5924 8th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

Tucked into a tiny storefront on 59th street lurks the very best sort of Chinese noodle joint. Hand pulled noodles. If you’ve never witnessed them being made, click here now. Not only is the making of the noodles mesmerizing, they taste awesome, too. They’re chewy, dense and intensely silky. I don’t know how Lan Zhou compares to the cultishly adored Super Taste in Manhattan Chinatown, but I loved them.

We shared a bowl of the noodle with Vege & Egg in Sauce ($4). The delicate, herbaceous soup, chock full of strange Asian greens and topped with a fried egg was slurptastically delicious. The array of condiments perched on every surface with which to customize the soups is, to me, the surest sign of quality. They have the requisite Sriracha as well as a far more fiery chile paste, soy sauce, and a mystery brown sauce that must have 1,000 cloves of garlic in it. Do I even have to mention the garlic sauce was my favorite? Didn’t think so. The boy and I both agree that we can’t wait for a cool, rainy day to go back and try some of the meatier options. I want the Pork Bone, with dumplings. He wants the Mixed Beef.

MTA Depot

Lunch #2. Milan Restaurant – 719 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

With a name like Milan you’d be forgiven for thinking this cafe on an ill-used portion of sidewalk in the South Slope of Brooklyn is another generic red sauce & white table cloth Italian joint. But like us, you’d be wrong. Milan refers to the name of the proprietor, and he’s not Italian, he’s Slovakian. While Slovakian cuisine has more in common with Polish or Hungarian, there’s a wonderful, goofy charm to Milan’s that put us both in mind of our time in Croatia. The coffee is strong, the menu is confusing, and there’s definitely grappa over the bar. We started with two salads, red cabbage & cucumber, both refreshingly tart and beautifully balanced. I preferred the kirbys, the boy, the cabbage. We’re such great eating buddies. For a main course we settled on the craziest thing on the menu: Fried Cheese with Ham and French Fries.

Slovakian Fried Cheese With Ham

I mean, look at that thing! It’s like a grilled cheese, with no bread! It’s two slabs of mozzarella-like cheese with a thin layer of ham tucked inside, covered in batter, and fried! Oh, and the best part? It comes with homemade tartar sauce! Cheese. Fried. Served with mayonnaise. Now you can see why I risked life and limb to get a picture of this puppy. I have no idea if this is a traditionally Slovakian dish, but it’s ridiculously delicious. Especially if you have some need to scare the bejezus out of your cardiologist. Highly recommended. We’re both excited to go back on, yes, a chilly, rainy day to partake in the rest of Milan’s menu. The stews and pierogis and dumplings have us bewitched and almost looking forward to winter again.

Green-wood Cemetery Flower Shop

After two lunches, walking is not just a good idea, it is an imperative. But I think we learned something important here. Man does not need to live on one lunch alone. With a good walk in between and portion control, the multi-ethnic “lunch graze” just might become this summer’s impetus for leaving the neighborhood on weekends. First up? The Sunset Park Taco Crawl. Yes, I know, I said multi-ethnic, but maybe we’ll start off slow, with multi-regional.

'maters!

And so to end our Day Of Impossible Eating, we kept it European in tone, with a dinner of bread, cheese, salad greens served with a Dilly Bean vinaigrette and tomatoes. Tomatoes? Yes, tomatoes. I’ve been meaning to write about them for at least a week now, but I got scooped by NY Mag.

Cheese!

I met the proprietors of Shusan ‘maters last week at the Union Square Wednesday market. I’d been eyeing their tomatoes for the previous two weeks, but they finally had samples. One bite, and I was sold.

'maters!

If you love tomatoes more than any other fruit of summer, be in the Square tomorrow. They’ll be there. Buy as many as you can carry home because they are awesome. They taste like August.

Dilly Bean Vinaigrette

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Amazing Dilly Bean Vinaigrette.

Ann’s Amazing Dilly Bean Vinaigrette

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: none

  • 2 small Shallots, finely minced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • small handful Dilly Beans, finely chopped
  • Dilly Brine
  • Olive Oil
  • small spoonful of good, strong ground Mustard
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Dried Dill

Place the shallots, garlic and dilly beans in a glass. Add enough Dilly brine to reach about half way. Add olive oil to barely cover. Add a very small dollop of mustard. Whisk to combine (this is my salad dressing tool of choice). Taste. It will need more acid, add enough sherry vinegar to make a nice balance. Add a pinch of dried dill. Mix again. This dressing will probably not need salt as the brine will most likely be relatively salt, but a nice grind of cracked black pepper would be wonderful.

To serve: spoon over salad greens. Have some bread on hand with which to sop up whatever’s leftover. Enjoy!

17 Responses to “A Day Of Impossible Eating”

  1. Yvo April 24, 2007 at 10:41 am #

    Mmm, yummy. Sounds fantastic. I have a question, a serious one. Does it really disturb you when someone in the same restaurant as you- perhaps next table over or two tables away, but in your general vicinity- takes pictures of their meal? I ask because I never considered that it would disturb/bother other people, since I am not aiming the camera at them nor do I usually make a big fuss to get pictures of the dishes. In the 3+ years I’ve been taking pictures of my meals, I haven’t even noticed anyone noticing me taking pictures except sometimes the waiters, and abroad, everyone noticed it I’m sure.

  2. ann April 24, 2007 at 11:01 am #

    Hi Yvo! Okay, I should qualify that statement, it only bothers me when there’s a flash.

    That said, I’m not the best person to pontificating on this subject because I’m also really annoyed by children in restaurants and big parties. I’m kind of a cranky old curmudgeon when it comes to fine dining I guess ;-)

  3. Luisa April 24, 2007 at 11:36 am #

    Yay, another one of your awesome walking posts. Really, they’re fantastic. So much of this city I don’t know about! As for the tomato tip, I am endlessly grateful. I’ll be at Union Sq first thing in the morning, haunting Migliorelli’s – can’t wait!

  4. Terry B April 24, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

    I love the walking posts too. We walk a lot in Chicago, but when we’re in New York we become walking fools. The great thing is that we then eat with impunity, because we know [or at least convince ourselves] that whatever we eat, we’ll walk it off.

    Regarding photos in restaurants, I think the key is to just be discreet—including turning off the flash if possible.

    And with the tomatoes, do indeed buy as many as you can carry, but only if you can eat them before they go bad. DON’T put them in the fridge. Ever. That kills the taste.

  5. sher April 24, 2007 at 1:57 pm #

    Oh Ann! Those pictures! They’re fabulous. And the cheese is one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. I’m so jealous that you live in such a complex city–and have access to all those restaurants!!!!

  6. Lisa (Homesick Texan) April 24, 2007 at 4:52 pm #

    Oh my, I’m totally craving that cheese concoction, along with some of those tomatoes! Thanks for the tip–like Luisa, I’m planning on hitting the market early so I can grab a few–these past few lovely days aside, I’m still a bit chilled from winter and I need that taste of August!

  7. ann April 24, 2007 at 8:23 pm #

    Luisa — It’s my pleasure! Both keeping my audience happy and supporting great people that grow great tomatoes. They’re wonderful. Be sure to grab some fresh basil too!

    TerryB — walking fools! I love it! That’ll be the name of my emo band when I form it ;-) And don’t you worry. I love tomatoes too much to ever (ever!) refrigerate them. They have their own special basket in my kitchen.

    Sher — I always know you’ll love the walking posts. Now if only we could figure out a way to combine the beauty of a Cali garden and a great walking city like New York!

    Lisa(HT) — the crazy fried cheese, you must embrace it! There’s lots of Czechs in Texas, I’m sure you can spin it somehow to your needs ;-) I hope you love the ‘maters too. Maybe you, me and Luisa will all run into each other at the stand tomorrow morning.

  8. izzy's mama April 24, 2007 at 8:37 pm #

    This post makes me long for an outer-borough food adventure but I guess Izzy and I better not bump into you, lest he annoy you.. Do all kids annoy or simply ill-behaved ones?

    Both of those places sound intriguing. I hope to get out to Brooklyn more than once this summer!

  9. ann April 24, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    Oh no, Izzy & Mama, no! All kids do not annoy me. I didn’t mean to sound like that much of an ogre!
    If that were so, I could never go out to dinner with my favorite nephew or favorite fake niece (the daughter of a good friend).

    But, that said, when I go out to dinner with kids, it’s to appropriate places, not say, db Bistro Moderne or davidburke & donatella, or Five Points.
    The boy and I like to dine out, and it’s usually at neighborhood joints were kids are not only to be expected, they’re welcomed, so when we make a proper night of it, I get a little peeved about anything that takes away from the atmosphere; some a** screaming into his cellphone, a large group of drunken idiots or a screaming child pulling a temper tantrum in the middle of the dining room and the parents allowing it to carry on.

    I read your blog, I know you guys take Izzy to amazing places, and I know he acts like a perfect gentlemen.
    He sounds like the kind of kid I’d be happy to break bread with.

  10. Glenna April 25, 2007 at 6:30 am #

    What a beautiful day! Thanks for putting the link for the hand pulled noodles. Wow. Very cool. Oh and loved loved loved the pics of the fried ham and cheese. That looked sooooooooo good. I know heart attack on a plate but it looked really yummy.

  11. hungrygirl April 25, 2007 at 7:04 am #

    Hilarious, Ann. Inspires me to do some resto-ranting too – you have a nice unpretentious style. The irrational fear of restaurant photograpahy lives in me, too – something to do with flashbulbs, overlit duck a l’orange (as if…) and an angry maitre’d….But…where is the photo of the noodles?!

  12. ann April 26, 2007 at 6:56 am #

    Glenna — I believe in eating in moderation and splitting an order of fried hamcheese is totally moderate ;-)

    Hungrygirl — I’m so happy someone understands my fears, hence the lack of a noodle picture. We were the only non-Asian people in the store, and even though the noodle-maker-man gave me a wink and a smile, I just felt so self-conscious in wanting to take a picture.

    I think all those crap cultural anthropology classes I took in college, where my professors agonized over whether or not an anthropologist changes a culture simply by inserting themselves into the culture, have deformed my brain. Sigh.

  13. s'kat April 26, 2007 at 7:05 am #

    I always felt very self-conscious taking photographs in restaurants when I used my SLR. You can’t NOT notice it, even though I would never use flash.

    I now have a very small, fast digital camera that takes excellent restaurant pics (again, without the flash). I find it far less obstrusive.

    Ann, love the walking photos, and am looking forward to a continuation of Two-Lunch Saturdays! Fried cheese with pork? Yum!!

  14. ann April 26, 2007 at 2:39 pm #

    s’kat — you make a great point. As long as there’s no flash, who cares. God, maybe I should stop being such a noodge and lighten up!

  15. tony April 27, 2007 at 12:58 pm #

    Such a well done “piece” and so nicely punctuated with photos! Good Job! If time allows you should consider doing a series of similar photo essays. Don’t limit yourself to food. I think what I’m suggesting is the equivalent of a modern “short story” – taking advantage of digital photography. Again, good work!

  16. Julie April 28, 2007 at 7:53 am #

    All that great 19th century architecture plus such great food. You live in a walker’s paradise.

    I just looked at the top picture again and realized the Statue of Liberty is in the background. Very cool. That was some beautiful light last weekend.

  17. ann April 28, 2007 at 9:35 am #

    Tony — Thank you!! You know, you’ve actually nailed, on the head, something I’ve been allowing to float around at the back of my mind for a few months now. Maybe I’ll quit my job and hop to it ;-)

    Julie — Thanks! I’m glad someone noticed! That picture is from Sunset Park, which is really high and looks due west. Walking around the park at dusk can be a life altering experience.

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