Torta Time!

Carnitas Torta

Carnitas Torta

Ahh the torta.  The Mexican sandwich.  The torta almost  seemed to me like overkill…  There already is a proliferation of sandwiches out there  (I submit the bizarre panini trend) that are just the same thing repackaged to the consumer on a different roll.  I have to admit, I was skeptical at first about the torta.   Also, why I asked myself, would I buy a sandwich at a taco truck instead of a taco or a burrito?  Well good readers, it turns out the torta is a serious contender for proof.


Better Than Ambulance-Chasing

1st of all, find yourself a taco truck… like when I chased down the El Idolo truck down 14th street yesterday!  (This truck is normally parked on 14th and 8th Avenue, but I think they were late coming in from Queens at around 12:30pm.)  Run after it, flailing your arms, and feel free to knock down any pedestrians that get in your way.  Arrive at the truck, and like an escaped lunatic, breathlessly place your order to the guy in the window.

What is in the torta?  Good stuff.  Take a round bun, insert any kind of meat- hot or cold, avocado, cheese, beans, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato, onion… and maybe some hot sauce if you are game.

I bought two.  Obviously I went with the superior meats: the beef and the pork.  The beef was the way to go, hot, well-marinated, juicy, and spectacular.  The pork was good too, slow cooked and tender, but I found the beef just a step above.  The jalapenos provided a nice kick, and the avocado smoothed everything out.

So I encourage you, the next time you are at a Mexican eatery, skip the taco, and try the torta.


Tort Law

Tort Law

Grill a Chef!

Every Thursday and Saturday in Chelsea Market, you can ask a chef any question you would like!

For instance, I asked an affable chef there last Thursday the best method of transferring a pizza from the peel (paddle) to the hot oven… she suggested dusting it with cornmeal.  Brilliant!

Where to ask?  Right on the concourse in the middle of the market (9th Avenue between 15th and 16th St. Manhattan) there is a table set with a white-coated chef smiling behind it.

Okay, so some of you may not live in NYC, or may just be feeling lazy because of the cold…   Does this mean you will miss your chance to stump a chef?  Of course not, good readers!  If you have a question you would like to ask,  just comment on this post, or email any question you might have to: and the Proofmeister himself will follow up on it for you.

The Williamsburg Taco Truck

Endless Disappointment

Endless Bummer

Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The name immediately brings to mind images of hipster 20-somethings with faux-rocker hairdos and facial hair discussing their recently purchased Stooges vinyl about 40 years after the fact. 

In all seriousness, besides the fashion victims, I have no big qualms with Williamsburg, except one.  The Endless Summer taco truck.

The taco truck to me should mean tasty tacos served in the dead of night to drunken revelers or in the afternoon to Mexican day laborers.  It means various stewed meats, lamb, goat, spicy beef, even pig ear, with fresh ingredients and a lime wedge on top.  It means sizzling sounds and smoke billowing out of a van’s window, while you wait on a stoop across the sidewalk.  Most importantly, no English should be spoken.

Alas, in Williamsburg (North 7th and Bedford Ave) the Endless Summer taco truck means lack-luster recipes served until about 9pm sharp by a scruffy recent college grad (living off his trust fund whilst toiling away at a job that his mother or father surpassed long ago, being doctors or lawyers themselves) serving up 3 uninspired meats.  Plain ole’ beef, chicken, or pork.  Bor-ing!  Don’t be fooled by their amazingly dated 20th century Mexican stereotype mascot, there is nothing authentic to be found here.

A Taco Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

A Taco Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Okay, barring this initial prejudice how were the tacos?  They were okay.  By the time the scrawny hipster finished trying to impress my lady-friend with Lord Byron poetry and served the damn thing to us, it actually looked good.  He also gave us an entire avocado, wrapped in cellophane to go with it.  We looked at it dubiously, not really feeling a sudden urge for making guacamole in the middle of the street.  The pork taco was, at it always is… over-cooked.  Like a well-done tuna steak it was dry and stringy, ensconced with way more cilantro than Emeril bams out on a weekly basis.  The ingredients actually did seem fresh, and although the lime wedge was frozen, the flavors of the toppings really were good. However, there was something inherently wrong at the core of this taco.  I feel that with simple foods like tacos, less is more.  Essentially you just have to get the main ingredient correct and then you will have a winner.  Without jan-09-9-007a decent approach to their meat recipes, the Endless Summer Taco truck will keep being mediocre.

I encourage the borough of Brooklyn to skip the Bedford L train scourge and head to Chelsea’s 14th street and 8th Avenue L train blessing.  The El Ídolo (operating out of Corona Queens) Chelsea taco truck reigns supreme over it’s eastern dopleganger.  Don’t be fooled!  The Billburgh taco truck is a NEGATIVE PROOF!

Saturday Afternoon Proof

Today as I was blaring the Clash and kicking about my apartment in my usual Saturday afternoon caffeine-buzzed state, I decided to share to the world my spectacular sandwich creation. 


Midday Tuna Melt Proof

Midday Tuna Melt Proof

2 cans solid white albacore tuna in spring water- don’t be a jerk and skimp for the chunk light…

1 tablespoon dijon

2 tablespoons mayo

3 long celery stalks

1 tablespoon diced red onion

1/3 of a freshly made baguette from Amy’s Bread

2 slices Boarshead Muenster cheese

1/2 fresh plum tomato

1 leaf of fresh romaine

Combine the tuna salad ingredients the night before, and chill them in the icebox so that the flavors blend.  Take about 1/3rd of the mixture and serve it in the baguette.   Top with the sliced fresh tomato, romaine, and cheese, Make sure to salt and pepper the tomato.  Also I add a few hot peppers, and a kosher dill on the side.  Bake at 350 degrees in the oven until the cheese gets melted.  Booya!  You got yourself some afternoon proof.

White Castle Crave Crate Cruise



Oh glorious day!   Today was the day I bought $105.23 worth of delicious white castle hamburgers.  So what’s the proof?  I guess the question is… was it worth it?  Well gentle readers, let us delve shall we?

First of all, the White Castle restaurant is a rare beast on the island of Manhattan.  Like the dodo birds of yore, few are actually spotted, and the only one I know for sure that exists is on 37th and 8th Avenue, right by Penn Station.

A stalwart group of gourmands and myself gathered together the loot for the bellybombs.  Picking up the slyders meant a 10 minute subway ride and/or a 5 minute cab ride to the Castle’s remote location all the way up into the wilds of Midtown.  Actually an easy ride, but more  public transit than I usually allow for a lunch. 

This Made Me Feel Warm and Fuzzy... and Dizzy

This Made Me Feel Warm and Fuzzy... and Dizzy

When we arrived we placed the order: 80 cheeseburgers and 14 additional hamburgers along with 8 orders of onion rings and 6 orders of fries… for the grand total of 105.23.  The clerk behind the counter took this in stride… barely acknowledging the immense size of the order.  She acted like this was commonplace,  and that comforted me.  I like knowing that other people get the crave as bad or worse as myself.

It took roughly 20 minutes for the order to be completed.  Without missing a beat, other patrons were being served by the staff even as our treasure-chest-sized Crave Crate was being stacked high (The Castle has a system!).  The little mini burger boxes were reminiscent of the enchanted bricks stacked for the pyramid of the pharaoh.  When we were finally handed our repository of riches we lurched out of the Castle, in search of a cab.  The cab-driver we flagged down immediately noted the fact that we were torturing her with the delightful oniony bouquet emanating from our box of burgers.  My cohort conversed to her Greek while we fought midtown traffic all the way down to 14th street, the windows of the cab steaming from the warmth of the little sandwiches.  When we arrived we spilled onto the street with a giddy excitement, leaving the cab door open for the yuppie couple that would have to spend the next 5-15 minutes in a confined chamber permeated with the aroma of the burgers and onion rings that we were holding. 

We opened up the box finally.  Bliss, heaven… do not describe the taste.  These things were exalted.  The burgers are steam-grilled upon a bed of onions.  What genius figured out that this was the secret to flavor?  Coincidentally I find that the Philadelphia cheesesteak prescribes to this simple yet potent recipe.  However, cheesesteaks do not come in such playful and fun bite size portions!  Also there is something to be said about eating food that comes out of a briefcase.
I set out to devour 10 cheeseburgers.  The only accompaniment being a bottle of water with extra chup packets and extra pickles.  After the eighth I felt a cloud of dizziness fall over me, and couldn’t even contemplate the final two.  Was I suffering pangs of regret?  No, I was feeling the high of victory!  The same high that our Native American kin felt after felling a mighty buffalo and making it into a delicious porterhouse steak!   The high of a man who just achieved a state of grace with himself and the universe.  The White Castle burger has the official seal of PROOF!

Friedman’s Delicatessen… 3rd Time’s a Charm?

8 Carat Coleslaw

8 Carat Coleslaw

Friedman’s Lunch, (Formerly Friedman’s Delicatessen) in the Chelsea Market (75 Ninth Ave, Manhattan) is now on it’s third manifestation.  It’s hard to believe that the owners were at one time were purveyors of a Kosher restaurant…  Due to the amount of reincarnations they’ve been thru,  Friedman’s should seriously consider Hinduism.

Here’s the back-story:

For Chelsea Market goers, the idea of a Jewish Deli in the Market was a god-send to save us from the same old over-priced and not-too-dazzling choices.  (I submit Ruthy’s stale bagels, and The Lobster Place’s poisonous Crab Chowder)  Signs of “Friedman’s Delicatessen” on the glass of the empty storefront promised images of Pastrami specials piled  high with steaming mountains of meat, flaky knishes, and bubbling cauldrons of matzoh ball soup.  Alas, upon opening the patrons of the market were horrified to realize that Old Man Friedman was charging 16 dollars for a minuscule sandwich.   They literally made it so the common man couldn’t eat at a deli, which seems to be against all logic.  Scores of people I spoke to at the time were incensed by the prices and have since boycotted the deli.  Get over yourselves Friedman’s, you put meat on bread, it’s a simple concept.  Although the prices may reflect this, it actually is not required for you to go to the Left Bank of Paris and attend Le Institute Pastrami to serve up some brisket and potato salad.

2nd Incarnation- Friedman’s is no longer kosher.  The dudes with the funny hats were gone.  Yes, it was really ludicrous, how can you order a hamburger without bacon and cheese or a bagel without cream cheese?  You might as well order nachos and just get the tortilla.  The other change was that they started offering specials.  The specials were dropped to approximately 9 dollars a pop.  Besides that, everything was still a huge rip-off.  I know the Chelsea Market is a stop for tourists, but should that automatically make it a tourist trap?  People do still live and work in the neighborhood.

3rd incarnation- Friedman’s Lunch.  Okay, they finally did it.  They dropped their prices.  You can almost get a decent meal here for under 10 bucks.  The best option is the turkey burger with fries for $9.50.  I tried the Grilled Reuben.  Honestly, it was a tasty sandwich, but at 12 dollars, where’s the beef?  At least at real delis like the 2nd Avenue Deli they pile on the pastrami.  This sandwich (that didn’t come with a side) was not worth going back for.  It left me hungry, which a Reuben should never, EVER do.  They also reincarnated the decor to some kind of rustic-nouveau travesty.  I think the owner has been watching too much Gordon Ramsey.

I think they are finally getting the point, but Friedman’s is still a NEGATIVE PROOF!

Bourbon… Brownest of the Brown Liquors… Green?

Check out this article about Maker’s Mark.  You know the one…  The bourbon with the wax on the top of the bottle.  Yeah that one.  Apparently they did some work to become more environmentally sustainable this summer.  Also they buy their grain and wheat locally. 

I’m really glad to hear this, however they might just have a really good PR department.  Regardless I hope they send me a case for promoting it here.

The Great Banana Pepper Mystery

An Enigma Wrapped in a Bottle

An Enigma Wrapped in a Bottle

Someone needs to explain (i.e. prove) to me the reason why these banana peppers are so good…  I find myself tossing them onto every type of hoagie/hero/grinder, antipasto, and salad.   They aren’t quite as tasty as those more colorful and spicier sliced Italian cherry peppers, but they are up there.  Damn I need a sandwich now.

Also check out PA Governor Ed Rendell’s dedication to the Philadelphia Eagles! 

From the New York Times:  “If the Eagles were to win, Pittsburgh would donate a shipment of sandwiches from Primanti Brothers to a senior citizen center and a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. If the Steelers were to win, Philadelphia would send Pat’s cheese steaks to a senior center and a shelter in Pittsburgh.”

Sweet Georgia Brown!  Rendell is trying to kill off the senior voting block.  Somebody needs to stand up to this megalomaniacal madman!

Burgers Part Deux: Does Corner Bistro have proof?

331 W 4th St New York, NY 10014

331 W 4th St New York, NY 10014

Like every self-respecting New Yorker who loves a good burger, I’ve dined many a night at Corner Bistro.  I found that each time I have more or less been happy with the product placed before me.  Today I decided to check the Bistro out with a more critical eye.

Pass the chup!
Pass the Chup!

OK, first thing is first.  If you go there any day besides maybe a Monday or a Sunday night, you will be waiting on line cramped in between a bunch of Manhattanites, tourists, and expatriates.  This really isn’t so terrible, because you then have easier access to the bar where McSorley’s is on draft.  Three darks for $7.50 isn’t a bad way to start the evening.  Also you can engage in lively conversation with the other semi-hungry and semi-buzzed people eagerly awaiting their tables.  I think we were speaking to Germans at some point.  Bier bitte?  Ja!

Okay, so we had our beers and the line moved rather fast.  Our corner booth was available in approximately 20 minutes.  Not too shabby for a Wednesday night!  We proceeded to the booth.  Nothing fancy, loads of not-that-relevant graffiti carved into the ancient wooden table.  A room full of some well-dressed people was juxtaposed with such an unassuming and divy kind of place.

The smell of bacon greeted us as we sat down.  Oh yes!  The rumor about town is that they cook the fries in the bacon grease.  I think they just cook the bacon in the fryer… but either way works for me.

Royale with Cheese

Royale with Cheese

I love places that have very limited menus.  It usually means that they can make the few things on it very well.  I think that I only saw “burgers” and “grilled cheese.”   My companions and I went with the “Bistro Burger” naturally.  Bacon, “cheese”, tomato, lettuce, onions, and pickles.  Also a side of french fries each.

Don't bring your Rabbi

Don't Bring your Rabbi!

The burgers were indeed tasty and juicy.  However, although the flavor was really good, but it didn’t necessarily knock it out of the park.  More embarrassing, the cheese they used was that processed American crap.  One slice of poverty cheese.  Seriously there’s still a market for that stuff?  So many better options out there.  Oh well.  They did load up the bacon, which definitely was where the flavor was coming from.  The bacon with the burger was a great match.  The bun was wonder bread.  A great match with the poverty cheese slice on the burger.  The fries were skinny little things.  They were crispy and nice, (with a hint of bacon) but I like my fries a little meatier, you know?  These things probably came frozen out of a bag.

So what is the proof?  OK boys and girls…

The good: Corner Bistro defies the neighborhood.  For the West Village this place is still serving up some decent burgers in a super swanky locale.  The menu is value, along with the drinks.  Our bill was 30 dollars for 3 bistro burgers, 3 fries, and 3 beers once we sat down.  Not too shabby.  The food is greasy and good, and there is not much hassle to it.

The bad: The line.  Tonight we were lucky, but it might be annoying on a Friday, especially if you had a lamer crowd in there.  The food?  Well, there’s a chance that I could make a better burger at home…  But who the heck wants to do that?!?  For a night out with some good friends, I definitely recommend the Bistro.  Proved.