Farewell to a Friend

The Passing of a Plant

It's an Annual

My basil plant has lived with me since May of 2008, and I am feeling like it is time for us to part ways.

Once full of luxiourious and delightful green leaves, he has been reduced from constant pluckings and pullings to slender and woody stalks.

His leaves have been simmered and baked, drizzled with olive oil, dusted with cheese, peppered and salted, wrapped around tomatoes, dunked and munched.  He has uncompromisingly added taste to many gravy’s, sauces, sandwiches and salads throughout the year.

I salute you, and sadly bid you a fond farewell my dear Mr. Basil Plant.  Your replacement will be joining me soon.

Excellent Dumpling House

Twice Roasted Duck and Veggies

Twice Roasted Duck and Veggies

I woke up today with a craving that I just couldn’t ignore.  It is the type of craving that drives men to take mad quests to downtown Manhattan, and to order plates of delicious steamed dumplings.

I jumped off of the subway (Q train at Canal St.) and ducked into the first place that looked appealing.  It had a glowing neon sign that said “Dumpling House.”  Whenever a restaurant actually contains its specialty in its own marquee title,  most of the time you can rely on it to be pretty good.  It is also a brilliant marketing strategy to say the least.  There was a no-frills interior, but every table was full.  I knew that this spot would be prime-time for proof-time.

Pork Dumplings

Pork Dumplings

Hot tea was already on the table along with the appropriate instruments.  Chopsticks?  Check.  Soy sauce?  Check.  Hot sauce?  Check.  Napkins?  Check.  Tea?  Check.  Scalpel?  No actually.  But I digress. 

The lightning fast speed of the food flying out of that kitchen was awe-inspiring.  Two minutes after I had ordered, my twice-roasted duck and pork dumplings were situated in front of me, an array of delights so magnificent that I nearly cried.  Of course other goodies were flying out too.  I saw their sizzling Thai-style chicken-fried rice go by on a cast-iron skillet, and I must say that it looked very impressive.  I know I will be ordering that next time.  Also the steamed pork bons looked pretty tantalizing. 

The dumplings were sublime indeed.  I went with the pork, because I do

Pocket of Proof

Pocket of Proof

what I want.  Delectable.  These folks know how to steam a dumpling.  Apparently the reviews in the window of “Best of Downtown 1990-1995” weren’t lying, also apparently they were mentioned in the New York Times in 1998, amongst other reviews that were wallpapering the restaurant.  The dumplings had an amazingly delicate texture, and the pork inside was super juicy.  My main course of twice-roasted duck and veggies came out looking very pretty on the plate.  The duck was falling off the bone, cooked to perfection.  The vegetables were cooked very nicely, the mushrooms had a nice robust texture, and the pea pods were al-dente.  Perfect. 

I was very satisfied when I left, and the bill was only eleven dollars plus tip.  To my delight, I discovered that my craving was gone, and also my belly was full.   Due to these determining factors I am obliged to I give this dumpling house a proof-positive.

“Excellent Dumpling House” is located at 111 Lafayette Street, Manhattan.

Guinness Stew

Stewed in it's own Juices

Stewed in its own Juices

I had to share this.  I had some leftover Guinness from St. Patty’s day and decided to make some stew.  I have never made a stew before so this was my first stab at the recipe.  I used a large Spanish Onion, a half a bag of carrots, a large celery stalk, a small can of tomato paste, 1.5 lb’s of stewing beef chunks (I picked out ones with the most fat marbled on them), 1 pint of Guinness, a can of beef broth, 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and 2 bay leaves. 

I served this up with some buttered egg noodles and a side of imported Polish red cabbage. 

march-08-4-083

Guinness Stew

I dredged the beef in some flour, and fried the beef till it was brown with the onions, and garlic, I fried up the tomato paste with it, then deglazed the pan with the Guinness.  Then I added the rest of the ingredients and simmered it on low heat for approximately three hours. The meat and the Guinness were “stewing in their own juices,” so I finally understood that cliche.  The aroma by itself was amazing.  The sheen on the stew in the pot was glistening with delight.  Truly it was a site to behold, and the taste was quite prooftastic.

Machine’s Monthly Bacon Blog

Bende & Son Hungarian Smoked Kolozsvari Bacon

Bende & Son Hungarian Smoked Kolozsvari Bacon

Hey there proofreaders, it’s the Machine with the latest installment of the Monthly Bacon Blog!

With the delicious tastes from my initial foray into the Bacon of the Month Club fading into distant memory, I knew that it was almost time for my next shipment of sweet sweet bacon.  The anticipation of its arrival promised to stop the oinking reverberating in my skull.  And so, after a particularly long day of working for the man, I was pleasantly surprised to find this month’s shipment waiting for me.   Inside the box was a 16 oz slab of Bende & Son Hungarian Smoked Kolozsvari Bacon!  Dan Philips, otherwise known as “Captain Bacon,” describes it as a:
Delicious, succulent juicy sweet yet balanced with a satisfying fiery explosive balance.  Slight spice from garlic, pepper, and paprika.”

Oh and I forgot to mention the best part.  It came on a rope!!!  Bacon on rope > Soap on rope.

The Hungarians know how to do two things really well.  One is attacking Roman legions on horseback, and the other is to preparing salty pork.  Traditional Hungarian recipes may serve the bacon sliced think or thin, cooked or not, in soups or stews, or simply to add flavor to other dishes.  Thus it was daunting at first to figure out how I would properly prepare my meat.

Slab of Glory

Mouthwatering Magyar Bacon

I imagine it will be a long time where my bacon’s country of origin describes my inner feelings.  GET IT?  I WAS HUNGARY!!  (Badum-cha!)  But seriously I was…  And right on the packaging in bold green letters were the words READY TO EAT.  Is there a finer phrase that can be applied to bacon?  If so I do not know of it. 

Taking inspiration from Hungarian methods I sliced wafer-thin strips from the slab.  I fired up some flatbread as a base and topped this with just a dab of spicy mustard from the 2nd Avenue Deli (A fine establishment which awaits judgment from the Proofmeister).

These bite size treats were the perfect method for taste testing the bacon.  Shining through was a consistent but dominant pork

Proof on a Rope

Proof on a Rope

flavor.  It wasn’t too salty or too porky, but-it but-it but-it was just right.  I definitely tasted the slight spices of garlic and pepper and thought that adding the mustard really brought these flavors out.  I didn’t yet have my bacon fill, so I fired up the frying pan and also experimented by cubing some of the bacon and mixing it with some brocolli and scrambled eggs.  The pork flavor in these larger cubes was more pronounced, but overall this bacon cooked quite nicely.

I really was impressed by this bacon especially by it’s versatility.  With enough patience and a sharp knife it would make for a fine ham sandwich, and cubed or diced property a great addition to…well pretty much anything.  Remember all bacon starts out as a 10 and this bacon gets awarded an extra half point for it’s delicious versatility!  Giving the Bende & Son Hungarian Smoked Bacon a 10.5 and the Machine seal of approval.

Brouwerij Lane… Proof Postive!

The first ever reverse-proof has happened here at Proof Pudding! 

Erik the good beer man (or brew maestro) from Brouwerij Lane actually sought out the Proofmeister and offered to replace my flat growler with a brand new refill out of his own pocket.  He explained to me that,

“…O’Haras as well as other stouts such as Guinness supply a beer tap which has an integrated aerator.  This aerator causes turbulence in the beer as it leaves the tap, inducing a creamy thick head, while diminishing a portion of the contained co2.”  Basically the stout tap was made for pouring perfect pints, not growlers, and this was causing the bubbles to go bye-bye.  FinalLogoErik assured me that this tap would be replaced, and this unfortunate mishap would never occur again.  The the rest of their growlers will be provided with “full induced carbonation.”  He also gave me a new growler filled with some tasty Jever Dark pilsner that he assured me would not go flat for a few days. 

For his excellent explanation and tremendous customer service, I can’t help but give Brouwerij Lane the Official Seal of Proof…  I just love happy endings.

Brouwerij Lane Opens

Open for Business

Open for Business

I have never seen such excitement grip a community before.  There had been whispers around the neighborhood… Rumors of a new beer store opening in Greenpoint had been going on for weeks.  Last night was Brouwerij Lane’s (Corner of Franklin and Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn) opening day party.  The place was thronged with mustachioed hipsters in tattered flannels and tight black jeans.  Despite this, my friends and I shrugged our way past these uber-dweebs to partake in imbibing free samples of ales and stouts. 

The owner is a man who knows his beers.  After a brief conversation with him, I was excited to learn that he plans to import unpasteurized English Ales “True Ales” which are really hard to come by in this country.  They really did have a large assortment of beers available both by the bottle and on draft.  If you would  like some draft beer they sell growlers for 10 dollars (plus a five dollar deposit).  My companions and I were thrilled about this, and scored a few bottles and growlers (1/2 gallon bottle).

march-08-4-0622The bottled beers were fantastic.  I recommend for lager lovers the Estrella Damm imported from Spain.  A really smooth and light beer.  I also tried out the Allagash Grand Cru (from Maine) and grabbed a bottle of Brigand Ale (Belgium), both winners.  To my utter dismay I discovered that my O’Hara Stout in the growler had gone flatter than a pancake in the matter of an hour.  This horrifying occurence even after I posed a direct question to the beer man working the taps if flatness would follow the bottling of this specific draft.  He blindly assured me that my beer would NOT go flat.  Was he lying, or was he merely a neophyte still learning the subtleties of his trade?  I’m leaning towards that latter. 
What is a fact is that now I have a half gallon of what amounts to beer flavored chocolate milk taking up precious fridge space.  Thanks. 
Guess what Brouwerij Lane?  You’ve earned for yourself a NEGATIVE PROOF!

Papaya King

King of Pain

King of Pain

Wow, I can’t believe I ate this last night.  However in my defense it was St. Patrick’s Day, and I was desperate for some grub. 

If you don’t reside in NYC you may not understand the Papaya phenomenon…  Here goes:  In the 20s there was an entrepreneur named Gus Poulos who ventured to the super-heated beaches of Miami on vacation and came back to NYC with a dream: to sell papaya drinks full of tropical nutrients to the denizens of the Big Apple.  Unfortunately at first the drinks didn’t sell… so he started selling franks too.  Luckily these took and the combination stuck. 

Knish Stuffed with Cheese (Whiz)

Knish Stuffed with Cheese (Whiz)

There are a few imitators, namely Gray’s Papaya, and Papaya Dog.  In my sojourns across Manhattan, I have sampled them all and can honestly say that they are all basically the same product, from the dogs down to the drinks, even the colors of their garish neon signs are scarily similar.  However, I do give credit to the Papaya King for holding the candle of being “the original.”

Cheap, fast, downright filthy, and unhealthy, they are a perfect combination to a boozy evening.  While I was there I saw quite a few people from Irish hooligans to coppers to college students alike all shamefully shoving tube steaks down their muzzles. 

Of course they didn’t order two chili cheese dogs, a knish stuffed with cheese, and a papaya drink… but I digress. 

How was it you ask? 

For my state of mind and body, I do kind of wish that I got a slice of pizza instead, but I would be lying if I said they didn’t hit the spot.

Proof.

Katz’s Deli

Pastramilicious

Pastramilicious

 

Okay, so we have all heard of it, we’ve seen the When Harry Met Sally scene, and everyone knows that Katz’s Deli is in the annals of New York City lore for having some of the best deli sandwiches. 

I have been there many nights, post a Lower East Side tipple or two.  It sits there, glowing in neon, with cured meats hanging in the window calling forth a sweet siren song of pickles and corned beef sandwiches.  How could anyone resist that kind of lure? 

First thing you need to realize, it actually is a deli.  You get a ticket, there are samples of meat for tasting handed out at the counters.  You can still buy large quanities of deli specialties in bulk.  There are different counters for what you are looking for, a knish counter, the knockwurst and hot dog counter, the deli meat counter, and of course the hot sliced pastrami, brisket, and corned beef sandwich counters.

Everything really did look good.  For instance, I’m not a knockwurst type of guy, but when I saw a knockwurst sandwich piled up with kraut and mustard pass me by, I have to admit that I was intrigued.  My associate the Machine ordered the corned beef Reuben which looked amazing.  However, wanting to stick to tradition I went with an unadulterated pastrami on rye with a bit of mustard.

The sandwich was around 14 dollars.  It was however very large, on par with the value at most of the Jewish deli’s in this burgh.   The meat was all freshly sliced by the man behind the counter, almost lovingly stacked on soft rye bread.  Everything was moist, not overcooked, well-spiced and tasty.  Was it the best pastrami in the city?  I won’t go that far, but it is a contender.  They also hand you a large plate of pickles with your order.  I always go with the garlic dill, (the super sour ones) the green ones taste too much like plain old cucumbers.  If you really crave a garlicky taste explosion, I recommend the pickled tomatoes… they are no joke.  The knishes were pretty amazing too.  The potato inside is like molten lava though, so be forewarned- don’t chomp into these things immediately because they are piping hot.  Let them sit a bit.  Spread some mustard on them, look at the celebrity pictures on the wall, eavesdrop on the tourists, and finish your sandwich first… that is if you want to avoid a trip to the ER. 

What was the proof you ask?  See above.