La Esquina, aka “The Corner” on 114 Kenmare St. Manhattan, USA. This little spot always intrigued me. I first heard about it years ago and was intrigued by the interesting little fact that there is apparently a 50 seat dining room downstairs that turns into a club at night that you can enter via a secret door (presumably using a secret knock). I experienced this one night a long time ago with some very hip in-the-know friends who brought me there for drinks, but beyond that my memory of this spot is a wee bit hazy.
When I walked past it this time, it was a nice day for some outdoor iced coffee’s and people-watching in Soho (or Nolita?). In spite of the semi-pretentiousness this place has some great food, a great vibe, and some beautifully situated outdoor seating. The iced coffee hit the spot and cooled me off on a hot day, and the people-watching was spectacular. It ran the gambit between tattoed hipsters, models, befuddled German tourists, transvestites, and of course the US Navy (fleet week was going on apparently). It’s great spot just to chill out and relax, or as I like to say, relack!
So at La Esquina there is the upstairs formica-countered tacquira, then behind this is the cafe, and then of course who could forget about the super secret downstairs area, that you need to enter thru a door marked “employees only.” I actually overheard some hip ladies next to me arguing with the waitress about getting some kind of chocolate cake “secret menu” item served to them… needless to say they were shot down. Chocolate cake is not allowed in the non-speakeasy areas apparently… Relax ladies! Just enjoy the weather, and don’t fret about the sweets.
The food was really good though, my companion and myself just grabbed a quick nosh, some crab-meat with mango, scallions, spicy jalepenos, and remoulade sauce on tortillas. It was quite a refreshing treat which helped make for a great stop-over on a nice sunny day. The lime was essential to bring out all the flavors together in there. Give it a squeeze. I would have to say, La Esquina definitely has some proof. I recommend stopping by on a nice warm Spring day in New York City. Proof out!
As the people of proofland may or may not know, I, the Machine grew up in the Garden State. That’s right—NJ, home of the Boss, the aforementioned
Big Slabtastic Bacon!
birthplace of the Sloppy Joe, and it may be best known for the prevalence of diners. Obviously, the typical New Jerseyan’s youth is frequently spent dining in these establishments and my experience was no different.
So when my latest shipment from the bacon of the month club arrived, I thought what better way to utilize my newly delivered pork than to recreate one of my late night diner staples, the Happy Waitress.
The Happy Waitress consists of a grilled cheese sandwich with generous servings of bacon and a slice of tomato. Mmm mmm good. But….why is it called a Happy Waitress? To be honest, I’m not really sure. I know it makes for a happy diner, and perhaps the ease of preparation makes the cook happy, but why the waitress? Anyway, back to the BACON.
A Happy Waitress
This month’s bacon was North Country Smokehouse Apple-wood Smoked Bacon, hailing from New Hampshire. The tasting notes included with the bacon describe it as: “A bit more savory than the cob-smoked offering from this producer, but same thick cut. This is a precocious little bacon that will surprise you with its moxy and flair.”
This bacon definitely was the thickest sliced I have received so far, and it cooked up nicely. It also had a sharp savory taste. I decided to divert from the usual cheddar or American cheese that is found on the Happy Waitress and use a nice muenster. I must say this was a great decision as it worked really well with the bacon. Finally, I topped it off with a slice of garden fresh Jersey tomato and as the Proofmeister says bada boop bada beep.
Here are some pictures from Saint Anthony’s festival, in Little Italy, Manhattan 2009.
This feast isn’t as big as the San Gennaro in September, but from what I could tell, the treats available were just as tasty. Check out the candied apples! The zeppoles were out of this world, and the aroma from the sausage and pepper stand was enough to make a hard-core vegan salivate for some pork. PROOF!
My good friend and photographer Steve Berrebi sent me this amazing picture that he created of a classic New York City roach coach. His website is located here. Steve has some really outstanding portraits and landscapes, check them out!
I love this image, it totally reminds me of distinct moments that I’ve spent procuring some lamb over rice (with extra falafel) at the end of a boozy night out. The chaps that work at these stands put up with some crazy behavior at night, and they must have some pretty thick skin to deal with all of the hi-jinks. Apparently the man in this image reluctantly went along with having his picture taken. You can tell by the way he is suspiciously eyeing the camera. It made for an even better shot though.
Since when does a thistle taste so good? Seriously though, artichokes are a delicious treat. They are a pretty big deal in my family, always present in the summer accompanying large plates of antipasta, pasta, sausage and peppers, and of course meatballs at the dinner table. You can’t call yourself Italian and not love these things.
How to prepare? It’s easy. All you need is garlic, breading, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and of course parsley… Also, don’t forget to trim the leaves! Steam these bad boys for about 45 minutes or until a leaf is tender enough to pull off without any effort. Proof.
Sloppy Joe’s. The name itself conjures the image of runny ground beef and tomato sauce on some stale hot dog rolls. Not exactly what I would call proof.
Luckily, at the Town Hall Delicatessen, (60 Valley Street, South Orange NJ) home of the original Sloppy Joe they have a different take on this classic American sandwich. Two kinds of cold cuts, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing. Two layers of rye bread, and also the best part… they butter the bread. Old school. It is so much nicer than the crappy school cafeteria incarnation that seems to prevail throughout the greater United States.
There is a long and convoluted story about how the original Sloppy Joe was discovered at the Town Hall Delicatessen… and like most sandwich tales it involves Cuba, Ernest “Papa” Hemingway, and tongue. Beef tongue.
As an aside, I must say that any sandwich that is delivered fresh from New Jersey in a cake box really appeals to me for some reason.
The “Original” Sloppy Joe cosists of coleslaw, Swiss and beef tongue. I have so far tried only the turkey, pastrami, and corned beef incarnations, and will not say I am a true Joe aficionado until I have had the tongue.
However this sandwich is amazing in any form. The folks in this South Orange, New Jersey establishment layer on the ingredients beautifully over the bread, with the care and love that a sandwich of this caliber deserves. Also it is divided into mini squares that just makes it super easy to pop one after another into your mouth. I usually have about 4 squares, but easily could do six.
I have oft pondered this vexing question… Which pancake reigns supreme between the Central European potato pancake and the traditional Korean kimchi pancake? Here at Proof Pudding, the winner of this heavy-weight battle takes all.
It is interesting that whilst both cultures are spread across the world on different sides of Asia, they happen to share the same food inspirations. Of course the pancakes, the love of all meat and fish, and most importantly the main staple of both diets… cabbage. Kimchi is essentially the Korean version of sauerkraut and vice-versa. Cabbage being an essential source of vitamin C, and also one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate and preserve it makes sense that farmers on both sides of the continent picked up on the usefulness of this amazing plant. I suppose that the cultural correlation should not be that surprising. Judging from those old M*A*S*H episodes (and TV knows all), the climate of the Korean peninsula makes it seem like Doestoevsky himself would be quite comfortable chillin’ in Seoul.
I decided to settle this with a right-proper PROOF-OFF. I judged by consistency, taste, accoutrement and of course pure satisfaction to find out which pancake truly reigned supreme…
Wow, this one was really really tough. Both pancakes are truly out of this world. I discovered one glaring issue however which tipped the scale. That while the Korean pancake can stand alone as a meal, the potato pancake is no-matter-what a side. The potato pancake is amazing, buttery, crunchy, and topped with some sour cream it is some fantastic comfort food. I just feel like the potato pancake will always be the side to the main attraction (normally the beef, veal or pork main course). It is an amazing side, but that is all that it can truly aspire to be. The flavors are muted so that they don’t take away from the main dish.
The kimchi pancake wins because it can stand alone. There is way more going on with the flavors. The kimchi is super tangy, salty and spicy, and the pancake itself has a nice crunchy consistancy. Dunk it in some soy sauce and get ready to party… PROOF!
The Central Europeans have it all figured out. On cold days facing the frozen Baltic winds, what’s the best cure for the hungry stomach and freezing body? Warm soup of course!
Okay, but what about something that will fill that crave say in the middle of a warm and sunny Spring day?
I give you cold summer borscht… That’s right, BORSCHT BABY. The recipe is pretty straight-forward, beets, beets and more beets. Along with some cucumber, veggie stock, cream, fresh dill… toss in a hard-boiled egg and you got yourself some proof! It’s like the Polish version of gazpacho… minus the tomato, the guitarists playing in E minor, and of course the matadors.