Happy Holidays!


El Centro Upgrade

I hadn't been to El Centro (the Hell's Kitchen offshoot on 54th and Ninth) since the summer, so I was pleasantly surprised earlier this week when I discovered their menu has received a little refresh.

While I was initially sad they'd seemed to remove all signs of molé (I'd wanted the pork chilaquiles, which--if I remember correctly--were in molé), I was happy to have been "forced" into another choice: the steak chilaquiles. When they arrived, rather than being in its usual little crock-like dish, it was beautifully arranged on a large plate. There was way less sauce, which made the chilaquiles wonderfully textured rather than soggy, and the steak was amazing--super rare, smokily-seared, and tasty. The flavors were so fresh and well-balanced, I didn't even have the desire to ask for extra hot sauce, which rarely happens.

With all of the new Mexican joints popping up in the neighborhood, this is one smart move by chef Jorge Pareja. I'm curious to see what else they've done.

El Centro, 824 Ninth Avenue at 54th Street.


The Truffle Oil Diaries: Bacon & Goat Cheese Pasta

Oh yeah, people, I took it up a notch! Last night, when I realized I was entirely over the extreme cold and holiday crazy time, I decided I needed some sort of treat. I remembered I had a little bacon in the freezer...and realized it would be fantastic with goat cheese and truffle oil. So, I went to town.

For a portion of hot pasta, I threw in a little browned bacon (about 2 slices worth, or about 1/4 cup of lardons) and tossed everything with a tiny bit of olive oil. Onto my plate it went, with about 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, a generous amount of freshly-grated Parmesan, some Maldon salt, pepper, and a nice drizzle of truffle oil.

And lo, it was really, really good. I may have to eat this every night in order to survive the next few weeks...

I Love Dollar Stores...

...because they're often a repository of oddball imports. I spied this pack of Brazilian Oreo-inspired wafers at the new 99-cent store by my place. Somehow I think the product name wouldn't fly in the States...


Paul McCartney & Jimmy Fallon Sing the Original "Yesterday" Lyrics

This clip from last night's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just totally made my day...

I Must Spend More Time Exploring Eldridge Street

Frankly, I need to spend more time wandering around the Lower East Side. There are so many old-school holdouts I've never noticed, and I'll need to get to them before gentrification pushes them out!

Who's up for breakfast at the Cup & Saucer Luncheonette (at the corner of Eldridge and Canal)?


Trying to Fix the Cursed Corner

Earlier this fall I posted this photo of what I called the "cursed corner" on 23rd and Tenth Avenue, where numerous restaurants have mysteriously failed. Apparently, the location's newest tenant, New York Burger Company, thinks it's a troubled spot, too, so they hired a variety of clergy to bless the space! Check out the story in today's New York Times.


Vintage Subway!

When does the MTA ever make a person's day? Well, it made mine when I accidentally happened upon the holiday vintage special. Off to run errands on the Lower East Side, I was unusually lazy this morning and took the train to First Avenue. When I alighted, I spied the vintage train on the uptown platform and went over to take a look. Told it would be back for another trip in an hour-and-a-half, I ran my errands and returned in time to make the journey up Sixth to Queens Plaza and back.

According to one of the MTA guys with whom I chatted, the cars on the train were built between 1931 and 1947. Some were kind of plain, a few were exquisite, and others unexpected, but all of them were truly amazing. 

Apparently, it's tough-going to get the powers that be to run this special December train. I hope the MTA is smart enough to continue to do this, though, because in this era of continuous fare hikes and service reductions, I've never seen happier customers. Everyone was smiling, chatting, exploring, and having a good time experiencing a bit of our wonderful city's history.

Bring back the green! Chrome is fab, but I kind of dig this color.

In the 1931 car.

The conductor yells his "Stand clear of the closing doors" from between cars.

Why aren't our subway cars this artfully beautiful today?
In the age before air-conditioning, the doors between cars were left open.

Surprisingly, I was told this super-modern car was from the 1930s!
The ceiling vents in the 1931 car.
The old ads were a great touch, too.

"So little more time" ??

I think the MTA should revive this classic ad...

This year, the vintage trains will run Sundays until December 26, from 10am to 4pm. The timetable is on the MTA's website.


Who's Going To Buy Me An Apartment With Rooftop Access?

...so I can plant a groovy-cool space garden like this? I promise I would regularly have you over for dinner! (Check out Grub Street's post on Bell Book & Candle here).

Bell Book & Candle rooftop garden photo by Danny Kim, from Grub Street/New York Magazine.


Truly Cheap Eats: The Tuck Shop

I was truly sad about the closing of the Chelsea Market People's Pops stand (read their farewell letter here, though it's not entirely clear to me that they're gone forever? And some of their signs are still up...). But yesterday, when I checked out the replacement, the Australian meat pie joint Tuck Shop (which has two locations in the East Village), my sadness abated...quite a lot.

The menu looks great (the Thai Green Chook Chili and Guinness Mushroom pies look particularly appetizing) and the vast majority of things are under $6. As I was just there for a late-afternoon snack, I decided to try the Pork and Sage Sausage Roll ($3.50), and--lucky for me--a batch of them had just come out of the oven. I think it may be one of the best of the kind, and well worth the dietary splurge: the pastry's really flaky (they must use lard for the dough), and the filling was incredibly flavorful and satisfying. Frankly, it's really bad that I know these tubes of goodness exist--at $3.50, this cheap eat is officially one of the top things on my go-to list. I'll definitely have to go back for a pie sometime very soon.

(Amusing side note: This meat-centric stand is across from the vegan shop One Lucky Duck. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum! Might there be a carnivore vs. herbivore smackdown in the future? I hope so!)

If People's Pops does come back, perhaps the two business could do a joint meat/pop thing? Pies on a stick? Pops in a pie? Oh, the possibilities...

Tuck Shop @ Chelsea Market: 75 Ninth Avenue, the stand is in the middle of the market, at the newish 15th Street Entrance. Tuck Shop in the East Village: 115 St. Marks Place & 68 East First Street.