Friday, November 19, 2010

Sandwich Round-up: The Catching Up Edition

Well well well.  Look who's back!  Yeah, it's only been what, two-plus months?  Well, that's what extensive travel for work'll do to ya.  Anyhow, I've actually eaten five sandwiches on the list in the interim between this post and the last, and one BONUS sandwich from the same website's list of the best San Francisco sandwiches.  Let's get right to them:

We begin with the Cemita Al Pastor from Tulcingo del Valle.  This was a far trek for me, and the establishment was a tiny Mexican deli  on Tenth Avenue that I was in for all of two minutes, as I had to rush back to the office before my lunch break was over.  The actual sandwich, which consisted of pork, avocado, pineapple, cheese and beans, was really delicious; the avocados in particular were fresh, and what I remember the most was the pineapple, which added a really surprising and delicious sweetness to the sandwich.  I'd love to go back there when I have more time and try more food.  3.8.

This is probably the worst picture of a sandwich I've taken, but the actual sandwich in appearance was totally non-descript.  However, it was anything but that in taste.  Let me back up here.  This is the Fried Whiting Sandwich from the Famous Fish Market in Harlem, which is officially the tiniest restaurant I've ever been in in NYC; you walk down three steps, stand in an extremely cramped space at a counter, order your food, and then when you get your food, you have to somehow get past the gigantic line of people on the stairs, out the door, and around the block.  What you're not getting from the awful picture; there were a TON of whiting pieces (at least eight or nine), there was delicious tartar sauce, and the sandwich itself, while very minimalist (we're talking some bread and some fish; the tartar sauce was optional), was utterly satisfying, with the fish being fried to perfection and the bread actually providing a nice moist counter to the dryness of the fish.  Definitely recommended.  3.9.

This is the Saltimbocca from Keste, a great pizza place in the East Village.  This has prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, and olive oil.  Now this sandwich is pushing what I'd call a sandwich; it's really pizza dough blown up and stuffed with toppings.  I guess you could call it a post-modern sandwich or something, but who cares when it's this good.  This was very simple as you can tell from the description, but every element was scrumptious, and it all blended together beautifully.  There was also virtually no grease; what you're seeing in the picture is actually olive oil.  Highly recommended.  4.0.

Next up we have the Marinated Anchovies sandwich from 'Wichcraft.  Again, not the greatest picture of the sandwich.  This had anchovies, egg, salsa of some kind, and onion, all on toasted white bread.  And guess what?  In a continuing trend from this batch of sandwiches, it was utterly delicious.  The anchovies were very high quality, and the other ingredients, especially the onion, came together wonderfully.  I should note that I decided to try some other sandwiches from 'Wichcraft, including the breakfast sandwich, and none were close to being as good as this one.  Again, highly recommended sandwich.  4.0.

Did I say there was a trend of the sandwiches being delicious in this post?  Well, here's where that trend ends.  This was the Kentucky Hot Brown from Bar Americain, Bobby Flay's restaurant.  I had a bad feeling about this sandwich going in, as it was outrageously priced ($18), which is almost never a good sign, and it was Bobby Flay, who I've always disliked as a chef and TV personality.  Also, as you can tell from this picture, it wasn't really a sandwich; it was bacon, tomato, and turkey on top of some French toast and COVERED in some fancy sauce (the website calls it Mornay sauce).  You had to eat it with a fork, which almost automatically disqualifies it as a sandwich.  Also, it just wasn't very good; the bacon was overcooked, the tomato was nondescript, and the turkey was overpowered by the sauce.  The toast and the sauce were both fine, but not that exciting.  Honestly, this is a rip-off, and not something I can recommend in any way.  2.0.

And now time for my bonus sandwich...

This is the Fried Chicken Sandwich from Bakesale Betty in Oakland, California.  I happened to have some time to kill in Oakland while I was in the Bay Area for work, and thanks to a recommendation from a friend and this being on the best sandwiches of San Francisco list, I had to try it.  And boy, was I not disappointed.  This was phenomenal, and unlike any other fried chicken sandwich I've had.  For one thing, the chicken was cooked PERFECTLY (moist fried chicken is not an easy thing to accomplish).  And as you can see, there was a kind of salad/coleslaw on the sandwich; it was fresh-tasting, vinegary, and very refreshing.  But what struck me about this sandwich was the complete lack of sauce, and even more impressive, I didn't notice it until I was halfway through the sandwich!  This is easily one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, and shoots to the top echelon of the sandwiches on these lists.  If this was in New York, I'd eat it at least once a week.  4.8.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sandwich Roundup

Honestly, I don't know why I don't update the day I eat these sandwiches, especially right now during a brief break from graduate school when I have more time.  Anyhow, here are a bunch more sandwiches, including the elusive in NYC Chick-Fil-A.  I will say that the sandwiches are getting much better the farther I go down the list, suggesting that the order actually does matter a bit.  Let us begin...

This is the Non Ti Scordar Di Me from Via Quadronno.  Via Quadronno is a small Italian panini bar on the Upper East Side that was far enough from a subway that I ended up ordering the sandwich ahead and quickly picking it up so I could make it back to work in an hour.  As a result, the sandwich had cooled off quite a bit when I ate it, and I therefore don't think I quite had the full experience of this sandwich.  As you can see, this was a very simple sandwich, with the main ingredients being bacon and brie.  Yeah, I know, hard to argue.  It was very tasty, but way too ordinary for a fifteen dollar sandwich. I have a feeling that if Via Quadronno wasn't in such a ritzy area that its prices would be much lower.  Overall, good sandwich, but definitely not worth the price.  3.8.  

This is a great example of a plain picture and a tremendous sandwich.  This was at a place in the village called This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, and oh man, was this outstanding.  This was a mutz, roast beef and gravy sandwich (which I tried and seriously disliked at John's Deli) and it was out of this world delicious; the beef was tender, the mutz, while nowhere near Lioni's mozzarella, was still very good and well balanced with the beef, and the gravy was actually somewhat subtle and like the mutz complemented the beef well.  The whole sandwich was also gigantic, and I had foolishly ordered "cheese fries" on the side, which turned out to be potato wedges drenched in Cheez Whiz.  In other words, fantastic but way too much food and grease for one meal.  Let's just say dinner was a light salad that night.  This though was a great find, and apparently some of my office mates have fallen in love with the place.  Perfect if you're in the mood for grease and roast beef.  4.6.

Sorry for the picture quality.  Tebaya is a Japanese chicken wing place in Chelsea, and I had a bizarre sense of deja vu going in, as I had been here years ago, before I worked in the general area, and thought it was fantastic.  When I walked in, that memory flooded back, as I immediately recognized the place and the owners.  And guess what?  Everything was as great as I remembered it.  This sandwich is basically tons of fried chicken stuffed into a burger bun and slathered with katsu sauce and...mayo.  Yeah, you heard me right.  It was absolutely lip-smackingly great, and the chicken wings you can see in the foreground were excellent as well.  This gets my highest recommendation.  4.7.

So I don't know what happened with the camera here, but blurry pickles!  Anyways, this is the Rueben Crusher from R.U.B. (Righteous Urban Barbecue), which is basically a reuben sandwich with smoked pastrami and grilled onions.  In other words, awesome.  There's  not a lot to write up here, but the sandwich was absolutely delicious, mainly because of the quality of the meat.  There were also two dipping sauces that were good enough to eat on their own.  Definitely recommended, although a bit too expensive (12 bucks).  4.4.


And last but not at all least, the elusive Chick-Fil-A sandwich!  There is only one Chick-Fil-A in New York, and it is located in of all places an NYU food court.  Four of us from the office went to try it out, prepared to do some elaborate fibbing and sneaking around to get in.  Much to our surprise and honestly delight, no fibbing or sneaking was necessary as we just waltzed right in.  The place is actually a "Chick-Fil-A Express," meaning that everything was just out there ready for the taking, including nuggets, waffle fries and the sandwich (my favorite thing was that you did have to request dipping sauce from the guy making the sandwiches, and there was a two sauces per person max).  

And the sandwich?  It was great.  I mean, it was clearly fast food (and the bun was a bit soggy from sitting under heat lamps too long), but the chicken was perfectly cooked and high quality, although very greasy.  My favorite food there was actually the chicken nuggets, but the fries were good as well.  Overall, not in the same tier as the best sandwiches I've had on the list, but close, and if I hadn't experienced the wonder that is Roll N Roaster it would be by far the best fast food I've ever had in New York.  4.0.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

LOST: A Reflection (Spoiler-Free)

So as I mentioned earlier, I finished Lost the other night.  Can I say I loved every minute of it?  No, I doubt anyone could.  Can I say I loved the show overall?  Yes, emphatically.  It is one of the most original, daring, provocative, and epic shows ever produced for television.  Sure, there were a couple of missteps along the way (the meandering beginning of the third season is the most obvious), but the way it all wrapped up was extraordinary, and again, extremely daring.  Lost is a show that lets you sit back and take in the story and the characters (all of which were brilliantly acted throughout, by the way) but also makes you think about extraordinarily heavy, philosophical subject matter, especially for network television.

The reason I think Lost feels so epic, and at times unwieldy, is that it attempts to be three completely different things at the same time.  It is a mystery show, where there are always as many if not more questions than answers regarding the plot, the characters, and the whole universe it takes place in.  It is also a character-driven show, where we get to witness many flawed and complex characters undergo tremendous change and make difficult and costly decisions.  And finally, it is a philosophical show, one that asks viewers to consider a fundamental philosophical debate and even ponder a concept as amorphous and heady as the meaning of life.  Let's go over each of these ideas.

The mystery aspect of Lost is one that I experienced much less than normal viewers of the show (whom I would guess are the vast majority of viewers), as I started from the origin story (which is the third to last episode in the entire series) and weaved my way through the episode order.  Therefore, motivations and even some characters that didn't get discussed or introduced until the final season were with me from the very beginning.  Therefore, I was for the most part able to avoid this, although once the show got to the island itself, there were plenty of cliffhangers and mysteries to be had.  This to me is by far the weakest aspect of the show, although it is certainly fun to get wrapped up in.  But with virtually every episode introducing a new mystery, and with many of them never being answered or revealed, the show was inevitably going to be a bit of a letdown in the end.  One could argue that part of the effectiveness of the show was how by taking the perspective of the survivors, and starting in the middle of the story, the viewer would feel just as confused and, sigh, lost as the characters they were watching.  This is true, but going through the show chronologically, there were still many mysteries that the survivors encountered that had never been introduced before, and I felt completely immersed and engaged with the characters the entire time.  Ultimately, the mystery part of the show was fun but ultimately didn't really pan out to having much relevance to the overall story.

The characters on Lost are rather incredible.  To have so many memorable and complex characters in one show is impressive, and the actors were all up to the challenge of making these characters come to life.  This to me is the strongest part of Lost; how rich the character development is, and how many wonderful stories there are.  I was uniformly impressed by all of the main characters, especially Locke, Desmond, and Ben, and even though there were extraordinary and unrealistic events that happened to all the characters, in the end they all felt remarkably human.  Going through the show chronologically allowed me to experience the character development in a more straightforward way than for normal viewers, and I loved it.

Finally, the philosophical debate of Lost.  This to me is the biggest reason that Lost was such a daring show.  The fundamental debate comes down to science vs. faith, and whether there is such a thing as fate or destiny, and whether we really have free will.  While these are cliched topics by now, Lost approaches them in a more serious and thoughtful way than I've ever seen a TV show do.  Ultimately, the show is remarkably religious, but in the least proselytizing way possible.  By couching the debate in actions and decisions that the characters make rather than through lengthy and heady discussions, Lost is able to make us consider these ideas through example rather than through theory.  While the show makes a conclusion as to which side it's on, the way it gets to that conclusion is beautiful and thoughtful, and since the universe Lost operates in is similar to but clearly not our own, the conclusion it comes to makes perfect sense within its own universe.  In our universe, the debate does and should rage on, and has been added to by Lost.

Lost is easily one of my favorite shows on television.  While it has some flaws, as an overall experience it is unlike anything else I can think of.  I highly recommend, if you've never seen it before, to watch the show chronologically like I did, as the strongest parts of the show, the character development and plot, become much more central than they would in the normal viewing experience.  The whole flashback gimmick on the show, while original and neat, ultimately doesn't end up having a real point beyond adding to the mystery, so watching it chronologically won't spoil some big surprise the show has waiting for you or anything like that.  In the end, Lost is a truly unique and astonishing artistic accomplishment, and one I can't recommend enough, flaws and all.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Checking in

Hey everybody.  I promise I'll post more soon, likely this weekend.  Believe it or not, I actually finished all of Lost, so instead of doing season roundups, I'll just post my overall thoughts on the series.  In a nutshell: Brilliant and extremely daring, and I'm not sure I would have thought so if I hadn't watched it in chronological order.

I also think I'm going to try and start posting multiple sandwiches at once, like I did in the last post.  I've eaten a couple since the last post, and I plan on eating a couple more this week, so stay tuned. :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sandwich Roundup

So while it's only been a week since I last posted on this blog, it has been a LONG time since I've posted about sandwiches.  Don't ask me why.  In any event, I've eaten quite a few sandwiches since I last posted about one, and I think it would be better if I just did a quick round-up of each one (with pictures, of course).  Here we go:

#80: Torta Ahogada at La Superior:

La Superior is a tiny Mexican place seemingly in the middle of nowhere in Williamsburg.  While there was some initial attitude from the waiters towards us (my uncle and I) for some unknown reason, things calmed down quickly, and we got a large variety of very tasty food (you can see the most delicious dish, roasted scallions, in the upper left corner).  Except for the torta ahogada, which was definitely the worst dish of the night.  It was fine, don't get me wrong (the meat was quite tasty), but the bread was completely pointless, and it was impossible to eat as a "sandwich," as there was way too much sauce that just made the bread mushy, and the sauce was so mild-tasting  that the bread ended up being just tasteless.  Go to La Superior for everything but this sandwich.  3.3.

#79: Hot Roast Beef with Mutz and Gravy at John's Deli

This is easily the biggest disappointment of this adventure so far.  When I went on food sites about this sandwich, there was nothing but enormous praise for it, and when I asked some local Brooklynites about it, they all proclaimed it as a Brooklyn institution, and a sandwich not to be missed.  It was a long trek to get to this sandwich (John's is only a couple of subway stops from Coney Island), and the atmosphere of the place did not disappoint; tiny, loud, hot, and full of locals, almost all ordering the sandwich.  Imagine my surprise when I dug in and the roast beef was tasteless, the bread was incredibly hard, and the mutz (mozzarella) was barely detectable.  The "midnight gravy" was delicious, but the rest of the sandwich was so tasteless that I needed to order a big side of the gravy to dip the sandwich in so there would be any flavor.  Maybe I went on an off day, maybe this adventure has made me expect more from a sandwich.  But no way can I recommend this sandwich as it stands now.  2.7.

#78, a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, won't be available until next month, as the only Chick-Fil-A in NYC is in a friggin NYU food court, and is closed during the summer.  Sigh.

#77: Brisket Sandwich at Blue Smoke

The picture may not make it look like much, but that's kind of the point; this sandwich was incredibly simple, with just a tasty bun and the brisket; no sauce needed.  And guess what?  It was unbelievably delicious.  I didn't think a sandwich was going to unseat the mighty Roll N Roaster as my favorite so soon, but I think it happened here (they're at least in a tie, with this slightly ahead).  The brisket was absolutely perfectly cooked, with just enough fat to bolster the taste of the meat.  I really didn't want the experience of eating this sandwich to end.  My highest recommendation.  4.8.

#76: Falafel Sandwich at Taim

Again, not the best picture, but oh my goodness, this was fantastic.  The falafel at Taim was voted the best falafel in NYC by Serious Eats, and while I'm no falafel expert, it was indeed outstanding.  But the sandwich as a whole was excellent too; the bread was soft and delicious, the Israeli salad was fresh and had lots of herbs that added greatly to the taste, the sauce inside perfectly complemented the sandwich, and perhaps best of all, there were TONS of falafels in there (seven by my count).  All this for five bucks.  This gets my highest recommendation as well.  Best part of this sandwich?  It's a ten-minute walk from my work.  :)  4.7.

#75: The Scott Baio at Lioni Heroes

Now THIS was a great experience, not to mention sandwich.  In the same general area as John's Deli (Bensonhurst), Lioni Heroes is an old-school Italian deli, complete with weird Mafia guys hanging outside (but being totally non-threatening), guys with thick New York accents behind the counter, and great vintage posters and music.  Oh, and they also have, get ready... over 150 different sandwiches available!  They're all named after Italian icons like Da Vinci and Frank Sinatra (heroes, get it?), and most feature Lioni's famous homemade mozzarella, which just might be the best mozzarella I've ever had.  I went with Jeni and my awesome co-worker Sue, and we had a blast.  The Scott Baio, as you can see from the picture, was a beast; I actually couldn't finish the whole thing in one sitting.  There was just tons of delicious stuff in it, from mozzarella to prosciutto to pesto to my favorite ingredient so far in a sandwich on this adventure: banana peppers stuffed with mozzarella!!!  It was just utterly delicious, and I have to go back to try other sandwiches.  My highest recommendation as well.  4.7.

#74: Cuma at Farinella

Compared to the last three sandwiches, this wasn't exciting at all, but was still quite good.  It was pretty small, and the filling, which was mostly eggplant, was fine but unmemorable.  What was delicious, and this has been too rare in this adventure so far, was the bread.  It was light, perfectly toasted, and tasty enough that I could have eaten it by itself.  Perhaps that's not surprising considering that Farinella is mainly a pizza place.  So in conclusion, solid sandwich, but not the most exciting.  3.8.

#73: Oyster Po' Boy at Cheeky Sandwiches

Cheeky Sandwiches is an utter mystery to me.  It is an unbelievably tiny place (the only seating is one bench against one wall; yes, no real table), and it doesn't even have a door sign; the only way I even figured out where it was was by its doormat!  It also happens to be on a street in Chinatown that, at least when I turned, didn't have a street sign either!  You got me.  The mystery is how the place stays in business; no one I've spoken to has ever heard of it, and believe me, it's not a place you're just going to randomly walk into because you see it on the street.  It took me a while to find it, and I had the exact address!

Anyhow, it's a New Orleans-styled place, and they had a number of po' boys.  This one, the oyster, was great.  The oysters were beautifully deep-fried (and I actually watched them be deep-fried behind the counter), the bread was dry but a perfect complement for the oysters, and the slaw on the sandwich was spicy and provided an excellent kick.  I'm not sure that I would make the difficult trek back there to try other sandwiches, but this was the kind of experience I love on this adventure: trying a place I would have NEVER tried (or in this case heard of) on my own.  4.0.

#72: Fried Chicken Sandwich from Georgia's Eastside BBQ

This is an extremely tiny BBQ place on the Lower East Side, and like Cheeky's, it took me a long time to find it even with the exact address (and strangely, it's on the same street, Orchard Street, that Cheeky's is on!  Hmmmm).  Anyhow, I got a strange vibe from the place when I walked in, and I had an instinct that the sandwich wouldn't be good.  Call it sandwich-sense.  I'll put it this way; I could have walked out of there without paying for the sandwich (when the cashier put my order in, I had put my money down on the counter, and she ignored it; when I tried to pay for it once the order came out, she seemed shocked to see money), and I almost got into an argument about not wanting a refill for my sweet tea (I insisted that I didn't want one, and the waitress kept asking if I wanted one).  Utterly bizarre.

And... the sandwich wasn't very good at all.  The chicken was fine, but there was nothing special about it, and the cheese on top didn't add a thing to the sandwich.  As you can see from the picture, the bun was non-descript.  Just a really lackluster sandwich and bad overall experience.  2.9.

PHEW!  All right, I 'll be going to the next one tomorrow, and hopefully I'll post about it right away.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thoughts on (Most Of) Lost: Season 4

Well, that was excellent.  After a pretty lackluster third season, the writers truly redeemed themselves with the fourth season of Lost, even with a writers-strike shortened season of only twelve episodes (albeit one three-hour episode).  Every episode mattered in this season, and something I thought might be a bit disastrous, bringing a whole new cast of secondary characters onto the show, ended up working beautifully thanks to each character feeling fully realized and each having mystery to their characters that even the flashbacks I've already watched didn't reveal.  There were also a LOT of deaths in this season, with a couple of them completely shocking me.  The acting was exceptional (especially Michael Emerson and Henry Ian Cusack), and the writing seemed much more focused and powerful than ever before.  With the events of this season, the first part of the story is over, and I don't think it could have been handled any better.  Bravo to all involved.

Two things to end this post with.  The first is why I said "most of Season 4" in the title.  The season finale mainly takes part over two nights and one very long day, and then the rest of the action in the present takes place "One Week Later" according to the title cards.  In the way I'm watching the show, the time shifts that end with John turning a wheel (I'm trying to be as vague as possible here) feel to the people experiencing the time shifts like they take place over the course of a week.  So I'm going to be creative here and just do the time shifts up to the end, and then return to the "One Week Later" stuff.  It may not be perfect, but it feels right.  We'll see.

The second is that I would be remiss if I didn't mention the spectacular episode "The Constant," which is the best episode of Lost I've seen yet, and I can't imagine any episode being much better.  It's a beautiful, emotional, and amazingly original tale dealing with time travel, and while it's mainly a character study of Desmond (and a showcase for Henry Ian Cusack to do some wonderful acting), it actually ends up being critical to the plot as well.  It's almost a stand-alone episode (which seems crazy to say with Lost), and is just superb television.  Kudos to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof for the episode, and to everyone involved with the production for pulling it off.  Easily in my top ten TV episodes of all time.

It will likely be a while until I post another one of these, as there is a lot more to watch in Season 5, and it gets way more complicated now because of all of the flash forwards from Season 4, the time shifts, and the stuff from 1977.  I'm going to do my best to watch it as quickly as I can, but no promises, as I have much school work and trip planning to do for my recruitment trips in the fall for Lang.  Anyhow, onto Season 5!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sandwich No. 81: Crispy Pork Sandwich at Bark Hot Dogs

Bark Hot Dogs is a quaint hot dog joint in Park Slope, just off the 4 train stop at Bergen Street.  All of the servers were extremely friendly, and the smells emanating from the place were fantastic.  I actually ordered both the sandwich and two orders of cheddar cheese fries for the office, because who can go wrong with cheddar cheese fries, right?  As it turned out, they were excellent, especially the cheese, which was rich, creamy, and extremely fresh tasting.  However, because I got it to go, they actually put the cheese in a small container and turned it into a dipping sauce instead of pouring it over the fries.  Still very good, but really not the same thing, right?  Anyways, the sandwich:

Not the best picture, I know.  While the whole place was somewhat overpriced (this sandwich was pretty small, and was $8.50), the quality level was super high.  The pork was beautifully cooked; it was tender and juicy even while being crispy on the outside.  The condiments, mainly pickles and slaw, were perfect complements to the sandwich, and for once, a place actually got the amount of condiments just right; they didn't overwhelm the sandwich at all, but added great texture and taste.

Bark is a place I would like to go back to, especially to try their hot dogs, which I've heard are excellent. If this sandwich is any indication, I'm sure everything there is very good.  4.0 for the sandwich.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sandwich No. 82: Sturgeon and Eggs at Barney Greengrass

Barney Greengrass is an Upper West Side institution; as you can see if you squint at the picture, they've been around for over 100 years!  They're very well known for their lox and their chopped liver, but as you can also see from the logo, their moniker is "The Sturgeon King."  It surprised me that all this time, after many trips to Barney Greengrass, I hadn't had their sturgeon even once, so when Sturgeon and Eggs was on the list, I was excited:

I had to get it on a bialy; I mean, come on! :)

Anyhow, it was a good but not outstanding sandwich.  The sturgeon was very tasty, but the eggs dominated the sandwich, so it was hard to actually taste the sturgeon most of the time.  At least the eggs were well cooked.  I dunno, the sandwich felt like kind of a wasted opportunity; the sturgeon was great, but there were so many eggs that the whole sandwich felt unbalanced.  3.4.

**Sandwich Advisory**

Just wanted to make a note here that I'm going to have to skip a sandwich and come back in a month, as Chick-Fil-A, which has only ONE location in all of NYC, is in an NYU food court (?!?!?), and the food court happens to be... closed for the summer.  So I guess this will be a good test of whether the rankings really matter.  That's all. :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts on Lost: Season 3

Well, I finished the third season of Lost much faster than the second season; it only took me a week, I believe.  I can see why it's considered the worst season by many critics and fans, and I'm not going to disagree.  There was a lot of wonderful stuff, but the story meandered quite a bit in the early parts of the season, and then in the last part of the season things seemed to happen way too fast; the pacing was just off.

Apparently, and who knows if this is really true, the backlash towards an episode called "Stranger In A Strange Land," which I thought was good but if I was watching the show week to week would have been annoyed by, is what convinced the studio execs to set an end date for the show.  Why was it this particular episode?  Well, because the flashback, which revolved around how Jack got his tattoos, was completely pointless, and because the episode introduced ANOTHER new mysterious character that only served to drag a plot point along, and who ended up getting completely dropped after just that episode, never to be seen again.  In the way I'm watching the show, where I didn't have to endure the flashback again and where I could just jump to the next episode immediately, it was just a brief display of the culture of The Others, and I actually didn't really remember the episode when I went back to review the third season.  But if I was watching the show week to week, I would have been very put off; the show didn't need to introduce random new characters at this point, it needed to move the plot along and start explaining some things.

Other notable things that happened in this season: two pointless new characters, Nikki and Paulo (who I had seen in flashbacks due to watching chronologically, but for a normal viewer they would have been retconned into scenes as early as the opening plane crash) were killed off in an incredibly disturbing way, a series-long plot line involving two main characters was ended rather suddenly and I'm not sure  satisfactorily, there was WAY more sex, and mentions of sex, than the past two seasons combined, Richard Alpert FINALLY starts showing up beyond flashbacks, Desmond continues to be an awesome character (and the episode with his flash to the mid-90s was probably the best of the season), Hurley's an awesome van driver, and the season finale featured a very well-done death of a main character; in fact, there was a whole lot of death this season, of survivors and Others.

Onto Season 4!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sandwich No. 83: Ham And Cheese from Char No. 4

Char No. 4, a small restaurant on Smith Street in Brooklyn, is about as perfect a concept as I can imagine: a whiskey/bourbon bar with a kitchen that specializes in barbecue and southern cooking.  I mean, c'mon!  The night started off right with a drinking experience I'd never had before: a bourbon and beer pairing.  It was shockingly great; I would have never thought you could pair such different kinds of alcoholic tastes well, but they did.  Jeni and I then shared a scrumptious arugula and goat cheese salad, and I was rather encouraged by what the entrees would bring.  Jeni got the brisket sandwich, I got the "ham and cheese:"

I apologize for the picture: it was very dark and it would have been hard to get a good angle without holding up the plate, which would have been tacky.  Adding to the difficulty was the fact that the sandwich was not exactly packed with meat and cheese inside, making it flat and hard to really get a decent picture of its contents.

In any event, unfortunately, this was the lowlight of the night.  Why?  Well, for one, WAY too many jalapenos, and hot ones at that.  Within two bites, I could barely taste a thing, and had to wait for a while.  But also, the bread was extremely over toasted, to the point where it was practically burnt, and the taste of the bread overwhelmed the rest of the sandwich.  After I ate the first half, I tried eating the second half as an open-face sandwich so that I could actually, you know, taste the ham and cheese, and that worked much better.  The ham and cheese, which tasted like cured pork pressed with sharp cheddar, was delicious by itself, and the golden dipping sauce, which I assume had either jalapenos or habaneros in it, as it was also hot, was very tasty and complemented the sandwich well.

So, in conclusion, I would love to go back to Char No. 4 sometime to try anything other than a sandwich (Jeni's brisket sandwich, while good and better balanced than mine, also had the same bread issue).  The rest of the food was excellent, as was the bourbon and beer pairing.  The sandwich though was very disappointing, although the meat was tasty.  Also, I should point out that Char No. 4 is very overpriced; this sandwich was 14 dollars, and for its size and quality, is one of the worst deals I've had so far.

3.3 for the sandwich.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thoughts on Lost: Season 2

All right, so I FINALLY finished watching the second season of Lost.  I had to take a personal hiatus from the show for various reasons before the last five episodes, and coming back after weeks away from the show made me realize a bit why the show may have been so hard to watch as it aired week after week.  It's not only a complex show, but there's a constant energy on the show to make something happen, to find answers, to get off the island (well, some characters want to stay on the island, but I digress).  When you take weeks off in between, that energy kind of dissipates for the viewer, and it becomes hard to get back in.  Also, the fact that the time the survivors spent on the island was "only" 100 days before some of them get rescued, and yet it took three YEARS to show all of that, again kind of kills the momentum.  But anyhow...

I had mixed feelings about this season, but very much enjoyed it overall.  I think this season had better  individual moments and episodes than a great overarching narrative (really, not much happens until the very end), and there were also some pretty iffy moments and character choices throughout.  The acting has remained top-notch, and the cinematography and music are still excellent.  Also, my strategy of going through this chronologically has continued to pay off, as episodes that would have greatly annoyed me if I'd seen them the way they actually aired were enjoyable (basically anything to do with the Tailies), and knowing character motivations gave some different twists to situations, like with "Henry Gale."

Things I liked:

The opening of the season, with Desmond going through his morning routine in the hatch, was genius; for someone who watched it as it aired, it would have been even more disorienting and cool, I would think.  Maybe the only time so far where watching the show "in order" spoiled a cool moment, although spoiled is really too strong a word.

Well, Ben, of course.  Michael Emerson is a fantastic actor, and the character comes across powerfully on screen.

There were a stretch of episodes, and I can't for the life of me remember which ones, but I think it included "Everybody Hates Hugo," where the endings were actually extremely sweet and happy; it was a welcome tonal change, at least for a little while.

All the character deaths, save for someone about to go on a date (I don't want to spoil anything here if I can help it due to some friends wanting to watch the show for the first time this way eventually), were extremely justified and good narrative choices, I think.

The whole pushing the button thing, and the eventual discovery of the central hatch with the observation screens and notebooks is a great idea, especially when it gets revealed what the real experiment going on is.

Things I didn't like:

The whole Tailies plot felt very heavy-handed, and if watching the show normally, would have been quite annoying to me.  The Other 48 Days, an entire episode devoted to flashbacks with them, and mainly featuring Ana Lucia being annoying and paranoid, would have irked me to no end, but breaking it up into small chunks scattered chronologically throughout the first and second season made it all much better.  Overall, the biggest letdown of the season.

There were a bunch of little plot points that didn't make a whole lot of sense, such as why Locke felt a need to slide under the blast door when he could have just crawled through the vent, or why Henry Gale even got captured in the first place.  Also, there's something that doesn't quite sit right with me as far as why the Others would go out of their way to convey a country bumpkin image to the survivors, but whatever.

Best episode: There wasn't one true standout, unlike the first season with Outlaws.  I loved both episodes that were Hurley-centric, especially Dave, which I thought was remarkably well-handled in terms of making even the viewer question reality.  Also, Maternity Leave was strong and very nicely written in terms of resolving the whole Claire amnesia thing.  Finally, I liked the season finale quite a bit.

Worst episode: Well, the obvious one is The Other 48 Days. What's strange is how once the Tailies were separated from each other and integrated into the camp, I liked each character much more, even Ana Lucia.  But I think the episode that I watched normally that I disliked the most had to be Fire + Water, where Charlie goes crazy and tries to basically kidnap and drown Aaron.  It made absolutely no sense, and was never really even resolved at all.  Sigh.

All right, on to Season 3!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sandwich 84: Chopped Liver Sandwich from 2nd Avenue Deli

2nd Avenue Deli has a long history in New York, long enough that it's no longer located on 2nd Avenue!  As soon as I walked in, I knew I was going to like it just because of the smells and the deli decor, but also because both people that interacted with me there called me "brother" and one gave me a hearty pat on the shoulder.  It took me a little bit to realize they were referring to me as a fellow Jew; it was awkward but kind of cool; I guess they don't get many Jews in there nowadays(?).  Anyhow, I ordered the sandwich, and it took a little while to get, but when I got back to the office and took it out of the wrapping, I understood why it took a little while:

That is A TON of chopped liver, easily the most I've ever seen on one sandwich.  And, guess what, the chopped liver was absolutely delicious: rich, thick, fresh-tasting.  It's been a while since I had an excellent chopped liver sandwich, but I can't remember one that was better than this, and dare I say it, I think I liked this chopped liver more than the liver at Barney Greengrass.  It's expensive (thirteen bucks), but this is a rare moment where I think the cost is worth it.  4.2 out of 5.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sandwich 85: Roast Pork Special at Shorty's

Shorty's, or Tony Luke's as it was originally known, is a fixture in Philadelphia.  I think it used to be a small deli in NYC, but now it's a small sports bar, and it was packed at lunchtime.  I went to this with my fabulous uncle Dave, who has been to the original Tony Luke's and loved this sandwich there:

The sandwich, called the Roast Pork Special, is made up of pork, provolone, and broccoli rabe.  The first bite was extremely broccoli rabe heavy, with almost no taste of cheese or pork, and both my uncle and I were a bit underwhelmed, as while the broccoli rabe was tasty, it just didn't seem like a well-balanced or especially pork-filled sandwich.  But then, as we kept eating it, the balance became much much better, and it ended up becoming absolutely delicious and satisfying with every bite.  The pork was beautifully cooked, the cheese was melted just right, and the broccoli rabe added a great kick and earthy taste to the sandwich.  We were both extremely impressed by the end, and as you can tell from the picture, it was a huge and filling sandwich.  Definitely one of the best I've had so far.  4.6 out of 5.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sandwich 86: Pig's Ass Sandwich from Casellula Cheese and Wine Cafe

This sandwich was an experience.  Not so much the sandwich itself, which to be honest was largely forgettable, but the restaurant itself.  Allow me to explain.

As soon as Jeni and I found the place, I could tell we were sort of in trouble, as there appeared to be a line out the door.  My suspicions were confirmed when we had to force our way through several people standing outside and into one of the loudest, most cramped, and most full restaurants I've ever been in.  The place was tiny, and there was almost no room to move around, but somehow three waiters and the owner/maitre'd, Brian Keyser, were able to navigate.  I put my name on the list and waited...and waited...and waited.  We were told it would be about 25-35 minutes, and I'll say one thing; having a former waiter as a maitre'd helps, as he was exactly right on the wait; 35 minutes later (and 35 minutes of standing outside in ugly, muggy, humid NYC summer weather because there was no place to stand in the restaurant itself), we were seated at a tiny corner bar i.e. not a table.  Needless to say, I had a feeling that the sandwich was not going to live up to the wait.

And it didn't.  The picture makes the sandwich look bigger than it is, and the flavors, while tasty (it was pretty much pork and cheese; hard to argue) weren't outstanding or anything.  In fact, Jeni and I were both pretty underwhelmed by all the cheeses we had, which was sad considering that Casellula is supposed to be famous for artisan and fancy cheeses.  The dipping sauce you can see see on the right was actually rather spicy (lots of jalapenos) and was arguably tastier than the sandwich.  Still, the pork was pretty good, and it wasn't as if I heavily disliked the sandwich or anything.  It just wasn't worth the wait.

However, once we were seated, Jeni and I had a blast.  Why?  Well, we had a fantastic waiter who was extremely knowledgable about cheese and wine, funny, and really took care of us.  There was a sense of community in the place I haven't felt in a restaurant in a long time (apparently it's packed every night, and almost always with locals).  And, the deserts.  Jeni and I felt that we had to try a Grasshopper sundae with creme de menthe liqueur poured on top, and it was scrumptious.  But then our waiter brought us, on the house, one of the best deserts I've ever had in my life.

These are, get ready, Goat Cheese Hazelnut Truffles.  Sounds crazy, but these were as good as if not better than any chocolate truffles I've ever had.  They were incredibly rich, crunchy, and substantial; I felt full after the one that I had.  Were these worth the wait to get into the restaurant?  Maybe, yes.

So, the sandwich?  3.3 out of 5.  The truffles?  10 out of 5.  :)

So, honestly, I don't think I can really recommend Casellula unless you're in the area at 2 in the morning (which is apparently when things quiet down in the restaurant), but it's a fun experience.  And those truffles...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sandwich 87: Pepper and Eggs from Defonte's of Brooklyn

Man, sorry about how long it has taken to post this.  I had this sandwich I think weeks ago.  Anyhow, Defonte's is apparently a fixture in Red Hook in Brooklyn, but somewhat recently opened a second location on Third Avenue in Manhattan, about 10 minutes away from my work.  Just a bit more convenient for me than going out to Red Hook. :)

Anyhow, the place has an interesting setup.  It's not wide at all, but extremely long, so while there's barely enough space to have tables, a place to stand in line, and the counter where you order, because of the length there are a surprising amount of tables, and the line has the potential to get very very long (fortunately I missed the lunch rush by about ten minutes).  It also didn't take too long at all to get my sandwich:

It's a little hard to see from that picture, but there was an ENORMOUS amount of food packed into the sandwich., especially eggs.  The sandwich consisted of eggs, bell peppers, jalapenos, and provolone cheese on a hoagie.  Everything was very tasty, but the eggs were a bit overcooked, which as you can imagine would greatly impact a sandwich made up of 75% eggs.  Still, this was a satisfying sandwich, and would have been even better at breakfast.  3.75 out of 5.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Toy Story 3 Just a Wee Bit Overanalyzed

This is absolutely brilliant.  A little itty bitty over the top, but pretty much right as far as I can tell.  :)

(and yes, I will continue sandwich blogging soon.  It's been laziness more than anything else, but I have several new sandwiches to write about, including two of the best I've had so far)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sandwich 88: Chicken Club from Cipriani Dolci

Sorry about not having a picture of the menu; I was in too much of a hurry to order after it took well over five minutes for us (my girlfriend Jeni and I) to even get menus, so I wasn't exactly in the mood to take pictures.  Anyhow...

Cipriani Dolci is a semi-fancy restaurant in the main concourse of Grand Central.  It serves Northern Italian food and has a shockingly huge menu (honestly, I was expecting two pages at most, but it was probably about six or seven, and with lots of items on each page).  As you probably picked up from the paragraph above, the service was absolutely horrible, at least at first.   We were in line to be seated, and while the people in front of us were being seated, we were gestured to a seating area.  Yes, we weren't even seated at a table, but had to just randomly pick one ourselves.  It then took a long time to get any service; we finally had to flag down a random waiter to get anything started.  Honestly, if I hadn't had the sandwich to eat, I would have left.

Once we finally got menus and ordered, things went much more smoothly.  We were actually given quasi-royal treatment, with three different waiters at various points, which I know is common in nice Italian restaurants.  The sandwich in question was a Chicken Club, was twenty dollars (!), and looked like this:

As you can see, it was a monster, and extremely filling.  It was also damn good.  The bacon was crisp and tasty, the sauce (which I couldn't quite place) was creamy, the bread was beautifully toasted, and the chicken was perfectly cooked.  Was it worth twenty dollars?  Well, I don't really think ANY sandwich is worth twenty dollars, but I certainly was pleasantly surprised and felt satisfied afterwards.  It wasn't transformative like Roll N Roaster was (and was sixteen dollars more as well), but it was quite good.

So a solid 4.0 for the sandwich, but that has to be tempered by the horrendous service, which admittedly got better as the meal went on.  Of course, it also took about six or seven minutes for us to get the check after we asked for it, and there were several other parties around us that looked distraught by how long it was taking them to get their check or what they had asked for (one woman asked for water, and it took close to as long for her to get it as it did for me to finish my sandwich).  I can't in good conscience recommend Cipriani Dolci because of the service, which is a shame, because judging by the sandwich and the smoked salmon that Jeni got, the food is very good.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts on Lost Season 1: SPOILER ALERT

All right, I'm alive!  I swear!  I've been in actually mostly overcast LA with family.  I've also had a lot of time on my hands, and have therefore been able to actually watch all of the first season of LOST.  And...

I give it an A-/B+.  It seems very clear that they were trying to throw things at the wall and see what made sense and what didn't, and what really got the ax were certain characters more than anything plot-related.  I was surprised that you actually do get to see the Smoke Monster's "physical" form at the very end of the season, and I was also surprised by some of the deaths on the island (I really liked Ian Somerhalder as an actor; he seemed remarkably natural, and the moment when he realizes that seeing his sister's death made him relieved is maybe my favorite acting moment in LOST so far; I was sad to see Boone go, but he really had become kind of a useless character to the plot).

The plot was actually remarkably strong and consistent, especially given the flashbacks that I've already watched.  It doesn't feel like the writers knew exactly where they were going yet with the narrative, but they had the general themes of humans being corrupt and faith/ good vs. evil down pretty strongly.  Some of the characters seem a bit over the top (Jin's behavior in particular is way too crazy, and when they FINALLY toned it down at the end of the season and gave a somewhat lame explanation, I was very relieved), and some deaths were welcome (Arzt, anyone?).  Also, the coolest thing about doing this so far in terms of watching the show in "real time" was watching the flashbacks of the tail survivors from Season 2 in conjunction with the first season.  I think I would have been annoyed if I had seen those in an entire episode but in chunks, they work quite well (it's also interesting to compare Ethan and Goodwin's methods, for those of you that know the show).

But some of the "flashbacks" I had issues with.  Nikki and Paulo are bad retcons in the story (you certainly never see them or hear them mentioned in any shots in Season 1, and yet they mysteriously appear in flashbacks to this time period in Season 3 (which I've heard is the worst season of the show).  They seem like the writers trying to come up with new material rather than valuable parts of the story.  There is also one major timeline inconsistency.  The flashback with Juliet and Ben having a dinner party apparently takes place on a very specific date according to one of the official LOST magazines that came out, and that date coincides with a statement made in the flashback about it having been three weeks since the plane crashed.  However, Juliet mentions that she's concerned about Goodwin because of how they "lost Ethan,"which I assume is a reference to Ethan getting killed by Charlie.  All well and good, except that Ethan's death doesn't happen in the timeline for another two or three days.  Whoops.  You could make an argument that she means that they've lost Ethan because he's gone rogue and has become obsessed with getting Claire back, but that's pushing it.  Clearly a mistake from the writers.  Still, it's the only real timeline inconsistency I've seen so far outside of the blooper of Sun's dog growing from a puppy to a full-grown dog overnight in a flashback, which is kind of amazing.

So I definitely want to keep watching; the plot, while a bit annoying at times, is better than I thought it would be, and the acting is consistently strong all around.  Here's to Season 2 and....Desmond! :)

Best episode: Outlaws.  This wasn't close for me, actually.  I LOVED this episode.  The writing was extremely strong, there actually wasn't anything directly mystical that happened (there's of course the implication that the boar is actually Duckett, but it's never stated as such), the flashbacks tied directly into the episode, the acting was awesome throughout, and the cliffhanger at the end was character-based rather than plot/mystery based.  As good an episode of LOST as I think there can be.  Honorable mention to the Pilot for its sheer audacity (the shot of the tail breaking off from the perspective of the main cabin of the plane is one of the most intense shots I've ever seen on TV.)

Worst episode: Homecoming.  One of the creators/head writers (I think it was Damon Lindelof) cited this as his least favorite episode of the entire series, and I think I understand why.  A terrible trope (amnesia) that the writers then have to deal with for the rest of the season (and more seasons later, I'm sure), flashbacks that really didn't tie into the story well, a major character death that kind of came out of nowhere, and pretty melodramatic.  I mean, it wasn't a terrible episode or anything, but there really wasn't a need for the episode to be so overwrought, and the amnesia thing seems pointless.  The whole thing could have been handled much more gracefully and thoughtfully.

Best character: Kate is the most realized character so far in terms of the writers really understanding hr motivations.  Jack, Hurley, and Sawyer are also all excellent characters with lots of potential, and Sayid is strong too.  But Locke has got to take it.  Terry O'Quinn is such a wonderful actor, and the character is both endearing and mysterious at the same time, not two traits you often see together.  His flashbacks also reveal an extraordinarily sad story, making his actions on the Island that much more understandable and powerful.

Worst character: Arzt, anyone?  He is extremely annoying every time he pops up, and actually ends up pretty deeply influencing the plot at the end.  Also, Shannon is pretty ridiculous and over the top; I have a feeling she isn't long for the show.  Jin is also very badly handled by the writers in this season, but his flashbacks suggest that things might get better, and Sun is strong enough of a character that everything should balance itself out.  A tie between Arzt and Shannon, only because Arzt is really a pretty minor character in the scheme of things.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thoughts on LOST so far

I am going to try and keep this post as spoiler-free as possible, as I know there are several people reading this blog that would like to try this experiment themselves.  However, there will be very minor things revealed here, like names and events that everyone knows about (the plane crashes, dude!).

For those of you that don't know, I am in the middle of a big experiment with the show LOST, which is as a newbie to the show (well, now former newbie), to watch the show in chronological order, not the order in which episodes were aired.  Doing this required an insane amount of research to get everything right, and as I'm now watching the show in the "present day" i.e. the crash and the events following the crash, I'm realizing that I must have missed some flashbacks, as relationships seem different in some cases than they would have been based on their last flashback, and in one case I'm not even sure how some characters ended up in Australia.

So it is still a work in progress, but I'm confident that I've watched the bulk of the flashbacks, and all I can say is if you haven't watched the show before, this is a GREAT way to do it, and I highly recommend it.  I was confident it would be when I started this both because I felt that the mystery parts of the show wouldn't be as interesting as the character development (and so far I've been very right about that) and because every one of my friends that had been religious LOST fans thought that it would be awesome.

Now that I've started watching the events on the island, I've been very pleasantly surprised by how consistent the characters have been even in the first episodes with their flashbacks, even though the flashbacks I watched spanned three seasons.  This isn't true in all cases, but it's clear that a fair number of the characters were fully realized by the writers even in the first or second episode, which is a great accomplishment.  Doing this has also made some scenes in the first couple of episodes be extremely poignant where they wouldn't have been otherwise (one in particular is an early exchange between Jack and Kate where Jack (and the viewer that hasn't watched the flashbacks) doesn't know Kate's past but unintentionally alludes to it and she has a strong reaction), and has made a couple of character's actions be even stranger and mysterious than they would have been otherwise (Sun and Locke in particular).

I will be trying to make the order I've been watching the show in available as soon as I can, but I really do want to watch the whole show first to ensure I haven't missed anything.  I'm also going to contact the creators of the show about this and see if I can get them to back it and give me some information about events that don't have a very clear date.  This will likely take a long time, as I have many episodes to get through.  However, I've also decided, contrary to my last post, to try and watch the show as fast as possible rather than only watching one day on the island per one day of viewing, so that I can finish this sooner rather than later.

Anyhow, great show so far!  I've been pleasantly surprised by this whole experience, and I hope that continues.  I'll check back in with any major development, like me contacting the creators or when I finish.  Now get LOST. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sandwich 89: Eggplant Parmesan from No. 7 Sub

No. 7 Sub is an offshoot of a restaurant in Fort Greene called No. 7, which is a more traditional restaurant.  No. 7 Sub, which is located in an odd spot (more about this in a second), is just a sandwich shop, and located in Manhattan.  Its address is the same as the Ace Hotel, and it was advertised as being in the lobby of the hotel.  I got off the subway and started walking to the corner to enter the hotel, but as I was walking, I glanced a place on the street that looked like a trendy sandwich shop.  Before I got to the corner, I realized the likelihood of two trendy sandwich shops within a fifty-foot radius of each other was unlikely, and walked back to discover that indeed, it was No. 7 Sub.  So yeah, NOT in the lobby of the Ace Hotel.

Anyhow, the place itself was tiny, and the employees seemed both hipster and WAY too enthusiastic about their job; they were joking with each other and had big smiles on the whole time.  It was honestly surreal.  But I got my sandwich quickly, and took it back to the office:

Not the most attractive sandwich of all time, but it was pretty tasty.  The eggplant was deep fried, and the parmesan cheese was melted and delicious.  There were also barbecue chips inside of the sandwich, which gave it a nice crunch and added flavor.  The bread was also really good and crisp.  Overall, not a very memorable sandwich, but solid all around.  It was somewhat expensive ($9) but it was large and tasty.  3.6 out of 5.

Updates, updates, updates

So sorry about the lack of updates lately; no good reason except that I've been watching an average of three hours of LOST flashbacks a night to try and get to the "present day" in the show as early as possible.  And I actually did it!  Here are some quick bullet points about what's up with me:

  • Everything's good, but the summer quarter of grad school has started up, making me have much, much less time to update.  I will though, I promise.
  • The sandwich adventure is postponed for the next couple of weeks while I take a vacation in Los Angeles.  If I have a car, I may try and do some of the sandwiches on the LA list from the same website.  I do have one more NYC sandwich post to make, which should happen tomorrow morning.
  • I'll post a summary of my thoughts on going through every LOST flashback tonight.  Short version: It was AWESOME, and I can't wait to formalize the order and make it available in some form to the general public.  Having watched a portion of the Pilot (which takes place over the first two days on the island, so I only watched the footage from the first day last night), knowing the character's back stories early has already made several scenes way more poignant than they would have been otherwise.  Also, I plan now on watching the show in "real time," in other words watching making each daily viewing only cover one day on the island.  The survivors spend something like 100 days on the island, so it'll take me 100 days to watch their adventures.  Should be a blast. :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sandwich 90: Harissa Honey Roasted Chicken Breast from The Smile

So sorry about how late this post is.  I wish I had an excuse, but it's really laziness/a three day weekend. :)

Anyhow, The Smile is a very hidden establishment; there's barely any signage for it on the street, and it's down a flight of stairs.  Inside, it has a nice homey, small cafe feel, with waitresses wearing stylish farm girl outfits (of all things) and very low light.  They had some delicious things on the menu such as basil-infused lemonade, but this sandwich was the reason I came:

Beyond the honey roasted chicken breast sandwich, there were also homemade potato chips and scrumptious pickled veggies on the side.  The sandwich was just fine, but not spectacular.  For one thing, there was barely any spice to the dish despite it apparently being made with harissa.  It was also chicken breast, which is never the most exciting meat choice in terms of taste.  But it was a well-balanced sandwich; you could really taste each individual ingredient in every bite.  It was quite expensive for what it was ($11.50), and definitely not worth the price (if it was, say, $8 I'd be happier), but I did leave the meal satisfied.  3.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sandwich 91: Cheesesteak from 99 Miles to Philly

99 Miles to Philly, which really is a cool name for a restaurant, is so named because of a MapQuest printout with directions from the address of the restaurant to a central location in Philadelphia that show that indeed, it is pretty much exactly 99 miles from those two points on the map.  This place is ten minutes away from my work, and clearly caters to a college crowd; it was oddly empty at noon, but stays open until at least one in the morning most nights, and basically serves up nothing but medium-priced sandwiches and fries.

The sandwich for today was, of course, a Philly Cheesesteak.  This was a situation where I honestly wasn't sure exactly what the list meant for what exact sandwich to order.  At 99 Miles to Philly, you can greatly customize your sandwich beyond the basics of cheese, steak, and onions.  The price listed in the list was $6.95, which was the base price of the sandwich without any customization, but the ingredients were very different from the basic cheesesteak, and would have cost more.  I ended up asking the guy behind the counter what he recommended, and he said a basic sandwich with provolone cheese should do the trick.  I followed his lead and got this:

I had a similar experience with this sandwich to the one I had with yesterday's sandwich, the pulled pork sandwich from Dickson's.  There was nothing inherently wrong with it, and the meat was quite tasty, but there was just nothing exciting about it, and I've had much better cheesesteaks, both in New York and in Los Angeles.  I should point out here that I ended up getting the combo of waffle fries and a drink with it, and the waffle fries were top-notch.  My co-worker Nicole and I devoured them in no time.  Anyhow, 3.4 out of 5.

Quick update on LOST

Just a quick note.  I've decided to not update about LOST here, mainly because I don't think anyone reading this blog would get much out of it, and having to pay deep attention to everything in order to coherently write about it is sort of killing my enjoyment of the show.  So I'm taking notes while I watch, and am also compiling the order I'm watching the show in, so that I can submit it to a LOST website after I watch the whole show (and I'll likely post it here as well).  I may occasionally check in here about the show, but regular updates won't be happening.  Anyhow, stay tuned for the next sandwich later today.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sandwich 92: Pulled Pork Sandwich from Dickson's Farmstand Meats

Dickson's Farmstand Meats is located in the Chelsea Market, and has an interesting layout.  The actual amount of space that a customer can stand in is very limited, but they have a giant kitchen in the back (easily three or four times as big as the space for the customer)  that is totally exposed.  Also, Jack Dickson, the namesake of the place, was standing at the counter and would have taken my order if a huge tour group hadn't come in.  So while I was waiting for the sandwich, I got to hear about the history of the place, and how Jack eschews the meat-packing industry, instead buying all of his meats from local farmers (he literally drives to the farms every week).  They also had Sloppy Joe's that looked very tasty, and apparently a burger patty that consists of 80% beef and 20% bacon!  Anyhow, here's the sandwich:

The slaw on top was billed as "spicy," but it really wasn't very spicy at all.  In fact, that was the problem with the sandwich in general; it was all very tasty and of good quality, but just didn't have any punch to it.  This also suffers from there being some truly excellent pulled pork, and just pork sandwiches in general, throughout New York City.  One would really have to have either an extraordinary sauce or spice or the meat would have to be spectacular to compete, and none of those things are here.  Also, the nine dollar price tag doesn't help matters.  Overall, it was a satisfying sandwich, and there was nothing inherently wrong with it, but you can do much much better in NYC (and I believe the list has other pulled pork sandwiches much higher up).  3.6 out of 5.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sandwich 93: Bombay Pav Vada from Sukhadia's

Sukhadia's is in the heart of one of my least favorite areas of New York, namely the area right around Grand Central.  There are endless tourists and depressed-looking businessmen, and the restaurants in the area tend to, for lack of a better word, suck (there is a huge exception to this general rule: Riki, an awesome Japanese bar-food place about five minutes away from Grand Central that I go to at least once every two weeks).  When I walked into Sukhadia's, I was not encouraged.  It was right around noon, and it was a huge space, and there was no one inside.  The cashier, who was also the person who made my sandwich, took a while to even acknowledge me.  But once he did, he was extremely friendly, actually explained the sandwich to me, and recommended I try the hot sauce on it, which made me feel a bit better.  It took a very short amount of time to get the sandwich, and while it was small, I was intrigued.  I was even more intrigued when I opened up the package in the office...

Notice the awesome juxtaposition of the green Yankees hat and the green chutney sauce.  There is an important thing to know about this sandwich: it is totally vegetarian, as is all the food at Sukhadia's.  Inside the sandwich, there were two deep-fried potato and garlic balls.  I'm not really sure what the bun is, but it was yummy.  In fact, the whole sandwich was pretty great.  The potato balls were delicious, as was the chutney sauce.  The sauce was perfectly spiced; it wasn't overwhelmingly hot, but it still packed a punch and was quite tasty.  For a small sandwich, it was extremely filling; I don't know what they deep-fried the potato balls in, but I had some serious heartburn for a couple of minutes after finishing the sandwich, but it was worth it.  For four bucks, this is a great deal, especially in such a tourist trap area with inflated prices all around.  3.7 out of 5.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sandwich 94: Chicken Talera Sandwich at Mangia

Mangia is a semi-upscale sandwich/salad/pizza place that has four different locations all throughout Manhattan.  I went to the one closest to my office on 23rd Street.  It was pretty crowded (and seemed full of tourists, oddly enough), but it didn't take too long to get the sandwich.  It was prominently displayed on the counter as a featured sandwich, and the people making the sandwich seemed to almost have it pre-made, as I never saw them actually put it together, but instead they just threw something right into the oven, and it resulted in this:

I was underwhelmed by this sandwich.  The two best things about it were the talera bread, which has close to the texture of a croissant, but has more body to it, almost like challah, and the chipotle aioli mayo, which was very tasty.  But the avocado and tomato were of pretty low quality, and the chicken was, in a word, boring.  It was also a pretty small sandwich for a nine dollar item on the menu.  Not really recommended, but there's a good chance that the pizza at Mangia could be very good.  2.9 out of 5. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sandwich 95: "Llanero Completo" at Patacon Pisao #2

Patacon Pisao #2 is a tiny restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens.  When I walked in with my friend Lucian, there was no one in the store, and the guy eyed us a bit suspiciously, I would imagine assuming like the cashier at Roll N Roaster last night that we were not from around these parts.  He even asked us how we had heard of the place.  When I told him about the list, he nodded and said that the guy who wrote the blurb about the sandwich was actually describing a different sandwich than the one he named on the list!!!  It was a subtle difference, but the sandwich he was describing was a "Full" and the sandwich he named was a "Llanero," which actually has less stuff in it than what was described in the writeup.  We trusted the guy behind the counter and ordered the Full, and were told it would take a little bit to prepare.  In the meantime, we tried some decent but not that great empanadas, and I tried out a brand new Venezuelan soft drink called Freskolita:

You can also see the empanadas and the sauces for the empanadas behind the drink.  There was so much sugar in the drink that the can was remarkably heavy, and almost unbearably sweet.  Still, I couldn't complain; it was a new experience, and that's really what this adventure is all about.  Speaking of new experiences:

There's the sandwich.  Yes, the giant thing on top is a plantain; there was one on the bottom as well.  Verdict: not the greatest sandwich of all time; in fact, I was pretty disappointed.  The carne asada was tasty, but there was way too much other stuff masking the meat to be able to really taste it.  Honestly, I wished I'd had the sandwich the reviewer mistakenly put down on the list, as it apparently doesn't have all the other fillings.  This was the exact opposite from Roll N Roaster last night, where the cashier told us that they didn't have lettuce and tomato in their sandwiches.  That's what this needed; to only be the meat and sauce.  But even beyond that, the plantain was not to my taste; it was way too dry and distracted from the rest of the sandwich.  This though I can chalk up to a personal taste preference; I could see how someone could love it, as it has a very distinctive taste, but it just wasn't my thing.

I know I just railed against the sandwich, but I was actually quite satisfied by it.  It was very big, tasty despite all the unnecessary fillings, and again, the carne asada was good, though not great.  It wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't memorable either; I can barely remember how it tasted beyond the plantain even writing this only a couple of hours later.  If you want to try a new cuisine or type of sandwich, then this might be worth it if you live nearby, but I wouldn't make a special trip.  3 out of 5.