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.