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!