Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Went to There: Num Pang

All people currently residing in the state of Alabama need to get back to New York right away because Spring has sprung and with it, sandwiches. This saucy catfish delight comes from Num Pang, a little Cambodian storefront sandwich shop on E. 12th St. You order from a window facing the street, and then you can enter into a narrow little vestibule to watch them make your sandwich. A spiral staircase leads to a casual seating room upstairs, but being that it was a sunny day (another one!) we took the sandwiches to Union Square for a picnic.

This was a fabulous sandwich. The catfish was very fresh and lightly panfried -- just enough to create a slightly crusty exterior, especially along the edges of the cut. It was slathered with a chili mayo -- mayonnaise mixed with sriracha, my friend speculated -- and combined with cucumber, fresh cilantro, and pickled carrots. The bread was a real standout -- a perfect mini-baguette from Parisi bakery, golden on the outside and soft within. The size of the sandwich was perfect -- big enough to be filling (and cost appropriate) -- but not sickening like some monstrous deli sandwiches.

Other enticing flavors that warrant future visits include: coconut shrimp; chinese eggplant and cauliflower, and Spanish mackerel with leeks.

Went: Joe's Fabulicious Ice Cream

I've actually never been a crazy ice cream eater.  There's a great picture of me at maybe 3, 4 years old eating a pumpkin ice cream come while sitting on my dad's shoulders, the ice cream running down into his hair, and this fall, I had a resplendent ice cream experience at The Creamery in Lancaster, PA, where I had Pumpkin Whoopie Pie ice cream in a pretzel cone (maybe I should stick to a signature flavor).  Two weeks ago, while driving toward Gulf Shores, AL, we passed by a truck, parked in a lot, with a sign reading "Joe's Fabulicious Homemade Ice Cream."  We'd been stopping constantly on what was becoming a very, very long car trip for various other culinary tourist attractions, and by the time we saw Joe's, there was no stopping until we saw the ocean.  That done, however, Fabulicious, that one enticing word, fabulicious, drew us back along a 15 minute stretch of highway away from the water.  We approached the ice cream truck only to be told that the ice cream wasn't ready yet--Joe's was set to open in the morning, we'd just have to come back.  When GV told them our sad little tale of travel and food lust, we were invited to return in two hours, when the ice cream would have, by that time, set; we could be their first customers.  And so we drove away to fill up on dinner--a restaurant/shrine to Jimmy Buffet called LuLu's (I had fried green tomatoes for the first time, and enjoyed their home brewed Crazy Sista Honey Ale).  Upon our return to Joe's we were treated to three massive ice cream cones--vanilla in home-made waffle cones--that were absolute, creamy perfection.  We got a tour from Joe of his facilities, saw the ice cream makers he himself constructed, talked about how he first started making ice cream so many years ago, were shown the mix he developed for his ice cream.  We gave him his first dollar bill, and he and his wife gave us three Cajun Pistols to take home with us.  All told, we spent probably 45 minutes with Joe, and his truck, and his ice cream--and we ate what was most likely a pound of ice cream each.  The ice cream cone was delicious, the southern hospitality was charming, and we wish Joe and his Fabulicious Ice Cream much luck in their new location!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Went To There: OBAO

On the first sunny day after a seemingly endless spell of rain, my mother and I delivered a batch of homemade fish soup to Grandpa and set off in pursuit of our own fishy treats -- I chose OBAO. Being that it was sunny and unseasonably warm, we weren't really in the mood for noodle soup, which is the OBAO specialty. However, the menu has a sizable selection of vermicelli noodle dishes, which made for perfect warm weather food.

The restaurant occupies a long, narrow space on 53rd street between 2nd and 3rd; the front room is more casual, and you can watch the chefs prepare your meal in the open kitchen. The back room, where we sat, is a little quieter and it looks upon a back garden which seems to have a fire pit in the center. The menu offers a wide selection of proteins in various categories: soup noodles, wok noodles, vermicelli noodles, bbq, and salads. The beverage menu has some really interesting choices, including preserved plum soda and a jackfruit shake, as well as a nice beer selection. We ordered vermicelli noodles with shrimp and an order with flank steak, as well as some crispy spring rolls and a couple of iced black teas.
The food was good, but not transcendent. My shrimp was really well seasoned, and it came with a nice cucumber salad with scallions and peanuts. The little bowl of lime dressing didn't have as much flavor as I wanted, and I would have enjoyed a thicker sauce to coat the noodles -- drenching my dish in Sriracha helped the situation but also compromised the flavor of the shrimp. I enjoyed the meal, but I probably should have gone on a colder day, because the Mekong Fisherman soup and the Malay's Char Kway Teow (wok noodles with shrimp, oyster, and chili) sound excellent.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Num Pang

21 E. 12th St.

I just can't stop thinking about sandwiches. So sue me. Since I saw this picture on Serious Eats last week it has been haunting me; I saved it to my desktop and saw, to my delight, that the image tag was "shrimp sammie." Even more appealing, upon perusing Num Pang's menu, is the peppercorn catfish club. And the market pickles. And the chocolate coconut joy cookie. And -- this never hurts -- the chalkboard menu. Ga ga ooh la la.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Went to There: Chris'

The best part of this experience was the restaurant itself--its menus from the many eras the restaurant has seen, one featuring 8 cent dogs, and 15 cent pig's foot,  the sage green wooden cupboards behind the counter, the candy shelves that cry out for penny candies, the dusty porcelain from bygone days with Chris' spelled out along a saucer rim.  The hot dog itself--GV and I split the "two weiners in one bun" (upon ordering this, a very robust female customer burst out in almost wicked laughter)--was nothing to write home about.  Dear Mom, Chris' hot dog was a hot dog like many others.  It's appeal was more in the atmosphere surrounding it, and the idea that in 1917, someone had been at this counter eating just about the same thing.  The restaurant stands out on a block filled with empty store-fronts, most of which bore paintings representing biblical stories on their boarded up windows and doors.  A man was slowly mopping the front entryways to these shuttered shops.  The street stems off the intersection where Rosa Parks boarded that bus not so very many years ago, and there's a sign there.  And not much else.  I'm glad I went to there, glad it's still a place one can go to.