Thursday, September 24, 2009

Posto: Gramercy Delight

Posto Pizza,New York,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Posto Pizza,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
Posto Pizza,New York,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Posto Pizza,Formaggio Bianco,New York Strip Steak,New York,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
American Pizza has a lot to learn. For all of its strengths, it's still a cocky, messy, "gluteny", overstuffed, wreck. And I'll let you in on a little secret, it's days are numbered. Informed restaurant owners are finally starting to catch on to the fact that European style Pizza, most notably Neapolitan, is what the majority of us want. With the health and fitness craze still going strong and the Atkins diet continuing to be modified and adapted by people all over America, it's getting harder and harder to justify eating a Pizza that has more than two days worth of calories and more fat forming, sleep inducing Gluten than just about any other food item.

No, the tide is turning and we're now seeing gorgeous, European style, Thin-Crust Pizza taking over and kicking the crap out of the conventional thick crust, calorie laden American Pizza. Even the bountiful Chicago Style, Deep Dish Pizzas, are taking a hit as more and more European style Pizza joints are opening up in the Windy City. I will be in Chicago on Saturday and I plan to go to one of these newly established Pizza joints that are attracting so much attention. In a city whose Pizza roots are heavily planted in the Deep Dish soil, this changing of the guard should be an interesting battle to watch. It may not happen, but I think it might. As American's develop their taste buds a bit more and refine their sense of what is and isn't good, I think the winner will undoubtedly be Neapolitan, or some other form of European, Thin Crust Pizza.

Anyway, that is Chicago. I haven't eaten there for a while and that is for another blog next week, or possibly the following week. For now, let me tell you of a place a little closer to home. My home anyway. It's called Posto. And as the tag under their name implies, they make "Thin Crust Pizza." And they make it really, really well. Located on 18th and 2nd Ave. in NYC, Posto has been around since 2004 and they have proven ultra thin crust Pizza is now the "in thing." When I say thin crust, I'm talking seriously thin. Credit card thin. But, that doesn't mean that the toppings fall off onto your lap while you're trying to eat a slice. Somehow they manage to stay on... most of the time. I ordered the Formaggio Bianco with Fresh Ricotta, Fresh Mozzarella, Spinach and Fresh Basil. It was ready in about 15 minutes and before I knew it, I was folding a slice into a nicely formed "Double-Decker, Pizza Sandwich."

All the ingredients in Posto's Pizzas are as fresh as can be and they really shine in the final product. The Mozzarella is especially fresh, with none of that gluey crap you get at the big Pizza chains. The Basil tasted like it was grown on the roof top garden of someone who lives on the Upper East Side, very fresh. And the Ricotta was rich, creamy and delicious. When I finished I didn't feel bloated and full, like I do when I eat badly made Pizza from most downtown Pizza Joints. No, I felt like I had just eaten something really special. A Pizza that should be the new norm in this country. And probably will.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Posto on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cafe Mogador: New York's Little Gem

Cafe Mogador,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Cafe Mogador,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
Michelin Guide,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
Middle Eastern Eggs,New York,Taylor Young Photography,Passport Foodie
New York,Moroccan Eggs,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Homefries,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
Orange Juice,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
Turkish Coffee,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
Turkish Coffee,Cafe Mogador,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,New York
There are certain restaurants that only a local could possibly know about. Which is why, whenever I can, I try to hook up with people from the area I'm visiting. Luckily, I've lived in New York before and know of a few choice restaurants. Most, appear to be nothing more than holes in the wall with bad signage, etc. But once you step inside they are absolute gems. One of my favorites is Cafe Mogador. Located in the East Village on St. Marks Place, between 1st and Ave A, Cafe Mogador is that quintessential Village Brunch joint. It's a place the locals go when they're in the mood for a lazy, tasty brunch. Usually after a long night of drinking in one of the best nightlife cities on the planet. It is not uncommon to see a line of trendy, ubber-cool New Yorkers calmly waiting outside for a table. It is the Brunch I crave more than any other. I even crave it more than that fantastic, diverse and incredibly expensive Brunch at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.

Once inside Mogador you are greeted by friendly waitstaff, who look like they actually enjoy what they're doing. Most of the time they just tell you to sit anywhere you want, or if they're busy they'll seat you. There are no bad seats in the restaurant. However, I prefer to sit on the right side of the restaurant by the open terrace. In the fall and spring it's an ideal people watching spot. Like Hemingway, (think of Harry's Bar in Venice) I try to sit myself in a corner, hidden away from the world. At Mogador they have made this very easy to do.

The menu is pretty straight forward and it only took a few seconds to decide what we wanted. Our waitress brought out our fresh squeezed Orange Juice in what felt like seconds. It was pulpy, pure and delicious. This was followed closely by my Middle Eastern Eggs, (they serve all Organic Eggs by the way) which consists of Two Eggs any style with Hummus, Tabouli, Salad and Za’atar Pita. On the other side of the table my wife's Moroccan Eggs, which are Poached and come with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Homefries and Pita Bread made me wish I'd ordered that instead. However, everything is good at Cafe Mogador and I've found it best not to dwell on what you didn't order and just order more food if you need it. That's exactly what we did with the Homefries, when we ordered a side of them for the table. I only wish we'd had more Spicy Tomato Sauce to accompany these golden, browned beauties. Putting Ketchup on them would be like putting a dress on a 15 year old boy. And the result would probably be the same. A total irregularity, which would have monumental, lifelong consequences.

All the tastes flow together so well it's almost poetic. The Pita scoops up the incredibly tasty Tabouli and Salad, then slides under the Hummus topped with Olive Oil like they were meant to be, then into my mouth, all the tastes combined into perfect harmony. The Eggs are perfectly cooked and pair well with everything else on the plate. It is one of those rare meals when no matter how much you eat and no matter how full you get, you always want more. I ended my meal with a very strong cup of Turkish Coffee. The grounds stuck to my teeth and the caffeine absorbed into my system with lightning speed. And with that, I was ready to tackle Manhattan. Tackle may be a tad dramatic, actually. My day consisted mostly of sleeping on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Nothing on my mind but my cigar, my wife and the beautiful meal I just ate. Not a bad day.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Café Mogador on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 14, 2009

Oyamel: Nouveau-Mexican... What's That?

Oyamel,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Guacamole,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Tacos,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Grasshopper Taco,Washington DC,Taylor Young Photography,Passport Foodie
Pollo con mole poblano,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
I'm going to be perfectly honest here, I have only had great, authentic Mexican food three times in my entire life. Like most Americans when I think of Mexican food I think of Tex-Mex. That is, the Americanized version of Mexican food, toned down for our fragile taste buds. Chips and Salsa mandatory. However, the authentic Mexican I have had delighted and inspired my palate more than almost any other food. It's simple food, done well and when done really well tastes like nothing else on Earth.

Sadly, it seems that my love for Mexican food is shared by many others and those greedy little restaurant owners are now catching on to the Mexican-done well craze and creating, what I like to call, Nouveau-Mexican Restaurants. That is, restaurants which are trendy, attract women who wear skirts that look more like large rubber bands and men who wear watches the size of small countries and are probably worth about as much. The portions are not big and generous, but instead shrunk to match those mini-skirts. I'm sorry, but that isn't Mexican food.

I am all for trying new things and when I saw a bustling Mexican restaurant called Oyamel in Washington D.C. I decided to give it a try. Perhaps I was wrong and this place defied the Nouveau-Mexican trend. We were greeted by two very nice hostesses who told us that without a reservation there would be about a 20 minute wait. Which was fine by us as we were in no hurry to get back home. While we waited at the bar we saw dozens of 20 and 30-somethings enjoying fresh Chips and Salsa in little metal spiral vases. They looked more like fancy pencil holders, but I wasn't in the mood to judge. As soon as we finished our Dos Equis we were called over to the hostess table to be seated.

A very strange thing was pointed out to me about Oyamel's menu. It says, "the Chips and Salsa, first one is on us, second is on you! Chips and salsa are $4.00 per order." There are several things I'd like to say about this statement, none of which are very nice, but I'll be restrained for once in my life because I think you know what my problems are. Our FREE Chips and Salsa were brought to us by our surly and very busy-looking waitress and she quickly asked if she could take our order. We told her what we'd like and she asked, "Is that it? Nothing to drink besides your beers? No wine?" And when we told her no, there was a desperate sigh and I'm sure she was mumbling something to herself like, "Broke, dirty, hairy tramps." Ok, maybe not the hairy thing, but certainly the broke thing.

She came back many minutes later and started to make our Guacamole for us, which looked amazing and tasted even better. There was a little problem though, we had used up all of our Chips for the Salsa she originally brought us and we didn't have any left for the Guacamole. I'm sure the menu said that it came with Chips and after a quick glance to confirm I asked her if we could have some more. She nodded conservatively and brought them a few minutes later. After the Guacamole was neatly devoured we were served 3 Tacos, all in individual metal holders. This was something completely new to me. Normally my Tacos come laying on their side, the Beans and Rice holding them up slightly. This looked, I don't know, odd.

The tastes however were not odd. My Taco with Sautéed Grasshoppers, served with Shallots, Garlic and Tequila was spicy and packed huge flavors into each and every insect. The crunch of Grasshopper is sheer pleasure. I don't think there is any other texture on Earth that could replicate it. Our Braised Beef Tongue with Radishes and a Sauce of Roasted Pasilla Chili, Tomatoes, Onion and Garlic was equally delicious and tasted nothing like the previous Tongue I've had. No rude comments, please. Last up, was the Tender Shenandoah Valley Goat marinated in Guajillo Chiles and Spices, served with Sweet Onions and Cilantro. And finally, our half Grilled Young Chicken with Epazote Herb Rice and a Mole Poblano Sauce of Almonds, Chile and a touch of Chocolate was simply gorgeous. The spiciness of the Chile, mixed with the creamy Chocolate is a taste I will not soon forget.

Oyamel will succeed if for no other reason than it serves good Mexican food. In my opinion it is slightly tacky and looks more like a chain restaurant than an authentic Mexican joint. The waitstaff are slightly moody, at least mine was, it's way too expensive, the portions are small and they are clearly trying to mold Mexican food into the form of fancy French or Tapas. If they increased the size of their portions a bit, hired some people who actually like the human race and tore down all the chain restaurant crap, I'd recommend this to everyone I know. For now, I can't.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Oyamel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Old Ebbitt Grill: This Aint Old. Aint Good Either.

Old Ebbitt Grill,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Old Ebbitt Grill,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Hummus,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Seafood Jambalaya,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Eggs Benedict,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Filet Mignon,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Seafood Jambalaya,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Old Ebbitt Grill,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Old Ebbitt Grill,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Having celebrated America's Independence Day by going to a French restaurant in New York City, I thought I'd redeem myself and go to Washington D.C. for Labor Day weekend and visit a good 'ole fashion American Pub. If there is such a thing. My research started early last week when I searched for the 10 oldest pubs in the country. There was only one listed in D.C. and that was the Old Ebbitt Grill. It didn't have the word pub in the name, but it was founded in 1856 and sits across the street from the White House. So I decided to give it a try.

Prior to my visit to the Old Ebbitt I read that it had been the watering hole of many Presidents, Statesmen (isn't that politically incorrect?), Politicians of all sorts and now me, Passport Foodie. The menu is as grand as its long list of patrons. However, as I have experienced many times in the past, just because a restaurant has a lot of fancy food on the menu, does not guarantee that they do that food well. The Old Ebbitt was absolutely brimming with people. And most seemed to be genuinely enjoying their food and afternoon libations. So I was excited to try the menu out. I ordered a Newcastle Brown Ale (on tap, very cool) to drink and just as I was about to order the Petite Filet Bearnaise on an English Muffin, with Bean Sprouts, I decided on the Seafood Jambalaya. A dish I can admit, I have had way to little of this lifetime. I truly enjoy food from the South and I was drooling like a new born baby, waiting for it to come out.

Despite the crowds, the wait was actually quite brief and our starters of Hummus with Seasonal Vegetables and Pita was delivered promptly. Now, maybe my dear readers can help me with this one; is Hummus supposed to be watered down and taste like pee? If someone can help me out with that I would be extremely grateful, because that's what I felt like I was eating. The Vegetables and the Pita were fine, but the Hummus must have been placed under a faucet for a few seconds before serving it to us, because it was dripping with water.

After I washed down my watery Hummus with... well, more water, I was eagerly awaiting my Seafood Jambalaya with Shrimp, Mussels, Calamari, Scallops, Clams, Chorizo Sausage, Chicken, Vegetable Stew and Rice. I needed a new taste introduced into my palate to wash away the taste of Hummus and pee. And just as I was about to brush my tongue with my fork the waiter brought over my main course, a gorgeous looking Seafood Jambalaya. I was ready. First stop, Mussel-Ville. As I scooped the Mussel out, my mouth started moving its way towards the delectable little guy. And then it happened, I bit into a piece of sand the size of a small child... crunch! And again. And again. It was like eating a sandbox. I ate a few more bites, but nothing I ate gave me any satisfaction and eventually I had to stop. Which, if you know me, is unheard of.

I did manage to steal some of the other diners food and unfortunately it was more of the same. Simple Foodie had the Filet Mignon with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and a Mushroom Tomato and Fresh Herb Sauce, which was decent, but I know of too many steakhouses which are cheaper and serve much better meat to give this anything but a D. It was bland, chewy and the Mashed Potatoes tasted like they came out of a can. It was no better on the other side of the table. The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Corn, Tomato Chesapeake and Oven Roasted Potatoes was one of the worse dishes this Foodie has ever tasted. The Potatoes must have been sitting under a heat lamp since the restaurant opened in 1856. They were absolutely revolting. And the Corn clearly came from a Giant Green man who froze them prior to transporting them. The Eggs Benedict with an English Muffin, Canadian Bacon, Hollandaise Sauce and Home Fries was the only thing I'd ever eat again if I had to eat there. It had some redeeming flavors, but not enough to make me recommend the Old Ebbitt Grill.

To top off the afternoon I was given a terrible Coffee, served in a mug an Inmate at San Quentin would be ashamed to drink out of. And to say thank you for our business the waiter gave us a bill for $155. For 5 people this isn't outrageous. However, I would rather have thrown that money down the drain, or given it to the IRS, which resides just down the road, than eat that meal. This was not money well spent. But I can understand the allure. It's right near The White House, Presidents have eaten there and their Hummus tastes like pee. Well, I can almost understand the allure.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Old Ebbitt Grill on Urbanspoon