Walking down Nostrand Ave in Crown Heights and what do I find? Doubles! I haven’t had them in a while. A Trinidad & Tobago standard, doubles are two pieces of fry-bread sandwiching a dollop of chana (curried chick peas). Fried? Curry? How can you go wrong? Nice!
Or Cuzco if you prefer.
I spent about 2 weeks here, and here’s a summary of my findings.
Definitely eat all the cuys, the alpacas, the chicharrones and the antijitos,…they are all worthwhile but at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly I am seeking more. Alpaca steak at restaurant x is roughly equivalent to Medallions d’Alpaca at Chez Y, most of the local fodder is worth eating but not writing home about. I will leave you in the hands of Lonely Planet to find this stuff.
Better, you should wander over to the tin-roofed (awesome place to be in a rainstorm!) Mercado San Pedro and cruise the food areas, looking over people´s shoulders at what’s on their plates. (Ignore the menus and the chalkboards, they simply don’t have what’s advertised). Alongside the ubiquitous sopa de gallina (often delicious) will be offered whatever is fresh and available: tasty sopa de moraya (morels?) one day and fideo the next. A couple of places offer sopa de cabeza but for my money there is not enough meat or flavor in the head to warrant the work and the spatter factor.
Even better, wander through the rest of the marketplace, and south on calle 3 Cruces de Oro. Look for the lady with a wok on her cart selling hot Tripa de Res (beef tripe) fried with potatoes or choclo (those fat corn kernels). Greasy and a bit barnyardy, for one Sol (35 cents). Servings are small and make a nice snack.One and a half blocks south of the plaza on Pompa de Castillo you will find a row of tiny restaurants serving lunch to cuzquenos: entire families on weekends. Pick a nice-looking shop and order Adobo, an earthily spiced pork stew with a ferocious hot pepper on top. Be Careful.
Up in San Blas neighborhood on Qanchipata is a sandwich joint called Juanito´s. Here I encountered the seriously satisfying “Cuzqueno con Lechon”, a sandwich of roast pork, cheese, and two entire corn tamales Cuzqueno con Lechon (look like a banana in the picture) on a nice piece of bread. Take my advice; eat this sandwich. Hearty and smells like thanksgiving. I think the “Cuzqueno” sandwich is Juanito’s wry twist on the Cubano because I found it nowhere else.
And when you need a break from local flavor, head for Cicciolina. Hardly a secret, this is Lonely Planet´s “our pick”. But for once they are so, so right. A self-styled tapas bar, this place would not be out of place in NYC or San Francisco. Spanish country-chic cosmopolitan restaurant & tapas bar, exposed rafters and central, open kitchen. I ate there several times; the squid ink tagliolini is one of the best things I ate in South America, and the Onion Soup is so full of flavor, thick like onion stew. Fresh ingredients, homemade pasta, good service, good wine, a real pleasure to eat here, over and over. Great food and a very cosmopolitan attitude, with real waiters who actually wait on you (unusual in South America).
Coffee-Peru exports some fine coffees, but unfortunately they have no native coffee-drinking culture. Even in this most touristed of cities, it can be a chore to find a good cup. Here are a couple:
The Meeting Place – On Plaza San Blas is an expatriate place serving a fine cup of drip coffee as well as nice sandwiches and waffles. Sunny, covered courtyard. Very pleasant place to hang out. Wifi.Cafe Perla and Inkafe – Several locations: barristas know what they are doing but the coffee is a bit nondescript.
And a surprise: Bembo´s, the hamburger chain on the main plaza (and elsewhere), serves an awesome Americano. The product is Tunki Coffee, a recent award-winner. The barrisatas are not crafty…stick with an Americano.
Cuzquena, the local lager, is actually not bad, for a lager. If you need more, you have but one choice: Norton´s on the main plaza. They have a dozen or so Belgians and UK beers. Even the other expatriate bars are devoid of good ale. Paddy´s is a nice place to hang out but all they offer above the local brews is Guinness (from cans).
I took the Savoring Senegal class at the I.C.E. on Thursday, and it was lots of fun. I give everything at the ICE high marks, including Chef Pierre Thiam (owner of restaurant Dakar in Brooklyn). There were 9 students, and we broke into 2 teams to prepare 6 dishes: Salatu Niebe (Black-eyed pea salad), Shrimp and Potato Fritters, Caldou (Creole Fish Stew),
Ndambe (Black-eyed pea and Sweet Potato Ragout, above) Cornish Hen Farci au Fonio, right, and Coconut Rice Pudding.
It’s a bargain: for the price, you get instruction forabout 4 hours, a great meal, and wine. Here’s a link to all my pix of the experience, at flickr
Brined Chicken with Roasted Vegetables. You almost don’t need a recipe: brine the chicken (I used a commercial brine mix with rosemary and citrus peels) for a few hours, then roast in a pan, with your choice of veg at 450, for about 1:45, or until the vegetables are done, and/or until a meat thermometer says 170 at the thigh.
Lunch last friday: Fried Butterworms at the Insectorium in New Orleans.
Verdict: Disappointing. They were pan fried and salted. You wouldn’t think anything containing the word “butter” could be that bad, but there you have it. They were aproximately the taste and consistency of rice crispies left out on a humid day to become slightly mushy. Or perhaps soggy cheese puffs minus the cheese flavor.
The grasshoppers I ate in Bangkok a few years ago were much better. Like the overtoasted husks of popcorn left on the bottom of the bag. A little nutty, a nice crunch.
Three fine trenchermen – cosmopolitan racconteurs, all – accompanied the Gastropod to Luger’s last night; what a treat. I can’t add much to the lore surrounding this Brooklyn institution, except to report that the meal was outstanding, once again. Luger’s has not dissapointed me. The waiter simply asked “steak for 4?” and we were off. A few moments later a couple of pounds of perfectly cooked, still sizzling porterhouse goodness arrived at the table.
The waiter served everyone, and a few side dishes got apportioned out (the creamed spinach is the ideal accompaniment). The steak is perfect; buttery inside, a little carbon crunch to the tooth on the outside. It must take a powerful flame to do this to a large piece of meat.
There were deserts and wine, but all pales in comparison to the centerpiece of bloody, buttery beef, and the companionship of such fine fellows.
I don’t know what the story is with New Bo Ky; the sign is rendered in Vietnamese, but it appears to be owned and staffed by Chinese people. There is some lively discussion on Chowhound.com, but no one is really sure. Let’s just call the cuisine “regional,” as I believe the menu is southern Chinese, from around the city of Chaozhou. Lots of meats, including offals, on rice, are offered, as well as a wide variety of noodle soups. The food can be kind of “home style” in that way. One time I felt like ordering a random dish and asked for “Meat Country Style”. The waiter was aghast: “But this is the face, the skin, the fat of the pig!” I could hardly back down from that challenge…
But pictured here is number 12: Chicken with curry, eggplant, potato and thin egg noodles. It’s one of the Worlds 20 Greatest Things To Eat, and a really good reason to be glad you’re alive.