Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's not really spring in NY until it's warm enough to stand on the Shake Shack line

While the 80 degree weather and the fact that tomorrow is June 1st may make the title of this post seem horrifyingly late, it is a truth accepted by most New Yorkers. Now that that's settled, let's talk about something of the utmost importance: Shake Shack.

A New York staple, I first stumbled upon the Shack as a college junior while walking through Madison Sq Park to go to an internship. My first thought, "why are all these people waiting on line?", was quickly followed by my second thought, "I want some too". Since my first tasting of the Shack, I have been hooked. Not hooked, addicted. While the shack menu boasts multiple choices, I stick to the Shack Burger and cheese fries. After all, people aren't waiting over an hour on line in the heat for Shack-cago Dog. Or maybe they are.... But I can't get myself to order anything else (except adding an Arnold Palmer or a concrete) because while MGMT sings about drugs, I'm singing (and occasionally dancing) about the Shack Burger.

Yes I make fun of franchised food a lot but Shake Shack doesn't really count. The company uses mainly local ingredients, sells alcohol, and the staff looks is happy. When was the last time a server at McDonald's told you that their custard of the day was (and I quote) "SOOOO yummy"? Plus the more locations, the more people around the world can enjoy the Shack and the bigger the chance that the line isn't ridiculously long.

While I'm sure the other Shake Shack locations are still ridiculously good, I'm loyal to Madison Sq Park. Even though there are different concretes at each location, it's still not enough of an incentive for me. I love the MSP location: the website shows how long the line is so I can prepare myself accordingly and it's effing powered by wind! It's my first, my last, my everything.

P.S. Shack-tastic slang you should know:
a) concrete: custard mixed with yummy toppings blended super fast, making it strangely thick and extra delicious
b) Shack Burger: the greatest burger ever made
c)Poochinis: custard that dogs can eat... that's right, the Shack cares about your dog too

Shake Shack
www.shakeshack.com for locations


As part of my "PLAYING CATSUP (CATCH UP, get it? Oh.... I made this awkward) Series", I owe you quite a bit of yummy banter. For example, a report from my cousin's going away party in December and yummy brunch dates. I know... I KNOW! Shake your head all you want, Vanessa. Some of us have been busy doing important things, like unfriending people with babies on FB and chatting up the Starbucks barrista in hopes of a discount.

Recently, my cousin Ali decided to attend culinary school in Paris. While I don't doubt that she would have eventually figured out that she'd be a great chef, I do have to note that her decision to leave was quickly made after I beat her in Scrabble and then forced her to watch a "Sister Wives" marathon, whilst snuggling up on her arm. As she also inherited the foodie gene, her friend quickly planned a going away dinner. Now, you might be thinking "why the hell do I care about a going away dinner?". Two reasons: 1)DBGB has awesome food and 2) I said so.

 As a typical gastropub, DBGB serves jazzed up burgers, soups, and other classics. Untypical of other gastropubs, DBGB is Daniel Boulud's proof that he can turn regular food and into a dish that you literally will have dreams about for weeks. Additionally, any place with a 29 page beer and wine menu is worth talking about.

As I usually approach a restaurant after doing a substantial amount of research, I was well prepared for my night at DBGB -- until I got there and immediately wanted everything on the menu. Soon my mind was panic stricken. How is it possible to choose between the Frenchie or the Piggie? Can I flip a coin? Maybe I'll get mussels.. who am I kidding? Oh, there's lamb! I quickly scanned the drink menu, ordered myself a Session Lager (delish!) and collected my thoughts. Now now, you know you want the matzoh ball soup and everyone's getting the Piggie so you can steal a bite of theirs and get the Frenchie all to yourself... Decision made.

Reader, I may or may not have previously mentioned my strange love of all things soupy. Whether it's Top Ramen or the chicken noodle soup at Morimoto, I love soup. Perhaps I never fully got over my phase of only eating soup or canned black olives (yummy and metallic!) that I had when I was three. Whatever the reason, I was super excited when the waiter brought my soup. This soup, I feel, epitomizes the reason gastropubs are so fucking fantastic. Something so mundane as matzoh ball soup is made delectable. Don't believe me? Well this soup is so good that NY Mag listed it as one of the city's 50 tastiest soups. So there. I may not have a bubbie, but if I did this soup would be better than her's (of course, I wouldn't have the heart to tell her).

DBGB also knows how to cook a burger. I may have only had a few bites of the Piggie, but I know that I will crave that burger sporadically for the rest of my life. The Piggie, a burger topped with Daisy May's pulled pork, jalapeno mayo, and lettuce on a cheddar bun, makes your backyard grill jealous. But, there's a better burger on the menu. Now, ordering the Frenchie may have been one of the best decisions I've made in a while. The Frenchie - topped with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and morbier cheese -  is a superior burger. And I had it all to myself. There were a few seconds where I nervously thought my sister would have wanted a bite, but she is also cursed with being petite and decided to concentrate on her own food. CLOSE CALL.

299 Bowery
New York, NY

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I may not be that social but Stanton is

Hello readers. I know all three of you have been anxiously awaiting my newest post, grinding your teeth in suspense. Between grad school, catching up on Fringe, and sleeping, time has really flown by in between my posts. For that, I am sorry. Please forward me the bill for the meds you've been taking to deal with my absence.

Anyway, after my vacation to Paris then my boyfriend's business trip to California, we needed to have a date to spend some alone time with our threesome partner, Good Food. I've been itching to go to Stanton Social for a few weeks ever since my sister suggested we double date. Like the great sister that I am, I decided that we should go to Stanton Social without her and her new guy since reservations for two are soooo much easier to get than for four. Sorry sis, but between you and a good meal, I will most likely choose the latter. Now reader, by now you're familiar with my proclivity of using abbreviations, but something feels inherently wrong with praising "the SS" several times in a post, so bare with me.

A few $3 Stellas later (thank you Epstein's), Chris and I walked into Stanton Social. For those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant, S Soc is the love child of chef Chris Santos, Richard Wolf, and Peter Kane that serves up tapas style revamped American classics. Sound awesome? That's because it is.
Since the tapas sized portions allows for tasting more of the menu, Chris and I avoided our usual debate over which dishes to get which usually evolves into tension. Again, I wish I were a true fat kid and not just one trapped in a petite frame... oh the places I could go! We both agreed that 5 dishes would probably satiate the both of us and leave some room for dessert, considering I only ate a slice of cheese and three crackers that day in preparation for dinner. Eliminating some dishes were tough so we ordered more than we originally planned: french onion soup dumplings, red snapper tacos, barbecued duck confit and black bean empanadas, crabcake corn dogs, and two sliders (the Kobe Philly and the Rhode Island style lobster roll). Oh helllllll yeah.

Now, I'm not saying I was disappointed because I wasn't. The food was fantastic. But one thing bothered me - the FOS dumplings. Mr. Santos, I appreciate that you combined two of my favorite foods and amplified their flavor by creating some hybrid awesomefood but these are not french onion soup dumplings. They are french onion dumplings. When I see the words soup and dumplings in the same menu item description, I expect to have to strategically bite into the dumpling to suck out the soup. It's common sense, dude. However, Mr. Santos, the flavor was impeccable and I respect the added note of the toasted crouton. Bravo. Moving on, the crab cake corn dog was very tasty and the presentation was clever, but I expected a bit more of that deep fried crunch indicative of corn dog culture and the empanadas were more beany than ducky, which was a little bit of a let down. But I will give you crazy mad props for those sliders. Kobe beef, truffle, and goat cheese?! Genius. AND THAT LOBSTER ROLL! Me and my taste buds are forever in debt to StantSo.

Now we did get some crazy chocolate dessert thing for two that was HUGE. Chris being a great boyfriend understands that I'm very territorial when it comes to my food and I don't like to share, so he ordered some gigantic dessert thing. But, alas, I was full thanks to my inadequately sized stomach. Such hardships in life; this too shall pass. But, dear reader, by now you have also probably realized that I'm a lush and enjoy sucking back $13 cocktails, and I can say that StntScl has great cocktail choices. In the words of my father, "if there's no gin, I'm leaving", therefore I naturally ordered the Bea's Gin-Lemon Mojito, made with Bombay Sapphire, mint, and lemon -- tart and fabulous.

Yes it's difficult to get reservations but there is a trick - the upstairs bar offers a similar menu and doesn't necessarily require reservations if you get there early enough....

Stanton Social
99 Stanton Street
New York, NY