I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Red Hook Vendors

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Meals taste better off of crappy paper plates

Unless you live in Carroll Gardens/Red Hook, getting to the Red Hook Vendors is a bit of a hike. The closest stop is the Carroll Street stop on the F and G line and even then, it is a good 20 minute walk (I think for normal people that do not walk stupid fast like me). That is a lot of travelling for food. But it is worth it to eat some good food and support a local community. I first saw the vendors on television a while back, I think it was on either Bourdain’s show or Zimmerman’s, either way, outdoor street vendors making non-Gringo’d food? I am so there. 

Unfortunately throughout the years, the numbers of vendors have dwindled but this should not deter you because you are going to eat well either way. They line the soccer fields and one of the most popular trucks is the Country Boys truck that you can try at Smorgasburg too, but the lines here are hipster free! They are doing Mexican food though they have tacos, do not miss out on their huraches or their sopes. A Hurache is a gut bomb; think of it as one huge taco that gets topped with refried beans, vegetables and a choice of meat. It comes on two plates and requires you to use both your hands. Sopes are deceptively heavy, masa cakes that are filled with refried beans and then topped with meat and vegetables. I love the chicharrons they are doing here, in this case meaning fried pork skin, little bits of fried crunchy goodness.

The Cesina (salted beef) is something that I also like and got on one of the Sopes, only thing is I kind of wish they chopped it up for easier consumption. Another cart was frying up empanadas which I suggest getting the chicken and cheese empanada rather than the straight cheese which can get thick and gummy as it cools down. Crispy shell that shatters with each bite with a savory running filling makes this an idea snack…or light meal. 

Guatemala and Central American vendors are here too making great ceviches. I got the shrimp ceviche topped with a nasal clearing hot sauce and cancha, the mutant gigantic roasted corn kernels that are found in Peru and other places. The ceviche is another meal in a bowl, though some would question buying ceviche from the back of a truck, it is perfectly fine. Filled with shrimp and onions, the ceviche broth is refreshing to drink down on a hot day.

 The pupusas from the El Salvadorian truck is a winner too. I got a pupusa platter one with chorizo and cheese and the other with loroco and cheese. Loroco is a flower/plant found in Central America. Heard about it, never had it, got it out of curiosity and it taste like a vegetable. Good but it did not have a distinct taste, but then again, shoved in a corn cake and cheese, nothing is really distinct. The pupusas are topped with an addicting pickled cabbage that I could really just eat all on its own. Get the cashew juice here, it is sweet and refreshing and despite what you may think, not nutty in anyway. 

The Red Hook Vendors are great to visit and you can eat well without spending a whole lot. Everyone here is friendly, the food is good and if you really want, you can watch the kids play soccer (in a non-Megan’s law creepy way of course). This is another thing where showing up with a group is a good thing so you can try many things from different carts. I hope the Red Hook Vendors continue to do business and are around next summer, it is a must do for everyone. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The NoMad: Brunch

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: rooms like the parlour, atrium, library? Are you sure the NoMad isn’t a live action version of clue? If a Colonel shows up with a pipe, I am out of there.

The NoMad just got their first Michelin star before I went to brunch with the family here. Though it is in a desolate area, I mean come on, it is just really hotels around here and hell, the NoMad is in a hotel, and it is worth coming here. Ran by Daniel Humm and will Gidara of Eleven Madison and Park, NoMad is by no means their bastard child, this place once you experience the service and food is at the level that you would find at Eleven Madison and Park. To start off, we have the house made pastries. It was pricey and 18 bucks but you did get a lot of bread, 3 croissants, and blueberry crumb cake, slices of warm bread, 2 preserves and butter. That is a hell of a pastry basket. Only criticism I had was that the croissants, an almond, chocolate and regular could have been significantly improved and most likely been destroyed immediately if they came out at least slightly warmed. The bread slices, speckled with raisins and walnuts did come out warm and was destroyed immediately. 

The menu can be split into two categories from you breakfast fare to regular lunch. Though you would think getting a dish of egg Benedict would be a waste, you would be wrong. Their eggs Benedict with crab, tarragon is probably one of the best eggs Benedicts I have had. Okay, I do not eat eggs Benedicts a lot but this can be summed up with one word: rich. The hollandaise just fantastic and fat kid in me wanted to just lick the plate clean. Civilized fat kid in me used excess bread to wipe the plate clean. Food After the Jump!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In and Out

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: What else can I get animal style?

Though most food nerds turn their nose at any fast food, even the most cynical pretentious foodie will be intrigued by an In and Out Burger. The closest one to Austin, Texas was in Lancaster, Texas just outside of Dallas. Thankfully I was traveling with a friend that has a lead foot and one of the best radar detectors that money can buy. The menu is simple enough but the allure of In and Out for those of us that do not have it as a dining option; it is the allure of that secret menu. Not to go into specifics, there are certain add ons and additional preparations that you can get for your meal. Also In and Out was one of the first places that toted fresh food and cooked to order burgers. I went with a 2x2 animal style (a double cheese burger with 2 slices of cheese), well done fries (as it sounds extra crispy fries), animal style and a Neapolitan shake. Animal style, which sounds straight gangster, is when the burger is topped with grilled onions and a special sauce, similar to the Big Mac sauce. Animal style friends are cheese fries topped with said combination/sauce.
Of course the comparison to Shake Shack is inevitable.

 The verdict is, that burger for burger, I will take the Shake Shack burger over an In and Out burger. It is a good fast food burger, one of the best, but Shake Shack is better. The patties were smaller and did not feel that substantial in my hands. Fries however, goes to In and Out, especially with the option of getting them well done but even the regular fries which I sampled on a friend’s tray were nice and crisp. Overall, it was worth checking out In and Out, the service was some of the best I had at a fast food place. The ultimate deadly combination would be to get a Shake Shack burger animal style but that is wishful dangerous thinking. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Salt Lick Barbecue

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Salt Lick was the first time I got actual utensils let alone metal ones…it left me confused

One of the final places I visited in my mini-barbecue quest was the Salt Lick. I guess wanting to go to the Salt Lick is like when people not from New York rave about Grimaldi’s. This was my introduction to Texas barbecue when I first sampled them at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. The first time I thought their brisket was fine and the sausage was out of this world. I however, we ate this at the end of the trip, after eating at a lot of other barbecue places. In short, it is okay.  

The Sauces
Sausage and Turkey

It is a tourist trap no doubt. There are just droves of people there and tour buses parked on the side. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, I was surprised Garmin was able to find it. It is a ranch basically and the inside is a cavernous dining hall. We were hitting our proverbial wall and instead of going by the poundage, we went with 2 combination platters and an extra half order of sausage. The combination allowed us to sample the pork ribs, brisket, turkey and surprise, more sausage. This is too easy to make an immature sausage joke. 
Ribs and brisket
The pit at the Salt Lick is impressive; you cannot be impressed by this. It is an open round pit with a grill and just mountains of meat and sausage just hanging from up above. We just ate barbecue about forty minutes before hand and this sight made me hungry. The Salt Lick differs in which they do not do the low and slow method; they are going for high heat, well high heat for Texas. There is no 200-275; it is more like 300-375. They are using oak like others but in addition they use soaked pecan shells to add flavor and as a makeshift temperature controller. 
One gripe, they did not have sweet tea or Big Red. How can you claim to be Texas barbecue if you do not have these iconic Texas, specifically barbecue beverages? I mean this is what I have come to know and love, Big Red? I just taste like Red. They did have Dr. Pepper though so I guess you get a pass. The brisket though tender had no flavor. It did not pick up any of the smoke from the wood. It was edible but did not wow me at all. The pork ribs were very good and if I was to eat at the Salt Lick again, this is what I would go for, the pork was able to get a bit more of the smoke and the meat was just right. The turkey was great and question why anyone would not smoke their turkeys for Thanksgiving (I know I do). Maybe it was the combination of beef palate fatigue but we wanted more, regardless the breast meat was supple and juicy. The sausage was good here though very different from the sausage that we had at other places. It was a finer grind, heavier on the salt but good amount of spice. It was similar to a kielbasa in texture, which lead it to have the best snap. The sauce however, is great and I can understand the cult-like following for this sauce. I personally brought back two bottles, and rationing it sparingly. It is a perfect mix of sweet, tangy and salt and just something that makes everything taste better. I guess I will soon be joining the legions trying to crack this recipe. 
I had to do dessert, I mean if the option is out there and it is descent, no matter if I am burping up enough meat to re-taste my meal I will always take a gander at it. I went with the blackberry cobbler with a scoop of ice cream on top. I am glad I did not skip it, this was one of the best desserts I had all trip, the cobbler was full of fruit, flaky crust and ice cold ice cream just melting all over it. Even my friends that were at their limit could not resist a taste of it. Besides, you need a bit of sugar to cut all the salt and fat.
Now that I have eaten a lot of Texas Barbecue, the Salt Lick is more about the atmosphere. It relishes in that Hill Country romantic nostalgia of cooking on an open pit and relaxing with others while eating copious amounts of meat. They do what works for them, using high heat cooking which you lose the smoke essence in the barbecue. However, their methods are warranted given the high volume of business they are doing. I am conflicted, the barbecue let’s face it, is just average compared to what else you got. But at the same time, it is sure a hell of a lot better than the majority of the places here in the Northeast. Though I would eagerly wait in line during the Big Apple BBQ block party, I do not see myself coming back here the next time I come through Texas. Though I will be picking up a couple of bottles of the sauce the next time I pass through the airport. Here is a tip, unless you are desperate for ‘cue do not do the airport Salt Lick, it is all hot/steam bagged, you might as well go to a Famous Dave’s. 

Pit Porn

Salt Lick
18300 FM 1826
Driftwood, TX 78619