Tag Archives: Eastern European

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

KAFANA, 116 Avenue C (between East 7th and East 8th Street), East Village

This summer I spent a few weeks travelling around Eastern Europe and I learned that the king of food in most countries is beer and sausage. Here in New York, I’ve only experienced a bit of the true Eastern European food at places in Astoria many years ago.  It’s a cuisine that is prevalent here, but it’s just a little more difficult to find.

And while Kafana is right in the heart of Alphabet City, few people know it outside of Serbians and Bosnians looking for a taste of home. For everyone else, it’s a hidden gem worth uncovering. (more…)


Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

img_0681 I’m doing something I’ve never done before on this blog. And that’s because I just came back from an adventure that was unlike anything I’ve ever done before in my life. For six weeks of the summer, I was travelling around Europe meeting wonderful locals and eating amazing food. And I got paid for it!!

The real reason I was there was to make videos on some Urban Adventure tours. Stay tuned for 14 new episodes of Locals Know. But until then, to whet your appetite (and for me to re-live my incredible dream-come-true journey), I’ve decided to document the food I ate in each city.

So instead of picking just one dish of the week this week, I’m going to pick 14 – one for each city I visited.

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Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

UKRAINIAN EAST VILLAGE RESTAURANT, 140 Second Avenue (between East 9th Street and St. Marks Place), East Village

When you think of borscht, you probably think of a bowl of dark red liquid, but do you think of a hot or cold soup? Think about it. Turns out borscht can be served at either temperature. And this time of year, there’s no question how I want my borscht. Hot and steamy.

That’s just what I found at the old-school Ukrainian East Village Restaurant. This neighborhood, which has lately become over-run with NYU students, used to be the home to a large group of Eastern European immigrants. Some of them are still in the neighborhood and thankfully, there is a handful of classic restaurants left

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My search for the best corned beef/pastrami in New York continues….

SADLY, CAFE EDISON IS NOW CLOSED.

CAFE EDISON, 228 West 47th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Theater District

I was amazed at how little Cafe Edison has changed in ten years. I used to frequent this old-school diner in the heart of Times Square quite a bit when I first moved to New York. It was near all my auditions and the hearty Eastern European Jewish food was affordable and nostalgic.

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My food adventures of late have taken me much further downtown to some of the hipper restaurant offerings and to the outer boroughs for some exciting and unexplored ethnic cuisines. But rarely do I get to eat an actual meal in the heart of Times Square. Nor would I want to, to be perfectly honest.

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For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…

Most of the reviews for Hospoda warn that the portion sizes are quite small. I’ve been burned one too many times before at fancy restaurants in the city where I’ve spent lots of money and left hungrier than when I arrived. So since I was determined to not be the hungry fool one more time, I picked up a small appetizer before dinner at Hospoda. Luke’s Lobster has a location close by and a small lobster roll is the perfect start to any meal.

Hospoda was an odd looking place. It had an air of fine dining, an industrial Bohemian beer hall feeling, and wallpaper that hinted at modern gastronomy. It was all these things together and amazingly, they all worked. The food is elevated Eastern European. That makes me think of hearty meats and stews with pickled cabbage and lots and lots of beer. I was not disappointed here.

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I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days.

5. SPEKULOOS ICE CREAM at WAFELS & DINGES

Wow! Thomas DeGeest and his trusty waffle crew can do no wrong it seems. Last year I gushed over the amazing spekuloos spread, which is made from spiced Belgian Christmas cookies (sort of a gingerbread meets a graham cracker) and is a must have as a topping to one of their dense, sweet liege waffles.

Then, this year they hit home runs with not one, but two amazing ice cream flavors. You can find their Belgian Madness further up on my list, but when I tasted the ice cream version of spekuloos, I knew it would be in my Top Ten. The ice cream is spicy and toasty with the perfect amount of sweetness. It works on a summer day or a winter day. And if you top it on a waffle with a drizzle of chocolate sauce, you will no doubt understand my high praise for this friendly yellow truck. Price: $3

WAFELS & DINGES
Multiple Truck and Cart Locations,
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
(866) 429-7329
wafelsanddinges.com

4. SLOW BAKED LAMB LEG at HOSPODA

SADLY, HOSPODA IS NOW CLOSED.

When the waitress brought us an amuse bouche of foamy, creamy Pilsner Urquell even before we ordered our food, I knew we were in for a really special meal at the newly opened Hospoda. But it wasn’t until I began tasting their inventive, refined takes on Eastern European dishes that I fully understood just how special.

We came to try the smoked beef tongue (at Time Out’s recommendation), but it was their slow baked lamb leg that left a lasting impression. The meat is served two ways: roasted pink slices and braised shreds. Both reminded me of my grandmother’s house, even though my grandmother could never cook anything as tender and delicious as this (sorry, Grandma!) It was served with a sweet carrot purée, tender roasted carrots, slivers of brussels sprout leafs, and a beautiful bright thyme glacé that brought the stew-like meat to life. Amazing! Price: Part of a $32 tasting menu

HOSPODA
321 East 73rd Street (between Second Avenue and First Avenue),
Upper East Side
(212) 861-1038
hospodanyc.com

3. BA SI at FU RUN

This may just be the most unusual dessert I’ve ever had. I first heard about it when I opened up Time Out’s most recent 100 Best issue. There was nothing in the description that really made me want to rush out and try it. And even after having a wonderful meal at Fu Run in Flushing, I still only ordered dessert because it was on the list. And now I’m sadly imagining that if I didn’t order it then, I may never have tried this wonder.

The way Ba Si (or “pulling thread”) works is like this: you get a plate of caramelized fried starch chunks (taro, apple, and sweet potato) and a bowl of water. Then you pull up a bit with your chopstick (leaving sugary threads behind), dunk it in the water where the sugars cool and begin to solidify forming a creme brulée-like crust. Then you pop it in your mouth and enjoy the textures, temperature contrasts, and sweet deliciousness. This is by far the best dessert I’ve ever had from a Chinese restaurant and it makes me never want to question Time Out again. Price: $12

FU RUN
40-09 Prince Street (at Roosevelt Avenue)
Flushing, Queens
(718) 321-1363

2. YESTERDAY’S 100 LAYER LASAGNA at DEL POSTO

Del Posto received four stars in the NY Times this year, which was quite a surprise. When one of their dishes (a fancy chocolate lollipop) found its way on Time Out’s list, I thought there was no way I’d be able to taste it. Not only because the restaurant is mightily expensive, but because the four stars ensured a very difficult time getting a reservation. Well, we found ourselves at Del Posto on a whim during a snow storm and had no problem getting a table for lunch. We also learned why it deserved all four of those stars.

The highlight for me was not that after dinner bite of chocolate, but instead the lasagna I had been waiting all winter to taste (I just didn’t know it). I didn’t quite understand what a 100 layer lasagna would look like, but it made sense when I saw the slices of 50 (I didn’t count) perfectly thin and browned pasta sheets layered between 50 spoonfuls of the most decadent old school pasta meat sauce (combo of marinara, bechamel, and bolognese) resting atop a bright red dollop of tomato sauce. It had all the rich, cheesy, meaty flavors along with the charred and soft textures of a perfect lasagna while retaining the elegant refined presentation you’d expect at a place of Del Posto’s reputation. It was awe inspiring. And four star worthy! Available as Part of Prix Fixe

DEL POSTO
85 Tenth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street)
Meatpacking District
(212) 497-8090
delposto.com

1. BURNT ENDS at JOHN BROWN SMOKEHOUSE

My favorite dish of the year? Amazingly, it was a modest few bites at a brand new, off-the-beaten path barbecue joint. I was shocked myself when pitmaster Josh Bowen handed me a free sample of his prized burnt ends. This Kansas City specialty is rather hard to find in this city and now that Josh has perfected them, I can’t imagine anybody else doing them justice.

John Brown Smokehouse is on a quiet residential street on the outskirts of Astoria with a casual setting and wonderful smoke aromas (the good kind) emerging from the storefront. There’s a wide variety of options on the menu (including some damn tasty side orders), but once I got a bite of the fatty, smoky, melt-a-rific burnt ends, I really desired nothing else. The large chunks of charred, smoky meat are marbled with soft, tender fat and the strong BBQ flavor comes from Josh’s expert dry rub of salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, and allspice. He sells them as a sandwich or by the pound. Keep the bread and the sauce, just give me some more of that fantastic meat. This is now my new favorite BBQ haunt in town. Price: $10.50 (sandwich), $13.50 (platter), $20 (per pound)

JOHN BROWN SMOKEHOUSE
25-08 37th Avenue (between 27th Street and Crescent Street),
Long Island City, Queens
(718) 361-0085
johnbrownsmokehouse.org

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