Secret Sushi by Bou EXPOSED!

Ok it’s not that exciting, but it is a hellovalotta fun.

sushi by bou serrini david bouhadana

So my friend about two months ago said “clear the night of the 25th. We’re going for secret sushi.” I did, I forgot about, a chime dinged on my phone about two months later and it said “secret sushi” and I had no idea what to expect.

Rolling down on a frost filled evening, cold like the city smoked a menthol, we all congregated in the exquisitely pedestrian lobby of the Hotel 32/32, which if you’ve never heard of, don’t worry, no one else has either. I’m convinced it was named for professional alcoholics as the name is also its address, very convinient.

At some point a woman came up to our party of 4 and said we could go up now to the hotel room. Somewhere, seemingly randomly on the 10th floor we ponied up to a hotel room door. We turned the knob. We entered. We were greeted to this:

sushi by bou-3

My first impression was “Oh, this is something Stephan from SNL would mention. But you know, real.” because here I was, in a sushi restaurant, in a small NYC hotel room. I’m sure you have already read the stories, but honey, trust, you honestly don’t get the full effect till you see it for yourself.

We were seated on a small chaise and given the option between two drinks. They were beautifully crafted and delicious, and the wait staff (of one) was extremely attentive (we were the only customers). When the Itame (sushi chef, I’ll stop now) was ready for us, we saddled up (lots of cowboy references in this post, sorry, last one) to the makeshift sushi bar up against the corner of the room.

It was a very, very, intimate setting.

sushi by bou-11

“Hey folks my name David, I’m a Jewish kid from Long Island, and also your sushi chef!” Perhaps it didn’t come out that succinctly, but that was the quick gist we got within minutes, which I mention because Chef David is really the main course of this dining experience.

It is not strange to me to have a non-Japanese Itame; anyone can learn any trade regardless of race or religion or taste in sports teams, and that is what makes the world great. What I’ve never experienced was such a boisterous, talkative, interactive, salty, wise-cracking, are-you-cooking-for-us-or-eating-with-us, dining experience ever in my life, and this includes eating at home with my Italian mother who talks like a shark swims (i.e. constantly, I give up.) Chef David is an entertainer as much as he is a master sushi chef, and make no mistake, his sushi is spot on. I’ve had the stuff all over the world, from the very finest to the side-liners, and it’s up there at the top. It’s David that adds a special flavor to the meal, one that is very distinct, and perhaps not for everyone, but certainly unique.

The 17 pieces of sushi are prepared in front of you with a constant stream of conversation over the next half hour. David explains not only what your eating, the type of cut, why he likes it, but also where he’s from, how his father used to walk funny, how expensive his knifes are, and what he thinks about Long Island. I should point out that he also mentioned that he’s good at reading the room, “I know when people want to sit in silence and just want to eat, but if I feel like you want convo, I’m more than happy to open up to you.” which I do believe. Chef David is creating an experience that is beyond any other dining experience out there. You simply can’t replicate this, not only just the weirdness of eating in a random hotel room, but also him. He is the main course.

After our carousel of tastes from the sea were concluded, I was able to jump behind the bar with him for a few pics together, which he was more than happy to take. I’ve read a lot about him, his personality, and the trouble he’s gotten in to, but, to me, he just seemed like a guy who is really passionate about creating an experience, and sharing his knowledge in a specific food culture that is very strict and reserved. To that I say good luck my new friend, and if you do get an invite to join him for secret sushi, it’s definitely not to be passed up. How do you go? Good question … but I hear he’s opening one in Miami in Versace’s Mansion, so Floridians prepare.

Rs

 

About:

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

One Perfect Day in Reykjavik.

I have issues with the word tourist. In this travel soaked world we live in where cross continent airfares are often less then the cost of a good meal, the idea of tourists infiltrating your city can be a harrowing concept. When I accepted a long term project that would move me to Reykjavik, my immediate priority was to blend in and be a local. It would prove more difficult then I could have imagined, but with the help of local Guðmundur Einarsson, I would get a rare inside look at this heavily touristed city.

“Reykjavik is quite small. There is just over 100 thousand people that live here,” Guðmundur tells me with a smile, “then we receive about 2 million tourist a year. So, you can understand we are drowning a bit in foreigners”. Having 20 times your population be tourists can make it difficult to have anything authentically local, but luckily Guðmundur lets me in on a secret, “90% of all tourists only go to the same 3 places, so, if you stay clear of that, you can see the real Reykjavik.” So here is a perfectly local day through the eyes of a perfect local.

Our first stop was coffee, which lead us to Reykjavik Roasters (Kárastígur 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). “It’s definitely well known”, Guðmundur says with a sigh, “but it is the best, and if you go early, you will beat the line. Better yet, there is a second location in Brautarholt that is not as busy” The coffee here is rich and delicious, and they import the bean and roast it locally which gives it a unique savory taste.

Taking our coffee to go we swing by Brauð (16,, Frakkastígur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland)  which you need no directions for, as you can just follow your nose. The butter-sweet-and-salt filled fragrance of this tiny bakeshop will lure you in like a siren to a rock. While they are famous for their cinnamon buns, we also tag on two croissants per Guðmundur’s suggestion “I’ve been to Paris many times, but I still always crave my Brauð.”

We head down toward old town, where we duck down a side street and into a little house with a single key for a sign. This is Fischer (Fischersund, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) which is more then a cosmetic/parfume store, it is a sensory experience. Here hand made scents and botanicals are created from local ingredients, offering you a local experience like no other. “When I visit friends overseas I always stop here, because these gifts are truly unique and truly Icelandic.” Says Guðmundur.

Keeping on a truly Icelandic path we head down to the newly developed Grandi section of town, down by the wharf. “This is my favorite part of town,” my host tells me quietly, “they’ve reclaimed this industrial area, and really none of the tourist have discovered it yet. Theres a great brewery, some really cool shops, and many places to eat, but I like to come here for the chocolate.” When I think Iceland, I don’t immediately think chocolate, but that was about to change quickly. Omnom Chocolate Factory (Hólmaslóð 4, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) is located at the very far end of the district, but you can smell it a good kilometer away. “We are the northern most producer of Chocolate from actual fresh cocoa beans,” Óskar Þórðarson one of the founders tells us. “We know our providers personally, and we roast our beans in house. That’s what makes it like no other chocolate.” And he was right. Madagascar dark chocolate with black volcanic Icelandic salt is something that needs to be tried to fully understand.

Next we hopped a bus just outside the city to visit G man’s favorite distillary, Floki (Lyngás 13 , 210 Garðabær. Phone 6989691). “I’m going to give you true Icelandic whiskey, it’s unlike anything you’ve had before. It’s smoked with sheep dung!” He says with pride like a mother would say “its made with real butter” offering a cupcake. Surprisingly the sheep dung whiskey was sublime; smooth and complex, and unlike any other spirit I have subjected myself to before. “Alcohol was banned in Iceland for many years,” explains Páll one of the distillers, “so most Icelandic people have been distilling in their homes since forever.” Floki takes that mentality and scales it up, making traditional homemade whiskey only with truly all Icelandic grain. The result is a whiskey like no other.

At this point it was time for a rest, so we headed down to Reykjadalur hot springs. “This place is magic,” Guðmundur says with a tipsy smile, “most tourist head straight for the Blue Lagoon, which, between us, is man made. Reykjadalur is totally natural, beautiful, and best of all, free.” When we get there there is a pleasant 45 minute hike through the countryside which terminates and a picturesque serpentine stream shrouded in steam. There is a well manicured boardwalk and changing areas, and you can see people here and there climbing in at various points, the higher up the stream you go the warmer it gets, so you can drift up and down all day if you like. This was pure natural pleasure.

After our soak we headed back into town for dinner at ROK (Frakkastígur 26a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). “This place is new, but the food is excellent.” Guðmundur assured me. The restaurant’s interior is sleek and modern in a positively ancient building, and this beautiful contradiction resonates in the menu. You can try classic dishes like reindeer but with the modern twist of it being served on a bed of local blue cheese foam, or local salmon prepared in sweet mango sauce with avocado. Rok truly will rock your palette.

Afterwards we needed something sweet and the only place to go is Valdi’s. “This place has been here forever. My father used to go as a kid.” Valdi’s longevity obviously comes from the fact that their ice-cream is absolutely delicious and their flavors wild. Guðmundur insists I get the salted licorice which sounds like a punishment to an Italian raised on gelato, but I’m sure glad I committed to it, because it was extraordinary.

Next it was time for a little entertainment. “The bars here can get crazy, and usually packed with tourists,” my Icelandic Virgil warns me, “Pablo Discobar, B5, Kiki’s, Kaffibarin, are all amazing good times, but, packed. Best to go to them at 5am, that’s the golden hour.” We had some time until then, so Guðmundur took me to a Poetry Brothel hosted by Reykjavik Kabaret. “The burlesque scene here in Reykjavik is actually quite amazing,” he confides, “and the shows are not to be missed. I won’t tell your girlfriend you went to a brothel either, that is not the Icelandic way.” He says in all seriousness. The brothel was like walking into a Bar Luhrmann fever dream. The host Miss Mokki greeted us at the door in a hurricane of pears, beads, and feathers. “Gentlemen. Right this way to have your minds blown.” She said grabbing my hand and whipping me into the main room. The show was all around us, cabaret, singing, poetry recital, anything artistic you could imagine with a thick patina of sexual energy over it. As the drinks flowed freely the night heated up and the acts became more boisterous. “Many people think Icelandic people are often stiff and very cold,” Guðmundur says, “most people are often very wrong.”

In need of something salty and fatty to soak up the fun of the evening I was brought to the greatest secret of Reykjavik. “You have to promise not to tell anyone about this place. It’s special.” Here inside a little dive bar that will remain nameless, there exists the greatest burger north of the 60th parallel. It is not on the menu, and you have to ask for it by name, but if you do you will receive what has been called “the hangover cure before the hangover”; Icelandic blue cheese, gold onion, and soft bun holds this perfectly grilled patty, that is just perfect to wrap up a perfect day.

Full from all the delights from this gem of a city, I walked home in the still lit summertime hours of the early morning. Guðmundur had one more surprise for me, a little sculpture park that is always open, adjacent to the Hallgrimskirkja (Eiríksgata, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). “People walk right by this park, and never know it’s here. It’s my favorite place in all of Reykjavik.” This is the life’s work of Einar Jónsson, all from the early part of the last century, are unlike anything I’ve seen before. Half deco, half Phoenician, all crazy, they were particularly moving in the glow of the midnight sun through the morning Icelandic mist. Here you can sit or stroll, or perhaps meet another wandering stranger, and share the experience that you had, which if you were lucky, were truly local, and truly Icelandic.

“Roberto, please just do me one favor,” Guðmundur quietly says with a deep gravitas.

“Of course Guðmundur. What?”

“Please change my name for the story. I would hate for anyone to know it was I that let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.”

Jellyfish Bar Manila

I’ve seen a few unique bars in my life … there is Harley’s Hard Rock in Yellowknife, the northern most strip club bar in the world. There is the Caverna Antica in Ischia which is in an old Roman wine grotto that you have to spelunker to. The one that might be the most mind blowing is simply atop the I’m Hotel in Manila, where a thousand jellyfish wait to drink with you.

I didn’t know that Jellyfish could be such a rewarding drinking buddy. Their, wandering, devil may come lax attitude makes sipping a cold Singapore Sling while watching their slow mo dance a lot like sharing a cold beer with the Dude. It’s pretty chill.

Turn around and you are afforded perhaps the best view of Manila that the city has to offer. 360 panorama’s that come alive as the sun sets and the city becomes electric.

Theres lots of great sitting areas, a cool lit wall, and even a pretty decent menu to get your nosh on. Down below the insane Makati streets are teeming with traffic, prostitutes, and hawker stalls, but up here, closer to heaven, it’s just you, your cold drink, and the Jellyfish ballet.

Rs

 

Roberto Serrini is a professional Filmmaker who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

Tokyo you’re too much.

Tokyo. Hold on, it gets nuts.

Tokyo is huge first of all. As far as cities go it is spread out like Los Angeles with way more people walking around. It’s busy, full of life, and amazing. Finding a place to stay can be a little daunting, but getting around on the subway is easy enough. We landed at the hotel Claska  in the Meguro section.

So yeah. It has a maritime theme to it. I suppose. If ships were made of stucco. It was a cool, hip place, kind of an bargain Ace Hotel, with a cute little coffee place in the lobby, where all the food came with something the shape of a penis. Not sure if that was by design.

First thing was first and that was breakfast… a quick Google search came up with the “best” breakfast in Tokyo, a little place called Kaila, which, as far as I could tell, had a Hawaiian theme to it. The specialty here was the waffles and pancakes, although the Benedict was off the charts. Also I got to see more people take pictures of their plates then most do of their babies.

Belly full, I immediately felt the urge to experience all the weirdness that I heard Tokyo was famous for, so I made a B line for Akihabara, which if nothing else, is super fun to say. Arriving there I was not disappointed, visually smacked with bright signs, throngs of kids, and tons of manga. It was an overload of nerdiness.

They even had a functional Tower Records there… I guess no one told the manager they went out of business like 8 years ago.

Next I wandered back through the city into Shibuya, which I ended up finding an AirBnB at as the neighborhood was way cooler then where Claska was. Shabuya is hard to describe, it’s kind of the West Village meets 5th Avenue of New York, a place where a funky junk shop could be next door to a couture designer. The streets twist and turn here in gentle, winding arcs, and there are a ton of great places to shop, and more importantly for this Italian, eat. I found two places that were amazing, one was a food truck that had a line of people outside.

First I saw the line, that led me into an alley, and there, I saw the omelette food truck called OmtRak. Basically its rice, a fresh scrambled egg on top, and then your choice of sauce. I chose curry, mainly because it was the only thing I could point to. It was amazing. The other was the Dominque Ansei bakery which is like a Willie Wonka factory. Inside they take oversized homemade marshmallows, dip them in chocolate, and give them to you on a stick. I mean a curry omelette and chocolate marshmallow is kinda the best meal ever.

It was a pleasure to walk off that meal through the dope streets of Shabuya (also fun to say, especially if you do a fist to pelvis hip thrust while saying it.)

Here I found a little traditional kimono shop  and grabbed my kimono cause I stand behind a culture where a robe is considered formal wear. I also encountered the strange ritual of having receipts stapled into your passport. Apparently they keep a record of this and at the airport you are suppose to show them the receipts and they are going to check to make sure you have all the stuff you bough, but between you and me, this never happened.

They also like to make models of their food. All their food. In every restaurant they have these fake plates, with food on them. It’s kinda amazing. So is this reindeer having his way with Santa. Who’s laughing and calling the names now fat man?

Hungry, I found a BBQ joint called Smokehouse. Yeah. Like American BBQ. Usually I think it’s a sin not to eat local food, but I thought it would be interesting to see what Japanese American BBQ looked like, in my mouth. Spoiler alert: they do it better.

Walking off the meat coma I had put myself into I found myself in Harajuka, which is the funkier, “east village” part of Tokyo that I really dug. Weird little streets, lots of street art, and funky shops keep you company here. There are the traditional conveyor belt style sushi joints to chow down at, or, if you’re in the mood for a cuddle, you can actually rent a puppy for an hour to hold. More traditionally you can get your nails done in these little back alley style shops, or dig into some amazing coffee like at Deus Ex Machina which I know from LA.

 

The night was upon me so it was time to take in some serious Tokyo culture. Yes, I am talking about a robot restaurant. What do I say about this… other then just go. You might think it’s a tourist trap, you might think it’s garbage, but I’m telling you it’s one of the most fun evenings you can have, and I once hung out with Mel Brooks and Kevin Heart on a booze cruise.

Pro Tip: Tell them it’s your friends birthday and embarrass the shit out of him.

So yes, there are some amazing restaurants in Tokyo, beautiful gardens, plenty of culture to behold, but in all honestly Tokyo felt the least Japanese to me of any other city, even Osaka. The identity here is mixed, influence from all over the world has muddied the culture here, and while it is super interesting, it is not nearly as profound as in other cities or towns. That said, it’s a helluva place to go shopping, eat, and walk around, and should definitely not be missed. I would just say start your trip there, not end it. Also definitely do not miss that omelette truck.

That concludes my journeys through Japan. From Kyoto to Nara to Osaka I have to say, out of any country I’ve visited I am surprised to say that it was Japan I found the most foreign. From the language, to the people, to the food, it really seemed like a culture onto itself, unsullied from a mix of foreign influence. It is a country I hope to return again and again to, perhaps with more then a handful of words next time. Until then…

 

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

 

 

 

 

cobble hill. stay away.

Seriously. Do not move to, or even come visit Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. It is the worst place on earth. Earth. Flint Michigan? Please, more like Daytona Beach. Detroit Michigan? Palm Springs in comparison. Hell, anywhere in Michigan is better than Cobble Hill. You should definitely go to Michigan. Here are some cheap plane tickets, check them out.

Why on earth would you want to come here? I mean, it’s minutes away from the rat infested city, and most places here actually have a backyard, or, dare I say, a veranda, that have bugs and shit. Ew. Nature. I mean, sure, there is one Starbucks, but most of the businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood are family owned. I mean, that’s just un-American! Where is my Olive Garden? My Spice Thai food? What do you mean you Italian and you are a butcher? I thought we got rid of all you people!

Yes, Cobble Hill, this family orientated, classic Brooklyn neighborhood, with strong Italian ethnic roots, and food direct from the old country is definitely a place to stay clear from. I mean, people here talk with an actual NYC accent? I thought we did away with that in the 1990’s with Sex in the City?

So, here are a few of my most hated places. Please. Do not come here, under any circumstances, unless you like disappointment and cultural shock. For reference I created a Goggle map so you can more effectively navigate your way away from these sinkholes of despair.

Eats:

Henry Public

Perhaps the lamest bar in Brooklyn with a terrible menu. A Turkey Leg sandwich on fresh-cut, thick sliced bread? I usually order two because I can’t believe how much I hate it. Also it’s not like they have the best mixologists in the city there, happy to make you a delicious, garden fresh libation. Who’s got time for that crap? PBR for me friends; none of this ice-cold Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold, thank you very much.

Brucie

Dear God. How many times do I have to come here? Seriously? They keep changing the menu. And I keep clearing the plate, literally taking the fresh-baked bread and wiping it clean. Obviously the portions are too small, obviously. Thank God for Alka-Seltza which should come standard with the meal. They keep creating new dishes, (“market fresh and seasonal” they call it. “Communist” I call it.) each one more disgustingly dynamic then the next. And how cheerful does a place have to be? And the damn staff, I mean, it’s like they’re my friends. Who needs that? What are they trying to hide? A full bar, and an eclectic wine selection is the icing on the cake for this dump. Do not come here.

Prime Meats

Germans. Who need them, right? With their farm fresh meats, amazing beer, and dear God, what is the deal with the bread? It’s like warm, oven fresh bread with butter is some sort of religion for these people. Every time I come here I regret it. It’s usually for brunch and they usually shove one of their “specialty” bloody mary’s in my face. Then another. German’s right? So pushy. And them I’m like “Oh, you made me eat too much, now I can’t walk home” and they “happily” call me a cab. I swear, this place is a nightmare.

Frankies Spuntino

People actually get married in this dive, if you can believe it. Just because they have A) a farmhouse in the backyard and B) they have “amazing” food. Yeah, apparently they won some sort of award for the food and service, but I just don’t see it; this place is always crowded so to me that just says that they are as slow as shit. And how hard is it to make Italian food? I mean a red-head dude called Mario (fake) can do it, and I bet he’s from Ireland. Don’t waste your time here folks, make it a Di’Giorno night.

River Deli

This place is so lame that it doesn’t even have a website. Hows 1982 of you my friends. Are those parachute pants working out for you? Cash only and about the size of a thimble this joint serves up what they call “Sardinian Fare”. Please. With it’s “charming” rustic interior, and actual Italian staff this place is about as un-American as you can get. Not even a basic hamburger on the menu! How they stay in business I do not know.

Lucali

The last time I had to wait outside for a pizza was in 1984 in Moscow. Wait. I’m American and we have Domino’s. I don’t wait for pizza, ever.

Ted and Honey

More like “Meh and Run-with-your-money”. Casual seating with room for kids, and artisan breakfast sandwiches? Free newspapers and large lattes? No thanks. I take my breakfast like an American; wrapped in plastic while riding the F train.

Drinks: 

Henry Public – See above. Or not. Don’t care.

Bar Tabac

French people, am I right? With their cheese, their Saison beers, and their Goddamn joy du vive or whatever they fucking call it. Going to this place is like hanging out at some shack in Marseilles. That’s like the Detroit of France. Viva l’Americans. Dont go.

Clover Club

What is with people, prohibition, and pool? What was fun about prohibition? Nothing. Super un-American. So this “speak easy” with a “rousing attitude” can just go suck it. I mean, craft beer and hand crafted cocktails? Um… MGD thank you very much.

61 Local

All I’m gonna say is look at the name of this place. 61 Local? UNIONS!? Please. Should be called 61 Communists.

Shops:

Paisanos

Listen, Italian’s, we get it. You like to eat. Stop shoving it in our faces with your fresh meats like hand-made sausages, veal and something called a “porchetta”. If I want to eat pig, I do so with a chop. Like an American. And congrats for being family owned for over 150 years. Making your kids slaves does not sound like freedom to me.

Staubitz

Another one. Immigrants. Where are all the Americans? This one puts photographs of 4 entire generations of his family on the wall. Here’s the kicker, the old guy behind the counter expertly cutting your meat? He’s the young guy in the first picture. Right? Like way to move up in the world buddy. Sure their meats are top quality, and you can’t beat their “service” but seriously, if I wanted to go back in time I would watch Back to the Future on Betamax.

Pacific Green Gourmet Food

Hand on face slap. Gourmet Food? C’mon people, we call this a bodega here in NYC. It’s the kinda place you go when you need toilet paper or scratch-offs. Sure they have some cheeses from around the world, fresh fruits and veg, and yeah, orange blossom water in case you’re making a Ramon Gin Fizz, but really we’re only looking for the post-nightclub Red Bull and wishful thinking pack of Trojans thank you very much.

Trader Joe’s

I swear, didn’t I leave California to get away from this hippie crap? The only saving grace with Trader Joe’s in Manhattan is that there is a 3 hour line to pay for your two buck chuck and bean dip. Here though it’s, like, empty… all the time. Balls.

Cobblestone Catring

Broccoli Rabe in garlic and chili? Sweet Yams glazed with honey? Roasted Chicken with sautéed wild mushrooms? How lazy do you have to be to pick up a freshly cooked dinner. Not to mention their fresh-baked Pretzel Croissants? Didn’t you get the memo? People like cronuts idiots, not your flakey delicious pretzel Frankensteins. Lame.

Brooklyn Wine Exchange

When did America stop making things? Wine from Aruba? Ruhm from Canada? Bitters from the Marshall Islands? I mean give me Carlo Rossi American Wine and stop with this eclectic serving of drunk juice. No one wants it.

Cafe Pedlar

When did Starbucks lose its grip on the coffee industry? Why would I possibly want a fresh, hot, ham and cheese croissant that didn’t come from a factory and was lovingly swaddled in a cellophane wrapper with my fresh brewed coffee? Why?

Court Street Pastry Shop and Caputo’s Bake Shop

Jeebus! What is it with Italians and food? Thank you for the Olive Garden, you can go now. I mean TWO bakeries right next to each other? And neither one of them has a web site? It’s like they expect word of mouth to keep them in business for over 100 years. One word idiots, “groupon”. Look into it.

Esposito’s and Son’s Pork Store.

Pork Store. What a joke. This place has all kinds of fresh-cut meats, Italian goods, even arancini’s. I mean way to mislead the public. There should be a law.

First Place Provisions Beeeeeeeeeeeer

Um, really? There are children around. Do I need your world-class selection of beer, cheese and coffee? Is this an Istanbul market? What do you mean “don’t worry about the coffee, we got it, come back soon”? What kinda cult is this?

Mazzola Bakery

Please. Look at all these old Italian types hanging outside drinking coffee eating brioche. Mafia. All of them, Mafia. They should raid this place.

Court Street Grocers

Specialty items? Cheeses from New York? Pickled rhubarb? unpasteurized Milk??? Communist. Where is the Key Food?

Bookcourt

Oh brother. A bookshop. An “independent” bookshop no less. How “neighborhoody” and shit. I mean, first of all, if I want a bookshop, I want it to sell toys and mugs, like a Barnes and Nobel, mainly because I have to use the bathroom and they have one. Sure this shop is extensive, and if the don’t have it, then they can order it. They call you even when it arrives (hell, one guy actually brought the book to my house because it was “on his way home” as if the people who work here aren’t homeless – psssst…. no one buys books anymore, we have the internet now. Cat videos).

Video Free Brooklyn

Do I really need to even write anything here. I mean a video rental shop? It’s 2014 people. Heard of Netflix? Video is dead my friend, and no one wants to watch any of your funky foreign films are art house crap. We want Michael Bay and we want it pausing every 12 to 17 minutes to buffer.

That’s it, and honestly, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Tip. Cobble Hill and its adjoining nightmare Carroll Gardens are just chuck full of these un-American, socialist sinkholes, that only exist so hippie communists can take honestly earned American Dollars. I swear, it’s neighborhoods like this that make me wonder where our future is going.

Rs

 

 

a perfect meal. the brindle room.

Spoiler alert: I am head over heals with the Brindle Room. Expect a gushy review.

So, this little gem on 10th street in the village is the kinda place (that luckily for me) many people walk past. In a neighborhood crammed with celeb fueled eateries (Momofuku I’m looking at you) the Brindle Room, with its unassuming entrance, warm interior, and chill atmosphere might not even register on most people radar.

Effectively you have then missed one of the better meals of your life.

It was so good, I even made a video about it. I was literally moved so much by this meal that my passion as a filmmaker was called into action. Take a peek, but I recommend putting a drip towel over your keyboard … https://vimeo.com/39804758

Let’s be frank and earnest here for a sec; the Brindle Room is not Boulud. It is not Jean George. We are not at Per Se. Nothing has foam on it, or even a hint of truffle. What we have here is neighborhood haute cuisine at its finest.

Seared Pepper Steak sandwich, house smoked chicken wings, even classic baked oysters that slide down your mouth like the caress of a warmed silk glove of a parisian lover. The menu stretches from the comforting beer battered pork belly to the more elegant venison loin, but don’t be fooled; everything on this menu was created by the chef to be just good tasting and fun eating. It doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not and that is where you realize it is a rare find; a genuinely good place to eat that focuses on food not fame.

It has been extremely hard not to mention the burger for three paragraphs. Extremely hard. Having been to the Brindle Room on multiple occasions you find out that even though they have THE BEST HAMBURGER IN THE WORLD, that the rest of their menu is stellar as well. But, let’s talk about it, because, damn it’s good…

brindle room burger

… their burger is a select mixture of prime meat that incorporates the deckle cut of steak which is the most delicious cut you could put in your mouth. What? Never heard of the deckle, a.k.a. The Rib-Eye Cap? The 2nd filet of Brisket? The Pillow Cut? (I made that last one up… sorry, rule of threes owns me)

Well the deckle is that guy that shows up to your party that makes it the best party that ever was. The guy that, 20 years later at someone wedding you don’t really know but you have a lot of mutual friends so you decide to go because you might see Charlene there and you wonder if she’s got fat, and you see all your high school buds and they were like “remember that party at Tom Higgin’s place when Deckle showed up in the stolen cop car a case of Goldschäger and a Billy Goat?” and you’re like “remember? Do we not all have tattoo’s of the date with “Deckle 4 EVA … bhaaaaa!” on all our arms???”. Yeah it’s like that.

More scientifically, Deckle is the back end of the Rib-Eye steak. Basically a mixture of filet and marbled fat, that, when blended in the right proportion, seared in a seasoned cask iron skillet, and then baked with soft, sweet onions and American cheese, produces a hamburger that you want to slowly rub on your face while confessing your love to it before consuming. Hence the reason they give you cloth dishtowels instead of paper napkins at the Brindle Room. You dont come for a meal; you come to make love to your food, and if done right, cleanup is always a bit messy, but always worth it.

Besides delicious devourables, Brindle keeps a pretty great, albeit small, selection of craft beers and affordable wines to help libate the meal properly. They also have a brunch that might take you out for the day. It really should come with in-house cots. Monday nights is vinyl night, so if you’re looking for some ear candy and mouth treats, that might be your jam.

Full disclosure: I have absolutely no stock in the Brindle Room. At all. This review come straight from the heart, and or perhaps stomach.

Rs

denver. eat it.

Continuing on our series about Denver (sounds so very 60 Minutes right?) we come to a very important segment (for an Italian)… foods. When someone says Denver, the first thing I think of is John Denver. The second thing I think of is John Denver eating a Denver omelet. The third thing I think of is him ordering it saying “Bring me my omelet!” and the waitress rolling her eyes, and Cookie, the fry cook saying “is that Denver acting a fool again?” and them having a good laugh, perhaps wading in each other’s eyes a bit too long, and in that precious moment living a life of love together unreclaimed, only to go back to the steam and grease that binds them to this unfair world. But the food in Denver is actually really good.

The first night we hit up Williams and Graham, a dope little speakeasy with a simple, delicious menu and a vast libation selection. Just like we like it. When you arrive, you are greeted by a dandy pair, that pushes a faux bookcase aside to walk into the back room. Kitch and fun, this place is designed within an inch of it’s life, but done perfectly so you feel like you are having an experience, rather than experiencing something at Disneyland. Our barkeep was a fine gent, who used ice that was seemingly mined by an Eskimo Michelangelo, hand-picked and polished. Usually I tend to like my drinks liquid and in a glass, but do appreciate the care taken here. What’s more I had the Pork Chop, and when done right, juicy and full of flavor, it is a magical thing. We were certainly off to a good start, so good in fact, we didn’t take any pictures. Those ice cubes went right to our heads. I did take one shot, in the bathroom, which was of the wall of comments; basically a very lo-fi version of Yelp which I adored.

williams and graham yelp

W&G is up in the Highland section of Denver, which is, as far as I can discern, the Williamsburg of Denver. Yes, as a New Yorker I have the right, and the duty, to compare every city to my own as a point of reference. What I guess that means is that you will find chic, hipsteresque places and well-funded artistic types in your ranks when traveling these streets. We did. On our way back we got a fine view of downtown as Highland lives up to its topological name, and stumbled into a swank rooftop bar named Linger which, again, looked like we were in a Edward Hopper painting…

linger

The next morning, feeding a well deserved hangover, we went to Snooze, which is a bit of an institution in Denver. It’s the kinda place that bellmen hate to recommend, and you know you’re there a block before you’ve arrived as there is a healthy line for pancakes. I will say this – it’s worth whatever wait you may have to endure. Having lived in both LA and NY I can say with certainty that I have a PhD in Brunch, and this brunch would have been a Breakfast Rhodes Scholar. May I offer exhibit A to the jury: their pancake menu.

Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes Buttermilk pancakes with caramelized pineapple chunks, housemade vanilla crème anglaise and cinnamon butter

Sweet Potato Pancakes Our signature sweet potato buttermilk pancakes topped with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter.

BanaNutella Pancakes Our Buttermilk pancakes filled with a molten, Nutella center and topped with caramelized banana cream and candied hazelnuts.

Literally cakes made in a pan. and you can get all three. On one plate. All three in your mouth if you want. Yes. Have your pancake and eat it too. They have an entire section entitled “The Art of the Hollandaise”. Finally, someone gets it. I had the Havana Benny which is shaved ranch ham and slow roasted pork served over a savory Swiss cheese bread pudding, topped with poached eggs, Dijon hollandaise and diced house pickles.  After I finished slowly rubbing my face in it (as I was making out with my brunch), I ate it, and was in heaven.

Denver_serrini-3256

That evening, looking for something a little more posh to see how eclectic Denver dining went, we checked out Beatrice and Woodsley (what is with the double names Denver? Everything sounds like a hipster folk band. Mumford and Sons much Denver?). We went down to the Washington Park area of town which harbors lots of cool vintage shops, bars, and tattoo parlors, which made me feel like we were in the right place, although, we couldn’t find it to save our lives. We walked up and down the block, three times, once through an alley, and nothing. Finally, we realized the place we passed 4 times was it; a yellow windowed restaurant that we didn’t even notice. Inside, past the Hunter S. Thompson window treatment, is a wood and linen dining experience that would be more akin to South Beach then Denver, save the amazing chainsaws stuck in the wall.

The service was impeccable and the food fit the service. Pimento Cheesecake (have you ever?) and Crawfish Bignets (have you ever?) were followed by Butcher’s Steak and fresh Chicken Pasta. A fine meal, and great wine to boot.

After this delightful dining experience we cruised down the street hitting up all the bars and finally ending at a place called the Punch Bowl. What to say about the Punch Bowl…. hmm… its like a 20-year-old with unlimited funds built a place to hang out with his closest 500 friends. And yeah, there is a doorman, at a bowling alley. Gigantic, full of games, bowling, darts, archery, video games, hidden bathrooms, several bars, and Jägermeister comes out of the walls. It’s a mecca to making poor choices. And no, there are no pictures from this portion of the evening.

The next morning (afternoon?) we needed some greasy spoon surgery, so we headed over to Sam’s No. 3 which is like a Denny’s on steroids. Not sure what happened to Sam’s No. 1 and 2 but I have a feeling Sam’s  No. 3 beat the shit out of them, stole their woman, and their car, and came to Denver. This place was epic, the wait was a bit long for a greasy spoon, but the pot edibles were kicking in so all was good. Besides, they had crayons. Score.

Sam's No. 3

When we got to the table we ordered the thing in the middle of the menu with a big starburst around it. After years of professional drinking I have learned that whatever is in that starburst is the answer to all our problems. It was basically a wave of fried, fatty foods meant to numb and comatose your problems, and yes, they did. Of course the Bloody Mary had a full plate of food in it as well. Seriously in heaven.

One of the highlights of the morning was when I told Tom, who had all the pot we bought earlier in his pocket, that there were two big cops right behind him. Brilliant. In my head it went something like this:

priceless-pot

To go out with a bang for our last supper, we decided to find a fantastic steakhouse and just be men about it. We settled on the Chophouse, which could not have been any better. Of course, like any other business in Denver, the Chophouse brews their own beer, which was delicious and cold, and helped sooth the amazing cuts of meats down our gullets. One of the highlights was the onion rings, which required scaffolding to serve to the table. Like any fine steakhouse the service was amazing, and it made it a perfect last meal in the mile high city.

With bellies full, and hearts open, we left that night 12 pounds heavier but with a spring in our step. Denver, our stomachs thank you.

dear cops. I bought pot.

That’s right fuzz. I bought pot. Lots of it. Pot you can smoke, and some you can even eat. And what’s more… I smoked it. In my face hole. Yup.

So whatchagonnadoboutit?

Nothing. That’s right. Mainly because it was legal, as I bought it in Denver, Colorado; the new pothead’s playground.

bud

This is the first of a series of posts about the adventure I’ve had out mid-west. It was an eye-opening experience, and anything but sobering. I’m going to break it down into a few different chapters:

• The Beer
• The City
• The Food
• The Hotel
• and of course, The Pot.

First, a prelude.

Beyond just going to the mile high city to get stoned (yep, dodged the pun. You’re welcome) it was my yearly boycation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Tom Taddeo. Tom and I lived with each other in a slick little Hell’s Kitchen apartment back when you could still smoke in the city. Since then we’ve been married, and some of us divorced, but  every year we set a long weekend aside to check in and check out a place we’ve never been. The choice to go to Denver went something like this:

Tom: “So where do you wanna go this year?”
Me: “Donno. Preferably somewhere with good food and beer. And pot.”
Tom: “So. Denver it is.”

And it was.

sxsw

It’s important, perhaps more than anything, to make the time to take the time in life. The younger version of me would be proud that I do that now, cutting out a few precious days to reconnect with an old friend who’s seen you drink your share, make a decent amount of bad decisions, and has become a ring in the trunk of your existence.

So I crossed the great divide to meet up with ol’ Taddeo and watched the fabric of the country roll out its quilt 30,000 feet below me. 29,000 feet later I was on land, but frankly it could have been the moon.

Denver, I would find out soon enough, is a very strange place.

Rs

plane