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New York Chili Fiends Gather this Weekend to Chow Down (and Get Heartburn)

 

Chili-fans should make their way over to Hill Country’s 2nd Annual Amateur Chili Cook-Off this Saturday, February 25th, from 1 to 3 pm. An admission fee of $10 will buy entrance to the event located in the downstairs Boot Bar, a spate of chili tastings, more Lone Star snacks than a Longhorns tailgate, and the right to vote for the coveted People’s Choice Award. Proceeds from the event will go to City Harvest.

Seven amateur teams—comprised of kids, adults, and even the esteemed firefighters from midtown’s Ladder Company 2—will present their best chili to a panel of judges including Artesia Wine Bar’s Mandy Oser, Eater’s Nick Solares, and Kurt Decker, known in some circles as the head camera man for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and known in other circles as a true chili fanatic. Hill Country’s own Pit Master Ash Fulk will emcee the festivities and help crown the winner of the Best Original Homestyle Chili.

Chili devotees may want to leave room for Hill Country’s limited-edition, regionally-inspired chilis on offer only during their week-long “Chilifest,” which wraps up this weekend. EAK’s Bowl of Red is a bean-less, meaty stew made with sausages (from Texas hill country stalwart Kreuz Market, no less) and native Texas chilis; the Chili Trail Chicken Chili is a white chili made with beans and pit-smoked chicken. For those who can’t decide, their Chili Duo & Beer Flight option nabs you samples of both along with some Shiner Bock to wash it all down.

Hill Country Barbecue Market

30 West 26th Street

(212) 255-4544
hillcountry.com

 

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Cochon 555 Winner Angie Mar Leads Her Kitchen With an Eye on Perfection — and Lots of Meat

Sometimes there’s no fanfare when a chef takes over an established kitchen, especially not at a restaurant that caters more to celebrities in stilettos than a forward-thinking food crowd. But Angie Mar had big plans when she took over at The Beatrice Inn in 2013, and she’s been working slowly and steadily to make sure she sees them coming to fruition in New York.

Mar arrived with her sous chef during the busiest part of the year and tried to cook the menu she’d inherited. A week later, she dropped it. “We came in at 8 a.m. on a Sunday and flipped the entire menu by the start of service on Monday,” she tells the Voice. It was a bold move, but only the beginning.

“A kitchen is a team and a family. I acquired someone else’s family, and they were mostly very inexperienced cooks.” Mar says. After assessing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, she gradually let that entire staff go. She had arrived with a Michelin-star mentality, gained from heading up the kitchen at April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig, so it made sense to rebuild her brigade until every single person came from a similar pedigree: “From the guy who works my grill, to my prep cook and my oyster shucker, we expect a lot from ourselves, each other, and the food that we cook here,” she says. Owner Graydon Carter gave Mar free rein over the menu, and she credits her growth as a chef to that freedom: “My palate has been refined, and I’ve found my voice,” she says.

That voice likes to sing about meat — Mar says the menu is now “anal rustic.” “Everything looks really beautiful, like we’ve walked into the woods and leaves have fallen in perfect places,” she says. Dishes lean toward nostalgia and comfort, but every leaf of parsley has been placed with agonizing precision. She doesn’t worry too much whether ingredients are local or sustainable — the meat, produce, and herbs just have to be the best. Mar’s cooking focuses on what she ate growing up (like her signature milk-braised pork shoulder), what she’s learned from her travels, and the flavors she’s pulled together from her Chinese-American upbringing.

One of her favorite menu items, the “butcher block,”  brings her back to childhood, where she found the most joy while interacting with friends and family over food. “For me, as a diner, I can’t think of anything better than to really get in there and share a beautiful meal with someone. It’s the act of coming in and ordering for three people the best cut of dry-aged meat you can get. It’s fun. There’s no pretension. There’s nothing precious about it. It’s honest, and that’s what I love about the dish.”

Mar's pork blood velvet cake at Cochon 555
Mar’s pork blood velvet cake at Cochon 555

While she’s generally kept her head down to build the reputation of “the Bea,” perfecting each of the 200 meals served there on a daily basis, her accolades are starting to come from outside the restaurant. Mar recently competed against four other NYC city chefs at New York Cochon 555, where she was crowned the Princess of Pork. She took a heritage Berkshire pig from Brown Boar Farm, which she and her team then transformed into six winning dishes. “The menu was cultivated by every person in my kitchen; that’s what’s special,” she says. The Brown Boar Farm people schooled the team on where the animal came from, what it ate, and how it was raised, and then they broke down and made use of every part of the animal together.

“These guys have to cook my food all day,” she says, “so events like this give them a lot of freedom. That’s what I want to foster: imagination and creativity.”

Pork tartare was common in her sous chef’s German heritage, and that led them to use the pig’s heart in a tartare with smoked egg yolk, burgundy truffle, Parmesan, and fried oregano. Because a number of her cooks are from Puebla, they used the rib meat in a mole negro with crispy tortilla, and washed other things with tequila. Mar’s mother grew up in the U.K., which inspired the larded, pastry-topped mincemeat pies. Mar herself, having grown up in a Jewish neighborhood, inspired pork-fat challah bread with liver and onion pâté and smoked pork honey. Expecting the other teams to utilize the pork blood in sausage, she used hers in a dessert course, folding the blood into a velvet cake and finishing it with cream-cheese-and-lard icing, pork neck caramel, smoked and caramelized guanciale, and marrow-bourbon crème brûlée.

“That’s the learning process,” she says. “That’s being a team. We were all invested in it. And then we won! That’s really cool.”

Back at work, Mar continues to improve and refine her kitchen’s culture. She recognizes that most people who come through the restaurant’s doors don’t think too much about who’s making the food, or where she comes from. They just want something delicious on their plate. So she focuses on integrity, making sure that each dish that lands on a table is “perfect — if we don’t care about that, it means we don’t care about our diners. Every plate is our integrity. I’ve always known that this restaurant could be something fantastic, and right now I feel honored that the rest of New York is starting to take notice as well. We’re excited about that, and about the future.”

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Next on ‘Chopped,’ Award-Winning Asiate Sous-Chef Giovanna Delli Compagni

When she was nineteen, Giovanna Delli Compagni moved from Venezuela to Arizona with her mom. Delli Compagni’s initial goal: learn English. She quickly enrolled in high school, then attended the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), a technical school with a culinary program. From the moment Delli Compagni laid eyes on the industrial kitchen, she knew she’d found her career path. “It felt like home,” says Delli Compagni. “Still, when I walk into the kitchen, I have that feeling of comfort.”

Delli Compagni, now 33, is currently sous-chef at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental, and she recently became the first female contestant to earn the prestigious Institut Paul Bocuse Scholarship from the Daniel Boulud Scholarship Fund. The award, valued at $15,000, covers the entire cost of a five-week program at Bocuse’s cooking school in Lyon, France, set to begin in May.

Breaking ground as the first woman to earn the distinction is an impressive feat on its own, but less than a month after winning, Delli Compagni has also secured a spot on the Food Network’s Chopped (her episode airs Tuesday, February 9, at 10 p.m. EST).

While much has happened for Delli Compagni over the past month, in many ways she’s been working toward this her entire life. Raised by a single mother, Delli Compagni started cooking with her grandmother as soon as she could reach the stove. As she got older, Delli Compagni took responsibility for the cooking while her mom worked. She studied traditional omelet preparations including a basic egg and sweet-pea version before attempting more complex frittatas with potatoes. “I enjoyed it and feel comfortable doing it,” she says. “It’s something that just became natural.”

Given her lifelong affiliation with the craft of cooking, it’s no surprise that Delli Compagni felt at home in a kitchen. At EVIT, she was introduced to C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), a nonprofit that works with underserved schools and at-risk youth to establish careers in professional kitchens, when a representative came to give a speech about it. Delli Compagni jumped at the opportunity to sign up for a scholarship competition with the program.

Delli Compagni plates her winning dish, scallop chowder with saffron and fennel.

Naturally, she rocked it. In the first round, Delli Compagni beat another student from EVIT. She then went head to head with participants from across Arizona. In the end, Delli Compagni snagged one of just 25 scholarships awarded to students across the state. She used her $40,000 award to enroll in the Culinary Institute of American (CIA). For the young chef, it was a life-changing moment. “My mom would never have had the opportunity to send me to such a school like CIA,” she says. “It helped me a lot, and today it still helps me a lot.”

Delli Compagni is still actively involved with the organization. She maintains regular contact with the founder and chairman emeritus of C-CAP, Richard Grausman, and many of the other players, to whom she refers as her “C-CAP family.”

C-CAP offers a variety of programs and awards — not all participants end up at CIA. To get one of the top-level scholarships, you have to be good — as in the best of the best. “CIA and Johnson & Wales are top-level scholarships, the equivalent of Harvard and Yale,” says Joyce Appelman, communications director for C-CAP. “These require higher grade levels and skills. Giovanna had the skills.”

After graduating, Delli Compagni went to Miami, spending time in the kitchens of DeVito South Beach and the Setai, before signing on with Asiate. During her three-year tenure with chef Jonathan Wright at the latter, she became enamored with Asian fare. She worked directly with chefs from India, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore, learning about diverse cultures and cooking techniques. “Just to be surrounded by people and flavors and ingredients from all over the world,” says Delli Compagni, “it’s powerful.”

All the while, she worked closely with Grausman and her mentors at C-CAP, asking for advice, forging connections in the industry. When Delli Compagni moved to New York, her contacts through the organization made the move less daunting. At Asiate, she’s immersed herself in different flavors from the Asian culinary spectrum. She’s been incorporating Korean and Japanese ingredients into her strong base of Southeast Asian knowledge. It shows in her ability to layer flavors, says Boulud: “She won with the strength of the principal dish she was cooking [scallops] with taste and texture. It was something familiar, something creative, something well executed, that tastes good. The combination was harmony.”

Boulud got involved with C-CAP about ten years ago when his business partner, Joel Smilow, gave him a $100,000 grant as a birthday present. A native of Lyon and protégé of Bocuse, Boulud wanted to give American chefs the chance to gain firsthand experience in a French kitchen while honing classic technique. In addition to running not-for-profit Ment’or with Thomas Keller, Boulud felt that C-CAP provided a unique opportunity for participants. “It’s helping thousands of kids in not-so-fortunate neighborhoods to get scholarships and get preparation in the business,” says Boulud. “I think this is [different] from regular cooking school; they can go to bigger schools or straight into the industry.”

For Delli Compagni, the experience has been overwhelming. She’s thrilled about going to France and working with industry leaders — and when she returns, she’ll get to trail Boulud every so often. Even getting feedback from Boulud felt like an accomplishment. And Delli Compagni is glad to forge the way for other female chefs looking to compete: “Just to bring the presence of a female in the kitchen, it’s important to me. I think women are just as strong; women should have more presence, more recognition.” 

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Idiotarod 2016 Blazes Through NYC With Sweet Costumes and Souped-Up Shopping Carts

The 12th annual NYC Idiotarod raced through NYC with dozens of teams duking it out on the snow-covered streets with killer costumes and their trusty “sleds” (a.k.a. shopping carts with pizazz). With a handful of friends and their shopping carts, competitors brought their freewheeling antics throughout the city, trying to run each other off-course and get to the afterparty at the Gowanus Ballroom in one piece.

Photos by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice

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Pig Lovers Win When Five Chefs Compete at Cochon 555

Though the remnants of Winter Storm Jonas could have hampered attendance, Weylin B. Seymour’s was packed on Sunday for the Cochon 555 food competition and fundraiser. Attendees feasted their eyes and their taste buds at the annual event, which pits five chefs against each other over their various heritage pig dishes. They also supported the Piggy Bank Foundation through purchases of meat from an onsite pig carving.

The 2016 NYC contestants were Angie Mar of the Beatrice Inn, Justin Smillie of Upland, Hillary Sterling of Vic’s, Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo and Michael Poiarkoff of Vinegar Hill House. After sampling the dishes and imbibing many of the numerous wines and cocktails available, attendees voted for which chef they would like to see move on to the Grand Cochon event in Colorado this summer. Of course, all who partook in the merriment were winners but Angie Mar proved the true victor. She even crafted a pig-related dessert — a red velvet cake with pig’s blood in it. 
Photos by Sachyn Mital for the Village Voice

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Behind the Scenes at the Global Pizza Summit Where Making Pizza Is a Tasty Art

On January 11 and 12, 2016, top pizza makers from all over the country converged in Harlem for the Global Pizza Summit and 2016 Caputo Cup Invitational. 

Each day brought a series of discussions and demonstrations hosted by some of the most prominent names in the world of pizza. After a lunch of fresh pasta prepared by Chef Gennaro Esposito, pie makers were invited to face off in a the ultimate pizza challenge. Competitors were divided into two groups—New York Style and Neapolitan. 
Top honors in the New York Style went to 69-year-old Norma Knepp, who runs a pizza stand at a weekly market in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Jesus Solis from Forcella in Brooklyn took home the prize in the Neapolitan category. Winners were given $1,000 and a pallet of Caputo flour, as well as entry and hotel accommodations at the upcoming Pizza Expo Competition in Las Vegas.

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The Dirty Water Dog Gets Dolled Up: A Look at the Sexy Frankfurters of NYCWFF

 

Some hot dogs require mayo.
Some hot dogs require mayo.

Behold the high-class version of New York’s beloved dirty water dog. Like street tacos in Los Angeles or the cubano sandwiches of Miami, there’s immeasurable pleasure in stuffing your face on a crowded sidewalk with meat whose origins hail from parts unknown.

Perhaps it’s the fact that inhaling a cylindrical tube in less than a New York minute is a completely acceptable and efficient dining practice. Or maybe it’s the fact that our city’s history as a haven for sausage-loving nations like Germany, Italy, and Poland makes the modern hot dog a natural fit with millennial diners.

Whatever the rationale, the hot dog was in fine form this past Sunday at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, where Andrew Zimmern hosted a tasting. While the records show that Rosamunde Sausage Grill’s cheddar-infused brat topped with sauerkraut and grilled onions was the official top dog for 2015, the variety of styles, from spicy Colombian dogs with jalapeños to classic creamy cheddar and bacon, makes it clear the renaissance of the ballpark frank is in full swing.

Check out the following photos for a glimpse of the city’s best dog show this side of the Westminster Kennel Club:

Bark's bacon cheddar dog. It's classic.
Bark’s bacon cheddar dog. It’s classic.
Pastrami and pickles are a time-tested topping.
Pastrami and pickles are a time-tested topping.
Colombian-style. Watch out for the jalapeño.
Colombian-style. Watch out for the jalapeño.

Mozzarella and tomato, a pairing that always works

Mozzarella and tomato, a pairing that always works

 

Andrew Zimmern's canteen dog, topped with cabbage slaw
Andrew Zimmern’s canteen dog, topped with cabbage slaw
Three's a charm.
Three’s a charm.
Short rib dogs
Short rib dogs

 

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NYC Chefs Are Competing in a Cassoulet War — And They’re Sharing

We might be outnumbered, but when fall is nigh we take a stand against the pumpkin spices that begin to invade the atmosphere like dust motes in the late afternoon, infiltrating coffee drinks, craft beer, and even our pizza, every year at the same time. The seasons may be stirring a change in our collective appetite, but that’s no reason to consume autumnal flavors willy-nilly.

A far better strategy to satisfy seasonal cravings is going all-in for comforting, savory food that comes out of the oven — slow-cooked, deliciously hearty dishes with lots of tradition and provenance. Like cassoulet, for example.

The iconic dish from Southwest France, a rich, rib-sticking combination of beans and all manner of meats and charcuterie, is the subject of a spirited chef-duel — D’Artagnan’s Cassoulet War.

On September 24, fifteen NYC chefs are going head to head, each creating his or her own version of the legendary dish. The second annual event raises money to benefit Action Against Hunger, helping malnourished children and their families. For $75 (drinks included), every attendee will get to taste the chef’s creations, and will have a chance to weigh in on the voting as well. Celebrity judges include winemaker Jean-Michel Cazes, Andre Daguin, and Sara Moulton. The event is taking place at the Standard Biergarten at the High Line (West 12th Street; 212-645-4646) starting at 7 p.m.

Here’s the list of chefs who’ll be cooking up a storm:

  •  Angela Favela (Favela)
  •  Cedric Tovar (Claudette)
  •  Christine Nunn (Picnic in the Square)
  •  Harold Moore (Commerce)
  •  JJ Johnson (Cecil and Minton’s Harlem)
  •  Jordi Valles (Le District)
  •  Justin Smillie (Upland)
  •  Michael Faure (O’Cabanon)
  •  Pascal Escriout (Tournesol)
  •  Philippe Bertineau (Benoit)
  •  Pierre Landet (Felix)
  •  Ron Rosselli (The Standard)
  •  Shane McBride (Cherche Midi)
  •  Suzanne Cupps (Untitled at the Whitney)
  •  Daniel Eddy (Rebelle)

 

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This Little New Yorker Went to the White House

Eleven-year-old Julia Rissberger explains herself on the phone with absolute assurance and confidence: “I started with a recipe that I love, but that isn’t very healthy. I reduced the amount of fat and sugar, subbed egg white for butter, added sesame seeds and oat bran to make it whole-grain. And there you have it.”

You’d never guess the drama unfolding in the kitchen behind her. “So, what just happened was Dad was so caught up in me being interviewed that he didn’t pay attention to the stove, and set fire to the linoleum, but everything’s fine now! Anyway, that’s the recipe.”

“You had to say that!” Julia’s mom, Rachel, says in the background.

And with that, we’re off on an adventure that will take Julia all the way from Oneonta in the Catskills to a state dinner at the White House, with the young cook as one of 55 finalists chosen to make the trip.

“Do you think we’ll get to meet the president?” wonders Julia.

“I have no idea what to pack,” Rachel says.

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is a recipe contest for kid chefs from around the nation. More than 1,000 entries from every state and territory had to meet the judging criteria — original, balanced, healthful, and, ideally, local — but only one winner per state is chosen. Julia’s winning entry, a spinach-and-apple salad with blueberry vinaigrette and whole-grain cheese pennies, is made with New York cheddar (reduced-fat, obviously). The blueberry vinaigrette is made with local blueberries. “You get to mash them with a potato masher, which is fun,” Julia notes.

Healthy is on the menu at the White House.
Healthy is on the menu at the White House.

Rachel saw the competition on Facebook. “I thought this would be perfect for Julia. Ever since she was old enough to stand on a chair and hold a spoon, we’ve been cooking together. When we heard she was the New York winner, we were so happy and excited! The school principal cried when we told him, and announced it on the loudspeaker.”

Tanya Steel, author of Real Food for Healthy Kids and the organizer and founder of the contest, tells the Voice, “It’s seriously hard to pick the winners. The quality this year was fantastic, and the level of sophistication is so high. We start by selecting two dishes per state or territory, then D.C. Central Kitchen prepares all the food, and our panel of judges, including some Kids’ State Dinner winners from previous years, tastes all the dishes. We pick a winning recipe from each state, then select the dishes that we’ll serve at the dinner.”

Steel continues, “Mrs. Obama has really given us a great forum. It empowers families and kids to shop, garden, and cook healthily, and it sparks a change. I only hope the next administration will continue the work that she’s ignited here.”

Julia wonders,“Do you think that the judges tell you if they’re going to serve your dish, or do you just wait and see if your plate comes out of the kitchen?”

“I hope not,” Rachel says. “Too much drama.”

Julia’s brother Gabriel surveys the scene. “I’m part excited, and part not,” he reports stoically. “It’s a long car ride.”

The day before the event, kids from all across America descend upon the Westin Georgetown. “We had a pizza party,” Julia says. “You’d think that would be unhealthy, but there was a lot of salad, and one of the pizzas was gluten-free and mostly vegetables. Then we had a Pay It Forward event. We got to write a letter to a military family, and send them our recipe. Before that, we had a private tour of Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian, and we got lost on the subway.”

“That subway ride is the most stressful part of the whole event,” Steel says. “But it’s absolutely worth it!”

The big day officially begins Friday, at 8:30 a.m. Julia’s rested and bubbly as ever: “I slept fine. Mom didn’t sleep at all.” Everyone piles into buses, and by around 9 a.m. they’re off, White House–bound.

The video feed from the dinner does not show a cheese-penny salad on the menu. But this doesn’t seem to bother Julia a bit. “It was amazing!” she says. “Michelle Obama congratulated me on my recipe, and I invited her to lunch next time she’s in New York. She laughed and said thanks.

Mr. President!
Mr. President!

“And then, right when we were about to eat, the door opened and a voice said, ‘Hold up,’ and it was the president, and he shook us all by the hand!”

“The president!” Rachel confirms.

“I thanked him for everything he and his family have done for our country,” says Julia, the very model of poise. “He said I was extremely well spoken, and obviously knew my way around a kitchen! Then there was lunch.”

The dishes were “really good,” though Rachel, who’s allergic to citrus, had a hard time of it. Pretty much every winning recipe served at the dinner, from the stuffed cucumber boats and “oodles” of zucchini noodles to a dessert of pineapple with white chocolate, went heavy on lemon and lime.

“I gave her some of my white chocolate, and she had a fruit plate,” says Julia. “It’s a shame, though, because citrus is a good way to wake up flavors.” Hint — that’s a winning tip.

Click here for a full list of the winning recipes.

Spinach and Apple Salad With Blueberry Vinaigrette and Whole-Grain Cheese Pennies
Recipe by Julia Rissberger, Age 11

Makes 6 Servings
479 calories, 32g fat, 35g carbohydrates,19g protein

For the Cheese Pennies:
½ stick unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces grated New York extra-sharp low-fat cheddar cheese
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup oat bran
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg white

For the Cinnamon Almonds:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup almonds

For the Blueberry Vinaigrette:
½ cup fresh or frozen (defrosted) blueberries
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon water
Dash of pepper

For the Spinach Salad:
12 cups baby spinach
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 apple, such as gala or honeycrisp, cored and thinly sliced

Preparation:
1. To make the Cheese Pennies: Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, combine the butter, cheese, all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, oat bran, sesame seeds, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white with an electric mixer until soft peaks appear. Fold the egg white into the cheese mixture. Roll into 24 small balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the pennies from the baking sheet, and let cool slightly.
2. To make the Cinnamon Almonds: In a nonstick sauté pan, bring the sugar, water, and cinnamon to a boil over medium heat. Add the almonds and stir continuously until the water evaporates and the sugar starts to harden on the almonds. Pour the nuts on a plate to cool.
3. To make the Blueberry Vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, smash the blueberries with a potato masher or fork. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. To assemble, divide the spinach, cucumber, and apple among 6 plates. Top each salad with 1 tablespoon lightly chopped cinnamon almonds and drizzle with blueberry vinaigrette. Serve with warm cheese pennies.

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Hoboken’s Roast Beef Battle: Brooklyn and Manhattan Fight Back!

Gravesend’s version of the sainted roast-beef mozzarella hero

Last week, FiTR pitted a pair of excellent Italian-American roast beef heros found in Hoboken, New Jersey against each other. These classic sandwiches featured roast beef done rare to medium rare and thinly sliced, just-made mozzarella in abundance, and either a trickle or tidal wave of brown gravy, the kind the English introduced to the New World. In the piece, we hinted that the sandwich is also native to Brooklyn, and we recently ran out there and tried an old favorite. For the borough-challenged, we also retried one in Manhattan.

FiTR assures you, no pets were harmed in the making of this sandwich.

Of the half-dozen or so we’ve tasted in the last two years, the best was at John’s Deli, a venerable working-class hero fabricator in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn – a former British colonial town – a stone’s throw from both Bath Beach and Coney Island. (Newsday restaurant critic Sylvia Carter once told me that roast beef sandwiches were what Italians always ate on the way to or from the borough’s beaches in the summer.)

The sandwich at John’s Deli is similar to the ones found at Italian delis in Hoboken, though with a little less emphasis on the cheese. The gravy is darker and more canned-tasting, too, though that’s not a detriment in a dreadnought like this. Overall, we’d say John’s version of the roast-beef-and-mutz sandwich is nearly as good as the two Hoboken examples – better, if you happen to be from Brooklyn.

East Village sandwich shop This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef is an offshoot of the Artichoke Basille restaurant chain, which has its roots in Staten Island. Can we assume its version of the hero is the way residents of the city’s southernmost island would make it? Well, maybe. The roast beef, sliced thin, is well-done, and the gravy is more like a steaming liquid. And the amount of cheese (which is great, and tastes just-made) is about half what you find on the Gravesend sandwich, and a third what is found in Hoboken. The bread, however, is the best the sandwich has ever been made on, a real chewy artisanal loaf.

So which of the four should you get? We suppose it depends on just how close you are to any of them.

This Little Piggy’s entry in the roast-beef hero sweepstakes

The East Village sandwich shop’s exterior