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Extended Cubano Voting!

EfV Headquarters were hit with some gnarly pipe-related structural damage yesterday, and we apologize for going missing as a result. We have decided to give you all a little more time to vote for New York’s best cuban sandwich. Take the weekend to entertain Thomas Vicari’s challenge and sample the Casa Havana version, or just drop us an email (foodblog@villagevoice.com) or comment below with your favorite.

The polls now close at midnight on Sunday!

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Getting Out the Cubano Vote



Havana Chelsea’s Cubano was widely adored, but it is no more.

Time is running out to exercise your right to vote in EfV’s Cubano contest. The polls close on Thursday night, so drop us an email (foodblog@villagevoice.com) or comment below and tell us where you satisfy your Cuban sandwich cravings now that so many favorite spots have disappeared from our fair city. Results and analysis on Friday.

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How to Make Coffee at Home, From an Expert

Ever since we met Dan Griffin, the manager/consultant/director of coffee at Williamsburg’s new, super serious coffee-shop, El Beit, where I sampled their delicious coffee, my own morning mug has seemed lacking. So I got Mr. Griffin to give a few pointers, for us common folk who may not have access to the $11,000 machine he loves the most, the Clover.

From the master:

For making coffee at home several factors are key:

  • Always use fresh roasted coffee, between four to 14 days out of the roaster.
  • Don’t buy beans at the grocery store, get em’ from your local coffee shop, but only if the bags have roast dates.
  • Always use freshly ground coffee
  • Grind coffee with a burr grinder, not a whirly blade grinder.
  • Know the right grind size for your brewing method.
  • Experiment with dose (the amount of coffee used) to get your desired profile.
  • Use filtered water at just below a boil 
  • Use simple brewers: French press, Chemex, Eva Solo, vac pot, Melitta filter. Electric brewers don’t get the water hot enough and are inconsistent.
  •  

El Beit</br
158 Bedford Avenue
Williamsburg

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The State of the Ball-Field Vendors, Plus a Ceviche Exclusive

It may be wicked cold out, but if the Red Hook “Ball-field” vendors are going to be in action this summer, the time has come for them to fight for it. Cesar Fuentes, Executive Director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, gave us a full update on the situation.


In a nutshell, the Park’s Department has issued a Request for Proposals, and meeting its guidelines would be expensive. As Fuentes put it, “It is more fitted for a corporation than a group of artisan food vendors.” In addition, the proposals are due in just ten days. But if they can make it happen, the permit would be good for six years, and the operation may eventually be open full-time (all week, all year). There is competition for the permit, but at this point, it doesn’t seem to be fierce. The vendors’ greatest opponents remains the Parks Department and the Department of Health.

The only detail about the next season that’s official is the sad news that Victor Rojas, the ceviche man whose stand was usually the furthest west on Bay Street, has decided to bow out already because of financial concerns. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the effort doesn’t disintegrate before February 22, when the proposal is due.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

]
JANUARY 30:

Fuentes meets with the vendors to discuss the newly-released Request for Proposals and decide whether to continue the fight for preservation and make a bid. They decide to go on.

FEBRUARY 6:

Fuentes and the vendors meet at Red Hook Park with Parks officials to go over the Request for Proposals and meet other potential bidders. At first it seems that Fuentes and his vendors are without competition, but later he learns there are two other groups interested in bidding who did not show up.

THE SKINNY ON THE REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS:

The Good:

  • The Permit is good for six years.
  • There is a chance the concessions will be open more than just weekends.
  • The Parks Department appears to have framed their vision with the Ball-field vendors in mind.—they are looking for an ethnic food market.

    The Bad:

  • The Request for Proposals is complicated and Fuentes fears it may require “a team of lawyers, accountants, architects and/or designers and professional writers” to complete.
  • There is a $2000 deposit just to apply.
  • There are just ten days to complete the proposals. They’re due on the 22nd of this month, by 3pm, delivered by hand. “Any later than 3pm and we’re goners!”
  • The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has set very strict guidelines as well. Fuentes said “It basically asks for state of the art operation”, meaning mobile food vending units, rather than simple tables, and of course vendors (and assistants) must be licensed.

    “The Ugly”:

  • Fuentes says the vendors face investments of $15,000-$30,000 or more each in the mobile carts themselves. Obviously, many vendors are deeply concerned about being able to do this.
  • Some vendors have already decided not to go forward. Namely, Victor Rojas, mentioned above.

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    Valentine’s Day is Only for Lovers at Prune

    We love Gabrielle Hamilton’s dueling Valentine’s Menus—one for lovers and one for cynics. But this year, we’re all united at Prune, with just one menu (after the jump).

    For the cynics, last year, the chef put forth some Pasta Puttanesca (whore sauce), some cold pork shoulder with tonnato sauce, bitter greens with a broken vinaigrette sauce, and for dessert: “coffee and cigarettes.” The menu for Cathy-types was also half the price of the lover version, which was, as it is this year, $69. Bah-ha ha. (The cynics menu was also a much shorter price-fix affair).

    But don’t think Hamilton has gone all soft and kinky on us. Just because you’re in a couple doesn’t mean you’re not cynical, as you probably know. The muses for this menu might be more Amy Winehouse and Whatshisname than some cutesy couple you want to beat to death with a bouquet of roses. We’ve got calves brains, beef cheeks, tongue-and-octopus salad, veal heart, deviled crab, and more.

    Prune is booked for dinner on Thursday, but General Manager Julie Sproesser told us they reserve one table for walk-ins and there will be a wait-list at the door. Also, on nights like this, couples tend not to want to sit at the bar, so you might be able to snag a spot there.

    VALENTINE’S DAY MENU 2008

    Choice of:
    *Deviled Crab
    *Celery Hearts Victor
    *1/2 Shell Scallops with roe sac and ruby grapefruit
    *Scrambled Egg Pasta Daisies

    Choice of:
    *Garbure with poached duck liver
    *Calf’s Brains, Brown Butter
    *Braised Beef Cheeks
    *Pork Belly with Brown Sugar, Pickled Tomatoes, Aioli and Parsley Salad

    Choice of:
    *Tongue and Octopus Salad
    *Cockles and fresh pork sausages
    *Grilled Veal Heart, Salsa Verde

    Choice of:
    *Eclair Swans
    *Honeycomb
    *Dark Cocoa Cake with Truffle Center and Wafer Crumbs
    *Rose Petal Panna Cotta
    *Cinnamon-Sugar Churros with Hot Buttered Rum
    *Raw Goat’s Milk Cheese, Pinenut Butter, Dried Cherry Bread Toasts

    $69 per person

    Prune
    54 East 1st Street
    (212) 677-6221

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    How Long Can You Eat?

    The kids over at 826NYC’s drop-in tutoring program have started an awesome blog, “Fish Slaps a Baby”, which focuses on issues like wrestling, penguins, rock n’ roll, transformers, and, uhhh, wrestling. But it’s also interactive. On the right side of the page are polls for readers to answer. There are currently six days left to answer one that asks: “How long can you eat?”

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    Sixpoint Beer Menu at Jimmy’s

    If you are a fan of Sixpoint beers, as we are, you might want to reserve your Monday night for a special event at Jimmy’s No. 43. A beer-intensive pre-Valentine’s event will feature a menu inspired by/the Brooklyn beers. Several dishes use Sixpoint beers as a cooking ingredient.

    Full details after the jump.

    From Jimmy’s blog:

    On Monday February 11, Jimmy’s No.43 will be hosting a pre-Valentine event featuring several limited, seasonal beers from Sixpoint Craft Ales of Brooklyn. Chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark will offer a menu of specials inspired by or actually prepared with The Belgian Style Triple, Scotch Ale, Guerilla Porter, as well as 2 cask ales pared with winter ingredients from the Greenmarket.

    The Menu:

    Baby lettuces w/beer pickled cherry tomatoes, radish sprouts, and sheep’s milk feta
    “Bengali Tiger” I.P.A. and cave aged cheddar soup
    Crab cakes with wheat beer aioli, frisee, and tarragon

    Strozzapretti pasta w/ boquerones, pickled cherry tomatoes, and drunken goat cheese
    Bio-dynamic barly “risotto” w/bosc pears and pecorino cheese
    Miso and beer broiled “kampachi” (baby hamachi fish) w/ flageolet, and baby turnips

    “Beer Mash” marinated pork belly ribs w/garlicy kale
    “The Slab” Benton’s Tennesse country bacon with accoutrements
    “Diesel” stout braised lamb shanks, yukon gold and marjoram puree
    “Brownstone” braised oxtail w/heirloom carrots

    Barley wine and toffee bread pudding
    Triple apple crisp (fresh and hard cider, goldrush apples)

    Chimay cheese
    Epoisses cheese

    Monday, February 11
    Jimmy’s No. 43
    43 East 7th Street
    (212) 982-3006

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    Super Fat: Where to Watch the Returns While Eating Jambalaya

    Get your beads ready, people—and your Obama pin or whatever. To celebrate Super Fat Tuesday, South 4th Bar and Cafe, in Williamsburg, is serving up home-made jambalaya, Abita beer, and the election returns on a projection screen. The best part might be that the jambalaya is free and the beers are $3. According to the dude on the phone, one of the proprietors makes a kick-ass jambalaya, and there’s a great neighborhood vibe. The food will appear around 7PM, and we can’t imagine that will last long.

    Super Fat Tuesday:
    South 4th Bar
    90 South 4th Street (at Berry)
    Williamsburg
    (718) 218-7478

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    Rice Balls at TKettle, Still no Action at BBQ Chicken

    BBQ Chicken, the Korean fried chicken chain, remains dark at the Saint Marks location. When we asked Andy Pan, who owns TKettle and has “partnered” with BBQ Chicken at this joint location, about it on Friday, all he could say was “It’s killing me softly.” Seriously, that’s what he said. The space, which, you may recall, was formerly dirty, dirty Dojo, still hasn’t gotten the OK from the building inspector to have Con Edison install the gas. The details of the plumbing problem are a mystery to us, but Pan assured us the place will open. We’ll continue to check in and keep you posted…

    But the difficulties on the left side of the shop, which are clearly weighing on Pan, could be something of a blessing in disguise. The lack of chicken forced him to get a little creative and add food to the menu at TKettle, his bubble tea shop, which occupies the right side of the space. Of course, that’s why we got the fantastic dumplings from the dumpling lady of Queens.

    ]

    Now Pan has added sweet, mochi-like rice balls to the menu, which we gladly sampled the other day. The balls are Japanese, and not the work of Sun Le, the aforementioned dumpling master. But they’re delicious nonetheless. An order of five rice balls costs $3.25 and consists of a combination of warm black sesame- and peanut-filled balls, encased in a chewy rice dough. We liked them both, but the peanut was especially good—salty, crumbly, and sweet. TKettle is open till 1AM, and we can easily imagine stopping in for an after-dinner sugar rush.

    TKettle

    26 Saint Marks Place

    (212) 982-9782

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    Wine Swap Tonight, Plus Free Snacks

     

     

    If you are the kind of wine drinker who knows what she likes, but only when she tastes it, you might want to start frequenting the Lower East Side wine bar, Tre, on Monday nights. Owner/sommelier Guido Vennitucci has a clever deal, the wine swap. You bring in any European bottle you enjoy, and he trades it for a similarly-priced recommendation of his own. In addition, swappers get free appetizers.

    Tre
    173 Ludlow Street
    (212) 353-3353