Food

The Rise of Culinary Brewing

stout_5Photography: Jon Edwards

Do these pictures make you hungry? That's the point! For this month's issue of Draft magazine, I investigate the growing trend of culinary in brewing. In a simpler era, brewers mainly relied on hops, grain, water and yeast to create an endless range of ales and lagers. But for modern brewers, the power of four tends to bore.

Seeking out new flavors, brewers are digging into their pantries and refrigerators. Though you can add edibles to nearly any beer style (Ballast Point’s Habañero Sculpin IPA, Elysian’s Super Fuzz blood orange pale ale, Sam Adams’ beef-heart-fueled, Oktoberfest-inspired Burke in a Bottle), the most popular platforms are the stout and porter. Typically, brewers played up their roasty, cocoalike characteristics by incorporating coffee or chocolate. Now they’re turning to bacon, peanut butter, pretzels and even oysters to devise dark beers as curious as they are curiously delicious.

Care to read the full story? Check it out over at Draft.

Crying for Uncle

Photo: James Boo/ theeatenpath.com

Thirty years ago in America, you’d be hard-pressed to find Chinese food outside the culinary continuum of wonton soup, lo mein and sweet-and-sour chicken, a dish designed as a delivery system for sugar and red dye. But in the last decade, as sour-spicy Hunan and hot-and-numbing Sichuan restaurants fired up their woks, the country has been introduced to a growing galaxy of flavorful Chinese cuisine, not just deep-fried meat of dubious origin.

Of all the cuisines that have lately attracted our appetite — Southeast Asia–influenced Yunnan, seafaring Qingdao, hearty, dumpling-and-meat-heavy Dongbei — one school of cookery stands out: Henan cuisine.

Do not confuse this with Hunan. Located northwest of Shanghai, the cuisine of the Henan province, known as the breadbasket of central China, is heavy on noodles, dumplings and lamb. Garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, star anise and chili oil are common additions, though the fare is not as mouth-on-fire as Sichuan food.

In New York City, Henan cuisine has lately main inroads in both Manhattan and Queens, with the best eats found at the homespun Uncle Zhou. Like most Chinese restaurants, the frills-free décor runs a distant second to the food. There are a handful of tables and a refrigerated case displaying the day’s cold appetizers, including plenty of spicy mushrooms, shreds of pressed tofu and oodles of sliced offal.

They’re plenty tasty, but we prefer to reserve our stomach space for the bounty of wheat. The generously portioned boiled lamb dumplings are juicy as you will find. The spicy shaved-noodle soup is a tangle of chewy noodles, tender stewed beef and a restorative broth shot through with tingly Sichuan peppercorns and a slick of chili oil. The “dial oil” noodles are a tangy and garlicky, vinegar-doused delight.

Though it’s tempting to make a meal out of noodles and dumplings, the carnivore-appeasing entrées also merit exploration. Fried-crispy chunks of boneless lamb are coated in cumin seeds, while a whole fried fish is set adrift in a lake of sweet-and-sour sauce and topped with a pile of crunchy baked noodles. But if you’re making the trip to Queens to visit Uncle Zhou, you best order the “big tray of chicken.”

It’s a table-dwarfing platter of blood-red chili oil swimming with star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, chilies, cilantro and plenty of potato cubes, bony nuggets of chicken and noodles to wipe the plate clean. It's aromatic without being incendiary, finger-licking food finer than anything Colonel Sanders ever created.

It was much too much food to finish. You could say we happily cried Uncle.

Uncle Zhou 83-29 Broadway Elmhurst, NY 11373 718-393-0888

This story was originally published on Food Republic.

My Five Favorite Pairings From SAVOR

Hello, SAVOR! (Yes, it's supposed to have big ol' letters.)

Too many times to count, beer has served as our appetizer, entrée and dessert, the sole source of our evening’s caloric intake. Solid food is an afterthought to loads of liquid bread.

Not so last weekend in Washington, D.C., where the Brewers Association hosted SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience. The festival’s mission is simple to take over the National Building Museum, then partner some of the country’s top breweries with dishes devised by Adam Dulye of the Monk’s Kettle, one of San Francisco’s finest beer-focused restaurants.

Before Saturday night’s main course, we broke bread at the Brewer’s Brunch at Birch & Barley. The restaurant and its upstairs bar, Churchkey, have become the epicenter of the city’s beer and dining scene thanks to the one-two efforts of chef Kyle Bailey and beer director Greg Engert. Taking advantage of a quirky local law that allows the bar to pour just about any beer it can acquire (instead of wading through the legal muck), Engert sources beers not commonly found on the East Coast.

The main event assembled some of America’s best brewing talent to lead diners through six courses complemented by beer as unusual as they were delicious, such as the Black Berliner Techno Weiss devised by Bluejacket (the restaurant’s in-the-works brewery) and Virginia’s Devil’s Backbone. “It defies expectations,” said Bluejacket brewer Megan Parisi, holding aloft a glass of the dark and sour German ale that only weighed in at about 3.4 percent. The tangy ale was a fine fit for the pickled vegetables, while Boulevard Brewing’s wild yeast–spiked Saison Brett found harmony in the beet-cured Arctic char.

Also intriguing was Durham, North Carolina–based Fullsteam Brewery’s Carver, a lager made with plenty of sweet potatoes. “We’re all about being a Southern brewery,” explained founder Sean Lilly Wilson as we dove into buckwheat crumpets studded with bacon, English peas and corn. On the other hand, homemade ricotta cavatelli and breakfast sausage sidled up to Terra Incognita, a dark, lightly leathery barrel-aged curiosity also dosed with the wild yeast Brettanomyces. “We wanted to do something that was earthy and had food-friendly flavors,” explained Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman of the beer made in conjunction with Boulevard Brewing (it was SAVOR’s official commemorative beer).

That sour, wild yeast–infected beers were the stars of brunch was no accident. That evening, as we ping-ponged around the 74 breweries scattered beneath the towering ceiling, the coming trends of craft beer became apparent. More than ever, breweries are tinkering with souring bacteria such as Lactobacillus and the wild yeast Brettanomyces, creating tart, funky beers that’ll make you pucker with pleasure. Fruit, vegetables and herbs are also taking their starring turn, as are smoked malts that are providing beers with a campfire complexity. Here are five of our favorite finds from SAVOR 2012 and their accompanying food. Note: Some courses were paired with multiple beers.

1. Mother Earth Brewing: Double Wit Blackberry paired with huckleberry and Meyer lemon crème puff We’ve long been fans of this brewery in eastern North Carolina, but brewmaster Josh Brewer (seriously!) knocked us out of the park with this beer fermented with blackberries and aged in pinot noir barrels. Look for more fruit-based released in the Window Pane Series in the future.

2. Upland Brewing Company: Gilgamesh paired with roasted beet and chèvre tartlet, sherry gastrique Based in Bloomington, Indiana, this brewery has made big waves with its collection of sour beers, headlined at the festival by Gilgamesh. The Flanders-style red was doctored with all manner of wild yeasts and critters, then sent to slumber for a year in oak bourbon barrels. It was a lively, complex pleasure.

3. Denver Beer Company: Kaffir Lime Wheat Beer paired with pickled Hawaiian tombo, radish and preserved lemon Long a hallmark of Thai cuisine, light and aromatic kaffir lime proved to be a tailor-made complement to the smooth, hazy and slightly tart all-day sipper.

4. Avery Brewing Company: Musct d’Amore paired with huckleberry and Meyer lemon crème puff Though it’s known for its big, over-the-top IPAs and stouts, Boulder, Colorado’s Avery also runs a serious sour-beer program, exemplified by the Muscat d’Amore made with 150 gallons of Muscat Blanc grape must, as well as both Belgian and Brettanomyces yeast strains. After 14 months in Chardonnay barrels, the result was a golden delight with echoes of dry white wine.

5. Yazoo Brewing Company: Fortuitous paired with roasted beet and chèvre tartlet, sherry gastrique In the curious intersection of several trends, the Nashville brewery lightly soured its cherry wood–smoked porter, then aged it in bourbon barrels. The smoky outcome has notes of smoke, cocoa and oak wrapped up in a pleasing tartness.

The story was originally published on Food Republic. 

Here's Why Boston Made Me Fat

Hello, precious. A lobster roll from Island Creek Oyster Bar.

I liken living in New York City to being trapped in a cocoon surrounded by a force field. There’s so much to eat and drink in the metropolis that it’s tough to break out. Weeks and months pass before residents escape the city limits.

This brings us to Boston. It had been too long since my wife and I had driven the 220 miles north, so we decided to spend a weekend diving face-first into the city’s food and drink scene. Here’s how we happily came back five pounds heavier.

1. Fried Mussels at Park Restaurant I typically despise mussels, but at Harvard Square’s recently opened Park, a subterranean boîte packed with comfy parlor furniture, a fine beer selection and even better cocktails, I found a mussels dish to make me a believer: The bivalves were coated in a batter cut with preserved lemon and fried till fluffy and crisp, then served with a zingy horseradish dipping sauce. It was sort of like eating seafood popcorn. 59 JFK St., Cambridge, MA, 617-491-9851, parkcambridge.com

2. Grass-Fed Burger at Craigie on Main Forget the Pat LaFrieda–blend burgers. At Craigie, chef Tony Maws mixes his grass-fed beef with umami-rich dehydrated miso and bone marrow — drooling yet? — and cooks the patty in a low-temperature, CVap steam oven to a juicy medium rare. The finishing touches: a quick char on a steel plancha, mace-spiked ketchup, aged cheddar and house-crafted red-wine pickles. The burger is a heap of yum. 853 Main St., Cambridge, MA, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com

3. Harpoon Brewery Cider While the Boston-born outfit is best known for its unfiltered UFO beers and floral IPA, a trip to Harpoon’s south Boston brewery clued me in on a few styles worth your stomach space. The newly released Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA is a citrusy, slightly spicy delight. But I was more smitten by the relatively rare cider. Made with nothing but juice from New England apples, including the McIntosh, the Harpoon Cider is a tart, lightly sweet treat that temporarily made me forget my love affair with beer. 306 Northern Ave., Boston, MA, 617-574-9551, harpoonbrewery.com

4. KK’s Bacon and Sea-Salt Pretzel Nuggets With Pimento Cheese Dip at Area Four Pulling quadruple duty as a coffeehouse, bakery, bar and restaurant focusing on local and season ingredients, Area Four might just be a jack-of-all-dining. The pizzas pulled from the wood-, gas-, and infrared-heated oven are finely crusty and charred, but I could happily — and gluttonously, I might add — subsist on the pretzel nuggets cooked in bacon fat and served with a pimento-cheese dip. Um, more please. 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA, 617-758-4444, areafour.com

5. Ward 44 at Saloon Whiskey, grilled and roasted meats, and dark wood are the focus at this subterranean, well, saloon outfitted with arches, old-timey mirrors and an excellent cocktail list. Given the kitchen’s focus on the pleasures of the flesh, it follows that the most intriguing cocktail is the bacon-y Ward 44. Pork belly­–infused whiskey is the focal ingredient, providing a lingering smoky flavor, but lemon and grenadine add crucial balance. 255 Elm St., Somerville, MA, 617-628-4444, saloondavis.com

6. Wormtown Brewery Be Hoppy IPA at Flatbread Company Long past the point of common sense, my wife and I wended our way to Davis Square with our bleary eyes set on the former Sacco’s Bowl Haven. Several years ago, the team from quirky Northeast pizza chain Flatbread took over the bowling alley — candlepin bowling, mind you — ripped out a few lanes, installed a pizza oven and stocked the bar with Massachusetts beer and cocktails made with regional spirits. Booze seemed like a bad idea, so I focused on Worcester-based Wormtown’s Be Hoppy, a pungent pleasure bursting with grapefruit bitterness. 45 Day St., Somerville, MA, 617-776-0552, flatbreadcompany.com

7. Lobster Roll at Island Creek Oyster Bar The Hotel Commonwealth is a dining and drinking powerhouse, counting buzzy brasserie Eastern Standard, comfortably mod lounge the Hawthorne (overseen by cocktail mastermind Jackson Cannon) and Island Creek Oyster Bar, which might just be Boston’s finest seafood restaurant. The oysters are impeccably sourced (“These are my favorite oysters,” my wife moaned, sucking down several buttery-briny Island Creeks), the breads are house-baked and the lobster roll was a lightly dressed beauty with an unlikely, but delicious addition of diced pickles. P.S. Come at brunch for the decadent lavender doughnuts. 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com

8. Notch Session Saison from Craft Beer Cellar On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I forsook the fine weather and spent a few hours marinating inside Craft Beer Cellar, which is quite possibly Boston’s finest beer store. Amid the bottles of locally brewed beers like Slumbrew’s blood orange, infused Happy Sol and the lovely lagers of Jack’s Abbey, I found myself drawn to the low-alcohol quaffs of area outfit Notch Brewing. The brewery specializes in session brews like the crisp Session Pils and my favorite, the dry, peppery and compulsively drinkable Saison. 51 Leonard St., Belmont, MA, 617-932-1885, bostoncraftbeercellar.com

9. Mashed Potato, Bacon and Scallion Pizza Slice at Otto When my wife and I were married in Portland, Maine, last summer, our rehearsal dinner consisted of inviting guests onto the evening ferry, supplying a couple coolers of beer and buying a boatload of thin-crust Otto pizza. So you can understand our excitement when we spied the Harvard Square outpost of the mini chain, which was serving slices to hordes of hungry customers. The plain cheese is commendable, but go big baller and get a slice topped with mashed potatoes, scallions and bacon. Don’t judge: It works. 1432 Massachussettes Ave., Cambridge, MA, 617-499-3352, ottocambridge.com

10. Super Duper Weenies On our trip to Boston, we made a most crucial stop in Connecticut at Fairfield’s Super Duper Weenies, a long-running hot dog joint focusing on beef-and-pork wieners crowned with from-scratch toppings. Fries are fresh-cut. Everything is cooked to order. I select skin-on fries and a New Englander, which is crowned with ’kraut, mustard, bacon, mustard and sweet relish. It's sweet-and-tart, snappy, zingy and rich as a Rockefeller. In other words, the weenie is just super. 306 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield, CT, 203-334-3647, superduperweenie.com

This story originally ran in Food Republic.

General Tso, Meet an IPA

Fellow Americans, we’re living in a golden age of craft beer and Chinese grub as our nation is finally moving beyond Budweiser and General Tso—that fictitious soldier who led chicken charging into a deep fryer. But despite all the bitter IPAs, inky stouts and lip-singeing dan dan noodles currently awaiting your stomach, craft beer and Chinese food hardly ever intersect. At restaurants, the fieriest Far East fare is typically served with Tsingtao, a lager that’s every bit as nuanced as MGD. Bold foods deserve equally bold beer.

That’s the modus operandi at AmerAsia, the rare restaurant to combine top-flight Chinese food with beer not grabbed from the bottom shelf. Located in Covington, Kentucky, within spitting distance of Cincinnati and the Ohio River, AmerAsia is a funky little place in a sleepy little downtown. The walls are decorated with graffiti-style murals and kung fu movie posters like Enter the Dragon and Game of Death, as well as, uh, lesser-known classics like Beverly Hills Ninja.

The kitschy, cartoony menu depicts master chef Rich Chu — a Hunan-born, Taiwan-raised sixty-something who learned Sichuan cuisine from the former imperial chef to China’s last emperor — as a wok-armed “Kung Food” master. Some dishes are described as “fly rice” and “Brocco-Lee.” The aesthetic teeters close to schlock, but then you nibble the dragon’s breath wontons and all tongue-in-cheek cultural trespasses are forgiven.

Fat orbs of ground pork are blended with cilantro, ginger and onions are wrapped in egg dough, simmered till plump and steaming, then anointed with incendiary red-pepper sauce and cilantro. The result is mouth-burning bliss, as are the spicy zonxon noodles mingled with mushrooms, pork, tofu, peanuts and cilantro. There’s also homemade tofu (terrific in the mapo tofu), cold beef salad marinated in sesame oil, smoky peppers and ginger, and even an impeccably fresh, incendiary General Tso’s chicken that puts its gloppy, cornstarch-coated soldiers in arms to shame.

And what of the beer? Avid homebrewer Micah Wright turned on the chef to the pleasures of craft beer and was soon installed behind the bar, tending to two rotating taps and a constantly rotating list of more than 100 beers. There are prickly pilsners, pungent IPAs, decadent stouts and aromatic ales from the likes of craft-beer all-stars Bell’s, Three Floyds, Southern Tier, Great Lakes and Rogue, along with Wright’s expert advice on pairing each brew with a specific dish.

Who knew an IPA could tame a dragon’s breath?

The story was originally published on Food Republic.

Gut Instinct: In a Peculiar State

As a native Ohioan, I'm a sworn enemy of all things Michigan. For those not reared in the Midwest this may seem like a quaint hate, a petty provincial battle played out in parts of the country where people say "pop" instead of "soda."

That's a monstrously mistaken assumption. The odium is real, and its birthplace is the college football field. Every fall, the Ohio State Buckeyes combat the University of Michigan Wolverines in a high-stakes gridiron battle. While the game can get downright nasty, it's nothing compared to the airing of drunken, bareknuckled grievances between the respective squads' fans. The animosity is akin to the bile that Yankees fans feel toward the Boston Red Sox, and there ain't a olive branch big enough to effect peace.

But could grub and grog bridge the yawning divide? In recent years, I've found my Michigan stance softening thanks to its uprising of excellent breweries such as Bell's, Dark Horse and Jolly Pumpkin, but on the food front, I've ingested little sustenance from Michigan, a state shaped like four fingers and a thumb. That changed last week at the James Beard House, when I dined on fare from Novi, Mich.'s Toasted Oak Grill & Market. It's understandable if neither city nor restaurant dings your bell.

A primer: Novi is a western suburb of Detroit, far removed from the Motor City's destruction porn. Toasted Oak traffics in locally sourced meats—venison, trout, chicken—vegetables and cheeses, including offerings from the world-beating Zingerman's deli, all served under toque Steven Grostick's "I Cook Michigan" mantra. "I'm a nut job when it comes to Michigan," says the bearded, affable chef. His is a noble, buzzword-packed endeavor, one that in lesser hands would be driven into a trendy dumpster. But with more than 15 years of cooking experience, the Michigan-bred Grostick's got the chops, having stewarded award-winning restaurants across the state.

For the James Beard dinner, Grostick filled a van with kitchen staff and Michigan ingredients and wheeled his feast to the Big Apple. The kitchen crew had prepped for days, so when I arrived at the James Beard House—a West Village brownstone that had once housed the eponymous dean of American cooking—the appetizers were departing from the kitchen at a dizzying clip. I started with a skewered short rib braised in Faygo root beer, an indigenous Detroit beverage. The yielding meat packs a subtle sweetness, a flavor matched by a Manhattan made by infusing New Holland whiskey with tart cherries harvested in state. (Fun fact: Michigan produces most of America's tart cherries!)

After finishing my Manhattan, feeling a boozy flush not fit for summertime heat, I switched to the light, citrus-noted Majestic wheat ale from North Peak. It's a quenching refresher, a contrast to the smoky, house-made hot dogs painted with venison chili and mustard. It's called a Coney, but the Michigan-born wiener has nothing to do with the island except, perhaps, a nod to the hot dog's beachy birthplace. I had three Coneys in lieu of the chicken liver and duck pté—puréed organs are not always a party in my mouth.

Charcuterie? That I can support. For the seated dinner's first course, we were served a Michigan-shaped cutting board topped with parchment-thin slices of Toscano salami, duck ham and a pork-andbeef hunter's sausage snuggled up to sweetcorn chutney. Even better were the lightly pickled beets served with butter lettuce and a maple-orange vinaigrette that's like the marriage of Florida and Vermont. It was a vegetarian breather before the coming carnivorous onslaught. First up was the Great Frickin' Chicken: the roasted breast of a four-week-old fowl, its crispy ballotine thigh—that is, de-boned—and asparagus as green as the day is long. "The chicken was just slaughtered last week," Grostick told the crowd later, no small measure of pride in his voice.

I finished every fowl bite, a moment of avarice that haunted me with the arrival of the second main course, porchetta. Rounds of pork tenderloin were stuffed with house-hewn kielbasa, then enrobed in apple wood-smoked bacon—a swine-based rebuttal to the turducken. I valiantly ate half my meat before oinking out. Too soon, dessert came in the form of strawberryrhubarb pie and a milkshake made with vanilla bean ice cream. I could only muster several childhood-transporting bites and slurps before I bowed out, a sated blimp. Michigan, as much as it pains me to admit, had won me over. But there's one more order of business before I could give Grostrick my approving stamp.

"Are you a Michigan fan?" I asked Grostrick, penguin-waddling to the stairwell. "Michigan State," he said, breaking into a broad, unrivaled smile.

One Nation Under Beer

 

Mmm...beer and food. Photo © Eddie Arrossi

On Saturday, I took the Bolt Bus down to Washington, D.C., to check out SAVOR, the Brewers Association's gluttonous feast celebrating beer and food pairings. I arrived in D.C. at 11:30 a.m. By noon, I had a beer in my hand, my constant companion till I slumped into "sleep" around 2 a.m. that night. Whew. It was a whirlwind of imbibing and indulging that I chronicled for Food Republic. Curious? Eat it up!

New York Press' Gut Instinct - Meat of the Matter

It's the Jewish Wolverine.

A good brisket is hard to find.

Actually, any brisket was hard to find, especially at 10 a.m. on a Sunday in central Brooklyn. I was panicked. In nine hours, 15 friends were set to descend upon our apartment, famished for fall-apart-tender flesh, which requires at least six hours of cooking to break down the connective tissue. Time was ticking. My mission was imperative. Brisket was to be the controversial centerpiece of that night’s Hanukkah party, an annual dreidel-spinning hullabaloo orchestrated by my girlfriend and myself. I say controversial because my girlfriend is a vegetarian and staunchly opposed to meat cooked in our apartment.

“I don’t want the whole house to stink of… whatever it is you’re going to make,” she said, de-ribbing kale. “You’re going to drive Sammy crazy.” She motioned toward our Corgi-Chihuahua mutt. He looked at me with his big ol’ brown eyes, seemingly saying, Don’t listen to the crazy lady. I love the smell of meat. Love. It.

“It’s called brisket, and it’s my favorite Hanukkah food.” Sammy rolled onto his back, eager for a belly rub. Way to tell her!

“Well, you have to make something for me,” she said, rubbing kale with olive oil and arranging the leafy veggies on an oven tray. She’s crazy for baked kale chips. “I’m also making latkes, and last I checked potatoes are vegetarian-friendly,” I sassed back. She sighed, which meant I won. My reward was wrapping myself in warm rags and biking to Sunset Park. It was 10 in the morn, and thanks to a vicious wind the temperature only felt a few degrees warmer. But I fought the chill by pumping my ham-steak thighs up and down the hills, arriving at New Public Meat Market (5021 5th Ave. betw. 50th & 51st Sts., Brooklyn, 718-871-1188).

Since 1940, the subway car–size butcher shop has served the neighborhood immaculately sliced bits of cow and pig. During summer grilling season, it’s my go-to shop for spicy carne enchilada, salty cecina and fatty links of piquant chorizo. (More intriguing: Give the butchers a week’s notice, and they’ll charcoal-roast you a 25-pound pig for about $100.) Last time I was at New Public, I swear they had brisket.

“No brisket,” a butcher said, peering over a blood-speckled display case. “We have ribs,” he said, pointing to his chest. I shook my head and headed into the December cold. I walked my bike up heavily Mexican Fifth Avenue, peeking my head into every butcher and grocer. I could buy 20 pounds of tripe, no problem, but brisket was as rare as a Republican in Park Slope.

To warm myself up, I bought several steaming salsa verde tamales from the sidewalk vendors. “Hace frío,” one vendor said, passing me hot, husked sustenance.

I nodded. Indeed, it was cold. And I still needed brisket. I left Fifth Avenue and biked to Eighth Avenue, the chaotic heart of Brooklyn’s largest Chinatown. I first tried Hong Kong Supermarket (6013 8th Ave., betw. 60th & 61st Sts., Brooklyn, 718-438-2288), which has never failed me when I needed the odd fungus or offal. “Brisket?” I asked the butcher, who was busy sawing swine into small, pink chunks.

He looked at me blankly, as if were speaking a foreign language. Which I was. He grunted and returned to the whirring blade. Down but not defeated, I ventured into the meat markets lining Eighth Avenue. Since I don’t know the Mandarin word for brisket, I showed the meat men a bovine-butchering chart, which I summoned on my smartphone. “Brisket,” I’d say, pointing to the spot on the cow’s chest from which the meat is culled. I received blank stares everywhere, except for one butcher who retrieved a cold, bloody box. “Ribs,” he said. “Ribs OK?” No, ribs were not OK. Was there a secret Jewish conspiracy keeping me from purchasing brisket? Or maybe my girlfriend had called every Sunset Park butcher, instructing them not to sell to the short bicyclist wearing a green vest? Exasperated and colder than a skinny-dipping Eskimo, I texted my friend Ben, who is a bit of a brisket aficionado. “Fairway,” he replied. The grocery store was in Red Hook. That was more than five frostbit miles away.

If I gave up and headed home, my friends would understand. I wouldn’t. Like a Christmas ham or goose, my Hanukkah is linked to latkes and brisket. It was my childhood tradition, as wonderful a gift as anything boxed, wrapped or bowed. A thermometer reading 30 degrees can’t stop tradition. Buttoning up extra-tight, I rode to Red Hook. Inside Fairway, I bee lined to the meat department and scanned the rows of cellophane-wrapped flesh. Cursed ribs… squiggly ground beef… brisket. Brisket! With frigid fingers, I hoisted a bloody 3-pound hunk and pressed it to my chest as if it were a nursing infant. “Happy Hanukkah,” I whispered to myself, hugging the meat with all my might.

Read—and vote for—the original story on the New York Press website.

Metromix Article: Dollar Grub, Hell's Kitchen

Photo: Sam Horine

In the ongoing quest to shove nutritionally dubious foodstuffs into my mouth, I pen the Dollar Grub series for Web site Metromix. In this edition, I hit Hell's Kitchen and consume more dollar pizza than one man should ever consume in one afternoon. And eat ice cream while standing in front of a by-the-hour hotel. Curious? Read the article here!

Dollar Grub: Brighton Beach

Have you ever tried to slice an apple in half with a plastic knife? It ain't easy, chickadees. Anyway, lookie here! It's my latest installment of Dollar Grub: Brighton Beach edition. I look like an utter fool and nearly toss my cookies and pickles on the Cyclone. Then again, when do I not look like a fool?