Thursday, December 31, 2009

secret sushi

Azabu is a clandestine sushi lounge nestled away in the basement of the unassuming Greenwich Grill -- a restaurant hidden inside of another restaurant -- how tribeca chic. the whole "undisclosed location" bit might seem a bit pretentious to some, but i think it's totally hip, probably because i am a super-cool dude who is always in the know.

Sushi Azabu
428 Greenwich Street (b/w. Laight & Vestry)
New York, NY 10013
marketing tactics aside, this place is the tits. the setup is small; 6 seats at the sushi bar, and 3 booths in the rear. the nimble waitstaff deftly dart in an out of open holes like little japanese running backs, utilizing any free space available to provide attentive, yet unobtrusive service. the decor is austere and unassuming, no 50-foot Buddah sculptures or flying dragons here -- just heavenly cuts of the freshest fish money can buy.

the price isn't cheap, but considering the quality of fish and level of service, it's more affordable and a better value than most of its peers -- i'm looking at you, Yasuda. my suggestion is the $65/person "Azabu Course", which includes the amuse, a few slices of sashimi, broiled fish, 8-piece nigiri, and other various odds and ends.

Sushi Azabu just received a Michelin Star; it's only a matter of time until this place completely blows up -- get in there before reservations become a commodity.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, December 20, 2009

peculiar pesto

pesto perhaps in name only, this neat-o concoction is the result of a walnut pesto experiment gone awry. the original recipe called for white bread and walnuts; add some cashews and substitute pumpkin pound cake for the white bread and you've got yourself a seasonal treat.

Pumpkin Pesto

1/4 cup almond milk
1 cup pumpkin pound cake, crust removed and cubed
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup cashews, toasted
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS pumpkin seed oil
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1. soak the pumpkin pound cake in the almond milk.

2. combine, garlic, cashews, walnuts, parmesan, moistened pumpkin pound cake, and extra virgin olive in a food processor. pulse until smooth, then go full blast and drizzle in the pumpkin seed oil. taste. season. reserve.

perfect w/ gnocchi or ravioli. impress friends and family this holiday season w/ your cooking prowess!

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Mmmhmm, this IS a tasty burger"

"saving the world one burger at a time" is their tag line. while i can't attest to that, i can confirm that the boys down @ the Frites 'N' Meats truck do make one tasty burger.

Frites 'N' Meats
Corner of Greenwich St. & Chambers St.
M - F 11:30AM - 7:30PM

they showed up on my radar about 6 weeks ago; one of several bourgeoisie street vendors making the scene. the F'n'M truck sports a flashy Cow-Man superhero decal and is decked out in bright hues of orange -- an ostentatious "fuck you" to the delicate sensibilities of the yuppie scum that have engulfed the neighborhood.
--these guys are alright, and so is their food.

the menu consists of burgers, soups and fries. there are rotating weekly specials; last week was the lamb burger, this week "the oinker," a pork party on a bun. all food is cooked to order, w/ you choice of condiments, cheeses, and even bread options.

the french fries taste remarkably like McDonald's -- this is a good thing! they offer various dipping sauces to go w/ your frites - mostly blue cheese, and various mayonnaise concoctions (garlic, sun-dried tomato, horseradish, ect).

"the oinker" consisted of a well-seasoned pork patty (that tastes like an italian sausage), double-cut bacon, gruyere cheese, savory onion jam, and some other tasty bits. it was moist and delicious, my only complaint is that it isn't a beef burger - but i knew that going into it.

the wagyu beef burger was perfectly seasoned, and cooked just the same. it's hard enough to get a restaurant to cook a burger w/ proper pink in the middle, but the F'n'M Truck was able to pull it off.
"better than i had expected" sums up the entire meal -- i'm not sure if that's because i wasn't expecting much from a burger truck, or because they really knocked it out of the park -- i'm leaning towards to latter.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Carbonara Connection

Pasta "alla carbonara," aka "coal miner's pasta," has various tales of origin, ranging from the banal to the absurd. most believe that the dish's name stems from its popularity amongst italian coal works during WWII, however, a select few submit that the name is an ode to the Cabanari, a secret society responsible for the unification of italy.  Believe what you want, but do yourself a favor and use this recipe that I acquired while at Lupa.

Carbonara is traditionally made w/ guanciale, cured pig's jowl -- it's delicious, if not difficult to find.   In the highly probable event that you are unable to locate guanciale at your local deli, here are a few other options, in order of desirability: panchetta, prosciutto, and bacon.

You can make this dish w/ any type of pasta, however, long-strand pasta such as spaghetti, linguini, or bucatini yield the best results.

Pasta "alla Carbonara"
serves 2

1/2 # long strand pasta
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1-2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup guanciale, pancetta, prosciutto, or bacon - rough chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup reserved pasta water

1. sauted the smashed garlic over medium heat until well-caramelized; ~6 minutes. add prosciutto and cook until just starting to brown; ~4 minutes. kill the heat, add black pepper and let chill while pasta cooks.

2. cook the pasta just shy of al dente. drain -- reserving about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water
-- and add the cooked pasta to the prosciutto/black pepper skillet. bring up to temp over low
heat; add cheese and a splash of water -- KILL THE HEAT.

3. add the egg yolks; toss to combine. add another splash of water to get things moving --
you want the pasta to have a rich creamy consistency. not like paste. not like soup. creamy -- kind of like caesar dressing.

i garnish w/ an additional egg yolk - left whole - and black pepper. if runny egg yolks aren't
your thing -- no worries -- leave it out, but i wouldn't skimp on the black pepper; it makes
the dish.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, November 22, 2009

big 'ol mr. knish

the knish (kah-nish), long a NYC staple, finds its origins in the LES jewish ghettos of yesteryear. i know, "jewish" and "ghettos" are two words you don't often see in the same sentence, but the world was a different place 100 years ago -- believe it.

knishes consist of two components, a dough crust exterior, and a well seasoned mashed potato interior. knishes are generally cooked in one of two ways -- either baked or fried. most people are familiar w/ the squared-off fried knishes that are sold by hot dog vendors, however, the baked knish remains more elusive. baked knishes are round rather than square, and their starchy interiors often erupt through the crust's upper limits. your best bet at locating these artisan treats is to visit a well-stocked gourmet supermarket (Whole Foods). however, if you are fortunate enough to live in the tri-state area, i strongly suggest that you visit NYC's original KNISHERY: Yonah Shimmel's (YS).

Yonah Shimmel, Knish Bakery
137 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002-1027
(212) 477-2858

fresh as hell and made w/ love, a YS knish is unlike any other. "original", "spinach & swiss", "sweet potato", and "jalapeno & cheddar" are just a sampling from the myriad of knishes this bakery has to offer. during my last visit, i enjoyed a delicious jalapeno & cheddar knish, which despite lacking the level of heat i had expected, was incredibly satisfying. the cheddar & jalapeno played nice, however, the true star of the show was the mashed potato filling. them taters tasted like 100 years of tradition, truly phenomenal.

if you eat in, they re-heat the knish in a microwave oven, which does not do it justice -- my advice: take it to go.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

dirt-cheap dumplings

in a city where even a shitty slice of pizza runs a buck seventy-five, there is still hope for the budget-impaired. behold: tasty dumpling, a true hole-in-the-wall Chinatown outpost that specializes in one thing -- dumplings on the cheap. the going rate: 5 for $1.25.

wait, i'll do the math for you; that's .25 cents a dumpling!

Tasty Dumpling
54 Mulberry Street
(between Bayard St & Mosco St)
New York, NY 10013
a crispy, golden-delicious sear graces each heavenly little pork-pillow -- the filling is moist, flavorful and delicious. i'm not saying that they are the best dumplings out there, but i will guarantee that they are far superior to those offered by other hole-in-the-wall types that hawk theirs for 2x the price.

tasty dumpling is as bare bones as its name suggests, so don't expect much more than a few folding chairs and wobbly tables. fortunately, you didn't come for the decorum - right?

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

finger on the pulse

in italy, lentils are traditionally eaten on new year's day, as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. it's something about the lentils resembling coins -- -- something like that-- idk.

what i DO know is that this is a super simple recipe that only requires a few staple ingredients to pull together. this preparation has "side dish" written all over it, and pairs especially well w/ fish, poultry, or pork.

New Year's Lentils

1 large onion, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1 large carrot, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, rough chop
2 cups brown lentils
3 quarts water
2 bay leaves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine (or balsamic) vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

*this is a one-pot deal. lentils double in volume as the cook; make sure to start w/ a pot large enough to hold the finished product -- a 4-6 qt sauce pot will do just fine.

1. saute onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in about 3 TBS of olive oil over medium heat until onion turns translucent -- about 6-8 minutes.

2. add water, and a HEAVY pinch of salt (~1 TBS) to the pot, bring to a boil. add the lentils and bay leaves, return to a boil then reduce to a simmer. simmer, covered, for 20-40 minutes or until done.

3. drain lentils through a strainer. combine lentils, 1/2 cup of olive oil, and 1/2 of red wine vinegar in a mixing bowl (or just rinse out the pot and return them from whence they came).

-- garnish w/ parsley and serve either hot or at room temperature

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fo' schnitzel

the NYC street vendor landscape is currently dominated by halal street-meat carts, however, if you look a little deeper, you will find a multitude of competent contenders hailing from all corners of the world -- from waffles to dumplings, you'll be surprised w/ what's out there.

Schnitzel & Things
Park Avenue South b/w 26th and 27th streets
WEDNESDAYS --11:30-2:30p
a schnitzel truck, who knew? and for that matter, what the hell IS schnitzel?!?!

--according to the Schnitzel & Things website, "schnitzel is a hand pounded, lightly breaded
thin cutlet fried to golden perfection. it is traditionally served w/ a lemon wedge and a side of Austrian potato salad."

i haven't tried the schnitzel yet, but i did partake in the bratwurst. i ordered the bratwurst platter w/ braised cabbage, austrian potato salad, and spicy sriracha mayo -- all platters are served w/ your choice of two sides and a condiment. the brat was moist and delicious, despite the over zealously charred exterior. the cabbage and potato salad were well-prepared and incredibly fresh, fresh, fresh. the mayo was good, but i'd have made it w/ a little more tang. i felt the portion was a bit meager, but then again, i'm a gavone.

the Schnitzel & Things schnitzel truck is a well actualized concept that works. from the looks of things, the schnitzel is really where it's at -- oh well, for next time.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, October 18, 2009

foul play

Foul Medames (pronounced - "fool mey-dah-mas") is an eygyptian fava bean ragout that is usually served w/ warm pita, and an egg -- either hard boiled or fried. foul is traditionally eaten for breakfast, which seems odd to someone from a culture that rationalizes eating sweets before 9am.

bold, mediterranean flavors dominate this humble preparation. the tomato lends welcomed tang and texture, while the ceci beans provide some diversity. hearty and nutritious -- it's the kind grub you'd need to fuel a long, hot day of building megaliths in the desert.

Foul Medames (Eygyptian Breakfast Beans)

1 onion, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28oz) can Foul Medammas (cooked fava beans), drained
1 (14oz) can ceci beans, drained
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
2 cups chicken stock
2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 TBS
1/2 cup parsely, chopped
salty & pepper to taste

1. heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a 10-inch, straight-sided skillet over medium heat. add
onions and a heavy pinch of salt (1 tsp); sweat onions over medium heat until limp and translucent -- about 6 minutes. add garlic, cook fo an additional 2 minutes.

2. add the drained beans, tomatoes, and enough stock to *just* cover -- about 2 cups. bring to
a boil, then reduce to a simmer. add the cumin and garam masala. simmer, uncovered until the liquid is reduce by half; about 8 minutes.

3. using a potato masher (or the bottom of a glass), mash the bean mixture enough to thicken the remaining liquid -- the consistency is a matter of preference -- i enjoy it a bit thicker. add lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, and parsley.

- season to taste and serve w/ charred pita.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the pig's petute

another sunday afternoon ends in chinatown, a 25 mile ride under my belt and i am HUNGRY. the culinary possibilities in chinatown are endless. i recharge w/ some fresh coconut juice - straight from the coconut -- then quickly move on to the main event, roast meats - cantonese style. i usually go w/ roast duck but today i decide to try something a little different -- alright, a lot different -- stewed pig intestine.

it was vaguely reminiscent of roast duck, insofar as the fatty texture and "roast meat" flavor, however, it had a strong, decidedly gamey porkiness to it. truth-be-told, it wasn't all that bad -- in the moment. enamored by the cultural divide, i thoroughly enjoyed eating that pig's asshole, however, when i re-heated the leftovers two days later, it tasted like shit - literally. i suppose that should be expected when you eat something that at one time did, in fact, pipeline feces out of a pig's petute.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Saturday, September 19, 2009


my chick and i hit up two-star michelin-rated Bouley restaurant for our two-year anniversary. truly sophisticated, fancy-pants fare; an archetype of NYC fine dining -- it was kind of a big deal. at $150/head, this type of culinary luxury would usually fall far beyond my reach, however, the much more affordable $48/head lunch is a GO. sure, i suppose $48 for lunch is a bit dear, but considering the lavish five-course spread that awaits, i'd say it's well worth it.

163 Duane Street
New York, NY 10013
Telephone:(212) 964-2525

like i said, the entire meal was tits, but there were a few stand outs:

a warm welcome -- the apple-scented foyer; decked out in an orchards worth of ripe apples.

the amuse -- a curious concoction of cauliflower foam, tomato coulis, and trout roe, w/ a drizzle of aged balsamic, and vanilla-scented olive oil

porchini flan -- "umami" is the word. a rich, earthy broth, w/ generous chunks of steamed dungeness. a silky, savory 'shroom custard underneath it all. too bad it didn't photo for shit.

the duck -- more interesting than the menu would have you believe. sweet notes of anise, ginger and vanilla. glazed turnips and romanesco always a plus.

petit fours -- gratis, of course.

the goodie bag -- the delightfully spongy lemon tea-cake. not the best, but it's the thought that counts, right?

$48 lunch is offered 11:30a-3:00p, daily -- including weekends

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, September 7, 2009

doin' blasts

pancakes from a can? who knew? -- apparently my mother.

oraganic BATTER BLASTER is a pre-packaged pancake/waffle mix conveniently contained in a pressurized can equipped w/ the ill nozzle tip; a la reddi wip.

you've got to love these BATTER BLASTER people based on their ingenuity alone. FINALLY, a product self-absorbed working mothers and the perpetually hungover can BOTH enjoy. "just shake...point...blast..and cook. it's that easy" -- that's the tag line.

and it's no lie. but how do the pancakes stack up?


the pancakes taste alright, but their texture leaves much to be desired. the leavening agent must get compromised during packaging because these pancakes sport a fluff factor of ZERO. moreover, the waffles had no body; no heft -- it was like snacking on a wafer, not a waffle.

no worries tho, for $5 this breakfast novelty is well worth it's weight in batter -- if only to help ease the woes of the "morning after"

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Thursday, September 3, 2009


i'm not one for taking short cuts in the kitchen, but if using canned beans is wrong -- i don't want to be right. you'd be surprised how quickly you can hobble together a make-shift bean ragout w/ just a handful of ingredients. this southwestern inspired bean explosion rocks a 2:1 ratio of black eyed peas to black beans; zazzed up w/ dried chilies, cinnamon and a can of stewed tomatoes for some tang.

the basic premise behind this dish is to sauté some aromatics, add beans, spice 'em up, cover w/ stock by an inch and simmer down until the liquid has reduced by about 1/2, or until desired consistency is achieved; i like mine a little on the thick side ;-)

Southwestern Bean Ragout

2 (15oz) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can stewed tomatoes, rinsed and drained
2 TBS canola oil
1 red onion, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1 carrot, finely shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1-3 chili de arbol (optional)
1 lime, juiced
salt & pepper to taste

1. in a straight-sided sauté pan -- cook onion, carrot, and celery in canola oil over medium high heat until well caramelized; 6-8 minutes. add garlic, sauté until golden brown -- be careful not to burn; 1-2 minutes.

2. add beans, stewed tomatoes and enough stock to cover by an inch; about 2 cups. bring to a boil -- add chili powder, chipotle powder, cinnamon, bay leaf, and chilies de arbol -- reduce to a simmer.

3. simmer for 15-20 minutes until liquid reduces and mixture thickens. to thicken -- mash beans with the back of a large spoon or ladle. add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

-- garnish with a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro, scallion, and lime zest.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nippon via New York

if you've been to one NYC street fair, you've been to them all:

smoothies, crepes, pashminas -- smoothies, mozzarepas, t-shirts-- smoothies, gyros, jewelry.

-- but for what they lack in variance, they more than make up for in value.

this particular street fair spanned 15 blocks along madison avenue; from 42nd to 57th, however, the japanese portion was confined to only one block -- 43rd street. i enjoyed a diverse sampling of yum yums including a sweet, gooey mozzarepa, a savory bowl of japanese curry, and a banging ground chicken yakitori. surprisingly enough, the most enjoyable treat of the day wasn’t food at all; it was a beverage – a sarsaparilla soda courtesy of Wild Bill’s Olde Fashion Soda Pop Co. Wild Bill set up a vintage style soda stand, offering several unconventional flavors such as sarsaparilla, birch beer, and “gatling gun” grape.

a great way to kill the afternoon

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the katz meow

the service is gruff, the decor is tacky, and if it were just any place else -- $12 for a sandwich would be absurd -- but it's not just any place else; it's Katz's and it's amazing.

205 E Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2246

my father first introduced me to Katz's when i was about 10 years old and i've been a regular ever since -- not once have i had a bad experience.

my go-to sandwich is the "pastrami reuben club" -- succulent pastrami, piled mile-high on a club roll, topped with thick-cut swiss, sour kraut, and homemade russian dressing. it's as delicious as it is large, and christ is it large!

-- so large, in fact, that i only eat half and take the rest home -- something i NEVER do.

everything on the menu is a go:

the french fries are crunchy, the cheese steaks are stacked, the hot dogs are snappy, and the knishes are a notch above. even the turkey sandwich is moist and delicious.

all sandwiches come w/ a side assorted pickles, just ask. i'm a fan of the half-sours.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, August 10, 2009

scape goat

garlic scapes are the oft-overlooked stems of the ubiquitous garlic bulb. farmers harvest these raggedy tops at the start of summer so that they don't divert pungency from the developing bulbs. think: the essence of roasted garlic trapped inside of a scallion; a musky mix of mellow garlic and sweet grass.

i imagine that they lend themselves nicely to a variety of food preparations -- tossed in a salad, pounded into pesto, starring in a soup -- but i opted for a simple sear over open flame.

tossed in olive oil, a little salt; pepper, and grilled until limp

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, July 26, 2009

hellenic on earth

if you live in astoria you can't escape it; the greek "taverna" - a small, casual restaurant specializing in traditional greek fare. aside from their seafood, i'm not too impressed with what the greeks have to offer, however, if you are an astorian for any length of time you're bound to explore the possibilities. from street vendors hawking souvlaki to the swank restaurant-cum-nigh club, "Cavo" - the options are almost endless. with ample consideration, i recommend "Opa!" (Tony's Souvlaki) as your best bet.

28-44 31st Street
Astoria, NY 11102

Opa! is very reasonably priced and boasts a beautiful outdoor garden dinning area. the service is warm and attentive, and if you are lucky you might receive a visit from their incredibly gracious hostess. it might not be the best, but the food is SOLID and satisfying, time and again.

all of the usual suspects make an appearance:

-gyros. souvlaki. spinach pie. tzatziki. various mezze. tasty fish specials-

i recommend the mixed grill. also, try the greek wine - it's white, but it's got some balls and is best enjoyed in their open-air garden.

p.s. -- ask your waitress if she likes loukamades

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -