Sunday, January 25, 2009

good cholesterol: the palm

the best way to celebrate growing older is to indulge in a meal that is sure to speed the process along. last week my father and i convened for a power lunch at the palm: tribeca for my 26th birthday. we left satisfied.

the palm: tribeca
206 west street

new york, ny 10013

you couldn't tell by the bird-shit stained scaffolding out front, but the palm is a classy place. no, not classy like a night at the opera; think more along the lines of a shoe shine or a shave from the barber, now we're on the same page.

the palm: tribeca occupies a sprawling venue that spans an entire city block. the decor is rather austere and decidedly masculine. borderline kitschy caricatures of celebrities and politicians adorn the walls and mahogany stretches as far as the eyes can see. it's the type of place where business men court clients and fathers take their sons for their birthdays.

--- stephen likes it!!

we arrived about 10 minutes early for our reservation and enjoyed a crisp brooklyn lager at the bar. the staff was friendly and accommodating. halfway through our first beer, we were escorted to our table. at this point, my father proceeded to steal a lunch menu.

much of the wait staff were young males, kind of gruff. you could tell they would rather be watching the game than taking your order, however, they were polite and professional nonetheless.

i ordered the 24oz rib eye, medium-rare while my father ordered the kobe beef burger, medium with sautéed onions. creamed spinach and sautéed brussels sprouts were the sides. a basket of bread was brought to the table to hold us over until our food came. it was at this point that my father ask to see the dinner menu, "because he was curious" - he proceeded to steal this menu as well.

-- bread basket

aint nothing special; the raisin bread was pretty tasty, the onion bread was dry and the white bread was...well, white bread

-- creamed spinach

above average. the iron-rich earthiness of the spinach was pleasantly accented by sweet notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. the spinach was fresh and robust, the sauce a creamy béchamel. this wasn't the frozen stuff; you could taste the love.

-- sautéed brussels sprouts w/ bacon, lobster, shitake mushrooms and marsala-butter sauce

everything but the kitchen sink? i don't know, i think i saw a faucet in there...
chefs love to put dishes like this on the menu; they utilize the odds and ends from different dishes that would otherwise go to waste. the chef saves $ and the customer gets an interesting "seasonal" dish. in my experience, dishes of this nature are either HIT or MISS. the palm HIT this dish out of the park, much to my stomach's delight. the sprouts were tooth-tender, no mush-mouths here. the salty bacon paired well with the loamy mushrooms, a true lesson in umami. the lobster, seemingly out of place, played nicely with the sprouts and wine sauce, while adding some much-welcomed bulk to the dish.

-- kobe beef burger

perhaps a bit pricey for a burger, but how can you go wrong, really? the meat "was like butter", for lack of a better idiom. there really are no words; either you've had kobe beef, or you haven't. this perfectly marbled masterpiece was well seasoned and cooked true to doneness. proudly perched atop a buttery brioche bun, a tangle of smothered onions adorned its crown. the fries, adequately crispy and as salty as the dickens.

-- 24 oz rib eye w/ bordelaise sauce

damn, just look at it; a sight to behold. 24oz of slaughterhouse goodness, at least an inch-and-a-half thick. noticed the well caramelized crust, and warm red center - cooked to perfection, but alas, not all that glitters is gold. shame on the cook who ruined this fine cut of meat by under seasoning it! perhaps "ruined" is a strong word, but under seasoning a cut of meat like this can demote a perfectly cooked steak to "just ok", and a "just ok" steak to sizzler.
seasoning gripes aside, the meat was of the highest quality; tender and juicy as all hell. some bordelaise sauce on the side provided enough tang to facilitate flavor homeostasis.

i'd be lying if i said i wouldn't return to the palm, however, if you are on a hunt for the best steak in NYC, perhaps you should go elsewhere first.

under seasoning? FOR SHAME!

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

mean greens: broccolini

broccolini, aka "baby broccoli", is yet another godless creation of the japanese; it has similar dimensions to broccoli rabe, and the crisp toothiness of asparagus. in all other respects it is very much like american broccoli, save for a slightly sweeter finish and a good deal more whimsy.

while steaming or blanching are both perfectly acceptable and healthy ways of preparing this mean green, roasting the broccolini in the oven will result in delicious, golden brown florets with a sweet, nutty aroma.

roasted brocholini

2 bunches fresh broccolini, trimmed
3 shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly slice
1 TBS moroccan-style spice rub (OPTIONAL; recipe follows)*
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper, to taste
freshly squeezed lemon, to taste

-- preheat oven to 425.

1. rinse the broccolini under cold, running water; pat dry. trim off the tough ends.

2. arrange broccolini on a half sheet tray lined with parchment or tin foil. scatter sliced shallots and garlic over greens, drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and any additional spices. roast 15-20 minutes until the tops start to brown and the stems are knife-tender.

-- DON'T OVERCROWD; the broccolini will steam rather than roast, preventing caramelization and leave you with a soggy batch of greens.

-- transfer to a serving plate and top with the crispy garlic and caramelized shallots. a shot of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin and you are good to go.

cheap, fast and delicious -- the perfect side dish. i cooked up a batch last week to accompany some curried peas & lentils, baba ganoush and warm pita.

* moroccan-style spice rub

2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne
pinch of ground cloves

1. combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. toss ~1 TBS of spice mix with olive oil and your veggie of choice.


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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

waste-not, want-not: "noodle caboodle" (w/ lemon-garlic crunch)

noo-dle ca-boo-dle (noun) - the generic term for any make-shift pasta hobbled together by a non-italian;the coalescence of yesterday's pasta and last week's produce, an instant american-italian classic; comfort food borne from the frugalities and hardships of the failed american dream.

i don't throw away leftovers. ever. i can't afford to. i do my best to best utilize whatever i have on hand to the limit.

leftover pasta is a great vehicle for a plethora of make-shift "noodle caboodle" type dishes. this week i have 2 cups of cooked ditalini pasta leftover from a hearty batch of pasta e fagioli. i also have a can of tuna and a can of sweet peas that i stole from my mother's pantry.

let's see if i can make it happen.

"noodle caboodle"

yield ~1 qt

2 cups leftover ditalini pasta (any small pasta will do; elbows?)
1 (6oz) can of solid white albacore tuna, flaked
1/2 cup parsely, chopped
1/2 cup sweet peas (fresh or canned)
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 TBS parmesan, grated
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

1. combine the leftover pasta, flaked tuna, peas, parsley, grated parmesan and chili flakes in a mixing bowl. toss to combine. add the olive oil and lemon juice. toss to combine. season with salt and pepper to taste.

-- top with 1 TBS of the lemon-garlic bread crumbs (recipe follows) and a dash of extra virgin olive oil; serve warm or at room temperature.

lemon-garlic bread crumbs
yield 1 cup

1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
1 TBS lemon zest
2 TBS parsely, chopped
1 TBS parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

1. heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.

2. add garlic, saute over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to brown; 1-2 mins.

3. add fresh bread crumbs and toss to evenly distribute fat. saute over medium heat until crisp, shaking the pan often to keep the crumbs from burning; 4-8 minutes depending on personal preference.

4. add lemon zest, parsely and grated parmesan, toss to combine. remove from heat.

* making fresh bread crumbs is easy; cut the crust off of some white bread, place into a blender, food processor or coffee grinder and pulse.

- BONG!!!

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

Monday, January 5, 2009

Slurpin' USA: Rai Rai Ken

destitute undergrads and desk-bound office drones agree; when it comes to cheap eats on-the-fly, CUP NOODLES reigns supreme. however, if you are longing for a ramen upgrade, perhaps it's time to give the genuine article a slurp.

Rai Rai Ken
214 E 10th Street
New York, NY 10003-7706
Phone: (212) 477-7030

rai rai ken specializes in one thing: RAMEN. the seating is cramped, the service is rushed and the waits are long, but the price is right and the ramen never disappoints. you are best advised to visit on an off day or at an off hour; flocks of hungry NYU students and japanese ex-pats overload the 14-seat venue.

-- no worries; the turn-around is quick, you won't find yourself in line long.

miso ramen --
soy bean based noodle soup topped with bean sprout, cabbage, onion, crispy garlic, chicken, and scallion

the robust, full-bodied broth is a thing of beauty; curiously bold yet refined. a mound of crisp-fried garlic chips bequeath their sharp sweetness to each bite, slicing through the thick broth like little golden razors. the stewed chicken and hearty cabbage warm the body and sooth the soul with their comforting sensibilities. i highly recomend this dish as a starter RAMEN for any first timers.

shio ramen --
house special seafood based noodle soup topped with bamboo shoot, boiled egg, roast pork, spinach, fish cake, dry seaweed, and scallion

light and refreshing if not a tad bit salty. the freshly wilted spinach pair well with the pickled bamboo shoots while the unctuous slices of slow-roasted pork shoulder and hard boiled egg are welcome countermeasures to the piquant brothiness of the dish as a whole. the generous portion of fresh, yet playfully chewy noodles guarantee slurps-a-plenty.

i asked for mine with xtra fish cakes :-)

kimchi --
chinese cabbage, radish, garlic, ginger, scallion, red pepper, salt, sugar, anchovy sauce

i can't say for sure if it's house made or not, but it certainly tastes unique. less tang than most; a bit on the sweet side. garnished with a heap of fresh scallion - it's not the best kimchi i've ever had, but i order it every time.

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