Monday, February 27, 2006

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que - New York, NY

A few weeks ago, AI took me to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for V-day. Dinosaur is a restaurant that had been on my list of restaurants to try for quite some time. My first experience with food from this establishment was a little over a year ago at the 2004 Taste of New York event. They had a booth set up where they served miniature pulled pork sandwiches. I love meat, so that sample was enough to encourage me to make the trek up there. Many of you are probably wondering why it took over a year to make the trip to this restaurant. The explanation is quite simple. The restaurant is located at 131st Street and 12th Avenue. That may be only a few miles away from midtown, but by New York standards, 131st street might as well be the other side of the country. AI had heard good things about the restaurant as well, so she decided to surprise me by taking me there.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was started in 1983 by a group of motorcycle bikers in Syracuse, NY. Over the past 20+ years, they opened up additional restaurants in Rochester, NY and New York, NY. They also sell their own line of bbq sauces, dressings, and other merchandise.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's menu is quite extensive. The first page begins with a full array of appetizers such as fried green tomatoes, buffalo wings, and spicy shrimp. On the second page, they start their long list of entree items. They have pork ribs, pulled pork, bbq brisket, and bbq chicken. On the third page, they have their two and three meat combination platters and special items such as a rib-eye steak, catfish, and korean style ribs. On the last page, they have a laundry list of bbq sandwiches. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que also has 12 different homemade sides to accompany the entrees.

AI and I skipped the appetizer, and we ordered the Sweetheart Deal for two. The Sweetheart Deal for two is 2 pieces of honey hush cornbread, 4 sides, and a full rack of ribs. For our sides, we ordered mac & cheese, Syracuse style salt potatoes, fresh cut fries, and bbq beans. Within 5 minutes, our order arrived, and my mouth immediately started to water. The meat was very moist and falling off the bone. The ribs were very flavorful, but I did prefer using the bbq sauces at the table. Each table had four or five different types of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauces. I tried using a different sauce on each rib I ate, and by doing so, it made each bite a little different. The sides were a little above average with the exception of the mac & cheese. Although I don't like mac & cheese very much, the mac & cheese at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has a unique taste to it because they put seasoning on top of it. I'm not sure what was in the seasoning, but it gave the mac & cheese a bit of extra kick.

I was very happy with our trip to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Friends of mine say that I should also try Rub and Blue Smoke. Hopefully, I can hit those up relatively soon.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bouchon Bakery is coming

Bouchon Bakery is finally opening their doors on March 6, 2006 in the Time Warner Center. The highly anticipated French boulangerie was originally supposed to open in late 2005, but like many other grand openings, it was postponed. I expect them to serve various breads, pastries, and cookies of the highest quality. In addition, I wasn't aware of this until recently, but they also plan on serving sandwiches, salads, soups, and even hand-made chocolates. They've made me wait quite a long time for this one. Anything affiliated with Thomas Keller is a winner, so Bouchon Bakery shouldn't be an exception. Expect to see me in line on March 6th.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Arthur Avenue - Bronx, NY

First of all, I apologize to any readers I may have out there. I'm sure very few people frequent this site, but for those of you who do, I'm sorry. My job has consumed most of my life the past 4 or 5 months, and I've had very little time to write about my favorite subject. Now, I'm back and I have no excuses. I took off a week from work to get my life organized, and I wanted to use some of my spare time exploring some special little places that are not as well known in the New York metro area.

One of the first places I wanted to explore was Little Italy in the Bronx which is also known as Arthur Avenue or the "Real Little Italy." The Arthur Avenue neighborhood has been home to a vibrant community of Italian-Americans for over a hundred years. Today, this area continues to thrive as locals buy fresh bread, meat, cheese, pasta, and Italian desserts. Arthur Avenue is also home to a number of authentic Italian restaurants.

I first heard about this place from a first year associate I had working for me a few months ago. He had lived near Arthur Avenue, and told me about the good cheap food. The first year associate also briefed me on the area and let me know that it isn't located in the best part of town, so I may not feel safe walking around. He also told me that the only way I would fit in is if I walked around with dry cleaning because people would think that I was one of the local shop owners. Regardless of his warning, from the day he told me about this place, I've been trying to find time to get out there.

After riding the PATH, the NY subway, and a bus for over an hour I arrived at Arthur Avenue. The first place I stumbled upon was Gino's Pastry Shop. It's a quaint little pastry shop that sells a variety of Italian desserts including Italian cookies, biscotti, and cannolis. I selected 3 small pieces of regular biscotti, 3 small pieces of chocolate biscotti, and an eclair. Everything was priced by the pound, and it came out to $2.50. It was a nice bargain to start the afternoon.

I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I was quite hungry. I found a little marketplace on the street that had vendors that sold cigars, fruits and vegetables, meat, bread, and pasta. The marketplace also had a cafe called Cafe Al Mercato. I was quite hungry, so I ordered a bowl of gnocchi bolognese and a large Sicilian slice of pizza. Although the gnocchi appeared to be from a package, it was prepared very nicely. The texture was not too soft and not too chewy, and the sauce had a very nice tang to it. The pizza was also nice and crispy and not soggy. And like many other times, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so I was unable to finish everything. Afterwards, I walked around the marketplace, and I noticed that the produce was inexpensive, and the price of the pasta and sauces were reasonable considering that most of it was imported from Italy.

After leaving the marketplace, I stopped by Madonia Brothers Bakery. I observed a woman filling cannolis, and there were a few people in line purchasing them. I'm not a huge cannoli fan, but I decided to purchase half a dozen to bring home. One interesting observation at this shop was that the workers appeared to be Russian. I have nothing against Russians nor do I know much about their culture, but I'm pretty sure that they're not known for their cannolis. (Side note-> They didn't taste that good.)

My last stop was Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodle Shop. Although very small, this shop supplies pasta to many of the local Arthur Avenue restaurants. It is also ranked #1 on Zagat's 2005 NYC Gourmet Marketplace Best Buys. This place gets very long lines on the weekends, so I was fortunate to be there during the week. Although they sold many different kinds of fresh pasta, I decided on the ravioli. I bought 100 raviolis for $10.50! That means that it only costs 10.5 cents per ravioli. Now, that's a bargain. :) As soon as I got home, I boiled some of the ravioli, and all I have to say is that I was not disappointed.

My vacation has started off great. I went off the beaten path, and I discovered some good food. It is a bit far from where I live, but it is worth making at least one trip out there, and it is far superior to the Little Italy in Manhattan. The area was not as shady as described to me, but I would recommend going before sunset. So, for those of you who want to eat cheap authentic Italian food, I recommend making the trip out to Arthur Avenue. Buon Appetito.