Adventures in New York: Hakata Tonton Part II

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As promised, here is part two of my Japanese Hot Pot adventure. Since we were four hungry foodies, we ordered two different varieties of the hot pot to share. The first was a boiling broth with veggies.

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Once the broth was ready to go, you dip your own pork pieces into it. In addition to being deliciously flavored, it was so much fun to cook your own meat at the table. You could also pick which sauces to dip it in.

 

The second hot pot that we got was one with pigs’ feet. I will admit to being a tiny bit squeamish about the actual feet, but they did make a the soup incredibly rich and flavorful.

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Here is the finished product! This one the waitress cooked and served for us.  After dinner, we skipped their dessert and went for gelato on Eric Berelovich’s recommendation. Overall, even though it is difficult to get reservations, I would highly recommend Hakata Tonton if you are a fan of Japanese food, pork, or just looking for a great food adventure- they even have the crazy fancy Japanese toilets with tons of buttons.

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Adventures in New York: Hakata Tonton (Part I)

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When a good friend texted me last week, “Are you an adventurous eater? Are you free Wednesday,” my answer was yes and yes.  That is how I got to try my first Japanese hot pot. Hakata Tonton is a little spot in the West Village, pretty hard to get reservations, so we were going out at 9:30pm on a Wednesday.

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Of course, we had to start out the meal with a sake tasting flight at the suggestion of my friend Eric Berelovich. From left to right, we tried a Kansansui, Kasumizake, and Kitaya. The driest of the three, the Kitaya was my favorite. The Nigori (cloudy) texture of the second sake is not a taste that I love.

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We went a little crazy with the appetizers, but there is nothing wrong with that! First we had the Tuna Carpaccio with scallions, tomatoes, fried garlic chips, and a healthy slab of spicy mayo. It was delicious, not too spicy, plenty of crisp.

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The next dish up was Monkfish Liver. I don’t think I have ever had monkfish on its own, but the liver was incredibly rich and tender.

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At my request, we got the special, grilled squid! It’s always a gamble, often squid is served too tough. I thought this one was exceptionally well prepared. Even before we got to the main event, we got to sample a plethora of delicious Japanese dishes. Check back here later this week for the Hakata Tonton hot pots!

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Rockaway Brewing Company Introduces Its First Canned Beer

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A few weekends ago, I attended the Rockaway Brewing Company’s launch of their first canned beer. Although the brewery originated in the Far Rockaway, it has recently moved to a far bigger facility in Long Island City, Queens. Their beers are New York City craft beers at its finest, using fresh ingredients and delicious tasting.

For their first foray into canned beers, they are seeking the Rockaway ESB. At 6.4% ABV, this is their flagship brew. Light, malty, and sweet, it is a delicious any-time drinking beer. The brewery itself is absolutely worth the visit to Long Island City. Fun and funky, the space embodies the spirit of the Rockaway. With several beers on tap and growlers available for sale, I highly recommend a visit to the Rockaway Brewing Company. And while you are in the area, be sure to stop by Big Alice Brewery, just a few blocks away. They are always offering incredibly unique brews (right now they are serving a Cranberry Imperial Stout and a Vanilla Prune Dark Caramel Stout), and the brew masters are happy to make recommendations

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Happy Hour Adventures: The Lobster Joint

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Although the hot weather is showing no sign of stopping in NYC, summer always seems to be over with the end of summer Fridays, marked by the last Friday before Labor Day. For this occasion, we all went to check out happy hour at the Lobster Joint in Greenpoint. I hadn’t been there since they first opened about 2-3 years ago, but I can say that they’ve still got it! A recent addition is a very lovely backyard covered in wooden picnic tables and umbrellas. They even provide bug spray for those more prone to getting eaten alive. Although their brunch, lunch, and dinner menu is a bit on the pricey side (reasonable for seafood), the Lobster Joint has a great happy hour with draft beers at $4 and cocktails $6. Even more exciting than the drink and pitcher specials are their $1 oysters and $4 seafood sliders. In nautical spirit, I tried the Lobster Ale and the Mermaid Pilsner. I preferred the Mermaid if only because it was lighter.

 

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And there is the lobster slider! It honestly wasn’t much for $4, but if you are looking to just get a taste of lobster without committing to an entire role, it is a great deal. The sample of lobster hit the spot as there wasn’t too much mayonnaise nor was it too filling. Everyone ate their oysters before I could get a picture, but I really loved how accommodating the kitchen was by it letting us order 1 or 2 at a time. They had a very laid-back but efficient system set up for ordering at the bar. Although it might not be the most economical choice for happy hour, I highly recommend the Lobster Joint happy hour for the ambiance, great food, and delicious drafts.

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Adventures in New York: $1 Oyster Happy Hour

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One of the greatest summer traditions in New York City is the $1 oyster happy hour. Walk down Bedford Ave. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a sunny afternoon, and you will pass at least half a dozen bars with chalk boards advertising their oyster specials. Although we are already into August, I went to my first oyster happy hour this summer finally last week. We decided to try out Sel de Mer on Graham since it not only had dollar oysters but half off beer and wine until 7. I started out with the Malbec Rose. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was chilled and felt very summery.

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Almost empty at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, Sel de Mer is a quaint, very nautically themed seafood restaurant. I really liked that they brought us fresh bread and (probably overstated but delicious) salted butter. I saw other customers ordering whole lobsters, fish and chips. The meals looked pretty good, but we were only there for oysters. Between three of us, we managed to consume 18.

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Here are the first six. I liked that their vinaigrette was homemade and watermelon flavored. I personally didn’t like the small watermelon chunks on my oysters, but the actual taste was tangy and added to the experience.

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I switched from the rose to the Blanc de Blanc, which was a much better choice. What I really love about oyster happy hour is not just the food, but also the whole ritual of it all. Everyone agrees on how many to start with, never enough. Someone squeezes the lemon over them all. Each person has a different way of dressing them and eating them. I would recommending stopping by Sel de Mer for their happy hour if you are in the area. Not only was it not crowded, but the drink specials were good, too. But with so many options for oyster happy hours, there is no excuse not to go!

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Blog Roll Call

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A little bit of a departure from my normal format, I thought I would write a little bit about the cooking blogs that inspire me. First is Rachel Ray. While a lot of chefs tend to scoff at her, Rachel Ray recipes are the way I learned to cook (thanks to my mom) one summer. I like how easy the site is to search and the concepts behind the recipes from 30-minute meals to budget friendly versions of classics. Sometimes you just don’t have the time and energy to make a big, fancy meal.

Another blog I love, love, love is Crêpes of Wrath. Sydney is a fellow Brooklynite and is constantly posting new recipes and about new bars/restaurants in the area. In addition to having well-written and tasty recipes, each post has a series of pictures outlining the steps. She is where I found the Strawberry Chocolate Chip recipe, which has become infamous among my group of friends.

There is, of course, always plenty of inspiration to be found on Pintrest.  Although I haven’t actually made any of these recipes, I enjoy reading the Food in my Beard blog. He does crazy stuff like buffalo chicken pad Thai and Cool Ranch mac and cheese. On occasion, I do fid inspiration in the New York Times dining section, but usually I just find myself skimming it for what is going on in New York. Not strictly for recipes, Marcus Samuelson is a chef I like to follow online.

I hope that inspires some new reading for you. Happy cooking!

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Summer Ramen at Ganso

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Until recently, I had no idea that summer ramen even existed. Luckily, thanks to an email from Tasting Table NYC, I learned about Ganso, a ramen restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. I love noodles and soups, so I just had to try this dish. Located next to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn G stop (and about a half dozen others), Ganso is a small restaurant with clean lines and wooden paneling throughout. I sat at the bar (more like  a sushi bar than a drinks bar) where I could see the chefs in action.

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I started out with a Sapporo, which they have on tap. Although the drink menu is limited to beer and wine, they did seem to have an extensive list of sake. I was hoping for a summery cocktail, but Sapporo is always refreshing.

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Here is the summer ramen before I dug in. The noodles were topped with fresh tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, greens, pork slices, and an egg. I really loved all of the bright colors.

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After eating my way through the greens, the noodles emerge. I was really reminded of the taste of a seaweed salad. If that is a taste that you like, you will really like this dish. It was very different from ramen soup, not only in that the noodles were cold but I could taste the vinegar and yuzu sauce they were soaking in. Eating the noodles and corn with chopsticks was a bit of a struggle for me, but I managed. This had such a great, unique taste to it that I didn’t even miss the soup-ness of typical ramen. After the meal, the check was delivered on the postcard that you can see at the top of the post.

I felt like the $14 price tag was a bit steep, but it was very filling and a seasonal dish. I don’t know that I loved it enough to order it again, but it was worth the experience. The service was fast and friendly.  Next time I am craving ramen, I would visit Ganso again, especially given how convenient it is via subway..

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