Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The first taste of Prima

After a too-long delay I finally made it to Prima. Prima is the new restaurant from the folks behind Motorino (food), 9th Street Espresso (coffee) and The Summit Bar (drinks). The trifecta.

Prima is a restaurant with two personalities. By day (8am-5pm) it is a charming coffee and pastry spot. By night (5pm-11pm, with a late night menu after 11pm) it is a seafood restaurant. I made it to the coffee and pastry portion of our program. I can't wait to try the seafood and drinks in act two.

Prima is a relatively small rectangle of a room. The seating consists of two long communal tables, steel with white marble tops, running the length of the room, with high bar seats along each side. The tables end at the bar/coffee bar. Chalk board menus and wine cabinets decorate the exposed brick walls.  The entire front wall of the restaurant is made of glass and in the morning sunlight floods the space, making the handsome, comfortable space even more welcoming.

The offerings are simple and excellent. The coffee and espresso are 9th Street Espresso, top shelf. The pastries are from Payard, top notch. The charming, helpful staff and free Wifi make it easy to linger. There were two people working on their laptops when I got there, and they were still there when I left. Bring your laptop, your Kindle or the Times and have yourself a lovely, civilized morning.

Even better, bring that special someone and start your day (or continue last night) in the warm glow of the morning sun. Nothing like taking your time with your cappuccino, and your friend.

Prima - 58 East 1st Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenue)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Forgive me Father

For I think I might have sinned. My sister just got back from Bennington, VT. She brought us goodies from The Chocolate Shoppe in Bennington. She brought some bridge mix and Walloomsac River Rocks (small bits of chocolate shaped and colored to look like pebbles, very cool and tasty). And she brought me this:

A cross made out of solid chocolate. Blasphemous? Appropriate as we get ready for Easter? I honestly don't know. I do know that is was delicious (yes, I ate the whole thing already). So tell me, since I ate the whole thing, on a Sunday, during Lent, do I have to go to confession?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Back Forty West

I was lucky enough to have dinner with some close friends at Savoy the week before it closed. Savoy was Peter Hoffman's wonderful and influential Soho restaurant.  It was one of the trailblazers in the farm to table movement. The blow of losing Savoy was softened by the fact that I live near his other great restaurant, Back Forty, and that he was planning something new for the Savoy space.

The word is Back Forty West opens next week in the old Savoy space at the corner of Prince and Crosby. And it sounds like breakfast and lunch will be offered as well as dinner. Can't wait.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My apologies for my absence. I was at Great Wolf Lodge. If you have been there, you understand. If you haven't, well, I thanked God every morning that there was a Starbucks in the hotel. Enough said. The things we do for our kids.

Get The Shakes

Alabama Shakes are returning to NYC. April 11 at Bowery Ballroom and April 12 at Music Hall of Williamsburg. They are on sale tomorrow, 2/24. Don't miss them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fire On The Bayou

I am still feeling good and coming down from the party at Hiro Ballroom last night. Kermit Ruffins and Bonerama brought a taste of Mardi Gras, New Orleans style, to NYC and I don't want the party to end. Since it is Sunday morning in NYC the best way to keep the party going (besides drinking coffee from my new WWOZ mug) is to keep the music playing. In honor of Kermit and the Bone it is going to be all Mardi Gras music all the time until Fat Tuesday turns into Ash Wednesday. Then we can atone.

In keeping with the Mardi Gras spirit I thought I would share some of the highlights from my play list so you can get your own Mardi Gras parade going. For the uninitiated this will be a good (and far from complete) primer and for those who are Jazzfest veterans hopefully you will discover a few new gems. These are all available on CD, iTunes and youtube. And remember, you can always stream the great NOLA public radio station WWOZ on line at WWOZ.org.

Professor Longhair - "Fess" is the Godfather of New Orleans music and the Patron Saint of JazzFest and Tipitina's. "Mardi Gras New Orleans" is his signature tune and his recordings of "Tipitina", "Big Chief" and "Go to the Mardi Gras" are as essential as it gets. He was one of a kind.

The Meters - Founded by two of the legendary Neville Brothers, Art and Cyril, The Meters defined New Orleans funk, soul and R&B. George Porter Jr., Zig Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli round out the group. They were some of the top session men in New Orleans, the bedrock of the New Orleans sound. Their records are some of the most sampled in hip hop and their influence is far reaching. A few seconds of "Cissy Strut" will have you head bobbing and smiling in recognition ("Oh, that song"). "Hey Pocky A-way" and "Fire On The Bayou" are classics and some of the most covered songs in the New Orleans canon. Check "Look-Ka Py Py", "Soul Island" and "Cabbage Alley"

The Neville Brothers - Along with Art and Cyril, Ivan Neville and the legendary Aaron Neville make up The Neville Brothers, the first family of New Orleans music. Check their albums Fiyo on the Bayou, Yellow Moon and Brothers Keeper.

Dr. John - Dr John is one of the most recognizable voices in music, not just New Orleans music. He has done funk, soul, traditional New Orleans Jazz and standards. His catalog is vast but to get in the Mardi Gras spirit check the albums Gumbo and In The Right Place.

Zydeco - It isn't Mardi Gras with out some Zydeco. Here are some of the best:

Clifton Chenier - The godfather of Zydeco. Listen to pretty much anything by him.

Boozoo Chavis - Boozoo, that's who. One of the great characters of Zydeco. Check Live! at the Habib Temple

Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers - Coming out of Rock N Bowl, Beau Jocque was one the shining lights of the new wave of Zydeco musicians. His death  at a young age dealt a big blow to the Zydeco community but his music lives on. Check Beau Jocque Boogie, especially the song "Give Him Cornbread".

Cajun - BeauSoleil brought Cajun music to the masses and their catalog is a good place to start. To check out some of the young stars in Cajun music currently carrying the torch check out Pine Leaf Boys. Their debut La Musique is a wonderful album but the whole catalog is strong.

Brass Band - Dirty Dozen was the standard bearer for a long time. Rebirth Brass Band (co-founded by Kermit Ruffins) are probably the current kings. Soul Rebels Brass Band is a great young band bringing some hip hop and R&B flavor to the tradition. Check Rebirth Take It To The Street, Rebirth with Kermit Ruffins Throwback, Soul Rebels Rebelution.

One the blues front, Look for Sonny Landreth (one of the great slide players) and Tab Benoit and his Cajun Blues. Preservation Hall Jazz Band are the are the ambassadors of traditional New Orleans Jazz. The Radiators were the New Orleans rock band and their debut Law of the Fish defined their unique mix of rock, swamp, R&B and funk.

Clearly I am just scratching the surface here. I haven't touched on Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, The Wild Magnolias. For a deep and vast introduction check out the great compilation Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans from Shout Factory. I will throw more music ideas over the next few days. Take a listen, enjoy and let the good times roll!

Where to begin....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Pleasant Surprise

Just the other day I went to visit my good friend Jake at his office. I always look forward to seeing him and catching up, but there is an added incentive for my visits to his office. He happens to work in the building that houses Chelsea Market.

For the uninitiated, Chelsea Market is a collection of shops on the ground floor of an office building on 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th Street. The majority of the businesses in the market are food vendors or food related. Food and drink purveyors like 9th Street Espresso, Jacques Torres Chocolate, Fat Witch Bakery, Amy's Bread and Ronnybrook Dairy have made The Chelsea Market a food destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

One of the newer businesses in the Market is Dickson's Farmstand Meats. Dickson's is a butcher dedicated to providing high quality meat and meat products from local farms with naturally fed, humanely-raised animals. Their selection of meats is top notch and they feature cuts that can be hard to find. Their staff and butchers are friendly and very knowledgeable. Considering the dearth of good butchers in New York, Dickson's is a welcome addition to Chelsea Market.

Dickson's selection of meat would be enough to merit a visit, but Dickson's has recently added a lunch menu. This was the reason for my visit. The menu features hot and cold sandwiches, house made hot dogs and chili.  I was thinking about their pulled pork sandwich when I walked in but I took a look at the menu to see if anything else tickled my fancy. Here is the first item that was listed on the menu:

Southern Ham Biscuits

We have a winner. Two black pepper biscuits are sliced in half, spread with whole grain mustard AND house made honey butter then filled with hot southern ham.

I ordered it. A GuS's Dry Cranberry and Lime Soda and Zapp's Cajun Crawtaters Chips rounded out what was a truly perfect lunch.

The biscuits were firm and savory, holding everything together. The spicy mustard and sweet honey butter perfectly complimented each other. They all played great supporting rolls to the moist, rich ham piled inside. The warm ham melted the butter, letting it mingle with the juices from the ham. Every bite was perfection. It was one of those rare moments when you were expecting something good and got something even better. True Heaven.

The building that houses Chelsea Market was originally owned by the National Biscuit Company (now a little company now known as Nabisco). It was one of the centers of baking in New York City. That history has been brought back to life by the numerous bakeries in Chelsea Market. Dickson's Southern Ham Biscuits are the latest tribute to that history, and a they make damned fine lunch.

Dickson's Farmstand Meats - Chelsea Market - 75 9th Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

ChikaLicious "Lin-sanity"

Nestled on 10th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue, ChikaLicious Dessert Bar has been serving serious desserts in a small, intimate setting to great success and acclaim. For those of us who love dessert but can't always take the time for a three course sit down the ChikaLicious folks have given us Dessert Club. Directly across 10th Street from the original spot, Dessert Club offers an array of delicious and unique desserts to eat in or take out. Good luck waiting until you get home to try them.

Cupcakes? Of course. But forget those butter cream monstrosities everyone is peddling. Dessert Club's are light, airy and rich without feeling like you just ate a stick of butter stuffed with sugar. They are available in mini, regular and premium and in flavors like Caramel (amazing), S'mores, Triple Chocolate (as good as it sounds), Lychee, Red Velvet and Green Tea.

Cakes, cookies, Macarons, ice cream and pastries are all on the menu. There is something for every sweet tooth. But none of the sweets at Dessert Club are standard fare. They are artfully crafted, elevated. For the folks at ChikaLicious, dessert is the main course, one that demands craft and style. They want to defy our expectations and remind us to never settle for the mediocre or average.

So now you are thinking that maybe Dessert Bar is a little too high brow. Maybe they take dessert too seriously. They are serious about what they do, but that never gets in the way of the main goal, delicious desserts. Here are two cases in point:

This is the Eclair Ice Cream Cone. NY Magazine called it one of the top ice cream treats in NYC. What is it? It is one of the best Vanilla Bean soft serve ice creams you will ever eat. But that wasn't good enough for the ChikaLicious folks. Instead of serving it in a cone, they take one of their eclair shells, fill it with soft serve then top it with a heap of soft serve. Yes, an eclair...filled with ice cream... used as a cone. It tastes even better than it sounds. (Please note that I took a big bite of this one before I remembered to take a picture). I am almost weeping as I write this. I want another one. Right now.

What is this delicious mess? The "Lin-sational Baller." This is Dessert Club's newest treat named in honor of the Knicks' Jeremy Lin. It is a Maple Pecan Banana Bread Pudding. I am not sure what that has to do with Jeremy Lin, but it is ridiculous and crazy good, just like Lin. There is definitely maple, pecans and banana in here as well as some sort of delicious cake. There is also ice cream. The result is some sort of nutty banana split-bread pudding hybrid that will have you trying to add "Lin" to far too many words. "Lin-sanity!" (OK, enough of that)

High craft and passion. Delivering the goods. For all of us. This is what Dessert Club is all about. (I am working hard to avoid a Fight Club reference here folks). So the next time you know you want something sweet but maybe you aren't sure what, or your crew cannot agree on the where to get dessert, Dessert Club has the answer. For you and everyone you know. Trust me.

ChikaLicious Dessert Club - 204 East 10th Street between 1st & 2nd Avenues

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thanks Joe.

If you are not a resident of New York's Upper East Side you generally only find yourself in that neighborhood for a few reasons. Visiting friends, doctor appointments and museums. This is not a dig at the UES. We New Yorkers are a provincial bunch and tend to stay in our own neighborhoods. We are happy to venture up to the UES because the friends, doctors and museums are all world class. Sadly, with a few exceptions, the UES food and drink scene is not. You venture uptown to visit your friends. They come downtown to have dinner with you.

I was recently at an appointment uptown and wanted a cup of coffee. Followers of this blog know I hoped to avoid going to a Starbucks and would not venture into a DD. A quick search revealed an outpost of the fine Joe : The Art Of Coffee. Joe has had three spots downtown for some time and is one of the fine independent coffee chains in NYC. Excellent coffee and a progressive ethos are two hallmarks of Joe. I was curious to see what a Joe's outpost on 75th and Lexington would look like. Any concessions to the neighborhood? Nope.

The UES Joe's is a small spot with a clean, minimalist decor. Four seats at the front window and a communal table for 10 people. A small coffee counter and two little nooks in back. It could be on the LES or Brooklyn. They even ask you to bus your own dishes, a novel idea uptown. The coffee is great, and I was struck by how friendly the staff is. They truly go out of their way to make you feel welcome and comfortable.

Unless I am mistaken, Joe's is the first of the coffee culture purveyors to open on the UES. On their website Joe sells a poster by the artist Charrow that is a Coffee Map of Manhattan. As you study the poster, you notice that the UES does not have one spot listed. Time to update the poster.

I hope this is this the first of many independent coffee spots uptown, not just for visitors like me but for my friends who live uptown. Support your local coffee joint, people. It is nice to visit uptown. It is even better to have a reason to linger there.

Joe : The Art Of Coffee
1045 Lexington Avenue
joetheartofcoffee.com for other locations

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Big news for Big Poppa. The nice folks over at TheDailyMeal.com have reached out to me and asked me to join their community of bloggers. I was flattered and excited by the possibilities so I have said yes and jumped in feet first. You will notice the Daily Meal "hat" on the top of my blog that connects you to their site and the new url when you type the old one. Those will be the only changes to this blog.

This blog will remain the same. All the content will be created and posted by me. I will just have a bigger platform and, hopefully, even more great things to write about (and eat). Change is good. Hopefully I will live up to the challenge. I can't wait to dig in.

Let's eat!

Big Poppa

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The comforts of home.

People come to New York from around the world looking for opportunity. This city has been built neighborhood by neighborhood by immigrants looking for a new start. Upon arrival they would settle into neighborhoods that reminded them of home. Whether they were Irish, Italian, Polish or Chinese, they would look for the comforts of home.

The comforts of a familiar language, culture, religion and, of course, food made the transition to living in a foreign place easier. This is the reason New York has always been one of the great food cities, the shear diversity of the food available. And if the food from home wasn't available, then supplying it became the perfect business opportunity.

This spirit still exists today, and the latest example comes all they way from Georgia.

The Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter

Like the scores of immigrants before them, the folks behind Bobwhite missed the comfort foods of home. Fried Chicken, Pimento Cheese, Grits, Chick-fil-A. From this empty hole in their hearts and stomachs Bobwhite was born. A nice, small spot with a small, focused menu, Bobwhite brings Southern cooking and hospitality to the East Village.

The menu is simple. Two chicken suppers. Three hot sandwiches, three cold sandwiches and some salads and sides. Some good beer. This small menu gives the kitchen the ability to focus and deliver. The Fried Chicken Sandwich is the model of simplicity. Fried chicken breast on a roll with bread and butter pickles. It is good. Hot sauce and honey are on the counter for the addition of heat and sweet.

New Yorkers tend to shy away from grits because what we have generally had has been inedible. The Cheddar Cheese grits at Bobwhite will show you the truth and explain why they are a southern staple. Southern, cheese flavored comfort.

Fried chicken, grilled chicken, pork chop sandwich. Egg Salad, Pimento Cheese, Chicken salad sandwiches. Yes, they have biscuits. With the southern grub comes the southern hospitality. Nice people who genuinely want you to enjoy their food. These are good people making good food. So pull up a stool, relax and enjoy. They will take good care of you.

Bobwhite lunch & supper counter

94 Avenue C  between 6th & 7th Steet

Monday, February 6, 2012


There are many things that I am thankful for. One of them is the fact my father made me a Giants and Yankees fan. In have seen 7 World Series wins and now 4 Superbowl wins in my lifetime. I will be honest. It is pretty sweet. Congrats to my Giants on a great win. Now starts the strive for five.

Go Giants!!!

Pitchers and catchers soon.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Truth in advertising or "What is in a name?"

On 9th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A you will come across this sign. "Good Beer." Walk down a few steps and you will enter into the store simply called "Good Beer." Indeed. Good Beer is a store dedicated to finding and carrying good beer from small and independent American Brewers as well as a few well chosen imports.

The store has a deep selection of bottled and canned beers. It also has twelve beers on tap that they constantly rotate and update. Growlers are available (a growler is a half gallon glass jug that can be filled from a tap and sealed to take home). You can also try a flight of four beers on tap, getting a chance to sample the diverse mix of the brews they carry.

Craft brewers are well represented of course. They have a good selection of my favorite, Abita, including bottles of their SOS (Save Our Shore) brew. New York breweries like Six Point, Coney Island and Kelso are well represented. But lest yea think they are craft snobs, they also have choice selection for those fans of rescued classic brands like the legendary Narragansett (they carry the 'gansett Lager and Light).

Of course, when enjoying some good beer one likes to enjoy some good food as well. Good Beer has you covered. A small but nice menu of charcuterie, cheese and sausages are available to snack on while enjoying a nice Allagash White, North Coast Brother Thelonius or Sly Fox Odyssey IPA.

The staff at Good Beer is friendly and knowledgeable. No intimidation factor here. They are beer fans who want to turn you onto some good beer. I bet they have a few ideas about what to drink while watching the Giants play the final game of the year.

After you swing by, let me know what that Clown Shoes Brown Angel tastes like. I am curious.

Good Beer - 422 East 9th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.