Tag Archives: oysters

In Which I Allege Prime Meats Has No Clothes…Or is At Least Half-Naked…

I’ve been Yelping.

Mostly because I realized I have opinions about local restaurants and it’s silly not to share them…even though I remain terrified someone is going to call me out, a la the Lucky purse disaster on Consumerist. I guess this proves that despite all the book rejections that have come my way, I still haven’t developed very thick skin.

Nonetheless, I did a bold thing today: I posted a review of Prime Meats in which I alleged the restaurant is completely uninviting. Angry mobs may be assembling as we speak.

I’m not sure whether I’ll become a hard-core reviewer on Yelp — after all, there are so many places on the Internet where you can review things and provide your opinions…like, say, on Epicurious…and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to write it all.

But I also know a little cross-promotion can’t hurt…and am kind of proud of this review. There — I said it. (Which probably means it is terrible as that is usually the case whenever I like something I write.)

Nevertheless…for non-Yelpers, here’s my review:

I am going to make a bold statement. And I’m fairly certain it’s going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think, to a degree, Prime Meats — like the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale — has no clothes. Or it is at least half-naked.

The food is very good, to be sure. Prime Meats wouldn’t have garnered so much attention if that wasn’t the case.

I also think it was a bold move for the owners to focus on German cuisine – although perhaps therein lies their genius.

But somehow Prime Meats, despite its delicious food, doesn’t have the warm, inviting atmosphere of other restaurants of its caliber. That is not to say it is not aesthetically pleasing. But it is permeated by a sense of entitlement that belies the site’s humble history as a dry cleaning business.

On a recent weekday, one of the owners waltzed about with his French bulldog in hand with such an air of confidence, I wondered if he would actually get in trouble if a health inspector dropped by or if he could simply say, “Do you know who I am?” and get away with it.

I’ll repeat: The food is very, very good. You can get a fine steak here – and this is a neighborhood that cannot otherwise boast a good steakhouse.

But I think the fuss over this restaurant is partly psychological. In other words, I think part of the reason people rave about it is the same reason the head cheerleader and the quarterback of the football team are powerful in high school. It’s not necessarily because they’re good people…

Sam Sifton did an excellent job describing diners in his NYT review last May: “…brownstone bohemians, third novelists, people with Web sites, with good art at home.”

They are served by waiters in beards, skinny jeans and suspenders…or, as Sifton described them, “a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles.”

I am admittedly a struggling writer with a degree that has so far not justified its pricetag…and perhaps if I had landed a job at the New York Times or Conde Nast, I would feel more welcome here. But I don’t. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a restaurant where I’ve felt so unwelcome.

I could perhaps understand if I was dressed inappropriately or was spewing profanities. But I wasn’t. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And I live very close. I walk by virtually every day. And yet when I decided to drop by to take advantage of an oyster special and the restaurant was unoccupied with the exception of one other party, it took 15 minutes for our drinks to come and yet another 15 more for the oysters to appear.

“I’m sorry, but the oyster guy is backed up,” our waiter explained as the table next to us received their second platter of oysters and we checked our watches.

We were eventually served and, as noted, the food was good. But at no point did I feel my business was wanted or that I would ever be compelled to return…unless I was suffering from acute hubris and needed my ego cut down to size by a staff eager to imply that I wasn’t good enough to eat there.

It’s not just me. I’ve heard stories from neighbors who were deemed unfit to mingle with the clientele and who were encouraged to sit at the bar or move along.

Take Frank Bruni on Twitter, for example. On January 5, he wrote, “At Prime Meats last nite, didn’t think: I’m in BROOKLYN!”

In his defense, he went on to say, “Didn’t mull geography. Just ate well at super place. The borough has plenty.”

But, at the same time, a Brooklyn prejudice seems terribly outdated and pompous…and somehow completely fitting for this restaurant that calls the borough its home.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Good Eats: Or, New York with Bobby, Junior, Florence, Mario and Tina.

So…my mother was here last week, which means I got to indulge in a New York lifestyle drastically different from the norm. To wit: I got up and dressed every single day and didn’t once look for a job or do any copywriting or tinker with my book proposal. Instead, I went to restaurants under the purview of celebrity chefs and saw shows on Broadway. I would imagine I would eventually run out of shows and/or get bored if this was my regular life, but…from here, the grass looks pretty green.

Our first stop was Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. I’ve probably walked by this place a million times, but I’ve never been inside. However, I’ve been meaning to ever since I was at work (or in a class) once and my mom was exploring the city on her own and stumbled upon it and was super-excited and ended up doing a big, brave thing and eating there on her own. So…after six years, I finally ate there. I was really happy with my chile relleno — stuffed with eggplant and rolled in cornmeal! — but my mom was a little disappointed with her sweet potato ravioli…which was a shame as it is the one dish that jumped out on the menu to me, too. I’ve sort of had a complex about chile rellenos since eating at a Mexican restaurant in Wisconsin that served an extremely eggy one. As we all know, I HATE EGGS. So…it freaked me out and sort of put me off chile rellenos for a while. But my mother quoted somebody — possibly Bobby Flay — who said that you really shouldn’t be able to taste the egg in a good chile relleno…and she/he was right. (I also really enjoyed the barbed-wire tiles in the bathroom. Nice touch, BF.)

That night we went to the Grand Central Oyster House…which is another one of those places I have heard about for ages but have never actually tried. I don’t honestly remember where all of the oysters came from — although I’m pretty sure two were from the East coast and two were from the West. Either way, it came with mignonette…which is my favorite part about oysters. I had it for the first time at Elliott’s Oyster House in Seattle years ago…and that was it. I was sold. I also had scallops (which I am told my father liked…which is worth mentioning solely because the whole reason my mom came out to NY was to walk with me in the Light the Night Walk in his memory/honor and so I could perhaps exorcise a demon or two) and my mom got a white fish that came with chunks of bacon on top. Both, again, were very, very good…and we were early because we had tickets to Jersey Boys (still hadn’t seen it!) and I imagine it gets pretty cozy in there as the night goes on, but it seems like it would be fun to meet up there for drinks and oysters after work someday. (Also? There is a red lip-shaped couch in the bathroom.) After the show, we hit up Junior’s for cheesecake…and my mom was very excited to see an autographed photo from Bobby Flay. So…it was like the whole day came full circle.

The next day we got lunch at Bagels by the Park and headed out for the God of Carnage matinee. (Loved it! So good! And so funny! Despite the sort of Heart-of-Darkness point of it all…) We had some time to kill afterward, so we hit up the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Times Square (it was either that or Madame Tussaud’s…and the guy at the door gave us $5 off each ticket)…and I guess we should have known better as it was pretty much a huge letdown. Or, rather, there was a lot of uncomfortable stuff: people with really unfortunate physical abnormalities; a room that traps you inside; torture devices; and weird medical situations. There was one breast implant display with a pair of boobs that inflated at the push of a button…otherwise, a big miss. Then I tried to take Ma to the Rainbow Room, but it’s apparently closed for awhile? (Kind of ironic that the Web site says, “Then. Now. Forever,” eh?) And so we opted instead for the revolving lounge atop the Marriott Marquis…and wouldn’t you know it? Florence Henderson was there. Small world. So…we had a drink there and tried to determine which building was which and whether Florence did anything besides the Brady Bunch and Wesson Oil (I have a “Christmas Carols” refrigerator magnet that includes Ms. Henderson, Carol Burnett, Carol Channing and Carroll O’Connor).

THEN we went to Mario Batali’s Spotted Pig as my mom really, really, REALLY likes Mario Batali. We had to wait at the bar for a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal as two seats opened up right away…almost like fate! We had oysters *again* and my mom was thinking about getting pork belly, but our server told us it was pretty fatty…so she ended up with a fish again and I got chorizo-stuffed quail with goat cheese pudding. Pretty amazing. Although the kitchen was churning out burger/fries like they were going out of style. And the guy at the table next to us could not have been any more smarmy and sort of reminded me why I’ve vowed to be the Lone Wolf for awhile. (We also finished things off with a stop by Magnolia Bakery so my mother could have one of the cupcakes made famous by you-know-what.)

On our last full day, we had a late lunch at Chevy’s and dinner after the walk (So cold! But Tina Fey was there!) at an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood that Guilia Melucci wrote about in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” We had tried to get in to Buttermilk Channel, which used to be a place called Cafe Scaramouche where I had brunch sort of on a regular basis with my friend Bob and ordered pancakes with caramelized orange peel that he called “pancakes in drag.” But it’s apparently quite a hot spot as the wait was an hour and we were cold, starving walkers, so we sought out the quiet Italian joint.

And then that was it. Mom went back to Tucson and I went back to reality. Still have a little linguine left over…but then it really is back to my own cookin’. Good thing I’m still really excited about my Trader-Joe’s-in-the-middle-of-the-day epiphany…

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, cupcake, eggs, fish, Food Network, pork

The Great Pizza Fiasco of 2009, Entirely New Apples…and Binging Throughout Manhattan (and a Little Bit of Brooklyn, Too).

I haven’t been SO focused on self-improvement lately that food has slipped *entirely* through the cracks.

I have been meaning, for example, to blog about the Great Pizza Fiasco of K’s recent(-ish) trip. You see, she had never been to Grimaldi’s before…and if you’re someone who comes to New York from time to time — as K is (or was) known to do — it seems like the kind of place you need to go once. I took my oldest childhood friend on, like, a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon and we were able to walk right in. So…I thought maybe if we got there *right* when it opened the line wouldn’t be too bad.

So…we arrived at 11:30. There was a *bit* of a line, but the restaurant was empty and I figured we’d be okay as long as we got in during the first wave (we had tickets to Billy Elliot at 2:00!). So…we waited. There were some folks carrying in boxes and whatnot…and I thought maybe they were running behind. And then a guy came out with a clipboard and walked down the line, asking how many people were in each party. I assumed that maybe the info on the Web site was wrong or that I had misread it and the place didn’t open until 12:00. We waited patiently — it was, after all, almost noon by then — and then, what do you know? A giant tour bus pulled up right in front…and I thought, “No! This isn’t happening!” And yet it did. An entire tour bus full of people walked right in. And that was it…we only had an hour until we had to leave…so instead, on our way back to the trusty F train, we stopped in the Dumbo General Store (which I was later told is Hecho en Dumbo at night…and is totally a restaurant I have been meaning to try FOREVER).

So, it all worked out in the end and everything, but…I don’t know, Grimaldi’s. Seems like maybe we’re getting a little big for our britches, no? Especially since it isn’t exactly the ONLY place you can get good pizza in this town. So…trying to prove that very point, I tried to take K to Lucali the following night…but, dammit, there was a power outage and they were closed. So. K did not get pizza in New York. We *did*, however, have hot dogs outside the West Side Story theater, appetizers and mojitos with orange girlie doodads at Havana Central (also a tiny little nod to our mutual alma mater…), burritos at my favorite burrito place IN THE WORLD (I can’t believe some of those Yelp reviews. I love this place and I *hate* California Taqueria…so clearly Abigail S. and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the Burrito Fence…in fact, I think the guacamole there is maybe the best part…and the Gourmet burrito makes me pretty much happier than anything else. And why do you *have* to have rice and beans in your burrito, Daniel G.? I don’t get it. If I was a braver person, I’d register and write my own review. Perhaps that will come later in my quest for Sandra Bullock Clarity), and, finally — one of the places K actually wanted to go! — Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft. (Another food connection? She bought me a lewd apron for my birthday. How about that?)

The following weekend I made my way to — gasp! — New Jersey to visit another K. And I was actually pretty shocked that I only had to ride New Jersey Transit for 70 minutes, but felt like I was leaving the city far, far behind. (I was also a little bit in love with the child sitting in front of me who kept calling every body of water he saw “the ocean.”) K II lives in a very bright and airy apartment on the Princeton campus (or pretty darn close) and there are lots of trees and birds and bugs. And we went apple-picking! I was not able to get my standard pie apples, but I’m not so much of a stickler that I wasn’t willing to branch out with three new varieties. I *wish* I could remember all three, but one was definitely Macoun. And…as K II took me to a charming kitchen store in the heart of Princeton (that had a revolving cake platter that plays “Happy Birthday!”) and bought mini tart pans (that’s the difference between the two of us — my tart pan is HUGE), I was totally inspired to make an apple tart of my own. (The recipe I like most on Epicurious, however, calls for cardamom and I did not see any at my local grocery store…but Trader Joe’s in the middle of the day in the middle of the week has sort of become my new favorite place to be…and Joe should have cardamom, right?) She was *also* talking about how much she likes donuts…and she was searching for a baked good to claim as her “thing” and I really, really wanted to be able to find a recipe for baked donuts that would blow her away (she was reluctant to embrace donuts because of all the frying)…but, sadly, I didn’t see anything good in any of my cookbooks (Martha has an interesting one for pumpkin cornmeal donuts…but they, like virtually every other donut in creation, are fried)…although a quick Google search pulled up *these* baked donuts…although they are also quick to note that it’s an entirely different taste sensation. If I was a more industrious blogger, I’d try these recipes out and come back with some original reporting. Which I suppose is *maybe* still a possibility, but…

…the traveling doesn’t stop there! My mother is flying in tomorrow…and we have big plans to eat a lot: Mesa Grill, Grand Central Oyster Bar, The Spotted Pig, Buttermilk Channel…and I don’t know what else. Shake Shack? Blue Smoke? Artichoke? I am sort of the proverbial kid in a candy store here as I pick out all these amazing places I would never go if it was just me.

But, wait! There’s more! Big J and I booked our tickets to Costa Rica today! We leave on November 12. And my guidebook is patiently waiting for me at the Red Hook post office. And surely there will be *something* food-related for me to blog about between now and then. (I am tempted to sign this, “Besos! LL.” But shall refrain.)

Leave a comment

Filed under birthdays, books, Brooklyn, frying, gadgets, Martha, pizza, Uncategorized