Archive | October, 2011

And the Answer is…

31 Oct

Everyone was curious about this jewelry store that doubles as an eating establishment, but no one could come up with the answer.

No, the jewelry is not edible

If you venture beyond the jewelry, you will find this

Those look like fresh baguettes.

And those baguettes are used to make this:

That looks suspiciously like a Vietnamese sandwich.

That‘s because it is a Vietnamese sandwich, otherwise known as a banh mi.  And this particular banh mi was bought at and devoured adjacent to the jewelry counter at the place below:

No one was able to recognized the very popular, Banh Mi Saigon, located at 198 Grand Street in Chinatown, So until we play Name That Place, again here at Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, better luck next time.

Name That Place

28 Oct

Nice looking stuff they have at this place. But the piquant stuff at this place that tastes even better than it looks, you can’t see in this picture.

No, the jewelry is not edible.

Come on, New York food fanatics, this one is so easy I’m not giving any hints.  If you know where this picture was taken, name it in the comment section below.  The answer will be revealed on Monday.

Colombian Air in White Plains

25 Oct

Aires de Colombia
64 West Post Rd
White Plains, NY

Zio was behind the wheel, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on First Avenue. He was muttering and cursing, though clearly not under his breath. We were on our way to White Plains in the middle of rush hour to a destination chosen by none other than the innocent seeming, though truly sadistic Gerry who has tormented us with restaurants in hard to reach and traffic congested locales such as Sheepshead Bay, Valhalla, Jersey City, and Fort Lee, to name just a few. Was his motive in choosing these hard to reach destinations to exact revenge on those of us who live in the New York City environs and take for granted how easy it is, via public transportation, to experience worldly culinary pleasures in the city as opposed to the suburbanite who, with a few exceptions, is a prisoner to his vehicle and must commute to find food nirvana. We weren’t sure, but as we inched along on First Avenue, the conspiracy theories were percolating rapidly.

Rick had already bowed out of this adventure;  a trip from the city to White Plains during rush hour and then back to his money pit in Atlantic Highlands New Jersey, much too stressful on his already commuting-frazzled nerves.

“This better not be like that mother f*****g mariachi place in Yonkers. I couldn’t even eat that s**t,” Zio spat, referring to Gerry’s ill fated Yonkers’ Mexican choice, Plaza Garibaldi.

The venom was flowing from Zio’s rotund frame. It got so bad we seriously considered pulling over and eating at nearby Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem, or, if the traffic continued beyond the entrance to the Bruckner, driving to Hunt’s Point for one of Fratelli’s broccoli rabe “Grandma” pies.

With our intentions now clear, Zio seemed to calm down and once we were able to get onto the Bruckner, the traffic dissipated and we quickly decided to go back to our first option and head on to White Plains. Gerry and Eugene were waiting outside Aires de Colombia on a strip populated by a variety of Latin restaurants.

Trump infested downtown White Plains

Looking at the restaurant, I recalled that when I was living in White Plains, the location of Aires de Colombia was near a bar I frequented back when the drinking age was 18 and I was a bit younger called DePalo’s Dugout. At DePalo’s each night there was a half hour where beer was free. My high school friends and I took full advantage of the offer, taking turns going up to the bar until our table was overflowing with pitchers and almost enough beer to get us through the night.

Back when I was filling up on beer instead of rice, beans, and chicharrones, which I was planning to do at Aires de Colombia, there were no Latin restaurants on this stretch of Post Road. And driving into White Plains with its many gleaming glass towers, I noted that there were no Ritz Carlton’s or Trump Towers either in the disco days of my youth.

Gerry had already visited Aires de Colombia and was disappointed to say that the television near our table and above the bar had been removed. When he visited he was entertained by Colombian dancing girls on the screen which, according to Gerry, only enhanced the dining experience. The bartender who also served as our hostess and waitress spoke little English but enough to say that she had two English language menus while the rest were in Spanish. Neither did me any good because it was much too dark where we sat for me to read any language. The bar crowd was amused at our pathetic attempts to converse with our waitress, which, to me, was a good sign. Our group being a silly spectacle for the establishment’s regulars meant that we had hit upon a truly authentic destination, though the inebriated grin directed toward Gerry from one the bar’s patrons had him slightly unnerved.

Colombian deep fried pork belly

We began with the aforementioned chicharron, a long, deep fried until practically charred, piece of pork belly, the intense saltiness paired beautifully with the cold Aguila beer I was drinking. The chicharron was accompanied by an arepa, Colombian corn bread topped with a heavy sprinkling of cheese. While waiting for our beef empanadas, I excused myself to visit the restrooms. On the way, I passed the half door opening that led to the kitchen and noticed a woman with a head scarf scurrying between the stove and a table where she was rolling out dough for the empanadas. The sight was more than reassuring and I was confident that Aires de Colombia would not be like “that mother f*****g mariachi place in Yonkers.”

Colombian condiments

The empanadas that soon arrived at our table were as good as I’ve had anywhere and remarkably, tasted as if they were hand rolled by a Colombian woman in a head scarf. But the “starters” were not light fare and when they were followed by enormous platters of meat; beef with French fried potatoes and onions known as “lomo saltado,”  rolled, stuffed pork, steak, more chicharrones, and lengua (tongue) described as our waitress in her struggling English as “sweet tongue” and all of the meats accompanied by rice, beans, tostones, maduras, yucca, aquacate (avocado) and a hard, dry round “arepa” that was the only disappointment of the night, it soon became a struggle to eat. There was, apparently, a bottom to our collective bottomless pits. The one exception to all the meat was a platter of shrimp in a creamy garlic sauce that, though tasty, not quite worthy enough to veer from the meat side of the menu.

An empanada, an arepa and more chicharrones.

The dishes soon were cleared except those in front of Mike from Yonkers who was still picking at the “sweet” tongue. The rest of us were glassy-eyed and dazed by the cholesterol onslaught.

“100 crunches every morning,” Eugene droned, patting his ridiculously flat stomach. “And no more junk for breakfast. Fruit. Granola. Oatmeal. .. ” The arrival of our check spared us from having to listen to Eugene anymore and after tallying it up, the result put us a bit above our $20 food budget.  No one complained that we had gone over budget. The hardship of getting to Aires de Colombia was temporarily forgotten in our food-induced stupor.  We gathered our things and went outside to listen a bit to the very noticeable silence on the deserted White Plains’ street before getting in our respective vehicles and driving home.

Unfortunately, we missed the great Oscar D’Leon’s performance at Prophecy.

Today’s Special: Wish Sandwich or Cool Water Sandwich?

21 Oct

“Did you ever hear of a Wish Sandwich?
Well, it’s the kind of a sandwich where you’re supposed to take two pieces of bread, and wish you had some meat.”

“The other day, I ate a ricochet biscuit. Well it’s the kind of biscuit where it’s supposed to bounce off the wall and back into your mouth. If it don’t bounce back, you go hungry.”

“The other day, I ate a cool water sandwich and a Sunday-go-to-meeting bun.”

 “What you want for nothing? A rubber biscuit?”

A rubber biscuit

These guys do a much better job explaining the Wish Sandwich than I can. Click the link below and listen.

01 – Rubber Biscuit

Egg Rolls and Adobo by Candlelight

18 Oct

21-01 21st Street

Hobbling from a knee injury, I made the trek from the N train stop at Broadway in Astoria down to 21st Street. Turning right, I could see Gerry and Zio waiting in front of a White Castle.  And before I could even comment on Gerry’s new salt and pepper, heavier on the salt, goatee, Zio approached me anxiously.

“They have real tablecloths,” Zio said, his shame evident on the expression of his face. Could he possibly have erred so badly by choosing a place that might actually be a little too classy for the riff raff that was our group?

“Yeah, and from what I saw, they might even have candles on the tables,” Gerry added.

Linen table clothes and stemmed water glasses

Trying to ease Zio’s embarrassment, I reminded him that I noticed crispy deep fried pigs’ knuckles on the online menu he forwarded to me. That made him feel a little better and we walked the next block to Philippu the Filipino restaurant with the linen tablecloths and candles.

Eugene and Mike from Yonkers were already seated in the spacious, sparkling, mostly barren restaurant. The big flat panel television was on and tuned to a Filipino news network. Rick walked in a few minutes later and, with the exception of a few other diners, we had the restaurant to ourselves.

“I think this might be the cleanest place we’ve been in,” Eugene remarked innocently. “Did you see the bathroom?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Zio buried his head in the menu, trying to ignore Eugene and hide his disgrace.

And, despite the tablecloths, plasma television and clean bathrooms, the menu offered tremendous promise with items such as sizzling sisig (minced pork relish on a sizzling plate), dinuguan (pork and beef blood cooked in vinegar) and bopis (pork lungs and heart sautéed in tomatoes, chilies and onions). Yet with all the exotic choices, the best we could decide on was the grilled pork belly, sautéed taro leaves in coconut sauce, kare kare (oxtails in peanut sauce), chicken adobo, and deep fried sweet and sour fish.

Zio was a bit concerned that we neglected the appetizers.  We didn’t really; it was just that at Philippu, what was offered as appetizers were a challenge including a mix of the conventional; buffalo-style chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, and shrimp tempura, along with an assortment of Filipino-style egg rolls. We choose a sampling of the egg rolls and when the first one arrived in a soft, chow-fun like wrap, stuffed with a variety of vegetables, Eugene observed that it tasted like an egg roll with chop suey inside. At first it seemed like one of Eugene’s typically nonsensical statements, but after a few bites, we were in agreement—the vegetable stuffing was clearly reminiscent of cafeteria Chinese.

“Chop suey” stuffed egg rolls

The next selection was pretty much like the first but with a hard, crispy fried exterior like that of a fried Vietnamese spring roll with that same “chop suey” stuffing. The final selection was a platter filled with tiny, firecracker-sized fried egg rolls stuffed with something that was pretty much unidentifiable; maybe minced pork—maybe mushroom. I couldn’t tell and because the egg rolls were so dry only an abundance of the accompanying vinegary dipping sauce could rescue them.

Thankfully our entrees arrived promptly and the waiter could clear what was left of the unfortunate egg rolls. My first taste of the entrees was of the grilled pork belly; a piece of tender pork surrounded by a thick roll of fat in a slightly sweet, brown barbecue sauce. The chicken adobo was tender and swimming in a soy-vinegar mixture while the oxtails of the kare kare came in a big bowl of peanut sauce with string beans and greens. Lastly, the green taro leaves arrived, sautéed in mild coconut sauce.

Mild seemed to be the operative word at Philippu. The food had flavor, but lacked the edge, or bite that would make it really standout. The only foreign taste was the presence of very bitter, bitter melon that was hidden in a shrimp and vegetable noodle dish. It was as if the sterility of the restaurant contributed to the blandness of the food. Whether that blandness was perceived or actually a reality was hard to tell.

Kare Kare

For Philippu, there were no raves, bathroom cleanliness excepted, and there were no complaints. Our lack of enthusiasm was evident when no one had any desire for any of the dessert options.  But, despite our uncharacteristically mellow mood, all that remained was the fat from the pork belly and one, unpicked oxtail that even Mike from Yonkers deemed not worth the effort.

Neck Bones Anniversary Tomato Sauce

14 Oct

Not that I need a reason to make a big batch of Neck Bone Tomato Sauce, but I figured the one year anniversary of this site, Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, would be as good a time as any to share my recipe.

The sauce, called by many of the misinformed as “Sunday Gravy” (more on that in a future post), is thick and rich, almost like a tomato stew, but don’t be fooled, it is most definitely a sauce. And the combination of the sauce and the meat from the slow cooked, fatty pork neck bones and the sauce poured over a sizable pasta cut (rigatoni preferably) produces what to me is the ultimate comfort food.

Instead of neck bones, you could use any variety of spare ribs; country, baby back, or St. Louis cut, but that’s usually more expensive. Pork neck bones are not only cheaper, they also produce the heartiest sauce and the meat from the bones, no matter how long you cook them, is always moist and tender.

Though not a difficult recipe, it is time consuming. My grandmother didn’t mind making a version of this (minus the neck bones) every Sunday. While she was working in the kitchen from 6 am until Sunday dinner around 3 pm,  I was wasting all Sunday watching Abbott and Costello movies on television. Occasionally she would mutter from the kitchen, “piu pigro” or “your lazy” to me. And yes, I still can be lazy, certainly  lazy enough not to spend every Sunday, or Saturday (the sauce is even better made a day or two in advance giving the ingredients more time to get to know each other) making sauce. So I make enough for leftovers (the sauce freezes very well) and spare me a few weekends of work until I run out of whatever I have in the freezer.

The neck bones alone will flavor the sauce, but I like to throw in some other meats along with the neck bones, usually chunks of pork shoulder I’ve trimmed and browned, or Italian sausage and/or braciole and whatever else I can fit into the pot. If I also want meatballs to be part of the meal, I’ll make them separately (see Goomba Joe’s Polpetti for the meatball recipe) and add them to the bowl of cooked meats, just before serving.

Goomba Joe’s Polpetti

Here then, is my Neck Bone Tomato Sauce recipe starting with the basic ingredients.

2 lbs of neck bones

4 28 ounce cans of Italian whole peeled tomatoes, not San Marzano.*

6 ounce can of tomato paste**

1/2cup of olive oil

8 cloves of garlic (chopped)***

2 cups of water

¼ teaspoon of dried red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Rigatoni (How much depends on how many you are feeding. Always err on too much rather than too little)

Pork shoulder, braciole, sausage, and meatballs (optional)


*Spending the extra money for genuine San Marzano tomatoes for this sauce is a waste. The flavor will be overwhelmed by the meat. Stick with your favorite brand of  Italian whole peeled tomatoes, preferably imported from Italy and with a basil leaf or two included in the can.

Canned Italian tomatoes

**I like to use tomato paste, but you can substitute a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes instead; both add density to the sauce. And this should be a dense sauce.

***My general rule is two cloves of garlic per one 28 ounce can of tomatoes. I can be swayed to alter my rule depending on the size of the garlic cloves.

Run the tomatoes through a food mill, separating the seeds and whatever skin might be on the tomatoes. If you are lucky enough to have an electric “passata” machine that basically does the same thing as a food mill minus the physical labor, the muscles of your forearms will be grateful.

Elbow grease required.

Salt and pepper the neck bones.

Add ¼ cup of olive oil to a skillet.

Brown the neck bones, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Browning the neck bones.

Drain on a paper towel and put aside

Add ¼ cup of olive oil to a very large soup kettle or pasta pot with a heavy bottom.  Turn the heat on to medium and add the garlic. Cook just until the garlic begins to lightly brown and quickly lower the heat so it does not burn.

Add the can of tomato paste or a can of crushed tomatoes. If using tomato paste, sauté with the garlic and then add two cup of water, stirring until the tomato paste is looser and all chunks are gone. Cook until it bubbles and then add the strained tomatoes and bring to a boil.

The sauce

Once the tomatoes begin to boil, add the neck bones and any other meats, but make sure there is enough room in the pot to stir it. If you can’t stir, you’ve put too much meat in.

Turn the heat to medium low and leave, uncovered.  If your burners are hot and medium low brings on too rapid a boil, lower it to a slow bubbling simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for two to three hours and then turn off the heat.

Let the sauce sit, covered, on the stove for another three hours and then, if the sauce is for the next day, put the pot in the refrigerator. The next day, skim some of the fat off the top of the sauce—or don’t. I’ll leave that up to you.

Neck bones ready to be shredded.

With tongs, take the neck bones out of the sauce making sure you fish around the pot for any loose small bones that might have fallen apart in the cooking process. You really don’t want your guests or family to take a tooth-loosening bite out of a neck bone instead of the meat that was once connected to it. Cut away the meat from the bones and the fat and then put the chopped bits of meat back in the sauce. You could skip this process and just leave the bones in the sauce, but that would depend on who you are serving and if they don’t mind gnawing on neck bones. Some people enjoy gnawing on bones and you don’t want to deny them that pleasure.

Boil water in a big pasta pot(s). Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Just before the pasta is done, remove the other meats from the sauce and put them in a bowl.

Rigatoni and Neck Bone Sauce

Drain the pasta, pour into a big bowl and coat with a generous portion of the sauce, but please don’t drown it. Serve into individual bowls and let guests add freshly grated cheese;  parmesean Reggiano or pecorino Romano work, but never use a grated cheese that comes in a green cardboard container. I’m not mentioning names here, but you know the kind I mean. If more sauce is desired, have a bowl of extra sauce on the table along with the bowl of the other cooked meats; the meatballs, sausage, braciole and whatever.

Enjoy and if you are lucky, there might be leftovers for next Sunday.

You call those leftovers?

Bronx Broccoli Rabe From a Brother From Corona

11 Oct

Fratelli Pizza Café
404 Hunts Point Ave

It was a clear Tuesday evening as I, accompanied by Zio, headed toward the Hunts Point Market where the Fratelli Pizza Café, our destination for the night, was located.  Traffic was backed up on the Willets Avenue Bridge, most heading north towards the Major Deegan and Yankee Stadium where the Yankees were about to begin their game. We were heading east and once we found ourselves under Bruckner Boulevard, the traffic completely vanished leaving us, literally, the lone vehicle on the road. The spooky feeling became almost post-apocalyptic as we turned onto Leggett Avenue, passing chop shops and auto glass and tire repair shops, the road still practically barren.

Turning onto Hunts Point Avenue, there was a bit of activity around an adult entertainment establishment called Mr. Wedge and soon after Hunts Point Avenue became a one way street, we located our destination. We could hear a pounding bass beat coming from the Hunts Point Triangle, another adult entertainment establishment located right next to the Fratelli Pizza Café.*  A few of the “entertainers” and their clients were sitting in a make-shift café outside of the club sipping beers from a bottle and eying Zio and I curiously.

Pre or post pizza entertainment at Mr. Wedge.

The pizzeria was small, just a few tables and, since it was part of the “triangle” at the end of Hunts Point Ave, narrow with an entrance on the other side of the building. There were a variety of pizzas on display behind the counter that looked old and tired, including one, to my horror, with pineapple. Despite my best efforts to disguise it, there was no doubt that my disappointment was obvious. The proprietor, noting the look on my face asked if he could help us. I told him we were waiting for others.

The pineapple and bacon slice

I chose Fratelli’s because I had heard that they were famous for their broccoli rabe pizza as well as their sautéed version, made fresh and supplied by the nearby Hunts Point Market. Scanning the drab offerings behind the counter, there was no sign of what I and many Italian-Americans consider absolutely essential comfort food. Broccoli rabe’s appeal, with its bittersweet flavor, especially combined with garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper, goes directly to my nerve center immediately stirring a rare combination of feelings including but not limited to pure pleasure, child-like happiness and a primal sense of contentment.

I asked the proprietor, who introduced himself as “Joe,” if broccoli rabe was available. He assured me that it was. I inquired how he prepared it on the pizza. He showed me a square pie, adorned only with tomato sauce where cheese and broccoli rabe would be added he called a “Grandma.”

While we were conversing, one of the tightly-clothed “entertainers” entered from next door, and ordered a hero. I noticed a picture of Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack taped onto the plastic counter along with a small photograph of  writer,  television personality, and former chef, Anthony Bourdain.

“Bourdain says we have the best garlic knots he’s ever had,” Joe proclaimed proudly adding that a segment on Fratelli’s broccoli rabe was filmed by Bourdain and his crew for his Travel Channel program, No Reservations.

Tony and two of the “brothers.” Joe on his far left.

Rick arrived soon after, and giving the high-heeled entertainer wide berth, also examined the pies on display, taking time, I noticed, to dwell on the unfortunate pineapple slice.

Our group, collectively, could be considered pizza snobs. We had been to many of the Tri-State area’s greats; Patsy’s in Harlem, Totonno’s in Coney Island, Grimaldi’s near the Brooklyn Bridge, Sal’s in Mamaroneck, and, of course, the remarkable DiFara, so our standards were high. Maybe we were expecting too much from a 24-hour pizzeria situated next to a strip joint.

Joe took me around to the other entrance to show me the accolades Fratelli’s received from the Village Voice including “Best Broccoli Rabe.” Eugene and Gerry, Mike from Yonkers being conspicuously absent, arrived and we told Joe to go ahead with making a Grandma pie with broccoli rabe.

“Are you connected with the Fratelli’s on Eastchester Road,” Eugene asked Joe.

Joe shook his head.

“The Fratelli’s in New Rochelle?”

Again, Joe responded in the negative. “There are a lot of Fratelli’s around. I’m from Corona.”

We told Joe from Corona to go ahead and make us a Grandma pie with broccoli rabe, a plate of sautéed broccoli rabe, and some of those Bourdain-praised garlic knots. While we waited, Joe brought us out the Fratelli’s version of an amuse bouche of what he called a “Christina” pie.

“This is also one of my most popular,” he said. The “Christina” was a square pie with tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes and topped with fresh mozzarella. The display version he showed me was not impressive, but after reheating was, remarkably, brought back to delicious life; the crust nicely charred, the tomatoes flavorful and the cheese still fresh. Maybe our first visual impressions were wrong.

The Grandma pie minus the broccoli rabe.

The Grandma pie came out, steam flowing from the huge square pie overflowing with broccoli rabe. A few moments later, Joe brought out a aluminum take-out dish with the sautéed broccoli rabe and a plate of garlic knots.

“What you do,” Joe from Corona explained. “is slit open the garlic knots and slather some of that broccoli rabe inside making a kinda garlic knots broccoli rabe sandwich.”

We took his advice and the tender, perfectly sautéed broccoli rabe worked magnificently with the “best garlic knots ever.” Our enthusiasm was evident in the way we were devouring mounds of the greens with absolutely no worries about potential next day consequences from all that roughage.

“When the woman from Channel 7 was here,” Joe said, casually dropping another television plug for his establishment, “she asked how I made the broccoli rabe. I said that’ if I told her, I would have to kill her.’ I can’t believe she actually used that.”

After a few forced chuckles, we resumed eating, Two slices of the Grandma pie remained along with a few of the dregs of the sautéed broccoli rabe and a couple of garlic knots. “I’m done,” Zio groaned.

Bronx broccoli rabe

I couldn’t eat anymore nor could Rick. Gerry and Eugene, sitting at another table shrugged, their eyes on the remains.

“Well if they’re not gonna eat it. . . .”  Eugene said as he and Gerry scooped up the last two Grandma slices without any hesitation.

From behind the counter, Joe lifted up a tray that held a  Sicilian pie and showed it to us. “I make my Sicilian differently than other places. I put the cheese under the sauce. People come from all over for it.”

We nodded. He no longer had to work us. We were convinced.

*The “Hunt’s Point Triangle” has since our last visit, closed and Fratelli’s has expanded, taking over the entertainers dance space.

OWS Recession Special

7 Oct

Not to worry millionaires, if  a tax increase creates a hardship for you, head uptown where if you buy a soda and a bag of chips you are entitled to complimentary use of the rest room facilities.

Men on Fire

4 Oct

91 First Avenue
New York, NY

After missing our last two meetings, Rick was called upon to locate our next destination and after much deliberation, steered us to the gentrified East Village for a cuisine we had yet to experience: Sri Lankan.

Sigiri was around the corner from the stretch of Indian restaurants on East 6th Street between First and Second Avenues known as “Little India” where I often brought dates because the prices were the best in the city—even cheaper than Chinatown and always byob. I got a little nostalgic walking past the few remaining dingy dives on the block. My longings for the past, however, quickly dissipated after I was accosted by a row of servers standing outside the restaurants pathetically imploring passersby to sample what I now know is substandard Indian fare.

The narrow restaurant would be a challenge for our party of six, but accommodations were made and tables were joined and we were able to sit together. From my pre-dinner, online research, Sigiri, I believed was the only Sri Lankan restaurant in Manhattan and this was quickly confirmed by our hostess/server who spoke not with an Indian accent, but with a melodious British one.

And it was in that accent where she quickly charmed Mike from Yonkers by inquiring if he was Sri Lankan. I’m sure Mike from Yonkers has been called many things, but I doubt being a Sri Lankan has been one of them. For some reason it took him longer than it should have to respond in the negative and when she returned, she flattered him further by saying, “You know, you look a little like Denzel when you smile.” The Denzel in question being Washington and any similarity between Mike from Yonkers and Denzel from nearby Mount Vernon was lost on me.  And with Mike from Yonkers’ ego now meteorically boosted, he, of course, did nothing to discourage her continuous compliments.

A Man on Fire…not Mike from Yonkers (though upon closer inspection, there is a slight resemblance).

The somewhat strained flirt fest between the two was beginning to dull my appetite, but when our hostess warned us that serving Sri Lankan without any spice modification was extreme even for her, I perked up. We emphatically told her to prepare our dinner as it would be prepared in Sri Lanka as opposed to what might satisfy the gentrified East Village of New York. We didn’t need to be pampered with cloth napkins or with flickering table candles, both of which Sigiri provided much to Gerry’s disdain. We didn’t want dulled down food even at the expense of our intestinal tracks, both upper and lower.  And since we were Sri Lankan food novices, we also had her prepare what might be a good representative of that country’s cuisine with a request by Zio for a dish he insisted, for some inexplicable reason to be included, called “string hopper kotthu.”

While we were waiting for our food, Eugene, conversationalist that he is, filled us in on a doo wop show at White Plains High School he attended recently where the Harptones were the lead attraction.

Life is But a Dream

“Do you know Willie Winfield is 79,” Eugene informed us, referring to the great lead singer of that magnificent group.

I appreciated the update,  but Rick and Mike from Yonkers, clueless to what Eugene was talking about could only stare dully at their beers while Zio believed that Eugene’s news was an opportunity to mention something about an obscure doo wop tune called “Knee Socks” which both Eugene and I had never heard of.  Zio remained insistent of the song’s authenticity and even went so far as to send me a You Tube link a few days later of a video of assorted female “knee socks” flashing along with the very brief song of the same name by a group called the Ideals who were known probably only to only Zio and a few other lunatics.

Yes, Zio, we believe you.

The arrival of an assorted appetizer platter that included a selection of breaded and fried “nibblers;” fish spring roll, fish cutlet, lentil patty, and a vegetable spring roll, stifled the doo wop chatter.  Anticipating heat, we were disappointed that what was on the platter was not only mildly spicy, but dry as well.  Things quickly changed when the “devilled grill” arrived on our table; grilled chicken that was the Sri Lankan equivalent to genuine Jamaican jerk chicken—only hotter. After a few bites, Zio’s world weary eyes were beginning to tear up and his nose was running as was everyone else’s.

“black” curry

The heat onslaught continued unabated with a pork “black” curry, a fish curry in coconut milk sauce, and kotthu roti, a pancake chopped into shreds and fried with assorted vegetables. The only respite from the intense spice was Zio’s choice of string hopper kotthu, a version of Sri Lankan spaghetti accompanied with a chicken curry.

A platter of white rice and coconut roti (an Indian-style flat bread) also helped ease the pain and when Eugene was able to speak again, he proclaimed Sigiri as serving the hottest food we had yet to encounter, even spicier than the Sichuan Little Pepper of Flushing.

And if Eugene proclaims it, then it must be true.

String hoppers helped douse the fire.

And the Answer is…

3 Oct

The Stage Restaurant at 128 Second Avenue just off St. Mark’s Place, where you can indulge in a special of four pierogies, a cup of soup, and two slices of buttered challah bread for $5.99.





One reader was close, naming the B&H Dairy across the street. But close only counts in horseshoes. Better luck next time when we once again play Name That Place.

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