Archive | November, 2013

The Big Ceviche Chill

26 Nov

El Miski

I had my gas tank full even before Gerry announced where we were to meet. There would be no doubt that he would have us (Zio and I) travel to Westchester.  And that county has more than its share of Chow City standouts (Chalanas) being the most the recent example. Unfortunately, El Miski, located in White Plains, which Gerry dubbed as El Miskito in his email to us was not one of them.

After dodging an obese panhandler claiming he was hungry in front of what looked like a former diner, I entered El Miski to find Eugene waiting inside. The front of the restaurant was narrow with a few small tables, booth and a counter with red swivel stools. The woman who was to be our waitress took us through the room, past a full festive bar still in Halloween regalia with the bar stools up on the bar, and into a big, frigid back room where one long table was centered. I sat, keeping my jacket on and zipped to my neck.

A bar only an evil clown could love.

A bar only an evil clown could love.

Zio walked in next, covered in a large goose down jacket making him look even more rotund than usual. In the cold room, he had the courage to unzip the jacket. Our waitress got on a step stool to turn the television on to a telenovela—maybe hoping the steamy drama would warm the room.

Gerry arrived next and as he sat down, his jacket still on, mentioned that the owner of El Miski was a client of his. Whether that was a good thing or not, we would soon find out.

“Gerry, do they have heat in here,” Eugene asked as if Gerry, because he chose the place and also because they were one of his clients was responsible.

“It’s not that cold,” Gerry said; his lips a bluish gray color.

Mike from Yonkers filled out our group; keeping the collar of his heavy fleece high up on his neck as he sat.

When the waitress came over with menus we asked about the heat. In her struggling English she explained that she just turned it on and that it should warm up soon.

One of the first Peruvian restaurants our Chow City group experienced was the tremendous, but now defunct, La Pollada de Laura (Cooked in Corona) in Queens. We have yet to replicate that experience including the Peruvian Chinese restaurant, Chifa, we visited on our most recent expedition (The Big Chifa of Northern Boulevard). The menu at El Miski was similar to what I could recall from La Pollada de Laura; a number of ceviche options, lomo saltado, jalea, and various mariscos dishes; some with fried rice, others with potatoes, and even a few with yucca. There were also special that included tallarin also known as Peruvian spaghetti, but more like lo mein noodles. After the unfortunate experience with Peruvian/Chinese at Chifa, none of us thought it smart to chance the tallarin dishes.

Gerry ordered the table a ceviche “mixto,” along with an appetizer recommended by the very affable waitress of mussels on the half shell. We learned well after asking for recommendations and some of us making our choices based on them that our waitress was new on the job—in fact it was her first week working at El Miski.

Ceviche mixto

Ceviche mixto

“They have good bread here,” Gerry said as we worked through the tart ceviche and mussels; both served cold.

“Are they gonna bring us any?” I asked.

Gerry shrugged.

By the time the various seafood dishes we ordered arrived, I was able to unzip my jacket. But as soon as I moved my fork through the mound of fried rice, soggy potatoes, and equally soggy fried fish, shrimp, and squid that made up my “saltado pescado, I had to stop and swat at an army of gnats that were hovering around my plate. I added each of the three hot sauces to my dish, pale green, green, and red, hoping the spice would keep the gnats away, but more seemed to arrive.

Pescado saltado

Pescado saltado

I noticed Mike from Yonkers also swatting at them—and Gerry and Eugene. If they were cruising over Zio’s picante de mariscos (seafood in a special Peruvian sauce) he didn’t seem bothered. He was, however, wary of the pinkish special Peruvian sauce. “It’s like Velveeta,” he mentioned, though not in a derogatory way.

Seafood with Peruvian Velveeta

Seafood with Peruvian Velveeta

“This place used to be called the ‘Oasis,’” Eugene, whose knowledge of White Plains’ past is legendary, said.

“Yeah, I heard rumors about it that this back room was used for…,” Gerry said.

“What???” Zio’s fading hearing had suddenly revived.

“Girls,” Gerry said. “A whorehouse.”

Eugene nodded. “That was the rumor.”

Our waitress returned and asked if we wanted more plates, napkins, water, beer, another ceviche…anything.

We told her we were good.

“What about dessert?” She asked.

Even though the gnat attack had not ceased, Gerry went ahead and ordered us a few Peruvian sweets including a dense bread pudding.

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

“Anything else? More beer. Cake?” Our smiling waitress inquired after we dug through dessert.

Eugene asked for the check, but before she went to tally it up, she told us that men come on weekends and use the back room.

“And there are women too,” she said innocently and with a smile. “For the men.”

Gerry raised a bushy eyebrow and looked at each of us. The look reminded me of the final shot in the original  The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, of Walter Matthau who realizes he just nailed the final accomplice in the subway robbery.

Did she say what we thought she said???

Did she say what I thought she said???

None of us dared inquire further; instead we surrendered to the invisible gnats and settled the check before heading back out onto the silent streets of White Plains.

El Miski
73 W. Post Rd
White Plains.

The Happiest of All Hours: Bronx Beer Hall

12 Nov

Bronx Beer Hall

“Happy hour is two for one,” the bartender, a woman in a black “Bronx Beer Hall” t-shirt told us as we settled into chairs at the bar in the relatively quiet Arthur Avenue Retail Market where the Bronx Beer Hall was located.

Despite the calm inside, Eugene was having trouble hearing. “Whats’ that?” he asked the bartender while bending over the bar, his hand cupped over his ear in a feeble attempt to hear her.

I was with the Westchester contingent; Gerry and Eugene of the Adventures in Chow City group for a pre-meal drink before one of our interim dinners at a restaurant a block up on 187th Street.

“She said it’s two-for-one,” I said to Eugene in a voice loud and clear enough so he could hear me.

“Buy one beer and you get the second free,” the bartender, who we later learned was a senior at nearby Fordham University, explained.

I was very familiar with the happy hour concept as was Gerry and, I’m sure, so was Eugene. Maybe it was the cavernous indoor market that made it hard for Eugene to hear. Or maybe it was just that he was old and nature was taking its course. I wasn’t far behind him in age, but I could hear the bartender clearly as well as the falsetto singing voice of Anthony Gourdine, also known as “Little Anthony,” as “I’m on the Outside (Looking In),” played in the background.



The beers on tap were mostly Bronx-made, which made me, even without tasting one, very happy. Some were made by the Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company while others were from the City Island Beer Company.

One of the day’s specials was the “Kingsbridge Kolsch” made by the Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company. I was given a sample and immediately after tasting the fragrant icy blonde I ordered a pint. “I’ll have one of those also,” Eugene told the bartender.

“Big Apple Cider,” Gerry said to her, also one of the blackboard specials.

“Cider?” I had never known Gerry to order cider, hard or not.

“It’s supposed to be good for gout,” he said.

I didn’t want to know more than that.

Kingsbridge Kolsch

Kingsbridge Kolsch

The beer was cold and delicious. We chatted with the bartender who, with the exception of only two other customers, had only our group to attend to.

“You get a lot of Fordham students in here?” I asked knowing the proximity to the Fordham campus and recalling my own now very distant college days and how loyal I was to the two-for-one institutions near my university.

She shook her head with a smile. “No, we are the only place around here that actually cards them.”

“You didn’t card us,” Eugene said, feigning outrage.

She smiled at his quip and then said, “We get people who come in here shopping. A lot of old people. Seniors…you know.”

Gerry looked at me. I looked at him. Was she going there to be funny or did she not know any better. Either way there was no need to dwell further on the Bronx Beer Hall demographic. My beer was empty. It was time for the second of the two for one.

I glanced at the t-shirts for sale in the t-shirt booth next to the bar. Most were Italian-themed with stereotypical slogans like “fuhgeddaboudit” and “Leave the gun, take the cannolis.” There was a whiff of tobacco coming from the adjacent cigar factory, La Casa Grande Tobacco Company. Our bartender wanted to know if we were interested in food from Mike’s Deli, one of the most popular spots within the market. We declined, telling her we were eating at a nearby restaurant.

Witty t-shirts for sale.

Witty t-shirts for sale.

While we sipped the delicious Bronx beers, Eugene began reminiscing about the “old days,” back in White Plains and if we knew so and so who was once very pretty but, “you should see her now.”  And then he started talking about his recent 40th high school reunion including listing off several names of people unable to attend due to the fact that they were no longer alive.

I drained my second pint while over the loudspeakers in the now almost deserted market, the Crests were singing “Trouble in Paradise.” Another two-for-one round of Kingsbridge Kolsch was a temptation. I hadn’t eaten; more beer on an empty stomach would be a serious mistake.

Beer among the sausages.

Beer among the sausages.

“Where’s the bathroom in this place,” Eugene wondered out loud.

“I was gonna ask the same question,” Gerry said.

I looked at my empty glass; only a thin foamy head remained on the bottom of it. If I have learned anything over the years, it was to know my limitations.

“Follow me” I said

And that was that.

The Bronx Beer Hall
Arthur Avenue Retail Market
2344 Arthur Avenue



Bread Update

6 Nov

I do my best at Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries to keep you informed on vital gastronomic matters here in New York and around the globe.  For anyone in need of bread, I came across this cryptic message.

Bread alertAs I research this developing story, stay tuned for further bread updates.


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