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The Guacamole Redemption

21 Jun


I was on a crowded Metro North train during rush hour. Commuters were making their way back to their suburban Westchester homes. It was standing room only—and I was standing. I wasn’t happy about that. I wasn’t happy that Gerry summoned our group out of the city and to the sleepy hamlet of Valhalla to a place called Kensico Kitchen.


The train finally pulled in and I joined the throngs exiting and heading to their cars in the parking lot. Just across the street from the train station and the Taconic parkway, I could see our group sitting on makeshift picnic tables on the sidewalk in front of Kensico Kitchen on Valhalla’s tiny main strip. The “Kitchen” was really a deli; New York lottery signs and tickets were plastered to the window along with stock photos of deli sandwiches, bagels, wraps and other traditional bodega/deli items. What had Gerry lured us into?


Though no menus were in front of us, Mike from Yonkers proclaimed that he was up for a ham and cheese sandwich. A ham and cheese sandwich? Was that why I rode the commuter special to this godforsaken sleepy hamlet?

“Are there menus?” I asked Gerry.

He shook his head. “The food will be coming,” he said and pulled a cold Corona out from a six pack at his feet and handed it to me. That was a good start.

When one of the owners of the Kensico Kitchen, apparently a Mexican family Gerry was familiar with, came to our table with a molcajete overflowing with green salsa and cilantro, things were beginning to get even better.


molcajete with salsa

“Guacamole coming,” the man said and soon it did come along with a massive platter of chips covered with an assortment of empanadas, beef, chicken and vegetable.


The platter had Mike from Yonkers rise in excitement and move around from his seat to eagerly shovel chips, salsa, guacamole and empanadas on his plate.


Eugene, fresh off his whirlwind, Southern Italy and Sicily tour where he proudly proclaimed: “We had pizza everyday…sometimes twice,” had no trouble veering to equally carb heavy cuisine of Mexico, devouring a plate of chips, guacamole and empanadas.


Nachos and chips topped by empanadas

One of the women in the family came to our table to tell us she would be bring us either chicken mole or pernil with chili rellenos poblano. “What about the adobo?” Gerry inquired.

“You want adobo too?” She checked with him. Gerry nodded. For him more was almost always merrier.

We were scraping up the remains of the guacamole and chips when plates began arriving; a quarter of a chicken in a red adobo sauce, some shredded pernil (pork) and a mound of yellow Mexican rice and refried black beans. As an accompaniment to our gargantuan plates, we were also served a platter of fried poblano chilies stuffed with queso.  As if we didn’t have enough; two plates of half chickens in a rich dark mole sauce were also presented, “so you can try the mole too,” our waitress cheerily said.


Adobo chicken, pernil, et al

Despite his strong start, Mike from Yonkers fizzled early leaving enough food on his plate to take home to his hungry wife. But he was the exception. Already weighted down by the empanadas and guacamole, I did admirable work clearing my plate, but all I could attempt of the chicken mole was a small forkful while the others showed what made them the gluttons they were devouring all that was placed in front of them.


Poblano chili relleno

My earlier sour mood was long gone now. I no longer cared that I had to commute to the suburbs for dinner—it was more than worth it. “I think we can all agree that after this inspired pick, we can erase that stain on your record.” I said to Gerry, referring to his unfortunate choice of a mediocre Mexican joint in Yonkers where we were treated to cookie cutter Mexican food and worse, serenaded by a Mariachi band (Mariachi Blues). “The misstep is now forgiven. You are redeemed.”

But my proclamation fell on deaf ears, drowned out by the blasting horn of a Metro North train as it rushed its commuters to Brewster…or Pawling…or some other suburban hamlet where, if they are lucky, there will also be a deli serving bagels, wraps, ham and cheese sandwiches, and mole and adobo.


Chicken mole

Kensico Kitchen

6 Broadway

Valhalla, NY



The Caffeine Chronicles: A Cuppa Joltin’ Joe

27 Mar


Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio was known for his frugality. One story has it that after ordering a double-scoop ice cream cone and just before taking a lick (maybe it was after the lick) being told it was $5, DiMaggio was outraged and handed the already scooped ice cream cone back to the surprised server.

So when I noticed the posters for the  Arizona brand, Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso, his picture with a USA cap on his head, not a N.Y. Yankee cap (there is no mention of the Yankees in any of the DiMaggio memorabilia on the can), outside my local bodega, I thought I should explore this new, to me, caffeinated beverage. Since Opening Day was less than a week away and seeing that the 15.5 ounce can was listed at a mere $1.99, I thought it a fitting tribute to Joltin’ Joe that I indulge.

joltin joe (5)

After shaking it a bit to combine the ingredients and then pulling the tab to open it, I hadn’t realized that the beverage was “sparkling.”

Look, there are bubbles.

Look, there are bubbles.

I thought a bodega special: a small packaged slice of Sara Lee pound cake, might offset the harsh saccharine sweetness of the caffeine infused beverage.

I was wrong.

Joltin' Joe

One sip of Joltin’ Joe was all I could stomach. I did, however, finish the Sara Lee pound cake with no difficulty.

And the Answer is…

18 Feb

Most times you need to…

namethat (3)


To be able to buy delicious Italian delicacies such as these…

Prosciutto de Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

and these…

namethat (9)

in this place.

DiPalo'sLocated on Mott and Grand Street for 87 years.

Di Palo'sAnd for the bonus question. The cheese below sold at DiPalo is,,,Caciocavallo cheese



200 Grand Street
Little Italy


(Con)Fusion Files

18 Jan

Con Fusion Files

Life is difficult enough without having to decide whether to pair the bibimbap with a Cuban sandwich or go with the chicken salad BLT and the soft tofu soup. But what about the Philly cheesesteak, an inviting pasta, or a nutritious bowl of udon? Not only am I now confused, I’m getting a headache thinking about the eating possibilities here.

And the Answer is…

7 Jan

On Friday I presented you with multiple photos of a restaurant and challenged you to Name That Place.  To revisit the photos, you can click here: Name That Place, or you can scroll down these pages.

I’m relieved to report that one well traveled eater was able to correctly Name That Place as:

Cafe Edison


That’s right, the Cafe Edison, also known as the “Polish Tea Room;” its nickname derived when a patron, of which there were many from the nearby theaters; playwrights, directors,actors,  producers, and stage hands, deemed the decor and food superior to the much more expensive and haughty Russian Tea Room.

Cafe Edison

228 W. 47th Street

See if the you can get goulash and noodles, cup of soup and a beverage for $16.95 at the Russian Tea  Room.

See if the you can get goulash and noodles, cup of soup and a beverage for $16.95 at the Russian Tea Room.

If the matzoh ball soup I had at the Cafe Edison wasn’t the “greatest soup in the history of soup”, as proclaimed by the New York Times, then it was certainly in the top 50.

Cafe Edison

But at the Cafe Edison, those who know don’t flock to it just for the outstanding soup. These sandwiches are pretty good too.

Cafe Edison

I had one on my recent visit but it wasn’t roast beef, corned beef, brisket, salami, or pastrami.  For bonus points, I wondered if any of the food obsessed out there could identify what type of sandwich I ordered. Here’s a look again:

Cafe Edison

Now that you know I was dining at the Cafe Edison, perhaps you will realize that what I was about to enjoy a generously stuffed vegetarian chopped liver sandwich on rye.

That concludes this edition of Name That Place. Be on the lookout for another serious challenge in the near future.




New Year’s Penicillin

18 Sep

I have found myself spending much of my time in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx lately. Usually I’m sitting at a small ball field just next to the Major Deegan Expressway watching baseball with the incessant hum of traffic as background noise. But the other day I took a break between games and wandered around the bustling enclave around Broadway and 231st Street under the tracks of the number 1 train.

In a neighborhood where Spanish is the predominate language heard on the streets and rice and beans joints the typical cuisine, I was surprised to notice a Kosher deli named Loeser’s squeezed amongst the Latin-tinged outlets. I took a closer look at the deli and on its window  accolades such as the “best pastrami in NYC” were plastered along with the proclamation of a 50th Anniversary. So even though the aroma of rotisserie chicken from one of the said rice and beans joints was seriously tempting me, I felt I had to pay tribute to a place with such fierce survival skills.

The man behind the counter was the same man in many of the pictures on the wall posing with family and luminaries from the Bronx. His name was Fredy.

“How about some pastrami,” he said when I entered the barren, narrow time warp of a deli.

I looked around. Much of the signage was ancient. The evening was cool. The summer was turning to a crisp autumn.

I noticed the “Jewish penicillin” sign. “I’ll take the chicken soup,” I said.

“And pastrami?”

“No, just the soup.”

“Potato salad?”

I shook my head.

Maybe some potato pancakes or stuffed cabbage?

“No thanks.”

“What about a knish?”

I thought for a moment.

“Okay, a knish,” I said.

“You want mustard?”


“I’ll slice it into the knish,” Fredy said. “Take a seat.”

The soup was brought to me in a plastic take out container with a few slices of rye bread. The knish came on a separate paper plate.

I sipped at the hot soup, moistening the rye bread in the broth before eating it. No one came into the deli while I was eating. Fredy was busy preparing a large turkey dinner, pouring brown gravy over it.

After finishing the soup, I wrapped up the knish, paid Fredy and then returned to the cacophony on 231st street and beyond. I caught a whiff of the intoxicating aroma of the rotisserie chicken from the rice and beans joint before it was overpowered by exhaust from a city bus. The hum of traffic on the Deegan had gone up a few decibels. It was getting dark and cooler. The game was about the start and the lights I noticed were on; the small field now illuminated. I sat and took out the knish.  It was still warm. I bit into it. The potato filling was moist and, just as Fredy promised, there was a smear of spicy deli mustard at its core.

Loeser’s Deli
214 W. 231st St

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