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South Bronx Comfort

21 May


When you read menus or recipes that claim to be classic American comfort food, meatloaf, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob are the usual suspects. I’m not here to debate what constitutes American comfort food. I am here to report that one of those items usually on the American comfort food list; macaroni and cheese, I recently sampled at a small take-out joint in the South Bronx called Landin Macaroni and Cheese and Pizza. And I can decisively state that what I sampled at Landin, prepared by Mexican chefs, was possibly the most comforting macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had.

Nine options and three sizes.

The Mac and Cheese menu.

At Landin there are nine different macaroni and cheese options that come in three sizes: mini, small, and large. The mini, at $1.50 is the perfect portion if you want to try multiple macaroni and cheeses. And with nine to choose from, you will most certainly want to try more than one. I thought it was my duty to experience the Classic American to see how it might compare to other classic macaroni and cheeses. And it compared superbly. The elbow macaroni was rich with creamy cheddar and American cheese, the top, toasted to a golden brown.

The "Classic American"

The “Classic American”

Since Landin was run by the skilled hands of Mexican Americans, that more than justified my choice of the “Mexican” option.  The combination of pepper jack and muenster cheese along with a few tiny bits of shredded chicken and chopped spicy jalapeno peppers was a revelation.

The devouring of the "Mexican."

The devouring of the “Mexican.”

Eating two portions of macaroni and cheese, even if they were mini seemed decadent enough for me, but I couldn’t resist taking home the “small,” which was big enough to share with a family of four, of the “bacon,” option, mozzarella and muenster with pieces of chopped salty bacon. Again, Landin did not disappoint.

The "small" bacon to go.

The “small” bacon to go.

Oh, and I can’t forget the pastelillos. There they were; glistening under glass; beef, chicken, cheese and spinach. How could I resist? I had a beef and spinach tossed into my bag as well.



The damage was totaled on the cash register. All that creamy, delicious starch came to under $10. You really can’t get more comfortable than that.

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.

A Patacon for El Presidente

8 Mar

To mourn the loss and pay tribute to the beloved Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, I indulged in what might be his country’s greatest export to ours. I’m not talking about oil, baseball players, or beauty queens, but something much closer to my heart: the patacon. And I’m happy to report that the mashed green plantain sandwich stuffed usually with shredded pork, beef or chicken and topped with a “special sauce,” similar to that other place’s special sauce has become almost a staple in this country’s Latin communities, whether served from a food truck or a store front.

The Patacon

The Patacon

The government of Venezuela has instituted a seven day mourning period to honor the late president. Everyone mourns in their own way. Here those seven days can be filled with a variety of food tributes in the form of the Venezuelan sandwich: the patacon one day, a cachapas (corn meal) the next, the delicious yo yo (sweet plantain), arepa (sweet corn cake), and pepito (hard roll sandwich) on others all the while juggling different meats including pernil (shredded pork), chorizo (sausage), carne mechada (shredded beef) to name just some of the filling options.

Cachapas chorizo

Cachapas chorizo

Seven days of Venezuelan sandwiches might take a toll on your cholesterol, but remember, sometimes we all must sacrifice to show respect to the leaders who themselves have sacrificed so much for their people.

Hugo Chavez: R.I.P

Hugo Chavez: R.I.P

The Fusion Files: French Pizza in Harlem by way of Africa.

1 Mar

French Pizza

I’ve noticed a few pizzerias in Harlem that have a French accent.

oui (7)At first glance, crepes and pizza might seem like a natural mix.

oui (5)And at Oui Oui there was a French/English menu where one of the crepes  was named for the largest city in Mali. Was I on to something here?

oui (6)Why order a pedestrian “Italiano” pizza when a merguez was available?

oui (9)And so I did. Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised that the piquant sausage made of lamb and beef gave the pizza a very welcome kick to it and was, in my estimation, a worthy substitute to traditional Italian sweet sausage.

crepeThe “Harlem” crepe, however, was another story and one not worth dwelling on.

oui (3)Still, everything was made in Harlem. And what could be better than that?


Today’s Special: The Super Sloppy Joe

22 Feb


I’ve been criticized by some since I’ve started this site for endorsing unhealthy eating habits and foods. Of course I deny this vehemently. All the vegetables, starches, fish, fowl, meats, and all their byproducts I’ve covered here over the years are maybe not the best choices, but certainly not the worst. Most of the restaurants discussed in these electronic pages serve food prepared lovingly by moms and pops from recipes handed down from generation to generation. What could be bad about that?

But to satisfy the few who do think I should at least give a nod to what is considered healthy food, I offer today’s special, a self proclaimed super food.

Some of the menu choices at the super food establishment I entered were wraps and salads, burgers made from either “100 percent grass-fed bison” or “homemade veggie burgers,” “power plates,” like the “lumberjack,” a chicken breast with roasted vegetables over brown rice with either lentil or chili soup, and entrees like quinoa turkey meatloaf, tofu stir fry.

My body not used to super food components, I was wary of a harsh reaction to them. I did not want to suffer a health food overdose. So after a long deliberation, remembering happily the sloppy Joe’s of my youth, I choose the “bison sloppy Joe.”

I was expecting this.

I was expecting this.

It came out very quickly. Encased in a cardboard-like whole wheat wrap. I was hungry and quickly tore it in half and took a bite. The let down was immediate. The taste memory in my brain was bitterly disappointed. This was nothing like the Manwich I remembered so fondly. There were black beans, cannellini and kidney beans inside along with brown rice and a scant amount of undressed cole slaw. If there was a barbecue sauce as advertised, I couldn’t taste it.

I got this.

I got this.

My mouth needed lubricating after the very dry, bland bite—the only flavor was from the unfortunate gaminess of the bison. I reached for my bottle of water and drank half of it.

I got this.


For me to continue, I had to find something to give the wrap flavor. I asked for sauce and was given a green, cilantro/jalapeno hot sauce. I doused the wrap liberally with the sauce and almost miraculously it became edible.

Maybe it was the perceived goodness of the ingredients, or maybe I was just getting used to the unfamiliar, healthy taste of the wrap, as I worked on the second half of the wrap I was beginning to actually like what I was eating. I did, however, need the rest of my bottle of water to wash it down

Green hot sauce helped.

Green hot sauce helped.

I can’t really testify to the health benefits of the super food sloppy Joe wrap as opposed to, maybe, the pepper and egg hero at Parisi’s (The Hero of Mott Street ). Only our nutritionists know what constitutes a super food, and they seem to change that definition hourly. So though I have no proof to the superior nutritional qualities of what mom and pop prepare, I will continue to patronize their establishments and keep the faith that oxtail stew or ox tongue and tripe among other things will one day appear on that super food list.

Reflections on the Chinese New Year

8 Feb

Good ChoiceAs the Year of the Snake  approaches, I realize I have spent much of the past Year of the Dragon in Chinese restaurants.

Good Choice

I’m afraid I didn’t always make good choices.

Egg foo young...with brown gravy

Egg foo young…with brown gravy

But, despite my occasional bad choice, I always tried to display…

Good Taste

And when I did, the result usually tasted good.

Ox tongue and tripe

Ox tongue and tripe

Can you ask much more than that from the choices you make?


Today’s Special

9 Jan



Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m getting a Mama Halim, I want it larze (sic).

One Tale From a Thousand and One Falafel Tales

9 Oct

“I was going to pick a Bolivian place,” Eugene said, “but I thought you guys didn’t want me to.”

We had been to Latin restaurants the past three outings,  so when Eugene mentioned the unnamed Bolivian place as a potential destination, we gently suggested another cuisine. Eugene took our suggestion to heart and came up with an alternate pick.

“Why, out of the thousands of falafel joints in this town, did you decide on Amir’s?” I asked wondering about the logic of Eugene’s choice of Amir’s where, on this night, just four of us were assembled. I should have known, however, that logic never factors into Eugene’s decisions. This is a man, a native of the New York suburb of White Plains, who always goes out of his way to root against all New York teams; a man who claims allegiance to other teams, most from Boston, but really gets his sports’ jollies more from a New York team’s defeat than one of his own teams’ victory.

That there were only four of us at Amir’s was probably a good thing. The small, eat in/take out place would have been a challenge for our usual brawny six. And it was probably better that Zio spend his wedding anniversary with The Colonel rather than dining on something he could get at a street cart closer to his love nest in Astoria. The question was, would what he could get at the street cart in Astoria, or at any of the other countless falafel places in the city compare to Amir’s?

Amir’s falafel

After our brief outing; ordering from the typically middle eastern falafel menu; falafel, hummus, babaganoush, along with what now are called “proteins” on many menus meaning meats; shawarma beef, chicken, and kebabs, the verdict, sadly, was yes. Though Amir’s falafels were relatively light, not drenched with oil, slightly sweet, and above average on the unofficial falafel meter, they were no more distinguishable than Mahoud’s, Ahmad’s, or any other above average falafel joint in the city, of which there are hundreds.

There’s protein somewhere in there.

The “protein” that Rick tried, a shawarma beef sandwich in pita, was not worthy of veering from the falafel while the “popeye,” a spinach pie Gerry bravely ordered, had an outer shell that to penetrate required the muscles of the cartoon character of the same name.

The “popeye.”

After our falafel experience, we strolled down Broadway, congested heavily with Columbia students. We again pressed Eugene on his choice. “I don’t know. I pick a neighborhood that I’ve never been to and then I find a place there. What’s the name of this neighborhood anyway?”

“I think it’s Morningside Heights,” Rick offered.

“The Upper West Side,” I said.

“It’s nice here,” Eugene added, successful in veering the conversation  to real estate and away from falafel.

We muttered collectively and though the meal was not as satisfying as we are used too, took solace in knowing that there was Bolivian food sometime in our future.

2911-A Broadway

And the Answer is…

1 Oct

On Friday I presented these two images and challenged you to name the place where you would find them.

The first image was correctly identified as a pig’s snout. But beyond that, no one could identify the place where the pig snout and the delicious dish above could be found.

As I said in Friday’s post, there are sometimes hints in my words. They were in there, but really, not much help at all. The hint was in this sentence. “In what eating establishment(s) might you find the bizarre image above?” Now how would you know that the pig’s snout image was in, technically, two eating establishments?

This establishment where the pork cutlet above was prepared:

Which is part of this larger, grander establishment:

The food court (emporium) known as Food Gallery 32.

Where  international means, predominately Korean, with some Japanese and Chinese thrown in including the Red Mango frozen yogurt chain, Jin Jja Roo, for Korean noodle and rice dishes, O-de-Ppang for Japanese rice bowls, and,



Food Gallery 32
11 West 32nd Street.

Name That Place

28 Sep

Now that we have turned the page on summer and everyone is back to school, work, and other serious stuff, I felt it was time to resume the game that appears semi-frequently here on Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, the ever popular: Name That Place.

And I’m going to get right down to it. Even though all of you might be a little rusty from the summer off, I’m not giving out any cupcakes.  Get this one right and you go right into the top echelon, the “most definitely knows his/her stuff” column of New York City foodie knowledge rankings.

Take a look at the photo below.

In what eating establishment(s) might you find the bizarre image above?

Because I know I’ve started you off with a rough one, I’ll add another photo which may help you or just add to your frustration.

From the looks of the photo above, someone couldn’t wait to bite into that perfectly formed slab of fried meat,  a specialty of the place(s) I challenge you to name.

As always, read my words carefully, there might be other hints hidden there. Or there might not.

Tune in here on Monday where the identities will be revealed.

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