Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Petey's Burger adds more than just a new location

A cheeseburger, fries, and drink are a deal at Petey's for $8.21

Petey's Burger (30-17 30th Ave in Astoria, 46-46 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City)

Though Vernon Boulevard brags the eagerly awaited soon-to-open second location of Astoria's famous Petey's Burger, patrons of the original spot have recently been treated to a few new off-menu items. Often compared to the West Coast smash hit, In-N-Out, Petey's doppelganger features a similar no-frills burger, only with a slightly juicier and more flavorsome Pat LaFrieda all-beef patty, sandwiched with iceberg lettuce, a wheel of tomato and onion, and gooey all-American cheese on a soft, fresh-baked bun.

Just as In-N-Out is known for its own own secret menu ("animal style" fries and burgers), Petey's is now offering their own version, called "California-style," with grilled onions, secret sauce, and melted cheese (with the new option of sweet potato fries).  Milkshakes are available with chocolate & strawberry swirl, as well. 

One of the most exciting new additions are Petey's kickin' chicken wings, substantially meaty and juicy with a crisp coating, available in classic buffalo, hot, super hot, smoky BBQ, honey mustard, and teriyaki.

While you can still order for delivery from the Petey's website, it should also be available via Seamless within the next few weeks.  One of the most affordable and deliciously addictive classic burgers in the city, sandwiches range from $3.99 (burger) to $6.99 (triple cheese) with meal combos averaging between $8 - $10.

The Petey's melt is served on grilled sourdough with caramelized onions and double cheese (pictured here with bacon added).  Petey's may not be your boutique patty with foie gras and fancy fixin's, but when it comes to a classic at a classic price, these burgers would be pretty difficult to beat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First Look: Killer Grizzly Burger & New Winter Menu at Bear

The Grizzly is a dangerously serious new contender

Bear Bar & Restaurant (12-14 31st Ave., Long Island City)

Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky is playing hard core.  The angel-faced young chef is refreshingly genuine and sweet face-to-face, but in the kitchen she is playing some serious hard ball.  Don't be fooled by the dazzle of the Swarovski crystal lamps.  This may be the home of Long Island City's first "New European" menu but not all dishes are duck confit and caviar fork-and-knife refined.  There's a burger, for one, that absolutely blew me away.

Starting with the bun, the buttery challah is sandwich perfection.  But the patty on this grizzly is absolutely mystifying.  Organic prime beef, your teeth are met with a beautiful chargrilled crunch, and then they immediately sink right into the middle of one of the most delicately ground, juiciest meatballs you have ever tasted.  And the seasoning... almost like a Balkan sausage or cevapi.  Add to that a blanket of melted fontina with paprika aioli, and the kicker--a crowning of carrots that have been shaved to paper thin ribbons, beer battered, and deep-fried.  All with a side of Persian pickles and steak fry wedges.  This bad boy truly is a very special burger, and at $9 for the entire platter, it's easier on the pocketbook than many of its neighbors.

The duck shepherd's pie, available in two portion sizes, is one of the most sophisticated, heartiest, most savory winter meals to hit Western Queens.  The ridiculously tender slow-roasted duck has been gently pulled, tossed with a blend of seasonal winter vegetables, and capped with toasted mashed Yukon potatoes, served in an individual ceramic pot ($9/$16).

An edible sculpture, the winter ceviche is scallops tossed in lemon and lime juices with delicately sliced Granny Smith apples, cilantro, and scallions, all jeweled with Alaskan salmon caviar, wasabi tobiko, and pea shoots.

Now I'm a sucker for a croquette, but I also love arancini--the Italian stuffed rice balls.  But the Three Little Bears is like a divine marriage of the two, almost little shepherd's pie fritters.  The perfect snack, these three substantial croquettes are stuffed with meat and cheese, served on a smeared dollop of creme fraiche.  Crispy golden delicious perfection.

Earthy woodland mushrooms have been stewed with roasted onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, then tucked into a ramekin with baby potatoes, topped with a soft-centered farm egg that has been brûlée torched with a ribbon of cheese.

Crispy-coated pork belly stuffed with garlic and parsley has been rendered exceptionally buttery and tender, one of the most delicious platings of it I have ever enjoyed.  One of the chef's personal favorites, this is a quintessential hearty winter dish.

Two pasta dishes are showcased on the winter menu, including a slow-roasted rabbit with house fettuccine and a white wine cream sauce, or one of my personal favorites, a stroganoff of mixed forest mushrooms seared with onions in a garlic-rosemary gravy with cheese shavings.

Crispy-skinned pan-seared sole with just a hint of lemon zest is an exercise in how delicious simplicity can be, served on a pedestal of potatoes poached in butter and dill with carrots, celery, and scallions.

Plump diver sea scallops make a highly-requested return, stewed in cherry tomatoes and a tarragon-barley risotto.

Short ribs braised in red wine falls off the bone, accompanied by carrots and fried-baked potatoes.

Formerly a whole-roasted duck, the confit is now available as a leg and thigh, served in natural juices, with a whole roasted apple and pan-seared young potatoes.

On Tuesdays, mussels & fries and select wine & cocktails are just $5 at the bar from 6PM to midnight.  And don't forget to check out the Saturday and Sunday brunch prix fixe for $14 with unlimited coffee and a brunch cocktail.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sublimely Delicious Winter Dishes at Ornella Trattoria

The bolognese sauce takes over 2 hours to prepare, served on homemade fusilli

Ornella Trattoria Italiana (29-17 23rd Ave; 1/2 block from Ditmars N/Q station)

"Now-ah dis is-ah dah REAL fyoo-see-lee... not like-ah dat spiral stuff... dis is much bedd-uh.  Fuhgeddaboudit..." smiles Giuseppe, as he proudly places the masterpiece on the white linen before me.  His Italian accent is as thick and comforting as the bolognese sauce blanketing the long coils of fresh pasta. Half the joy of dining at Ornella, after all, is having Giuseppe serve you.

As I devour the savory meat sauce and thin, hollow al dente noodles, he points out one of the greatest joys of eating homemade pasta.  Since he never uses a machine, each noodle is slightly different in thickness, shape, and texture, making each bite uniquely enjoyable.  The fusilli bolognese is a dish from his hometown that his mother-in-law has made by hand probably thousands of times over the course of her life.

Each and every dish comes with a family story, and there are well over 100 different dishes available in the restaurant any given day of the week, though only a select few are listed on the menu.  This is the man who was famous for his contraband supply of casu marzu as well as his seasonal offering of the legendary sanguinaccio--a chocolate pudding made with fresh pig's blood, which Giuseppe also uses as a cannoli filling (he's already made a batch this winter).

But despite the Fear-Factor-ish culinary delicacies he loves to share with friends and regulars, Giuseppe's menu is undeniably the most diverse Italian menu anywhere around, and arguably the most authentic.  Will he make you chicken parmigiana?  Sure.  But only because he likes to please each customer; not because it's a favorite authentic dish.

Pizzoccheri alla Fontina

If you truly want to enjoy what makes this restaurant so incredibly special, simply ask Giuseppe about the dishes inspired by his home in Salerno, Italy.  From his father, who ran a flour mill, Giuseppe learned the nuances of making different flours.  One of the most exquisite dishes he serves is the pizzoccheri alla fontina, featuring long flat noodles made from buckwheat flour.  The hearty pasta ribbons are tossed with tender braised cabbage, golden potatoes, fontina cheese, and a touch of garlic and olive oil.  The dish is simultaneously light, hearty, decadent, and a playscape of textures and flavors atypical of Italian American standards.

Risotto al Nero di Seppia

Another delicious winter special that Giuseppe has recently introduced is this cuttlefish risotto.  The black color comes from a mere spoonful of cuttlefish ink, which is the original ink used for sepia prints (though now other inks are typically substituted for the sepia effect).  In spite of its uninviting color, the risotto is wonderfully al dente, and sings exquisitely of seafood with a kiss of parmesan.  Hidden within the fragrant rice are actual medallions of cuttlefish, which look and taste like a more tender version of steamed calamari.  Though the peas are primarily a contrasting garnish, along with the endive they add a crunch and crispness to the luxuriously velvety dish. This is edible proof that you cannot judge a book by its cover.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steak 'n' Shake giving away free meals for a year

(A Steak 'n' Shake "single" -- the "original" boasts two patties -- with thin fries cut on premises)

My family can attest that as soon as my plane lands at Indianapolis International Airport for a visit home, and I send a text message to my mom that I am headed to their house, without asking it is usually assumed that I want my first hometown meal to be at Steak 'n' Shake.  I have actually written letters to the corporate office begging for a location in New York City on multiple occasions.

Well, according to Eater, the first ever Steak 'n' Shake Signature line (beer and wine will be served) will open in midtown tomorrow on Broadway and 53rd, just next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater, and home of the David Letterman Show.  According to the article, the first 150 people in line will be awarded free meals for a year.  I have agonized over heading there later today, but given my serious resolve to be healthier in the new year, 365 days of burgers and fries may not be the best idea.

I predict that this chain is going to really shake up (pun intended) the competition.  An "original" with fries is going for just $4, and that's a double patty.  The patties, known as "steak burgers" are a blend of ribeye and New York strip, extremely thin, and seared to a crispy outer coating and juicy inside.  They have been my mother's favorite burger for as long as I can remember.

(Strawberry milkshake with hot fudge)

Milkshakes are outrageous, and if the signature line is anything like the other locations, they do milkshake sundaes, as well as several sinful combinations.  Sadly, the Signature menu is only a pared downed menu, featuring just burgers, fries, and shakes.  While this is a step in the right direction, I think NYC really needs to taste the Chili Mac Supreme... (corporate, can you hear me?!?)  Also, this location will only be open from 10AM to midnight (according to the website's store locator), unlike the 24 hour versions in Indy.

(The Chili Mac Supreme has yet to make it to the Big Apple)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Butcher Bar now serving lunch

(The 50/50--smoked brisket & pulled pork--topped with the house blend of sharp & mild cheddar and muenster) 

Butcher Bar (37-08 30th Ave, Astoria)

The very first week it opened, Butcher Bar was such an overwhelming hit that lunch service had to be suspended simply to accommodate the massive catering orders that came soaring in.  One visit to the pristine space that promises to outshine even some of the best smokehouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and it doesn’t take a cowboy to realize that something extraordinary is going on here. Luckily for patrons, lunch service resumed last week.

The decor is part museum, part general store, part library--all homage to great butchers who served as inspiration.

“There are so many important issues sourcing meats,” explains co-owner Matthew Katakis, “we decided doing it ourselves is the best way to ensure the highest quality.”  A tour of the entire facility reveals not a single freezer.  “I won’t even get a freezer for ice cream for the apple pie,” laughs Katakis.  The always-fresh rotating boutique selection of meats changes daily.  The unused portions are cooked off and donated to City Harvest.

The setup is part boutique butcher, part restaurant.  At the meat counter, stocked daily with a selection of fresh meats and homemade sausages, customers can choose cuts and patties to take home, or opt to dine in at one of the tables in the front restaurant portion.  Takeout and dine-in customers may also choose to order from the carver by the 1/4 pound from a selection of 12-hour slow smoked brisket, pulled pork, house-roasted turkey, pork belly, and daily sausage specials.

Regardless your decision, it would be a sin not to order at least 1/4 pound of their double-smoked burnt ends--the delicacy of excellent barbecue. The crispy smokey coating gives way to cubes of brisket rendered unbelievably tender and sweet.

Bob's burger is a 1/2-lb patty blended with brisket and smoked bacon, offering a saltiness and moisture that I found to be an absolutely superior combination, drizzled with BBQ (we added mild cheddar--though it would be fantastic without).  All sandwiches are served with classic cole slaw and a pickle.

Perfectly rectangular racks of St. Louis -style ribs are like a culinary BBQ playground--excessively sticky, sweet, and ridiculously tender, with a lot of meat on the bone... some of the most superior ribs I have ever enjoyed.

The food is refreshingly straightforward, with no gimmicks.  An extremely enthusiastic staff eagerly answers questions, and provides exceptional service (a complimentary slice of apple pie arrives at the end of the meal on some evenings).  Ask to see the backyard area (where summer barbecues will commence in the warm season) or to take a peak at the Combi oven--a combination cooker that allows the control of humidity with dry or steam cooking--ideal for meats, as well as baking.

Sides are served picnic style in cardboard boats, offering a country touch.  Mac & cheese is creamy and delicious (the imported organic noodles are available for sale).  Green beans have a kiss of smoked bacon.  Baked beans are sweet and tangy.  Potato wedges arrive golden or sweet.  Mini corn cakes are served with warm honey butter.

Everything sold both at the counter and in the dining room is aimed to be local, fresh, and organic.  “Our number one priority, however, is on really knowing the farms where we purchase,” explains Katakis.  The products are all free of any growth hormones or prophylactic antibiotics, and strictly avoid all contained animal feedlot operations.  The dining room décor, part museum, part general store, part library pays homage to other great butchers who served as inspiration.  But it probably won’t be long at all before patrons start heralding Butcher Bar as one of those greats.

Click the menu to enlarge

The menu also offers catering options that include 3-ft. and 6-ft. natural heroes, as well as catered BBQ parties with whole spit-roasted lamb or pig.

Butcher Bar on Urbanspoon
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