Happy Hour of the Week: drinks to Coo over

cooventsThe guys at Coovents.com have been making it their business to point you to the best happy hours in New York at any given time (as of 10:22 on a Thursday morning, it’s $3.50 Bud and Coors at O’Hanlons in the East Village). Tonight they’re proving they know a good happy hour by throwing their own.

The first official Coovents Get Happy Hour is tonight from 8-10 at Tonic East (411 3rd Ave, Manhattan–map). Just show up, and your first drink is free–no lists, RSVPs, or covers required. Because the Coovents staff are gentlemen (or desperate, you decide), ladies keep drinking for free from 8-9.

If you’re near Gramercy, make sure you check it out. There’s no better way to pay tribute to a useful website then to hit them up for free booze (The Penny Palate Happy Hour has been postponed indefinitely due to, um, the recession or something).

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The pessimist’s bottle

bailout_labelIf you understand what investing in “futures” means and you’re reading this, you’re probably an unemployed banker. It’s all gibberish to me, but it’s never too late to learn, and there’s no better way to learn anything than with booze. Enter Crushpad‘s 2007 Bailout Napa Valley Cabernet.

bailoutThe wine is made with a blend of grapes from Napa’s best vineyards in Oakville, Mt. Veeder, and Pritchard Hill and aged in French oak barrels, creating a bottle that Crushpad says is akin to something in the $75-$250 range. But that wouldn’t be much of a bailout, would it?

Instead, you preorder a bottle for $39 (cheap, but still out of the typical pennywatcher’s price range). For every 100 points the Dow drops after your purchase date, you’ll get a $2 refund. The final price will be determined on August 14, 2009, when the wine is bottled and shipped. For legal reasons, the price can only go as low as $9 (right in our zone). The way our economy’s looking, this could be the best tasting investment you’ve made in a long time.

The tip, from Tasting Table

Get your goat

buff-patty-2On a February night, when winter seems determined never to recede, there aren’t many places I’d rather be than Jamaica. For now, I’ll have to settle for Fort Greene. On Myrtle Ave., just a couple blocks from Fort Greene park, sits a little hole-in-the-wall called Buff Patty (376 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn–map) that offers Jamaican specialties for not much more than you’d pay in the Caribbean.

buff-patty1It’s best to start with the namesake patties–$1.50 for chicken or beef and $2.50 for shrimp. They’re made of flaky, rich (lard-laden) pastry crust that will leave your table littered in deep yellow crumbs, and they’re stuffed with spicy curried meats that will fill you up for a snack, or whet your appetite for more to come.

Buff Patty also serves hot, salty jerk marinated chicken wings at $3 per half dozen. But my favorite dish is the curried goat; you can pick up a pint of goat and rice and beans for $6. It’s slow cooked and tender, falling off the cylindrical bones. The curry sauce is tasty enough that you’ll want to lick those bones clean.

Bringing K-town home

Since I started working in Koreatown, I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely unfamiliar cuisine–at least as much of it as they serve at Woorijip, the only K-town joint I can afford. But nothing’s cheaper than cooking at home. So I was happy to come across a recent article by Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times about immigrants who cook their country’s specialties at home, complete with recipes.

dscn3540The first dish I took a stab at was pa jun, Korean pancakes filled with scallions, or with anything else you feel like throwing in. The recipe is as simple as they come–just mix flour, egg, salt, and chopped scallion together with ice water, and fry it all up in oil. The result is more like a crepe than a pancake, thin and delicate and just a bit crisp on the edges. Dipped in a simple vinegar and soy sauce that’s also included in the recipe, the pancakes make a delicious appetizer that’s salty, sweet, and incredibly cheap and easy.

Check out the recipe here. And not to question the master chef, but I’d recommend adding more scallions than she calls for, and perhaps less vinegar in the dipping sauce.

Eat like you’re not going back to work

tiffinwallahGoing out for an Indian dinner in New York will rack your wallet almost anywhere you go. If you want to get quality and quantity out of your curry, the time to go is lunch. The place to go is Tiffin Wallah (127 E 28th St., Manhattan–map), a vegetarian Indian joint in the middle of Curry Hill.

For $6.95, you get to exploit the bounty of an all-you-can-eat buffet. I dropped by yesterday, tiffinwallah2and the options were impressive. After choosing between white basmati rice and yellow rice with onions and sauteed yellow peppers, I piled on a many-vegetabled curry, a hearty potato and onion dish, a rich yellow dal, and a vegetable soup topped with peppery corn-bread. I complimented the mound with crisp paratha, grean pea pancakes, several chutneys and the typical tamarind and coriander dips. And when I finished, I couldn’t resist heading back to the bar for another round.

If you need something to wash down the spice, there’s an ice bucket full of Kingfishers at the buffet line for only $2.50 apiece. If my boss is reading, rest assured I resisted the temptation of the liquid lunch. But for all my willpower, I have to admit, the sheer quantity I ingested may have made me slightly catatonic.

Well fed with a bad red

dscn3528To unintentionally complete my two-part series on what to do with an undrinkable bottle of wine, a friend recently (well, actually, not so recently) brought over a 2006 bottle of Bear’s Lair Merlot, which after one sip we promptly declared too bad even for our cheap tastes (I let her say it first). Since then I’ve been waiting for the right recipe and the right supermarket sale to magically appear at the same time. I waited quite a while. But finally, this week I found $2.49 a pound chuck steak and an old school Venetian recipe from my recent go-to man, Mark Bittman.

The recipe is extremely simple: it calls for boiling your wine with a few spices and sugar, marinating your steaks for a few hours, and either grilling (my personal choice), broiling, or frying dscn3532them up. Bittman’s recipe does ask for ribeye and a nice Amarone, but he points out that the recipe was traditionally used by peasants, on horse meat. So I figured what I had on hand would do the job. Even with my inferior ingredients, the steak was succulent and tender, sweet with very clear flavors of clove and cinnamon.

Check out the recipe here, and never let your wine shop miscues go to waste.

Happy Hour of the Week: George Washington would have drunk here

clong_islandFort Greene, Brooklyn (called Fort Putnam at the time), played a key role in shielding George Washington’s retreat during the Battle of Brooklyn. Could there be a better place to celebrate our fearless commander and first president’s birthday? This year, a brand new pub has enlisted to help.

bphBrooklyn Public House (247 DeKalb Ave., Brooklyn–map) is the project of three Fort Greene residents who turned a deserted old candy shop into a first-rate pub serving comfort food (wings, ribs, pan pizza), 16 tap beers, and 35 bottles. It’s opening to the public for the first time tonight.

While I recommend checking it out ASAP, the real Happy Hour of the Week comes on Sunday–the mid-point of your three day weekend (if your job doesn’t suck). After a blessing by a priest, BPH will host an open bar from 6 to 8, and throw in some samples from the food menu as well. If you happen to ring in President’s Day with a hangover, just be glad you’re not eating hard-tack and using dirt for coffee grounds.

the tip, from Thrillist

A sandwich to settle for

Midtown Manhattan is littered with pseudo-gourmet sandwich joints happy to dish out pre-made panini and wraps for $6.95. Finding a really good sandwich for less than that is…well, so far I haven’t done it. But today I found a sandwich that was at least as good for $4.

dscn3522Mike’s Coffee and Deli (44 East 32nd St., Manhattan–map) doesn’t look like much. It’s just a window, opening into one room where all the sandwiches are prepared. What is impressive is that the average price of a cold sandwich is $3, a cheeseburger deluxe platter costs $4.50, and the average hot sandwich goes for $4. That includes roast beef, pastrami, chicken cutlets, sausage, and my choice today: pepper steak.

The steak was a bit over-cooked and tough, but at least it was cooked up fresh and topped with tasty peppers and onions. Wrapped up in a perfectly mediocre baguette, the sandwich was nothing to sing about. But for my money, it sure beat the cold-in-the-middle panini I got for $6.95  at Susie’s Kitchen around the corner. For the cheapest decent-sized sandwich I’ve found in mid-town, Mike’s is the spot.

Your taste to price ratio is inefficient

An actual conversation I overheard last year:

bombaysapphire23-year-old financial consultant: I can’t just order a gin and tonic in a bar. They’ll give me well liquor. Now I order Bombay and tonic.
Coworker: Good call.
Consultant: Yeah, except the last time they poured me regular Bombay. When I say Bombay, you should know I mean Bombay Sapphire.

Of course, in a blind taste test this fragile-egoed young gentleman could never tell the two apart. In fact, according to a recent entry in the New York Times Proof Blog, the precious nectar he shells out for is often the same old well liquor, just poured into a comely aqua-marine bottle on the sly.

It’s a trick called a “downpour”, explains former barkeep Brian McDonald, and it’s common practice in many bars throughout the city. McDonald downpoured for three years, and only one person ever tasted the difference between top shelf liquor and its well counterpart. The accuser then watched McDonald pour the exact same well gin and tonic, but the second time he saw it come from a top shelf bottle. His new drink tasted just right.

gordonsThe lesson: if you’re ordering top-shelf liquor, you’re probably getting played. If you really find well booze unpalatable, find a middle ground that tastes great, but isn’t expensive enough to be worth downpouring. Our consultant friend should swallow his pride and order Gordon’s, which Esquire just named the best budget gin at $15 a liter. Of course, he wouldn’t be caught dead reading this site anyway.

Prices down on the corner

Due to mounting evidence that the staff of Corner Bistro is homophobic and violent, I’m rescinding the Penny Palate’s recommendation. The owner has suspended the staff member in question, but has offered no apology or real explanation. It looks like I’ve eaten my last bistro burger.

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Manhattan’s West Village is known for its beautiful brownstone homes, its classy restaurants and bars soaked in history. But most of all, it’s known for being expensive as hell. But one one corner, a meal and a beer, and a black eye, is still affordable.

cornerbistroCorner Bistro (331 W. 4th St., Manhattan–map) beats up gay people? Also see the victim and owner’s responses, and the video evidence. offers paper plates that are barely big enough to hold their fat Bistro Burger. It’s a bacon cheese burger that’s about an inch and a half thick, with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted bun.  Corner Bistro is one of the few budget burgers joints that will actually cook your meat the way you order it. My medium-rare was a beautiful pink, and the meaty juices kept it tender and tasty. And it cost just $6.75.

Nothing complements a cheap burger like a cheap beer. With that in mind, Corner Bistro offers 12 oz. mugs of McSorley’s light and dark ale for $2.50. That’s a big gourmet bacon cheese burger and a beer for $9.25. On your next jaunt through the West Village, you may not go hungry.