Feed me baby one more time

The seasonal haute-cuisine restaurant Park Avenue Winter (a.k.a. Spring, Summer, and Fall, 100 E. 63rd St., Manhattan) is just the kind of place that draws wealthy socialites like the characters from the CW’s hit show Gossip Girl. So it makes sense that the restaurant is going to be featured in an upcoming episode. This week’s P.A.W. promotion is a bit more surprising.

britneyspearscatholicschooloutfitTo celebrate its television fame, from today, March 16, through Friday, March 20, Park Avenue Winter is giving away a free meal to any girl, of any age, dressed in a school uniform. Girls 21 and over get two rounds of free drinks–probably better than the screwdrivers in Tropicana bottles you used to conceal in your purse. Perhaps they’re expecting to draw legions of Horace Mann students and alums, who’ll be happy to come back in the future and spend wads of money. Little did they know that once their deal hit the blogosphere, they’d really be attracting scavengers like you and me.

Girls: if you didn’t go to a private school, you know you still have that Britney Spears costume tucked in the back of your closet. It needn’t fit perfectly–style and dignity are unimportant when a free gourmet meal is on the line.

Guys: if you’re that hungry then best of luck to you. You might want to consider shaving your legs.

The tip, from Eater.

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Uncovering the roots

grassrootsSometimes the best deals are so close to home you don’t even think to look for them. Such is the case with Grassroots Tavern (20 St. Mark’s Place, Manhattan–map). This dive bar shares a wall with Mamoun’s, the home of New York cheap falafel. So every time I walked by, my drooling gaze was drawn to the man with the mustache, and I never saw Grassroots hidden next door.

As of this weekend, that’s all changed. The first thing I noticed when I walked into Grassroots was its beer list. Bud, Miller, and Michelob Amber Bock cost $2 a mug, $3 a pint. All Brooklyn Brewery pours are $3 and $4. For beer that cheap in the East Village, I used to rely on holes that had plenty of character, but also plenty of depressing, alcoholic characters, and an over-abundance of CCR (no offense, John Fogerty).

Grassroots is never packed, but has a fun, young atmosphere, and it’s surprisingly clean and comfortable–even the bathroom is useable. From now on, I’ll know where to quench my thirst after a falafel, and where to get a snack to soak up all the extra beers I can suddenly afford.

Cook Le Cirque on le cheap

You might think that haute cuisine requires lots of time, money, and at least 50 different difficult-to-obtain ingredients, like truffles, guanciale, or squid sperm. But a true master chef knows how to make a delectable dish with the most humble of ingredients.

Alain Sailhac is just such a master. After nine years as head chef at Le Cirque, one of New York City’s finest restaurants, and decades more as a chef and teacher, Sailhac can turn a simple potato into a masterpiece. He explained how in the January/February 2001 issue of Saveur magazine with his recipe for potato galette. Take a read, and you’ll be able to turn a potato, some butter, olive oil, salt and pepper, into a side dish so beautiful your guests won’t want to cut into it. When they take their first crispy bite, they’ll be glad they did. The recipe’s after the break. (more…)

I’ll have what she’s having…for half the price

eisenbergsI was 12 years old when I made my first trip to Katz’s Deli. The massive pastrami sandwich was my dad’s treat* and I never thought to look at the price tag. Now I’m all grown up, and the $14.95 sandwich that once helped Meg Ryan fake a public orgasm is almost as far out of my range as she is. Isn’t there a place in this city with decades of history behind it where I can get a delicious pastrami sandwich too big to fit in my mouth for under $10?

That may seem like asking a lot, but the answer is yes. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop (174 5th Ave., Manhattan–map) is only 80 years old (compared to Katz’s 120), but that’s still some serious history. It’s a seriously old school deli–a long narrow space dominated by a counter, where you can perch on a swivel seat and watch the cooks pile sandwiches impossibly high with meat.

When your pastrami on rye shows up, it’s a challenge to even get mustard on it before cramming it into your face. Once it finally gets there, the bread seems to melt away into the tender, salty slices of meat. And the cost? Just $8.50. The generous bowl of complimentary pickle spears are a great compliment, as are the fat, crispy onion rings for $3.50 if you’re looking to splurge (or give yourself a heart attack).

*Full disclosure: my recent trip to Eisenberg’s, though less expensive, was also my dad’s treat.

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).

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.