the underbelly

New Site
September 30, 2010, 7:36 am
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No, The Underbelly isn’t dead – – but I have started working with others, just like I was told to in Kindergarten. Check out what’s going on over at where I have a new, illustrated post up about that nectar of the gods itself, the Martini.

DIY Oyster Shucking
July 31, 2010, 12:29 pm
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There are few things in life that I love more than a good oyster. Possibly my family. Certainly a really good glass of bubbles or a dry Plymouth martini with four large olives. But mostly my heart belongs to oysters. I am very much not alone. Oysters have been written about extensively. A new favorite quote of mine is from William Thackeray who upon eating an American oyster commented he felt as though he “had swallowed a baby.”

Back in my childhood days, we spent many a summer’s day out at Hog Island. I remember one party in particular on the beach. There were oysters everywhere. I was probably 6 or 7 and while an adventurous eater I wary about eating large, mucusy mollusks. It was more that I wasn’t sure exactly how to eat them. Do you swallow them whole? Do you chew them? Do they explode if you do chew them? I was never a fan of surprises. I like to know what to expect, which is why I never indulged in the popular nineties treat, Gushers. So, in short, I wasn’t eating the oysters. But I didn’t avoid them entirely. I drank them. My father would eat the meat and then hand me the shell to sip from. And really, that’s the essence of the oyster. That concentrated, briny, slightly sweet liquor that pools in the bottom of the pearly shells.

I envy my little self. Because now, fully grown and capable of eating oysters as they should be eaten, I have come to know that while they are indeed wonderful they are also expensive. And parties where they are bountiful are scarce.

But the other day at Fairway while shopping for scallops, which I would go on to ruin, I saw some oysters for only 99 cents each. The only catch? I would have to take them home and shuck them myself.

So that’s what I did.

But when I got home I realized, I don’t have an oyster shucker.

There it sat. Taunting me.

So smug.

But when it comes to food I am determined. So I armed myself with a paring knife, a screwdriver and an odd little serrated knife-esque thing whose true purpose I’m not sure of. The paring knife weakly gave up. The screwdriver pathetically chipped away at the shell. But the mystery tool did the trick.

Boom. Oyster conquered. And all the more delicious because I shucked it myself.

The District of Columbia
June 17, 2010, 12:59 pm
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A couple of weeks back I took a mini vacation down to visit a New York expat friend. When I say vacation I mean I went and did work in a friend’s apartment rather than my own. But I also got to do some eating. Because that’s how I stay alive. I also did some breathing and drinking.

We started with a meal at Creme, a little modern-southern place. We shared the wild mushrooms topped with (I think) Parmesan.

I have not met a mushroom I didn’t like. Well. Those giant ones that push up the asphalt back at home and ruin our driveway…I’m not entirely fond of them. But in the edible fungus category there is not a one that I would turn down. These were rich, cheesy and super satisfying. But not so satisfying that we weren’t ready for the next course.

My lady friend ordered the crab cakes, which were a perfect ratio of crab to other ingredients. Meaning lots o’ crab.

I got the shrimp and grits, which also came with spicy sausage. This was something I could happily have every night. The southern girl in me loves grits.

The next night we went out for the one thing DC does better than NYC: Ethiopian. We started with these samosa like things.

And then went on to the main dish of springy, sour dough injera and piles of meat and vegetable. I got so excited about the whole amalgam that I forgot to snap a photo. Oops. But best thing on the plate? A raw, finely minced, spiced beef concoction.

Later that night after a few cocktails we were hungry again. Big surprise. So we hit up Ben’s Chili Bowl for some sausages. Here they are grilling away.

We also picked up some cheese fries. Look at that delicious, nearly flavorless plastic cheese…

I didn’t eat that kind of cheese until a couple of years ago. In fact I didn’t really eat any sort of melted cheese (except for pizza) until high school. Don’t worry, I’ve been making up for lost time like whoa.

Check out this beefy sausage. Slightly burnt, just like I like to make them, so they have a great snappy casing.

Obama’s been there. So it must be good. And it was.

Redhook Ball Fields
June 3, 2010, 3:55 pm
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I’ve spoken of the wonders of Flushing many times. But now I have a new wonderland of food in my life. If Flushing is the Disney World of food then the Redhook ball fields are Disneyland. It’s smaller in area and in variety but that doesn’t make it any less of a happy place.

It was threatening rain a couple of Sundays ago when I finally made it through the transportation hell that I was required to trudge through in order to make it to Redhook. But it was holding off. Because somewhere, some weather god knew that I needed to eat Salvadorian and Mexican food. And I needed to eat it while dry.

First up was a greasy, messy, delicious pork Huarache: oblong, fried masa topped with whatever the cook wants. I was frazzled, sweaty and hungry so I didn’t stop to take a picture before joining the hurache eating circle. We split one between three people and, while I did ingest some of the plate, I think even without that I would have been satisfied with that amount…for the first course that is.

It was time for some famed pupusas. And much like the best ride at Disneyland (Space Mountain) that required standing in line. Unlike Disneyland, we were standing in line while eating ceviche. Mixed seafood ceviche. Yum.

Shrimp, squid, octopus, some sort of white fish, onions, all marinated in deliciousness. Split between two people one of these was actually pretty filling.

By the time we were finished we were at the front of the line and had ordered out pupusas. I, of course, went with pork. Because why would you choose anything but pork if you were given it as an option?

A buddy also got a sangria soda.

No alcohol. Sangria without alcohol. Fizzy non-alcoholic sangria. He seemed to like it. I refused to try it. I had an excuse: I was sick. But mostly I disagree with the concept of its existence.

But never mind that, there were pupusas to be had!

Pupusas are Salvadorian. They’re handmade corn tortillas filled with cheese and whatever else. I topped mine off with some fresh crema and hot sauce with jalapenos and cooling cabbage on the side. Ulimately incredibly satisfying.

I’ll be back there soon to tackle some more dishes.

April 26, 2010, 9:57 am
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Sometimes I feel like I’m being a bad New Yorker. I can’t recall the last time I had real, New York pizza. Well I couldn’t. But now I can. Because that was last night. At Fornino. In Williamsburg. And it was worth the wait. Along with a pitcher of red sangria (it’s healthy because there’s fruit in it!) we ordered the Lombardi pizza, which was covered in arugula, parmesan, mozzarella (a very creamy, very delicious mozzarella) and salty, tender, slightly crisped prosciutto. The crust was crisp where it needed to be with just a bit of chewiness in the puffy end of the crust. Not over filling or doughy, we had no problem finishing off the entire pie.

Doesn’t it kind of resemble a salad? So it should be fine to regularly devour many, many slices, right? As long as it’s accompanied with fruit-packed sangria, of course.

Whiskey with a Pickle Back – not a weird Nickelback spin-off
April 20, 2010, 2:42 pm
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I don’t follow soccer. It inspires painful, awkward memories of PE classes in grade school, which I would spend trying to avoid contact with the ball at all costs. But when a friend invited me to accompany him at a Sunday morning of soccer watching I said yes. Because it was at a bar. And I like bars on Sundays. Woodwork out in Prospect Heights is a kind of high end soccer bar. All dark wood and large windows it serves up small nibbles like cheese plates and homemade pickles. The beer list is extensive and the bloody marys are excellent with large olives hiding at the bottom. They also have shots of whiskey paired with a pickle juice back, which is pictured above. It wasn’t …good. But there was something oddly satisfying about it. The shot of whiskey was shot of whiskey like. Then the shot of pickle juice was ok, then there was a moment of bitter awfulness and then it mellowed out and the idea of another one didn’t seem so bad.

Oh, and that team we were rooting for won. Yippee.

Spring Has Sprung
April 6, 2010, 1:54 pm
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It’s that week in New York City: Spring. Unfortunately the little Flatbush worm pictured above jumped the gun. It’s the time of the year when it’s not oppressively hot outside. You can still sleep under the sheets. Jeans aren’t your mortal enemy. And New Yorkers are clamoring to eat outside. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a crowded, dirty street, if trucks are whizzing by or groups of young ruffians are cursing like a gang of old timey pirates. They are going to enjoy their meal outside, damnit.

I am one of those people.

This past weekend I got to have the exactly Saturday afternoon I like to have. It started with a breezy brunch at The Lovin’ Cup out in North Billyburg. The giant, rice and egg filled burrito I had was strictly fair but it was still a great meal. Because I got to drink two of my favorite beverages together.

I think the reason I love New York can be summed up in that picture. Beer and coffee together at last on a glorious Saturday afternoon. Happy is what that picture is. We followed brunch up with some light strolling and then….another drink. Because we could!

A Mojito for me and a Pina Colada for my buddy. We appropriately hit up Surf Bar, which is known for its tropical drinks, clam chowder and for having sand on the floor. Sand on the floor! It’s like being at the beach but instead your in the hipster capital of Brooklyn! And if you jumped in the nearby river you’d probably contract Chlamydia! Well. The drinks are damn good. And I got my greenery for the day, which means it was a healthy day. Just as healthy as if I was one of those crazy people that hikes up mountains or jogs along beaches Saturday mornings only to return home to a bowl of granola and green tea. I’m just like them. Only a lot more fun.