• Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

    Food & Drink  

    My brain is starting to freeze. But I don't care. I press my tongue up against the roof of my mouth and keep going. With the precision of a master surgeon, I carve out the strawberry careful not to touch the chocolate or vanilla. The rectangle carton of Neapolitan is all mine for at least the next 17 minutes—my own private Heaven. The blacks of my eyes shoot around the kitchen between bites. Mom hates this—me siphoning the strawberry third before anyone else has a shot at it. Such is life with two younger siblings—the Neapolitan catered to everyone…and yet no one. The year is 1993.

    The obsession with strawberry ice cream that takes me at the age of 12 eventually leads me here, Van Leeuwen’s shop in the East Village. It’s my go-to spot in New York for ice cream. What began in a Greenpoint Brooklyn kitchen in 2008 is now scooped out of six ’88 Chevy Step Vans and three storefronts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Van Leeuwen’s commitment to celebrating all-natural ingredients is rapidly cementing their frozen concoction as the ice cream in the city.

    While strawberry is a classic ice cream flavor, it’s all too often ruined by artificial colorings and “natural flavorings” that come from sources other than strawberries. These are unpleasant but necessary ingredients when insufficient quantities of strawberries or bland-tasting strawberries are used. Yeah, that strawberry I fell in love with back in ’93, tainted love. It turns out it was a scientifically engineered bastardization of what God intended. And God knows ice cream, I assure you.

    Cutting corners is stomached by most in the industry, but for ice cream artisans and self-proclaimed foodies Laura O’Neill and the Brothers Van Leeuwen (Ben and Pete), it’s cringe-inducing. They do it right—only (fresh hormone and antibiotic free) milk and cream, cane sugar, egg yolks and generous amounts of sun-sweetened strawberries. It is the freshest strawberry ice cream that has ever hit my lips…and it delivers a hell of a brain freeze.

    Aug 20, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • The Leadbelly

    Food & Drink  

    by Tucker Chet Markus

    A heavy yellow glow, the tear of a harmonica riff, fresh oysters on ice. Peel off of Orchard Street, number 14, through the doors at The Leadbelly—a Montauk surf shack and gritty speakeasy simultaneous. Inhale.

    The place is hand-drawn—the childlike Garrett "People" Wasserman profiles of boys and girls greet you as you enter—and the rest is wedged between spinning vinyl and cracks in the plaster walls. Sit. Order a dozen on the half shell (selected weekly, the next seven days hold Shigokus from Washington, Ninigret Cups from Rhode Island, and Barcats from Virginia). Sip a Cucumber Julep or a Whiskey Ginger. Relax. Feel. The rhythms around you move on the ride cymbal of a Sonny Boy Williamson tune.

    Opened in September of 2012, it feels part mid-century Europe, part Americana. The interior was designed by Phil Winser and Kate Dougherty—the latter’s work includes set decoration on Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Happy hour is nightly from 6pm-8pm (Barcats are a buck-a-shuck) and if your appetite stretches into dinner, The Fat Radish’s kitchen across the street is at your service. It gets better. A rotating group of local DJs and musicians lay the vibe Thursday through Saturday night. Captured here by Winser and Dougherty is the brackish meeting point of an August breeze and the blues of Bourbon Street.

    Savor the senses. The weight in your chair, the music, the company. Have an oyster. Allow place to happen to you at The Leadbelly.

    Oysters are a buck-a-shuck every night from 6pm-8pm. It's the perfect time to split a couple dozen with friends while having the place mostly to yourselves.

    Jul 9, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • The Nantucket Lobster Trap

    Food & Drink  

    It's five o'clock and we have just ordered a two pound lobster. Carl and I, beyond a bit peckish, carry on debating the merits of five pounders. The bigger the better, right? Conventional American wisdom would think so. But not so with these crustaceans. The young man dropping off our beers chips in his two cents. We listen up. After all, he's the only one out of the three of us that has actually eaten a five pound lobster.

    It turns out, the meat tastes different. To a lobster connoisseur, significantly different. A little tougher...not as tender as a two pounder. In a world of the up-sell, we're delighted and surprised with his candid disposition. It's refreshing and rivals the sweating Modelo Especials freezing our brains.

    The Nantucket Lobster Trap has been serving up stuffed and boiled lobster for nearly four decades now. Locally owned and operated by the Brothers Weldon (there's three of them), it is a Nantucket staple. You'd come to expect any kitchen right on the water to serve up the freshest seafood. "The Trap" does not disappoint. They house two gigantic salt water tanks in the back that keep your lobster alive up until the moment you order. All you have to do is decide if you're up for two pounds or five.

    23 Washington Street
    Nantucket, MA 02554

    Jun 26, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • The Grog Tray

    Food & Drink | Prep Essentials  

    Drinking out is kind of a luxury. Think about it. A decent scotch will run about $14 a pour. Toss back three of those and you might as well have picked up your own bottle. Enter drinking at home. Not only is it economical (we like economical), but it's as good an excuse as any to fill your home with friends while also setting up your own home bar. It was William Morris who held, "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." We tend to agree—and a grog tray is both. What began strictly as a scotch bar has grown to include rum (El Dorado is a fantastic and not too sweet sipping rum), small-batch bourbon, rye whiskey, and chocolate.

    As with most things in your home, your bar should reflect your own style and tastes. Make it personal. Stock it with your favorite spirits. I gravitate toward the contradiction between masculine and feminine, old and new, and high and low in my personal style. For me, it's about the mix.

    One reason I love this mirrored grog tray and polished chrome stand is because it has a feminine refinement to it. It's very Upper East Side and lends a touch of nouveau preppy—a stark contrast to my red-blooded liquor tastes. The paper coasters I lifted from a memorable night at The Bowery Hotel, the quahog shell from Narragansett Beach holds match boxes from my favorite bars, while loving cups not only hold chocolate bars and wooden arrows (summer camp nostalgia) but evoke an air of victorious celebration...all memories worth raising a glass to.

    Apr 14, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Father’s Office

    Food & Drink  

    Tucked away in a dark, crowded American gastropub in Santa Monica is the one burger I go out of my way for when I'm in L.A. The gospel served on a soft roll. It’s simply a patty of fine dry-aged beef topped with caramelized onions, Gruyère and Maytag cheeses, applewood-smoked bacon compote, and arugula. A local and self-proclaimed foodie introduced me to the joint back in 2007. Every time this burger hits my lips, I crown it "Best Burger…Ever.” Every time.

    Welcome to Father’s Office.

    The nationally acclaimed gastropub is helmed by Chef Sang Yoon. The Korean/Russian restauranteur took over the tiny, unpretentious local bar in 2000, opened the kitchen, and gifted the much touted “Office Burger” ($12.50) to Angelenos. Known for its world-class selection of beers on tap (a seasonally rotating selection of 36 craft beers) and burgers, the Office is just as notorious for what it doesn’t have—ketchup and empathy for your menu substitutions. Hey, Yoon’s genius is not without its madness. But he does us one better with two aioli sauces of garlic and blue cheese for your sweet potato fries. In a single epiphanic moment, the very idea of ketchup becomes foreign. Baptize it all in one of the local microbrews and consider it a religious experience.

    1018 Montana Ave
    Santa Monica, CA 90403

    Oct 25, 2013 | Permalink (4) View/Leave Comments

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 12/26/2013 at 12:42 PM:

    @Al—It’s a different burger than Mr. Bartley’s. The Office Burger borders gourmet more or less. Different class of burger, making them hard to compare.

    Al left a comment on 12/26/2013 at 12:13 PM:

    Sounds good, but is it better than Mr. Bartley’s in Cambridge? That’s an epic burger.

    Paul left a comment on 12/26/2013 at 10:38 AM:

    Your writing is off the hook.

    George left a comment on 12/25/2013 at 2:09 AM:

    I’m glad to know that you make it out this way from time to time. Enjoy the sun, avoid the nuts and flakes, and maybe get up north a little to San Francisco. Best Wishes.


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