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Baoguette Cafe

What should banh mi be: traditional or new-style? How you answer that question greatly affects which banh mi you'll like of the many new sandwich shops opening now. Just arrived in the old Bamn space on St. Mark's (RIP to that noble effort to revive the automat) is Michael "Bao" Huynh's new Baoguette Cafe, a follow-up to Baoguette, which opened in Murray Hill earlier this year. With its offerings of things like a "sloppy bao" with green mango and curried beef, Baoguette falls squarely in the new-style camp.

It's hard not to be of two minds about the new-old quandary. On one hand, experimentation should be part of any cuisine, but on the other, if you already consider banh mi to be perfection, how could any change be an improvement? As a traditionalist, I decided to go for the most middle-of-the-road banh mi on the menu, the namesake "Baoguette."

There's nothing kooky about the ingredients in this one - you've got the usual suspects of paté, terrine, pork, pickled daikon and pickled carrots. There's a nice burst of cilantro flavor when you first bite in. I asked for it spicy and could have withstood more spice had I added it from bottle of Sriracha hot chili sauce on the table. As it was, the spiciness was more of a slow chili-garlic burn. The paté has an earthy, almost nutty taste that adds another layer of complexity to this sandwich.

One banh mi purist in the NYT article, Andrea Nguyen, contends that the baguette shouldn't be chewy artisanal bread but just the frame for the sandwich. The bread at Baoguette is excellent, and that's the problem. Cheap, hoagie-style bread is easier to bite into and leaves the focus on the sandwich ingredients, while Bao's fancy bread from Tom's Bakery almost steals the show. Eating po' boys or banh mi made with expensive bread feels like ordering crab cakes at the ball game.

If you want to go the traditional route, try the Hanco's Vietnamese Sandwich and Bubble Tea that just opened in Cobble Hill. There the bread is toasty, light, and basically an afterthought. The drawback? The filling isn't quite as good as Baoguette's. If it's gourmet ingredients you're after, Baoguette will not disappoint.

Baoguette Cafe
37 St. Marks Place, at Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003

61 Lexington Avenue, between 25th & 26th Streets
New York, NY 10010

Sauces and even fresh jalapenos are on hand.

Baoguette's pho is intensely flavorful, better than many other Vietnamese places in the city.

Michael "Bao" Huynh works the phones
Photo murals of Saigon on the walls
The kitchen is in the same spot as Bamn's, but now it's an open kitchen.
Seating is super casual.

Baoguette Cafe menu

Adventureland Playlist

Love, love Greg Mottola's new flick Adventureland. It's a grown-up version of a coming-of-age story, with complicated characters (think comp lit majors mixing with conservative Catholic girls) and side plots (doddering dad meets social-climbing stepmom). But there's no need to get philosophical about it: one of the best things about this film is the music. Tracks from Husker Du, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, the Cure and the Replacements will take you back, if you were born before 1990 (unlike actress Kristen Stewart - yikes).

The problem? The official soundtrack doesn't have nearly as many songs as the actual movie. Fortunately, Reel Soundtrack Blog got them all. Here's an abbreviated, alternative music version of the Adventureland soundtrack, after the jump - basically all the songs they weren't making fun of - with links to iTunes. Rock on.

Adventureland Songs (in order of appearance)
  1. The Replacements, Bastards of Young
  2. The Velvet Underground, Here She Comes Now
  3. David Bowie, Modern Love
  4. Husker Du, Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely
  5. New York Dolls, Looking for a Kiss
  6. Big Star, I'm in Love With a Girl
  7. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Taste of Cindy (Acoustic Version)
  8. The Rolling Stones, Tops
  9. The Velvet Underground, Pale Blue Eyes
  10. Nick Lowe, So It Goes
  11. Crowded House, Don't Dream It's Over
  12. Lou Reed, Satellite of Love
  13. The Cure, Just Like Heaven
  14. Judas Priest, Breaking the Law
  15. Yo La Tengo, Farewell Adventureland
  16. The Replacements, Unsatisfied

La Superior

One of the worst things about eating Mexican food in LA is coming back and eating it in New York. The New York version of Mexican food is almost sure to disappoint after you've had the vibrant, spicy food at a random hole-in-the-wall in an LA strip mall. Even the most successful NYC Mexican restaurants don't source traditional ingredients like goat, and they get the cheese all wrong - Vermont cheddar is surely not a staple south of the border. Most Mexican food in New York is what Italian food was here in the mid-'80s: dumbed-down Mexican-American, not authentic Mexican.

That's why it was such a relief to discover La Superior in Williamsburg after reading Pete Wells' $25-and-under review. As soon as the first dishes landed, we knew: they got the cheese right.

La Superior's requesón is a mild but cheesy cheese, fresh, with the consistency of a crumbly cottage cheese. Though it's said you can use ricotta as a substitute, I don't find the taste the same at all. (One close flavor you can sometimes find is Mexican Cotija cheese - not at high-end cheese stores, but at corner bodegas.) Here it is sprinkled on top of the flautas de pollo, which were very crisp and topped with bright, fresh greens and salsa that contrasted with the creaminess of the cheese.

Gorditas, typical Mexican street fare, are highly addictive little corn buns, split and stuffed with chorizo, lettuce, and more requesón. La Superior's taste a little like huitlacoche, the surprisingly tasty weird corn fungus. If you want to spice up the gorditas some more, the green salsa served alongside does the trick.

The quesadillas also come street-style, more like heftier empanadas than a mere fried tortilla. But for me this amount of bread overwhelmed the filling.

Their tacos are amazing little delights, each one a separate burst of flavor. (This too is where so many other NYC Mexican places get it wrong - all Mexican dishes shouldn't taste the same.) Clockwise from top, these are the camarón al chipotle (very spicy shrimp tacos), the carne asada (smoky grilled skirt steak), the carnitas (pork confit topped with sweet white onion), and the phenomenal rajas, roasted poblano pepper strips cooked with that fabulous cheese. This was a really intriguing combination. Usually you think of a creamy cheese as something to quell the spiciness of pepper, but when they're cooked together, the cheese has the effect of drawing it out.

Alas, there may be a shortage of authentic Mexican food in New York, but if you can locate Cotija cheese, here's a recipe for a Mexican salad for you. But if you're going to La Superior, here's your strategy:

  • Arrive early (7-ish). If there's a wait, you'll have to wait in line - they don't take cell phone numbers.
  • BYOB! There's a bodega around the corner with a good selection of beer.
  • Prices are crazy cheap.
  • Their idea of "decor" is a single string of colored lights. You're not here for the romance.
  • It's much easier to get a table on busy nights as a party of two than as a larger party.

La Superior
295 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Mexican Poblano and Tomato Salad

Mexican Cotija cheese isn't for sale at New York's fancy cheese emporiums, but you can find it in some corner bodegas. If your hunt for authentic cheese is successful, here's a recipe for a Mexican salad for you. It ran many years ago - in the LA Times, of course.

Mexican Poblano and Tomato Salad

4 poblano chiles
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
3 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 head butter lettuce
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
wedges of lime dipped in chile powder, for garnish

Roast the chiles on a gas burner or grill until charred all over. Place them in a Ziplock bag and close. Let them stand until cool, then slough off the charred skin. Core and seed them, then cut lengthwise into thin strips.

Toss the chiles with tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Arrange butter lettuce on four salad plates, top with pepper mixture, and sprinkle with Cotija cheese. Serve with lime wedges.

Serves 4.

Variation: If you can find requesón cheese, try substituting it for Cotija. Combine a 1/2 cup of requesón with the chili mixture, and instead of letting it all sit, heat it gently on the stove for about 5 minutes, until warmed through. Serve on top of cool butter lettuce, garnish with limes. Think of it as a salad version of La Superior's rajas.


TopShop Opening Day Photos

There were a lot of trendsters in line on the opening day for TopShop - in fact, there was more fashion outside than inside TopShop, due to the sheer volume of TopShop fans.

The biggest trend? Jean shorts in a variety of washes and cuts, often paired with tights and Doc Marten's. New York designers may be channeling the '80s right now, but this generation definitely seems to be having its own 1993 grunge moment.

Denim shorts: first sighting.

A more tailored version of jean shorts.

First male TopShop fan in line. He was dressed a lot like the TopShop guys in their uniform of cropped pants.

Bright colors continue to be a big spring trend.

A variety of footwear. The heels are killer, but I would probably go with the other two choices for standing in line for two hours.
The official TopShop male uniform. Love the socks and the blazer with piping.

Sir Philip Green, left.

Kate Moss in a green dress, her own design, blocked from view by a cop who promised paparazzi he would move out of the way when the time came. Thanks, buddy.

Doc Marten's, first sighting. Very appropriate for this occasion since they're a British brand.

A glam rock look.

This look is sort of lazy-post-collegiate. Very artfully done.

A couple in plaid.

The floral, feminine dress belted with a rough-looking leather belt is right on target. It echoed several of the Kate Moss Liberty prints inside.

Doc Marten's and plaid.

Model Coco Young. Her blazer is perfection! The shoulders are just strong enough without being overwhelming.

More Doc Marten-esque boots, this time paired with a stretchy black miniskirt.

The waiting game.

The ripped denim shorts paired with ripped tights and Doc Marten's are classic early '90s - but the feminine blouse and cool headphones place the whole outfit in this era.


Kate Lanphear in Paper Mag

There's an excellent photo of Elle editor and Gastro Chic style muse Kate Lanphear in this month's Paper Magazine in their "Beautiful People" issue, shot by Jiro Schneider. Here she poses with stylist Keegan Singh.

Look at this close up of her fabulous studded bracelets! From Hermes, naturally. The photo was styled with clothes and accessories courtesy of the mag, but this is true to what she wears in real life.

Love this portrait. For fashion week sightings of her, click here. And it's definitely worth picking up Paper Magazine to see the whole spread.



Pizza, pizza: it's cheap, delicious, and in the news—even making it into Page Six today via a Jimmy Fallon incident at Posto—an enviable feat for any food item. (Even burgers should be jealous.) Every time we turn around, a new pizza joint seems to be opening: Emporio, Spunto, Ignazio's, Sora Lella, Scuderia, Kesté Pizza & Vino, Tonda—and that's just within the last month.

Before you go chasing after the latest speck-inflected wonder, however, don't forget the classics, because the one thing pizza shouldn't be is trendy. A hot oven (wood- or coal-burning), 00 flour, the finest, freshest toppings and the correct technique are what go into the ideal pizza.

I had a madeleine moment when I bit into the pizza at Lucali's in Carroll Gardens for the first time last week—it transported me to a rustic little pizzeria outside Florence, years ago. The Italians would drive for miles to get to this place. And so it is at Lucali, where even at 7:15, the wait for a table for two is two hours. Don't go hating on the reverse bridge-and-tunnelers like me, though, for the wait—most of it is due to local fans who put their names in, then happily go home and wait.

In Lucali's open kitchen, which, because of the wood-burning oven, is more of an open hearth surrounded by a white marble countertop, the chef grates the bufala mozzarella by hand. The choices for toppings are traditional, not trendy. One particularly sublime ingredient is the pepperoni, which, according to Serious Eats, comes from Esposito's around the corner. This plus the onion was a fantastic combination--the sweetness of the onion contrasting with the smoky spiciness of the pepperoni. An excellent pizza is all about balance: the crispiness of the crust versus the chewy pockets of air at the edges, the tang of the sauce versus the creaminess of the cheese, then the high notes of basil and a little garlic. Lucali's achieves this and then some, since all of the ingredients are potent and fresh enough to stand on their own. The attention to detail is particularly impressive: there's a scant amount of freshly grated Parmesan sprinkled on top to give the cheese the slightest edge.

The ingredients aren't the only thing here with an excellent pedigree. Slice reports that the oven comes from defunct Leonardo's down the street, and owner Mark Iacono, who was raised in this once primarily Italian-American neighborhood, uses recipes from his Italian granny and aunts.

And guess what? The candlelit restaurant is actually romantic. There aren't very many romantic pizza restaurants in NYC, and this one lets you BYOB, so our tab came to about $30 for two.

Lucali's Strategy
  • Go early and put your name in. The hostess will take your cell number and call when your table's ready.
  • There aren't any bars right near by. A good option a couple blocks away is Court Street's Minibar, which has a nice selection of wines by the glass.
  • Dress as if you'll be sitting outside for a half hour or more in the cold, because you very well may be.
  • There is nothing on the menu but pizza and calzones. Literally.
  • Don't forget to bring your own wine. Small corkage fee - $4?
  • If all else fails, Lucali's also offers take out!
575 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11231