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.
37 St. Marks Place, at Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
61 Lexington Avenue, between 25th & 26th Streets
New York, NY 10010
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
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)
- The Replacements, Bastards of Young
- The Velvet Underground, Here She Comes Now
- David Bowie, Modern Love
- Husker Du, Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely
- New York Dolls, Looking for a Kiss
- Big Star, I'm in Love With a Girl
- The Jesus and Mary Chain, Taste of Cindy (Acoustic Version)
- The Rolling Stones, Tops
- The Velvet Underground, Pale Blue Eyes
- Nick Lowe, So It Goes
- Crowded House, Don't Dream It's Over
- Lou Reed, Satellite of Love
- The Cure, Just Like Heaven
- Judas Priest, Breaking the Law
- Yo La Tengo, Farewell Adventureland
- The Replacements, Unsatisfied
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.
295 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
Top analysts concur that as the demand for bad food lessens, many restaurants serving bad food are vulnerable to closure. Applebee's franchise owner Zane Tankel once considered his only competition to be the inimitable Olive Garden, but:
“We’ll see some weeding out,” he said one recent lunch hour, sitting in a near-empty Applebee’s dining room overlooking 42nd Street. Noting a restaurant above him and another across the street, he said, “One of the three of us is not going to be here.”Will Manhattan's dining scene survive without Applebee's? Where will local heroes like Plaxico Burress eat before putting a loaded weapon into the elastic waistband of their pants? If such pinnacles of New York fine cuisine fall prey to the recession, the future looks grim indeed.
NYT: Empty Tables Threaten Some Restaurant Chains
If I had to do it again, I would just buy clothes in my size (TopShop's run small - buy a size up from your regular American size), try them on at home, and return the rejects. You have up to a month to return your purchases, and unlike Forevs 21, TopShop actually gives you your money back, not store credit.
So here's the ice cream scoop top, one of four items bought. Kinda Sonia Rykiel-ish, but only $65. Was it all worth it? I don't know. But I did notice the ice cream cone top was sold out by the time I left, and it's not available online.
Crowd inside in a shopping-induced haze. Excellent DJs blast Belle & Sebastian and The Smiths. Free manicures on one floor, free updos on another. This is not your grandma's store opening. This is shopping as spectacle.
Sequins, fringe, acid wash: definitely not need-based clothes and accessories. Many items are over $100. Yet people are in line for the dressing room with 10 or more items. One woman strips down on the floor in front of a mirror and tries her clothes on there.
And the top floor of TopShop? Shopping nirvana: the shoes.
Wondering why there's more traffic out to the Holland when I realize: evening rush hour has started. Total time in line: 1 hr 51 mins.
Taco truck across the street. So. Far. Away.
Inexplicably, the woman ahead of me buys a $5 TopShop gift card from someone...for $5.
But it's always entertaining to hear the paparazzi's fashion and beauty commentary:
On a woman walking by in this season's red-orange lipstick: She looks like that bird from Florida.
On a not-very-attractive woman with bright purple hair: Because when you look that good, you wanna draw a lot of attention to yourself.
On a large lady leaving from the same door Kate would eventually come out of: That's not her!
Scene: Very crowded, line wrapping all the way around the block down to Grand St. No sign of Kate.
Equipment: iPhone, 2 cameras, Flip video
Overheard: "I thought everyone was broke!"
Check out this delicious Hayden Harnett Ibiza Convertible Flight Tote ($200) in saturated purple.
And this cheerful yellow "Emily Shopper" by Francesco Biasia ($198).
Convertible bags are all the rage now, and this Nine West Justine Medium Flap bag is only $89. Why? It's not made of leather, but it sure is hard to tell the difference.
It seems like designers are reinterpreting "flash," taking it from flashy logos and translating it into a flash of color instead. Note that all these bags make a statement with their shape and color - not their name brands. Bravo.
Lo and behold, what should we discover from a source there but that a new club Griffin is opening in the old PM space in late April. It will have an "antiquey" theme with fancy, expensive cocktails - $18 for a regular drink, $26 for a "specialty cocktail" (because the $18 cocktails aren't special enough?). If the bartender training at Little Branch is any indication, Sasha Petraske seems to be consulting on the cocktail menu.
The PM space is a great one, but the question remains - will the same dude who usually orders five Ketel One and sodas instead opt for for two gin rickeys, two Moscow mules, and something made with egg whites for $18-$26 a drink when the crowd is three deep at the bar? Let's hope not.