The Wharf (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): A View — With Food on the Side

Remember how I mentioned that people love to tell me where I must eat when I travel?

Well, The Wharf in New York‘s Rockaway Beach is certainly not one of those places.

Check it out, yes — I definitely heard that. With its outdoor dining deck with sweeping views of the water and Manhattan’s skyline in the distance, The Wharf’s vista for a sunset cocktail can’t be beat. But eat? We had read and heard enough about the food to know there were probably better restaurants in Rockaway Beach.

Even so, on a recent evening, as our cocktails on that famous deck were disappearing, the vaunted view was nudging us to stay.

How bad could the food truly be? We decided to find out …

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Apple-Cheese Meatloaf: Pretty Sweet Meat (And a Gourmet Jerky Giveaway)

At a recent “A Tiger in the Kitchen” reading at Powell’s Books in Beaverton, Oregon, a young man asked a question I’ve been getting a fair bit: “What’s your favorite thing to cook?”

It’s a sound question, given my book is a memoir told through food and cooking. And my answer always surprises people: “Meatloaf.”

Although Tiger is about a year I spent traveling to Singapore, where I was born, to rediscover my native culture by learning how to cook, in my Brooklyn kitchen, it’s often good old American meatloaf that I turn to when I’m looking for something easy, satisfying — and likely to yield lots of leftovers. My obsession with meatloaf began when I moved to the United States at age 18. I had never encountered this brick of meat before — it was truly exotic to me.

Since I mention this fact in the book, some readers have been awfully generous in sharing their prized meatloaf recipes. And when my book tour recently took me to Seattle, where I had a lovely catch up with a dear, dear friend, he happened to mention a magical meatloaf recipe that he adores.

The moment I saw the name of Russ’s recipe — “Apple Cheese Loaf” — I knew I had to try it …

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Ciano: A Night to Remember


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The idea had been to have dinner, plain and simple.

No thinking about writing about the dishes as we're eating. No scribbling of notes. No blogging. This was a celebration, after all. There should be no room at the table for work of any sort.

But the moment our food started arriving, the game plan changed. Ciano, the much-anticipated new restaurant by Shea Gallante (who greatly impressed critics and diners at the now-shuttered Cru, where he earned three stars from The New York Times' Frank Bruni), pretty much had me at shrimp balls.

From my first nibble of rock shrimp polpette ($8 for five), the deliciously warm one-inch balls stuffed with big chunks of shrimp, I was hooked. Out came the paper and pen and off we were …

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Riverpark: American, With A View


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The first sign that the newest Tom Colicchio restaurant in New York City is going to be a little different pops up the moment we step out of the cab at 29th and First.

The desolate street is so brightly lit it feels like we've dropped into an oddly quiet lull in a tense Cold War movie. It is discombobulating, to be sure — especially when we spy a sentry eying us suspiciously. He points, indicating that we should just keep walking down the road. And soon enough, signs of life appear when another uniformed guard toddles out of a tall metal building. The man is frantic, waving his hands and saying over and over, "NO pictures allowed."

This is a science park, after all, and Alexandria Building, the structure we've been snapping, houses a host of biotech tenants such as ImClone, the subsidiary of pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly that handles cancer research. The tenseness and growing paranoia persist until you walk across the stark silver lobby and come upon the warm glow of a sign that says "Riverpark."

And that's when you start to feel relieved. You're in the right place after all. Your camera hasn't been ripped from your hands and stomped on. Scully and Mulder haven't appeared. (Not that Mulder would be an unwelcome presence.) You've not been grabbed, shoved into a black sedan and spirited away.

You step into the restaurant and quintessential Colicchio starts to take over…

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Colicchio & Sons: Super-Rich Locavore


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Unless you’ve been in deep hibernation, if you live in New York and have been known to consume food, you’ve probably noticed that Tom Colicchio opened a new restaurant in Manhattan last week.

The breathless chatter over Colicchio & Sons in the Meatpacking District has been inescapable since the “Top Chef” judge announced that he was turning his ailing Craftsteak space into a locavore joint with a comfort food bent. (The restaurant is an offshoot of Colicchio’s popular Tom: Tuesday Dinner, a weekly 32-seat event in which Tom himself put together a $150 to $200 meal made with of-the-season ingredients.)

Now, being a big lover of red meat — even if I wasn’t exactly a fan of the concept of Craftsteak’s $100 steaks — I’m always a little morose whenever a steakhouse shutters.

If its replacement is a worthy one, however, that’s another matter.

We decided to investigate …

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The 12-Hour Bolognese


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I used to think Martha Stewart was high maintenance — but that was before I encountered Heston Blumenthal.

Yes, the man — chef/owner of the three Michelin-star Fat Duck in Bray, U.K. — is a molecular gastronomy genius responsible for tongue-boggling dishes like powdered anjou pigeon and scrambled egg and bacon ice-cream.  

But let’s take something like, say, bolognese, one of the most basic dishes in classic Italian cooking. It should be fairly easy to make … well, except that this is Blumenthal we’re talking about.

His bolognese recipe includes this instruction: “Cook for at least six hours.” And this would be taking place after a good two hours or so of cooking and prep work.

By the time my Blumenthal bolognese was done, it was 4:30 a.m. and the ragu had taken a total of 12 hours to make. I was mad at my oven, my bolognese — while also plotting a trip to Bray to give Blumenthal a piece of my mind.

But then I had my first spoonful of the ragu, a rich and muscular concoction that was beefy and hefty but also so, so, so sweet. Each morsel had just the slightest hint of licorice and the beef was so tender that I wondered if it was possible that I was actually feeling it melt on my tongue.

It was, in short, a joy to eat.

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Nutella-Ginger Cookies Only A Mother Could Love


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I have been yearning for butter ever since I saw Julie & Julia a few days ago.

From the first moment that I saw Meryl Streep as Julia Child drop a slab of butter onto a pan, my deep, deep hunger began.

It’s made me request extra pats of garlic butter to perch atop my steak in a French bistro and slather it so generously on bread that you could have omitted the bread and, honestly, I would not have noticed.

But, as Julia supposedly said, “With enough butter, anything is good.”

And it was this very spirit that led me to finally get off my tush and make the Nutella dessert that I had pledged to do when I signed up for The Nutella Challenge. (It’s a little exercise created by Paula at Bell’Alimento in which dozens of amateur bakers have agreed to come up with a dessert starring Nutella.)

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Big D’s Grill: Democratizing Food, One Wagyu Steak At A Time


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It’s peak dinnertime on a weeknight in Singapore and I’m perched on a rickety plastic stool at Big D’s Grill in Holland Village.

The tables are only somewhat clean. It’s so unbearably hot and humid in the food court-style coffee shop that an almost endless trickle of sweat is rolling down my face. And the rumbling din all around only crescendos as the tank-top and shorts-wearing crowd grows and flip-flopped hawkers race from table to table, barking out greetings and taking orders.

It’s hardly the setting where you’d expect to find some of the most satisfying (and, in some instances, inventive) Western dishes currently being served in Singapore. And yet, that’s exactly what you’ll get at Big D’s, a place that serves USD $33 wagyu rib-eye steaks and USD $8.20 snapper livornese from a tiny kitchen wedged between hawker stands that sell noodle dishes and fish soups for around USD $1.

Damian D’Silva, the owner/chef of Big D’s, is something of a man on a mission — and his quest is to bring high-end fare to
a swath of people who love good food but might be intimidated
by or don’t want to be bothered with going to a fancy French or Italian
restaurant. His hole-in-the-wall stall has been part of a growing number of places in hawker centers and other outdoor foodcourts that have been gradually democratizing the eating culture in Singapore simply by selling French, German or Eurasian dishes that one would typically find at higher prices in high-end restaurants in low-key, neighborhood settings.

Big D’s in particular, has been attracting big crowds and attention on the shoulders of Damian’s dishes — the New York Times, apparently, is about to run a feature on the place. (The restaurant’s Facebook page, Fans of Big D’s Grill, sent out an email blast last week urging customers to swing by and pad up the crowds last Friday for a planned photo shoot with a Times photographer.)

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I’ll Have The Genitals, Please


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There’s something a little inappropriate about Pho Sure/Baoguette, Michael
Huynh’s new Vietnamese noodle-slash-sandwich joint in the West Village.

There are the kneeling Vietnamese maidens in barely-there tops plastered all over the wallpaper in a comely repeat pattern. And then, there’s the bull’s penis, practically waving at you from the menu. 

Yes, that would be the sliced up genitals of a bull served either with pho or a simmering hot bowl of soup.

Feel uncomfortable yet?

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