>> Eat the World NYC

12 December 2018

Lions & Tigers & Squares Detroit Pizza


Detroit-style pizza proves that the pizza emoji is not all-inclusive. In fact, it does not even begin to describe the experience of eating Detroit-style pizza. Humanity has a long way to go with such narrow-minded emoji options.

I often stay away from pizza supremacy battles. New Yorkers can be quite stubborn about what does and does not make a real slice. Folks like to have favorites and be passionate, I get it. My opinion about pizza is usually: "Yeah, I'll eat that."

I do have a soft spot for the thicker entries into the pizza lexicon, though have always been a bit underwhelmed by the most common of these in New York: the Sicilian square slice. It never had enough sauce for me.

Since early September I have had an ongoing repeat client right around the corner from Lions & Tigers & Squares, bringing me to this subway station at least twice a month. I cannot stop coming to this pizza joint, I just can't. So I figured I should finally talk about it, even though we do not do a whole lot of pizza on these pages.

Squares are cooked in industrial pans.

First of all, they do not sell slices, they sell squares. There is a good chance you will hear them have to explain that to a walk-in customer while you wait. Sold in a gut-busting giant rectangle cut into four "squares," bring a friend and share or come very hungry. In all the times I have tried, I have never finished the whole thing in one sitting. The closest I got was avoiding the crust on the last two slices, but then you kind of miss the point.

That crust is crispy and a little burnt and part of what makes the pizza from Detroit. The origins of this were cooking in industrial trays that were meant for other uses and had nothing to do with pizza, creating this unique shape and thickness. While the bottom and sides get crispy, the middle is still chewy and soft.

"The classic" is only $5.

An always generous layer of toppings is laid on top, with a nice double puddle of rich sauce. Most patrons seem to take the meatless "Classic" which turns out to be very economical, but other pies available include pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and a vodka sauce slice just in case you needed everything a little heavier.

Pepperoni $11.

I am officially addicted.

Lions & Tigers & Squares Detroit Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

11 December 2018

Roc's Café


It would be easy to drive past this little Portuguese bakery without noticing the delicious goods they have inside. The building looks like many others in the neighborhood, with one small change to the ground floor to make room for commercial space. This building has actually been home to a small shop with groceries and coffee and sandwiches for many years, but a 2017 renovation expanded the footprint of the ground floor and even added a small third floor.

The new space is home to Roc's Café, a small bakery offering the famous sweets of Portugal and a dozen sandwiches.

The pastéis de nata ($1.25 each, above) are great here, a little more charred than usual on the day we came but I actually prefer them this way. The flaky, buttery dough "cup" is heaven, holding within it the egg custard with plenty of cinnamon.

Also worth a try are these pastéis de tentugal ($1.50 each, below), wrapped dough so thin its browned edges almost appear to be paper. Inside again is a spiced custard, and as you can imagine by looking at it, this might be best eaten outside or with plenty of napkins at least.

I would love to come back here for lunch to try some of their creations like the feiras novas dog, a hot dog wrapped in ham and cheese and topped with a fried egg and potato sticks, or the most famous of Portuguese sandwiches called the bifana.

Roc's Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

10 December 2018

Café Esencia


Before Café Esencia came to be in real life, it was a Kickstarter campaign that promised a churro café inspired by La Convivencia, or "coexistence," a time period in southern Spain where cultures and cuisines merrily mixed and produced an "awesome flourishing of flavors, aromas, and essences." It is from this that they get their name as well, with the signature pinwheel of the churro spinning underneath the logo.

Before the afternoon sun passes overhead towards the west, the mornings here are filled with sun on clear days, making the small café quite pleasant and always bright. The few tables can fill up quickly if a couple groups are around, but stragglers can usually find a bar seat at the window if need be.

In the United States, churros are often associated with Latin Americans, who have developed a love for them and especially in cities can be seen hawking them on the street or on transit platforms. Before this became true though, the churros have existed in the Iberian Peninsula forever in different forms. Those known as porras ($4.5 for a "small" wheel, above), like the ones served here, are made with a lighter sourdough batter that contains no egg or dairy and is even vegan. Since this batter is much thinner, you will not see the familiar consistent extrusion and instead each creation looks unique as the dough takes a life of its own in the fryer.

The lightness of these is a gift, snacking on them does not leave your stomach heavy. Add the available cup of $1.75 milk chocolate for dipping. In Andalucia, you would also see folks dipping theirs into their coffee, so do not feel bad doing that either.

On certain days of the week they also make a limited amount of tortilla española (not shown), an egg dish not unlike quiche that takes the form of a cake. "Tortilla" does translate as "little cake" after all. Here they make it simply with potatoes and onions, and while it is not typically Andalucian it is definitely part of Spanish culture and cuisine and eaten everywhere in the country. On the days it is coming out of the kitchen here, come early or you will find it already sold out.

Café Esencia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

09 December 2018

United Nations African Mothers Association Annual African Buffet Luncheon


With only one stomach at my disposal, and one short meal to eat, the only trouble at this year's United Nations African Mothers Association annual luncheon was that I constantly had to decide what not to each much of. Everything was so delicious, as always, and a few new countries were on the menu. I could not have asked for much more.

This year's event took place on the 21st floor of the Consulate of Nigeria near the UN. Sun was pouring in the windows and the atmosphere was generally festive especially once the music was on. I arrived on the early side and took a seat at an empty table waiting for some other folks I knew that might want to join me, but was quickly joined instead by two Egyptians, a lady from Cape Verde, a South African, and a Libyan. No need to reserve seats when new friends could be made!

A modest $40 donation to the association was all it took to be a part of the meal.

In the program it is said that the foods are prepared by the wives of diplomats. I counted twelve nations amongst the available cuisines this year, with two more items going unidentified despite trying.

Here are some photos of the buffet feast. I think this is everything except the ndole from 🇨🇲 Cameroon and the koshary from 🇪🇬 Egypt. Things got a little frantic as the attendees got hungry and started attacking the buffet line:

🇳🇬 NIGERIA - Puff puffs and meat pies

🇧🇫 BURKINA FASO - Bean Cake

🇧🇫 BURKINA FASO - Chicken

🇨🇮 CÔTE D'IVOIRE - Chicken (on right)

🇨🇻 CABO VERDE - Grilled Salmon

🇷🇼 RWANDA - Boiled root vegetables

🇹🇿 TANZANIA - Pilau

🇱🇾 LIBYA - Couscous with lamb

Unidentified chicken

🇧🇯 BENIN - Bitter green stew with fufu

🇰🇪 KENYA - Baked potatoes and boneless chicken

🇩🇿 ALGERIA - Dates

🇩🇿 ALGERIA - Baklawa

🇨🇻 CABO VERDE - Sweet rice

Unidentified dessert

UNAMA Luncheon
The Consulate of Nigeria

08 December 2018

Istanbul Bay


On a chilly Friday night two and a half years into its life, Istanbul Bay was buzzing as hungry patrons waited for a large group to leave so they could all get tables in the relatively small restaurant. This location is the younger sister of the group that also runs the 16 year old restaurant on 86th Street in Gravesend that now has the same name. This good reputation seems to have come with them as I have rarely seen the restaurant empty since opening.

The menu is not unlike that of the other spot and many Turkish restaurants in Brooklyn, and has platters to make sampling many items in one order possible like the mixed appetizers ($17.95 large, above), a plate of eight items. A large puffy piece of bread fresh from their oven (see end of article) will have already arrived at the table ready to be torn apart and dipped into each.

Besides the bread, the oven is constantly churning out their very good pide, like the karisik pide (above), a combination of Turkish sausage (sucuk), lamb gyro, pastrami and mozzarella. Sometimes you will find pide translated to "Turkish pizza," and to be honest it makes you wonder why Domino's is in business when things like this are available.

You will have probably noticed the two beautiful spits of gyro meat when you enter, both of which seem even better here than at the original restaurant. Like the cold appetizer meze, the mixed grill ($23.95) is a great way to unlock a good portion of the meats menu for sampling.

The lamb gyro is underneath the rest here and unseen, but even without it the other cuts speak for themselves.

The wonderful complimentary dessert was a very nice finishing touch. This banana below was covered in a nutty sauce, crumbled pistachio, and both white and black sesame seeds before a drizzle of chocolate. Even though our table was thoroughly stuffed, this was no issue and disappeared immediately.

Fresh bread straight from the over to your table.

Coban salatasi ($12.50)

Istanbul Bay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

07 December 2018

Taqueria Nealtican


If North Jersey and New York City each submitted their 32 best to make a field of 64 for an Al Pastor March Madness, I am fairly certain that the Final Four would be all jersey trompos. If it were a World Cup, NYC trompos would not even get past the group stage. Walk up and down Bergenline Avenue eating them and you'll know what I mean.

For this reason, I slammed on the breaks when we saw the rotating beauty below at a small shop named after the small town in Puebla its owners are from. Trompos like this are hard to refuse.

While the food here might not end up in the World Cup final, it was still a worthy opponent that probably had a surprise draw in the group stage to surprise a heavyweight. Most of their taquitos, like the al pastor below, come in groups of 4 for $8. A few meats are a bit more at $10.

On "Taco Tuesday," an invention that usually inspires my hatred, they have chicken and al pastor taquitos for $1 apiece, but folks with big appetites should know that the limit is 16 per person. 16!

The other popular item here with many different versions is the alambre, a mixed dish of grilled meats, vegetables, and cheese. These come served on a plate with a side of tortillas. I will have to enjoy this dish from the Pueblan owners next time.

Taqueria Nealtican Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato