<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d24490212\x26blogName\x3dThe+Porkchop+Express\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_HOSTED\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://www.porkchop-express.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://www.porkchop-express.com/\x26vt\x3d6360860890559328271', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script><!-- --><div id="flagi" style="visibility:hidden; position:absolute;" onmouseover="showDrop()" onmouseout="hideDrop()"><div id="flagtop"></div><div id="top-filler"></div><div id="flagi-body">Notify Blogger about objectionable content.<br /><a href="http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=1200"> What does this mean? </a> </div></div><div id="b-navbar"><a href="http://www.blogger.com/" id="b-logo" title="Go to Blogger.com"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/logobar.gif" alt="Blogger" width="80" height="24" /></a><div id="b-sms" class="b-mobile"><a href="sms:?body=Hi%2C%20check%20out%20The%20Porkchop%20Express%20at%20porkchop-express.blogspot.com">Send As SMS</a></div><form id="b-search" name="b-search" action="http://search.blogger.com/"><div id="b-more"><a href="http://www.blogger.com/" id="b-getorpost"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_getblog.gif" alt="Get your own blog" width="112" height="15" /></a><a id="flagButton" style="display:none;" href="javascript:toggleFlag();" onmouseover="showDrop()" onmouseout="hideDrop()"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/flag.gif" name="flag" alt="Flag Blog" width="55" height="15" /></a><a href="http://www.blogger.com/redirect/next_blog.pyra?navBar=true" id="b-next"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_nextblog.gif" alt="Next blog" width="72" height="15" /></a></div><div id="b-this"><input type="text" id="b-query" name="as_q" /><input type="hidden" name="ie" value="UTF-8" /><input type="hidden" name="ui" value="blg" /><input type="hidden" name="bl_url" value="porkchop-express.blogspot.com" /><input type="image" src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_search_this.gif" alt="Search This Blog" id="b-searchbtn" title="Search this blog with Google Blog Search" onclick="document.forms['b-search'].bl_url.value='porkchop-express.blogspot.com'" /><input type="image" src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_search_all.gif" alt="Search All Blogs" value="Search" id="b-searchallbtn" title="Search all blogs with Google Blog Search" onclick="document.forms['b-search'].bl_url.value=''" /><a href="javascript:BlogThis();" id="b-blogthis">BlogThis!</a></div></form></div><script type="text/javascript"><!-- var ID = 24490212;var HATE_INTERSTITIAL_COOKIE_NAME = 'dismissedInterstitial';var FLAG_COOKIE_NAME = 'flaggedBlog';var FLAG_BLOG_URL = 'http://www.blogger.com/flag-blog.g?nav=1&toFlag=' + ID;var UNFLAG_BLOG_URL = 'http://www.blogger.com/unflag-blog.g?nav=1&toFlag=' + ID;var FLAG_IMAGE_URL = 'http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/flag.gif';var UNFLAG_IMAGE_URL = 'http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/unflag.gif';var ncHasFlagged = false;var servletTarget = new Image(); function BlogThis() {Q='';x=document;y=window;if(x.selection) {Q=x.selection.createRange().text;} else if (y.getSelection) { Q=y.getSelection();} else if (x.getSelection) { Q=x.getSelection();}popw = y.open('http://www.blogger.com/blog_this.pyra?t=' + escape(Q) + '&u=' + escape(location.href) + '&n=' + escape(document.title),'bloggerForm','scrollbars=no,width=475,height=300,top=175,left=75,status=yes,resizable=yes');void(0);} function blogspotInit() {initFlag();} function hasFlagged() {return getCookie(FLAG_COOKIE_NAME) || ncHasFlagged;} function toggleFlag() {var date = new Date();var id = 24490212;if (hasFlagged()) {removeCookie(FLAG_COOKIE_NAME);servletTarget.src = UNFLAG_BLOG_URL + '&d=' + date.getTime();document.images['flag'].src = FLAG_IMAGE_URL;ncHasFlagged = false;} else { setBlogspotCookie(FLAG_COOKIE_NAME, 'true');servletTarget.src = FLAG_BLOG_URL + '&d=' + date.getTime();document.images['flag'].src = UNFLAG_IMAGE_URL;ncHasFlagged = true;}} function initFlag() {document.getElementById('flagButton').style.display = 'inline';if (hasFlagged()) {document.images['flag'].src = UNFLAG_IMAGE_URL;} else {document.images['flag'].src = FLAG_IMAGE_URL;}} function showDrop() {if (!hasFlagged()) {document.getElementById('flagi').style.visibility = 'visible';}} function hideDrop() {document.getElementById('flagi').style.visibility = 'hidden';} function setBlogspotCookie(name, val) {var expire = new Date((new Date()).getTime() + 5 * 24 * 60 * 60 * 1000);var path = '/';setCookie(name, val, null, expire, path, null);} function removeCookie(name){var expire = new Date((new Date()).getTime() - 1000); setCookie(name,'',null,expire,'/',null);} --></script><script type="text/javascript"> blogspotInit();</script><div id="space-for-ie"></div>

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ali's Roti Shop

Did you see the movie Memento? It starts at the end and ends at the beginning. Which is almost as dopey a hook as opening a food review with the line: crackheads are strong as hell.
Flavor Brain Trust: chef Nisha (right) and her compadre make with the tasty

It's true tho. Or so I was thinking after leaving Ali's Roti Shop on Flatbush. Turns out that while I was breaking bread (dahl?) with the employees, a crackhead had been chatting up my buddy for a solid half-hour. And she had the grip of Ilie Nastase, Original Flavor, and that LOTR Dwarf combined.
Service and smiles

None of which really has anything to do with Ali's Roti. Nor does it speak to their charm: solid Trinidadian fare served in a welcoming space at reasonable prices. Their success (13 years in Brooklyn, 3 at this location) starts with the wraps themselves: distinctive, unusually fluffy and chewy. Their freshness is evident. And while these roti work wonders as sauce sponges, they also hold shape – no mean feat with such hearty flavors packed inside.
Caribbean Burrito? A few roti from Ali...
Including (l-r) goat, chicken...
...and shrimp with dahl

Ali's has a soulful flavor which comes thru in the food. The sauces eschew strong spicing and curries for a stick-to-rib meatiness and rich flavors: mild-style shrimp with potato and lentil, or plump (to the point of beefy) curry goat. These were both tasty, but chicken was the tops: an aromatic allspice gravy tempered by just enough coconut milk to provide richness without excessive sweetness. My only real regret was the lack of heat, so make sure you ask for some of their fine homemade green chili sauce. Then place your order, and see if you can resist dipping a finger before your roti arrives.
Don't get it twisted: that's Ali's on Flatbush, dun!

Here's another piece of advice: when checking out Ali's Roti, make sure you have an address. This is because “Ali” is a popular Trinidadian name and at least three native sons make roti in this area. To wit, this Ali has another spot on Utica, and is cousins with another famous roti Ali (on Fulton). That said, this Ali's digs are unique.That's because this Ali's digs are pretty happening, a far cry from the check-cashing plexi-glass closet-sized spots that we have frequented of late. If ever a roti joint induced chilling, this was it: plenty of tables, airy bright space, sleek comfortable furniture, not-too-loud tunes. The hanging t-shirts (from a local painter) and concert tickets on sale even give it a nice artistic, community vibe. Hence the feeling that hits you upon entering: come in, kick back, and get ready to roti.

Ali's Roti Shop
589 Flatbush Avenue (nr. Midwood St), Brooklyn

Hours: daily from lunch time til around 10 (7 on Sundays)

Roti will set you back (up?) for around $7 or $8, depending on your choice of filling.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Immaculee Bakery

Our search for Caribbean food in Brooklyn goes something like this: enter a promising spot only to discover they have already sold out most of their food that day; taste one 'Chop-Worthy Dish (CWD) that inspires a follow-up visit; when returning, stumble across a different spot that also... You see the problem, friend? It's a vicious-delicious circle: a quixotic search for delicious without clear beginnings, definitive ends or guaranteed meals.

That said, some places are consistent. They always serve that one treat that keeps us on the comeback no matter where we're headed. Exhibit A? The patties at Immaculee Bakery.
Small patty has big heart! Beef...
...and Fish always come correct

This tiny Haitian store is easy to overlook: small, unobtrusive, cramped. And contrary to their business card (that lists a baker's dozen specialties) they seem to offer only a handful of eats at any given time. But we could honestly care less, so long as they keep baking the best patties we've had in Brooklyn. Now I know what you're saying good reader: “But Slab, patties suck. They taste like gooey cardboard tacos slow-baked in a tanning bed.” I hear you; I've suffered through similar mishaps. But trust us on this one, what Immaculee serves bears little-to-no resemblance. Start with the crust: rich, flaky, buttery, hand-rolled (the French influence is evident). And the fillings? Simple, modest, delicious: tender fish (not too fishy, mildly spicy) and a wonderful beef (rich, savory, studded with onions). As for the price? Sooo nice. At 75¢, these are one of the five boroughs' Best Flavor Deals.
Now this being a bakery Immaculee is literally stuffed with bread – rolls, white loaves, flat 'biscuit'. The harder you look, the more you find: coco buns (sweet, spiced, dense, chewy, chock full o' coconut) stacked in a corner; dry, sweet, meringue-ish cookies under the counter; giant white milky mints in a jar. Turn to the fridge and you'll come across several homemade drinks in thick glass bottles: sweet syrupy bright-yellow jus au citron; creamy chocolate milk; and something called cornmeal ($2.25). I'm not entirely sure how to describe this last one. It is... unusual. Thick, milky, faintly chalky. It tastes kinda like someone spiked the “Maalox” with vanilla. To be honest, I wasn't really a fan until I brought a bottle home and, on a whim and a hope, added a shot of Barbancourt Haitian Rum. This isn't the stuff of obsessions, but it did taste pretty good - almost like a lighter, less spicy eggnog. (With corn.)
Nick Zemy with the welcoming vibe

At three years old Immaculee is a relatively babe in these Flatbush woods, but they are clearly here to stay. Anite Joseph runs the bustling bakery with her husband, Raymond Zemy and his son Nick. Nick is often behind the counter, serving a steady stream of customers and helping with personalized cake orders. He was also a good sport when fielding my dopey questions. Our only misunderstanding? For several weeks I was under the impression Immaculee made a rum cake. After 4 or 5 successive visits (and 8 or 10 successive patties) it turned out they do not, in fact, sell rum cake. Which left me rather despondent, until I saw a tray of beef patties arriving fresh from the oven. And, gentle reader, nothing says consolation quite like a piping hot patty. Which is to say, even cloudy days at Immaculee have mighty tasty linings.

Immaculee Bakery
1411 Nostrand Ave (nr. Linden Blvd), Brooklyn
(718) 941-2644

Hours: Unclear. Just try and get there when the patties come out of the oven.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

$2... I want my $2!!

On the off chance you're curious, click the pages above to read a (scanned) copy of our letter to Kettle Foods Inc. regarding their "Island Jerk" flavor Krinkle Cut Potato Chips.

No reply yet, but we remain optimistic.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Oil and Olé

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia a pig (image courtesy of Phaidon Press)

These days Spanish food seems hot-to-trot, and quite the Zelig. Consider its range, broad and brash, from homey to healthy to highfalutin: roast pork and marinated olives; liquid nitrogen peaches and Rice Krispy paella; small plate (slur that “s”) tapas galore. So upon receiving word of Phaidon Press's newest foreign culinary “Bible,” I expected big things. After all, 1080 Recipes has been Spain's bestselling cookbook for over 30 years and, per the publisher, remains “essential reading in every Spanish household.” They are no less effusive with the adjectives: “astonishing,” “definitive,” “traditional,” “the greatest.” Chicken Soup for the Spanish Soul? Or hot Iberian hooey?

For what it's worth, Phaidon's previous cookbooks have been largely successful. Each tome is heavy, definitive, and culturally apropos. Italy's Silver Spoon meanders with puckish charm and confidence, a granparent's culinary tour of The Boot. France's Pork & Sons treads a delicious Gallic line between whimsy and self-indulgence, never losing sight of its reverance for all things Porcine. As for Spain's 1080 Recipes? A bit harder to peg.
1 Shrimp (head-on), 4 Cups “Blood of My Enemies” (image courtesy of Phaidon Press)

After all, I was expecting matadors, mustaches and swarthy gastronomic affairs. But 1080 is notably subdued, even utilitarian. (Authors Simone and daughter Inés Ortega were not, I assume, paid by the word.) At first glance, the recipes seem almost perfunctory: open can of tomato sauce here, stir mayo there. Such staid tone strikes an odd contrast to Javier Mariscal's newly-commissioned line drawings. The Catalan illustrator has an enjoyably perverse sense of humor, and his bright targets enliven the pages: stately duck, smiling lamb's skull, a knife collection out of Dead Ringers, wine bottles galore, and one (Spanish?) calf's heart.

This disconnect between artist and author suggests, if nothing else, that things have changed in Spain. 1080 first arrived in 1972 when the nation was in flux, relative prosperity on the eve of economic crash and a dictator's demise. And the text itself seems a product of these times: cautious abundance under Franco's looming specter. Yet beneath the restraint lies comfort, a surprising – almost stubborn – elegance, and appreciable accessibility. Which is to say, it works.
When evaluating a cookbook I tend to fall back on three criteria: do the recipes succeed; would I use them; and what do they teach me about the food and/or culture in focus? In brief, yes; yes; and Spanish sausage, ham and saffron are terrific ingredients. But with over a thousand options where to begin? We opened on a winner: #718 Beef with tomatoes and olives, a lovely fork tender stew ennobled by a robust cup of prosciutto's musky, meaty cousin Serrano.
#434 (Bell peppers stuffed with meat and rice) was a lesser accomplishment. They sure looked impressive – towering infernos of beef bathed in light tomato broth – but the saffron was lost in an otherwise dense equation, and the pocket of rice didn't fully cook.
#20 proved luckier. These Stuffed mushrooms were a favorite recipe, and one to which we have since returned. They also make superlative use of ham, the centerpiece of a rich filling both tempered and enhanced by fresh lemon juice.
Other recipes proved equally crowd-pleasing. #554 Red porgy baked with garlic, parsley, and vinegar tasted as good as it looks: light, aromatic and ever-so-slightly acidic, infused with fennel and baked on a bed of potatoes and olive oil. The finished product was impressive without being overbearing, a recipe characterized by the clarity and freshness of its flavors.
After a few relatively healthy dishes we were in the mood to clog some artery. On that front #976 Apple fritters did not disappoint. Alas, the thick, sticky batter was cumbersome, especially to wrap around rum-soaked apple slices. We ended up foregoing the fruit to fry up quick donuts. (Mmmm... donuts.)
#1009 Catalan cream proved a bit more manageable and even more enjoyable. This smooth, citric take on brulée was suprisingly light and refreshing, a delicate swan song to our experiment. More significantly, it clarified why I came to appreciate Ortega's efforts: her recipes satisfy without fanfare. Furthermore, she offers staid, time-tested rejoinders to the current wave of Spanish culinary hype. And because 1080 is so completely devoid of trendiness or pretension, its charm unfolds rather naturally. If you're trying to impress Mr. Tapas or the El Buli crowd look elsewhere. But if simple, authentic, accessible food strikes your fancy, this should not disappoint. What's more, Ortega's humorlessness actually yields a good deal of culinary fun. In the end, her taciturn style offers something of a respite: the recipes – all 1,080 – are left to speak for themselves.
Catalan cream
(adapted from 1080 Recipes with permission of Phaidon Press)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons starch (preferably potato)
Bring the milk, zest and 4 T of sugar just to a boil. In a bowl, beat the yolks with 2 T of sugar and the starch. Slowly stir in the hot milk. Return mixture to low heat, and stir for 5 minutes (until thick). Strain into small dishes and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Before serving, sprinkle remaining sugar and caramelize with a torch (a nice hot broiler works in a pinch). Then kick back with some Chick Corea and enjoy.

You can find additional recipes here at the Phaidon website. And if you're ready to take the plunge, you can order a nicely discounted copy at Amazon.