THE SPICY WONTONS at M SHANGHAI BISTRO & DEN: I love you peanut, I really do. You held my hand, firmly, but gently, through my first foray into Asian food, in the late 70's as I gobbled down copious sticks of Chicken Satay in Peanut Sauce, proud that this adventure into (ultimately not very adventurous, or even spicy) food, was in my mind my first mastering of Asian cuisine.
Cut to now, and I still love you, and I'm firmly addicted to the succulent pork wontons, covered in a rich, smooth peanut sauce at M Shanghai Bistro and Den. A buttery, pure velvet stream of peanut silk, with a big hit of Chili Oil.
You know when you're heading home after work, and you start thinking of dinner, and a dish pops into your head— and you can't do anything but drive off the highway and head right there? This is one of those dishes. Have it with the Crispy Duck in Plum sauce, (it's called the Crispy Duck Erik Parker style) with Rice to soak up the sauces, and a cold glass of white. I'm convinced you could make this dish at home too... perhaps try melting down your favorite Peanut Butter... Add Chili Oil... Throw in your favorite dumpling... Toss! (I'm going to try it).
For more info on the M Shanghai Den, check here.
THE LOBSTER ROLL from RED HOOK LOBSTER POUND: I'm not from Maine. Not even close. I have no idea what a traditional Maine lobster roll is meant to taste like. I hear it has Mayo, chives and a chiffonade of fresh Basil? So I call Scott DeSimon. He's a friend, a food writer and editor (he works at Bon App), and he's from Maine. For me, I want to squeeze a tiny bit of fresh lemon on this lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound, and a tiny bit more mayo, but that's me. I'm not connected to Maine, at all. Clueless, really.
Scott tells me that there are traditionally two versions of roll from Maine. The first kind is the traditional Mayo “lobster salad” version. It generally just has Mayo…and that’s it. No veggies or chiffonade. (Remember, he points out, until about 10-15 years ago lobster rolls were not “fancy”. The fanciness has come in the last decade or so). The other version (the kind his mom loves) is one he remembers seeing more of as a kid. It’s essentially a bunch of lobster meat in a grilled bun, served with a side of melted butter that you dump all over the thing before you eat. Jesus! Sounds incredible! Both, however, are always served on split, New England-style hot dog rolls, buttered and grilled. Mayo-style Maine Lobster rolls generally get a sprinkle of paprika before serving. As does the Red Hook Lobster Pound roll and personally, I’d possibly flick the green (sliced scallions?) and scrape the red paprika stuff off the top, and have it without, but that’s just me. (Me, not from Maine). The bun though, Oh my god. Whatever young soul is responsible for crisply frying this blanket around the spongy pods of lobster, should be sainted. I think that’s the key with the Red Hook Lobster Pound roll; eat it whole. Resist the temptation to pick off the lobster chunks (like I did) and be left with the bun. All the combinations work best—together.
Eat the Lobster roll with the Maine Lemon Lime Root Beer also available from the truck. Wow. What a perfect combination!
For info on how to get a Maine style Lobster roll from the Red Hook Pound Lobster Truck - check here. (Have I mentioned I'm now diligently following around the truck, and it's rolls, on Twitter?)
To read some of Scott DeSimon's work, check here.
THE BURGER, at DINER, STH WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: With all due respect, when Killian Fox, from the Observer in London named Little Owl restaurant in New York as having the best burger in the world. I had to ask if he was possibly drunk, (or at least a bit tiddly?) Diligently though, I headed off to Little Owl and tried the burger. It was 16 bucks, it was raining outside, but it was way over-salted inside that burger and to add insult to injury it was covered with a slice of plastic yellow processed cheese. Barely melted. Deep yellow, cloying, the kind that sticks to the roof of your mouth.
It's true, I have not eaten every burger in the entire world. Not even close. (Although I'd surely like to!). But I'd hasten to add that if you want to try something that in my mind might come pretty close, it's the Burger at Diner, Williamsburg, in Brooklyn. The grass fed meat, the seasoning, the bun, the chips, the crunchy tangy pickled onions, the homemade Mayo and the melted cheese (a Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar). It's glorious! Sidle up to the bar, have Julia pull you a chilled local Beer and indulge. Then write a postcard to Killian (they give you a free postcard when you get your check), and let him know where you are, and what you're eating, (and that you're not even the slightest bit tiddly, and not even close to being drunk).
Info on Diner can be found here.