It was my birthday on Sunday (me, MLK, Captain Beefhart, Mario Van Peebles) and my main intention for the weekend was to eat a lot of good food. To which I succeeded.
The grub train started Friday afternoon with lunch at the Fatty Crab, the Meatpacking district Malaysian spot run by Zac Pelaccio, who also helms the kitchen at 5 Ninth (and Williamsburg’s defunct, missed Chickenbone Cafe). It’s a tiny place that I’m sure gets totally slammed at night, but the Fatty Crab is usually nice and relaxed during lunch. I work nearby so I go there fairly frequently.
Like Momofuku and Tia Pol, Fatty Crab takes a country’s unpretentious, everyday cuisine and dresses it up with, perhaps, better raw ingredients. It’s hard not to order the Malaysia on a plate that is Nasi Lemak (impossibly tender curried chicken leg over curried rice, surrounded by various sweet, sour, salty and spicy things, and a barely poached egg), but I instead got the Fatty Tea Sandwiches (three little crustless ones filled with braised pork belly and sambal mayo), the kang kong blanchan (Chinese water spinach with a very funky sauce) and a variation on their grilled squid salad, now made with in-season scallops. Everything was great, and they don’t tone down the spicing for round-eyes (maybe it’s because only round-eyes work there). The music on the stereo always surprises me. While I was there I heard Mos Def, the Cure, Iggy Pop, Dead Kennedys, David Bowie, Cypress Hill, the Eurythmics, Bloc Party and the Smiths.
Friday night I went to Crash Mansion to see Moi?, the band my friend Chris plays bass for. They are pretty hilarious, in a Darkness kind of way, though much more obviously funny. Frontman Royce Peterson really plays up the spandex rock star thing. The band after them was billed as "Wyld Stalyns" and rumors were going around that this was actually The Strokes. No such luck, but it was a pseudonym for some awful band called Ghost Station who sounded like Oasis. Maybe they get more people to come when not playing under their own name.
I headed back to Williamsburg and stopped by Snacky. Sandy’s cousin Vivian was visiting from London which always means good food is around. Vivian, in addition to speaking like five languages, is about as culinary knowledgeable as anyone I know and spend most of her trips to NYC in search of deliciousness.
She had bought a Vacherin Mont-d’Or at a local cheese shop — a raw milk cheese available this time of year that is illegal in the States but if you know the secret sign at certain places you can get it. I couldn’t stop eating it… so good! This cheese will turn you into drooling Homer Simpson. It’s that good.
Saturday I took the bus to IKEA to buy a TV stand, as I was getting
a new HDTV delivered the next weekend (albeit an old-fashioned cathode
ray tube one, but HDTV nonetheless). My old TV had been sitting on a
tall crate procured from a previous roommate, and my stereo was in one
of those old-fashioned tall racks people used when they had CD players
and cassette decks, etc, and not just a computer. They were tall and
I settled on the Magiker, which holds all my stereo components, my
cable box, DVD player and videogame systems very neatly and
attractively. It is not an easy item to get home by yourself, however.
Don’t try it! While at IKEA I had some meatballs and lingonberry soda. Do try it!
Kate came over and helped me put the thing together and we had pizza from Fornino delivered (the Potate E Salsiccia: fennel sausage, fingerling potatoes, fontina and cherry tomatoes), which was pretty good I must say, and watched a couple DVR’d episodes of My Name is Earl.
Then at the stroke of midnight, my birthday, we went to Snacky where
Sandy had gotten me a cheesecake! I was jam-full of pizza but I managed
to polish off a thin slice.
Best of all was Sunday. Sandy and her boyfriend Craig, Vivian,
myself and three other friends went out to Spicy & Tasty in
Flushing, Queens for an enormous late lunch. People are scared to go
to Flushing, maybe because it’s the last stop on the 7 Train, but it
takes maybe half an hour to get out there from Williamsburg, taking
either the G or the 61 bus and transferring to the 7.
Spicy & Tasty is my favorite Chinese restaurant in all of NYC and
is basically Szechuan with some creative flourishes here and there.
Whatever you do, don’t skip the Cold Appetizer portion of the menu.
This is where some of the most delicious items on the extensive menu
are found. The guy who handles them, who we dubbed the App-Master, is a
genius. Bamboo Shoots with wild pepper; giant clam with wasabi sauce;
pork belly in chile oil; cucumber in garlic sauce; smoked tofu and
celery; smoked eggplant in tomato sauce, the mysterious but delicious "mountain vegetable"… all kick ass. (Some of these are featured in the picture on the right.)
It’s good to have people who speak Chinese with you when you go but is
not necessary. Sandy and Vivian consulted with the server for what
seemed like ten minutes. They noticed a special listed on the wall in
Chinese for homemade sausage. This was amazing, loaded with Szechuan
peppercorns that numb your mouth and make water taste like electricity.
Our cooked courses included Ma La Lamb (both Szechuan and typical hot
chiles), pork belly (again) with chiles and rice powder (unimpressive
at first but got better the more you ate it), pea shoots sauteed with
garlic, classic Szechuan dish Ma Po Tofu (soft bean curd in a spicy
ground pork sauce), and a whole steamed fish in a spicy pepper sauce
that was to-the-moon good. The fish bones were sucked dry like ribs and
the head was deconstructed to get out every tasty morsel. All this food, plus a round of beer for all seven of us, was only $167! I dare you to do better, dollars-to delicious. (I took loads of pictures but when I got home I realized I’d accidentally bumped the settings on my camera, causing most of the shots to be blurry. Crud.)
Afterward, I went home, watched The Constant Gardener on DVD and fell into a deep food-induced coma. The most delicious birthday yet.