Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DiFara Pizza

In the city and the outer boroughs, many people think that any and all pizza is "Good New York Pizza," but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, I've had the best pizza of my life in New York, but I’ve also had the worst. Finding good pizza in New York is like finding good Chinese food in your neighborhood – an ongoing quest (and one that doesn’t look like it’ll ever end well out here in Astoria, at least on the Chinese front). But I think the search for the perfect pizza may have finally come to an end. Last weekend we visited DiFara Pizza, in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, and it was easily the best pizza we’ve ever had in our lives.

First, a little bit of history about Di Fara:

The owner and sculptor of all the pizza made here is a little old man named Domenico De Marco. He emigrated to Brooklyn from the Province of Caserta, Italy, in 1959, and shortly after he opened a small hole-in-the-wall pizza joint on Avenue J and 14th street with his business partner Farina. On creating a name for their restaurant, the partners decided to combine their own - Di for De Marco, and Fara, for Farina. The name lives on, but in 1978 De Marco bought out his partner and continued running the pizza joint that it is today.

When you walk into Di Fara there will invariably be a number of other people already cramped up front, waiting for their pizza, admiring the work that Mr. De Marco is doing, and eyeing the tables, looking for a spot to free up. The place itself is nothing special, almost divey, and there are only a handful of tables and chairs messily strewn around.

Upon entering you have to make your way up to the counter and ask to be put on the list for a pie (considering slices are $5 apiece, while a pie is comparably lower at $25, it doesn’t make sense to get anything else). We placed an order for a pepperoni pizza at 12:15, just 15 minutes after the place had opened, and we were told it would take about 45 minutes for our pie to be ready. The reason for the long wait is that Mr. De Marco makes every single pizza by hand, and each pie is made fresh to order. It is a truly amazing to watch this man make pizza. It's almost as if he was born for the sole purpose of putting these beautiful pies together so delicately and artfully. People kept flowing in steadily, but Mr. De Marco maintained an even pace, moving no faster or slower than when there were less people in the shop.

After waiting for slightly over and hour, starving, Alex and I began to wonder if the pizza would be worth it. Although we were able to drive to DiFara in less than half an hour, we usually don’t have a car at our disposal so a trip here would definitely take over an hour at any other time. Luckily we didn’t have to ponder much longer. At around 1:30 they finally called out our name and we approached the counter to pick up our pizza. The pie comes out bubbling from the wood fired stove and Mr. De Marco clips fresh basil over the pizza, then spreads a liberal handful of Parmesan cheese over the top. The final touch is a moderate dousing of olive oil, poured from an old tin can that looks like it was once used to water plants.

Then the eating began.

When I tell you that this was the most amazing pizza I have ever eaten, I am not lying. Not only was this the most amazing pizza I have ever eaten, it is one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten, period.

Usually I like to fold my pizza in half, like a taco, but the crust was so crispy and crusty that it was impossible to fold. You can literally hold the crust at one end and the pizza will remain completely flat in the air on the other. Upon the first bite, Alex and I just looked at each other in amazement - there was no question that this was the best pizza we had ever eaten. All of the flavors were right up front, but none shined any more than the others. The sweet tang of the tomato sauce, the bitter bite of the cheese, the freshness of the basil and the earthiness of the olive oil all combined to create sheer pizza perfection.

It was so incredible we proceeded to eat the entire pie all to ourselves. We may have waited for our pizza 5 times as long as it took us to finish it, but I would honestly wait twice as long for food this good.

The pepperoni pie cost $27, which may seem a bit pricey for pizza, but it was worth every penny. Between that and the 3 sodas we consumed our total bill was $33, and it still felt like a steal. We’ve eaten meals that cost 5 times this much that haven’t been 1/5 as good.

If you like pizza, or food in general, then you must visit DiFara. It took us over a year of talking about it to finally make the trek out there, but now that we have, I imagine it won’t take us nearly as long to return.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cheese and Olive Plate

Last weekend Alex and I had a few friends over for a quick afternoon get together, and since we had very little time to prepare anything extravagant, we decided on a simple cheese plate for snacking. Cheese plates are easy to put together, look fantastic, and are very frugal - this one cost us less than 10 bucks.

We purchased one of those mozzarella and pepperoni roll ups (they also come with prosciutto if you prefer) that they sell in the cheese case near the cold cuts in the grocery store, along with a handful of fresh green olives from the olive bar, and some plain water crackers to tie everything together. We like water crackers the most because they provide some crunch but not much flavor otherwise, allowing you to better taste the cheese. All you need to do is pick these ingredients up, put them on a plate, and voila - done!

Comments are always appreciated :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Philly Cheese Steak Egg Rolls

When we think egg rolls, we usually think Chinese takeout or spring rolls from the local Thai restaurant. Today though, we bring you into a new era of egg rolls with this great recipe for Philly Cheese Steak Egg Rolls. Food Network’s Guy Fieri recently made these on Guy's Big Bite and we knew we we’d be needing to try these sooner or later. These egg rolls are great for appetizers or a fun side to go alone with any sort of dinner entree. They are salty, crunchy, cheesy… just incredibly delicious.

One important tip we learned while making the filling is to really let the juices drain out. If you don't, rolling up your egg rolls will become difficult as the excess liquid may cause the egg roll wrappers to tear. Also, the recipe says this dish only makes 8 egg rolls but we found that we were able to make double that and save some in the freezer if we need a quick snack for impromptu guests.

Happy rolling!

Tres Leches Cake

We are back (and hopefully for good)! Alex and I started dieting 3 months ago, and while we are making fabulous progress on our diets, eating out has become a much less frequent activity than in the past. Since we haven’t been able to venture out to many new restaurants, we’ve resorted to more home cooking that is both delicious (for the most part) and figure friendly. The recipe to follow is anything but… but since we’ve been m.i.a. so long we figured we had to come back with a bang.

When summertime rolls around and it gets hot and muggy we usually lean towards simple things like ice cream sundaes and fruit salads for dessert. And while both of these options are totally fulfilling, this recipe for a Tres Leches Cake with Summer Fruit that we found in Cuisine really puts a simple fruit salad to shame. The cake is super moist, (surprisingly) light, and served ice cold, which makes it refreshing and delectable on a warm summer night. Preparing the cake the night before your guests arrive is best, as it allows all of the flavors to develop and the cake to absorb all of the milk.


For the Cake-

6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Sift Together; Fold in:

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ t. table salt

Combine, Fold into Batter;
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cake batter

For the Soaking Syrup-
Combine; Reduce:

1 can 14 oz evaporated milk
1 can 12 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
½ cup light rum

For the Topping-
Any variation of berries, we used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries
¼ cup of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 3” spring form pan with nonstick spray.

Beat eggs and sugar with a hand mixer at high speed in a large bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Beat until the eggs are pale, thick and tripled in volume, about 10 minutes.

Add vanilla; remove bowl from the heat and continue to beat until cool, about 5 more minutes.

Sift flour and salt. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour into the egg mixture; fold gently. Fold in remaining flour in two additions.

Combine melted butter (cooled) and 1 cup batter in a small bowl. When blended, add the mixture back to the remaining batter and gently fold to blend.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Combine all milks and run in a measuring cup with a pour spout while the cake bakes. Transfer half of the milk mixture (2 cups) to a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduces to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Stir mixture constantly to prevent scorching.

Stir reduced milk into remaining 2 cups milk mixture (for a total of 3 cups). Set milk syrup aside.

After cooling the cake 10 minutes, place it on a baking sheet (to catch drips from the milk), then poke holes in it with a skewer.

Rewarm the milk mixture, if necessary, then pour it over the cake, allowing it to soak in before adding more. Use all the milk, even though it won’t seem like the cake will absorb it. Drape wax paper over the cake (plastic wrap causes condensation) and chill overnight.

For the topping:

Combine fruit and ¼ cup sugar; macerate for about 30 minutes.

When ready to serve cake, remove sides of pan, then top with fruit. Slice cake and serve with whipped cream on the side.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Roasted Chicken

Making a roasted chicken is one of the easiest ways to do dinner on a Sunday evening. But roasted chicken can also go awfully wrong and come out dry and tasteless. We decided to give a new recipe from a recent Sunday section in The New York Times a spin. What intrigued us was that instead of using a roasting pan, you place the chicken atop two pieces of crunchy baguette bread sliced in half.

We picked up a 5 and a half pound bird from the supermarket and a loaf of ciabatta from our favorite local bakery Rose and Joe's.

After cleaning the chicken thoroughly, we rubbed it down with softened butter, salt, pepper, and some fresh lemon juice. In the cavity of the chicken we placed a half of a lemon, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and one head of garlic cut in half. We then cut the ciabatta bread in half lengthwise, doused it in olive oil (as per the recipe) and sprinkled it with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. We popped it in the oven at 400 degrees for 2 hours.

The idea behind this recipe is that once cooked, the bread picks up all the juices from the bird and gets nice and crusty, making a fabulous addition to your meal. While good in theory, in practice the bread was lacking in crunchiness on many of the parts directly underneath the bird. It had an unpleasant, fatty taste and we discarded it after taking just a few bites. I’m not quite sure if I would attempt this recipe again, but if I did I would lose the olive oil – I think the chicken juices would’ve been sufficient, and the bread may not have been so soggy.

Surprisingly, the chicken came out nice and juicy although no basting was necessary in this recipe (a major plus). The chicken was big enough to last us through two nights of dinner, and we even made some chicken salad with the leftover bits and pieces.

Usually the New York Times is spot on with food, but we both felt that they missed the mark on this one. Perhaps it would help to use a roasting pan to separate the bread and chicken in order allow some room for the bread to get crusty instead of suffocating it directly underneath the bird.

JG Melon

Although I’m pretty sure we’ve already found New York’s best burger (that’d be the one from the little owl), it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to try all the rest of the so-called ‘best burgers’ that figure so prominently on so many top 10 lists.

So it was inevitable that Aj and I found ourselves at JG Melon last weekend, waiting at the bar for the opportunity to be seated and try their famous burger. JG Melon is part bar, part restaurant, which always makes be a bit wary of the quality of food coming out of the kitchen. There’s plenty of bars out there turning out top-notch food, but then there are so many others producing lukewarm, lifeless dishes whose sole purpose is to soak up excess alcohol.                     

Luckily, JG Melon falls into the former category. Aj and I each ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a side of cottage fries. The much-heralded burger was indeed excellent – perfectly cooked to temperature and really beefy, both in size and taste. The minimal amounts of bacon didn’t add any flavor or variance of texture, and I would order the burger baconless the next time we come.

And there certainly will be a next time. Not only because of the wonderful burger, but the fantastic cottage fries, as well. Shaped like pickle slices, these little discs of potato nirvana came out piping hot, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were infinitely better than so many of the thoughtless French fries haunting other bar menus.

At $9.50 for the burger and an additional $4.50 for the fries, this certainly isn’t the cheapest deal to be had in the world of burgerdom, but it seems that the 15 dollar price range is pretty much becoming the norm for a burger and fries in New York these days.

So is it the best burger in New York? No – I don’t anticipate the little owl to be dethroned anytime soon. Top 10? I’m going to need to try it again, but it just may make the list…

JG Melon

1291 Third Avenue

New York, NY 10021

Food: 8

Frugal Factor: 7

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bagua Juice

This weekend Alex and I took a trip to Jersey City to check out the 'Not Yo Momma's Craft Fair' and for a change of scenery. We took the PATH train to the Grove Street stop and did some exploring after a quick visit to the fair. One of the first places we stumbled across was this cute juice shop called Bagua Juice.

The purple trim on the outside was so charming we couldn't resist taking a closer look. Although it looked like a cafe from the outside, when we stepped in we realized it was more like a juice bar. Though we were both craving something caffeinated, we decided to try a couple of drinks and sit down in the window seats which had lured us in in the first place.

I ordered the Bare-E-Banana smoothie which consisted of strawberry, raspberry, banana, and blueberry, blended with ice. Alex ordered the Breath of Life, which was a juice that combined fresh pineapple, apple, ginger, and ginseng. We both decided that the smoothie was the way to go - the juice was somewhat lukewarm (which I suppose you can't remedy when you're squeezing fresh fruit), whereas the smoothie was cool and refreshing. A few ice cubes could have helped the juice out, but it also may have watered it down too much.

Though we only ordered two small drinks the total was almost $9, which we both felt was far too expensive for such simple drinks. I guess the price is on par with Jamba Juice, but they don't register too high on the frugal-meter, either. The cafe isn't nearly as cute inside as it is outside, and the lack of music made talking in whisper a necessity, but the window seats were comfortable enough and it was nice to take a moment to relax.

If you happen to find yourself in Jersey City and are looking for something healthy, I guess you can give Bagua a try. Just make sure to sit in the window seat.

Bagua Juice
346 Grove St
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Price: $8.50(ish) for 2 small drinks

Food: 7 - both drinks were good and fresh, though not much different than the ones you'd find at similar juice bars.

Frugal Factor: 5

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Neptune Diner

Diners are great for the unlimited coffee and 24 hour service. The food is usually secondary, so I never go to a diner expecting anything spectacular. Still, I had higher hopes for Astoria's Neptune Diner.

Alex and I were first intrigued by Neptune's large blue sign that we pass everyday on the subway. It is only so long that you can resist a diner that very prominently exclaims "voted best in Queens" before breaking down and giving it a try. So we did just that last weekend.

Western Omelet w/American Cheese

I ordered the western omelet with American cheese, and Alex ordered the Greek omelet, both of which came with toast and home fries, which we asked for extra crispy. The home fries were nothing to write home about, though it was nice to see that they actually were on the crispy side. The omelets were pretty standard and nothing more than mediocre. The cheese in the western omelet was barely melted which is one of my biggest turnoffs. Alex's Greek omelet was ok, filled with tomato, feta cheese and onions, but it was nothing special. Both omelets came on the overly well done side, which makes it even more surprising that their contents weren't completely warm. We probably could have made a better breakfast at home.

Greek Omelet

One of the perks about Neptune is that the price is right. Each omelet was only $7.00 and the coffee was actually pretty good. The service was ok, but that's not the sort of criteria you judge in a diner. I can't imagine I'd come back here under normal circumstances, but if I was craving something decent and quick after a long night, I could probably do worse than the Neptune Diner.

Neptune Diner
3105 Astoria Blvd
Astoria, NY 11102

Price: $15.95 (before tax and tip)

Food: 6 (decent home fries, overcooked omelets with lukewarm innards, soggy toast, pretty good coffee)

Frugal Factor: 7 (although we weren't wowed by the food, we also didn't spend more than 10 dollars each for everything)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dinner Party

This past weekend, Alex and I decided to have a small dinner party with our friends Torie and Jon and wanted to come up with a casual, yet classy menu. We decided to make brussels sprouts with bacon, fried smashed potatoes, and pork wellington. Here's how we did it:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon:

15-20 fresh brussels sprouts, larger ones halved
5 cloves of garlic chopped
5 strips of thick cut bacon chopped
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then start cooking the bacon in a non-stick skillet. While the bacon is cooking, boil enough water to cover the brussel sprouts and cook for 5 minutes. Next cook garlic in the bacon fat, and incorporate cooked brussel sprouts for about 3 minutes. Transfer everything into an oven safe pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 20-30 minutes.

This simple dish will change the way you think about brussels sprouts forever, and they make a fantastic side.

Fried Smashed Potatoes:

1-2 pounds of small red potatoes, larger ones halved
fresh parmesan cheese
oil for frying

Put potatoes in a pot of salted water so that it covers your potatoes, and bring to a boil. Once they are almost fork tender (about 10-15 minutes), drain and let cool on a baking sheet. Once you are able to touch potatoes, lightly press down creating a "smashed" flat potato. Heat up one inch of oil in a cast iron skillet until shinny, and add potatoes with a spatula. Fry potatoes in oil for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and move to a serving dish. Liberally salt and pepper and add fresh grated parmesan on top.

These potatoes are not only a cheap side dish but they can also pack a bunch of flavor and color to a dish.

Pork Wellington:

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed and cut into 8 medallions and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 T. garlic minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 bag baby spinach
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
16 pieces of thin sliced prosciutto
2/3 cup goat cheese divided into 8 pieces
2 eggs beaten with 2 T. water

Sear medallions in 1 T. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat on both sides. This should take a total of 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and chill until completely cool. Don't wash your pan, you will want to save it for the gravy later.

Next, saute garlic and pepper flakes in 1 T. oil in a large skillet until fragrant. Add spinach, toss to wilt, and season with salt. Drain spinach in a sieve, pressing with a spoon until dry, then coarsely chop and cool completely.

Once everything has cooled and your puff pastry is thawed you are ready to assemble your wellington. Roll out both sheets of pastry to 12" squares and divide into 8 even sections. Assemble wellingtons by first laying a slice of prosciutto on each square, then topping with a pork medallion. Top pork with 1 T. each of goat cheese and spinach, then another slice of prosciutto.

Fold corners up to the top, and then fold the opposite corner to the center in the same way; press corners to adhere. Tuck in the sides as if wrapping a gift and fold up remaining corners, gently stretching pastry over open areas to enclose the fillings. Transfer wellington to a parchment-lined baking sheet coated with nonstick spray.

Preheat oven to 425 with the rack in lower third; brush wellingtons with egg wash. Bake until golden, 20 minutes. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Lastly, but certainly not least, my favorite part of the meal,

Roasted Mushroom Sauce:

1/2 lb. assorted mushrooms, sliced (4 cups)
2 T. shallots, minced
1 T. tomato paste
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 T. unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups of chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh parsley

Saute mushrooms with salt in oil over medium heat in the pan used to sear the pork. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add shallots, saute 1 minute, then stir in tomato paste and cook until it starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add flour and 2 T. butter; cook 1 minute.

Deglaze with wine; increase heat to high. Boil to reduce and thicken, 2 minutes, then add broth and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce coats a spoon, 12-15 minutes.

Off heat, whisk in butter and pepper. Discard herb sprigs before serving.

I'm not going to say that this recipe is simple to make or particularly wallet-friendly, but it is definitely worth the time, effort, and cash. Alex and I both agree that it was one of the best things we have ever cooked and will definitely be making it again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Aphrodite Restaurant

Astoria is known for its Greek restaurants. They’re sort of the equivalent of Chinese food in Chinatown. But with a different restaurant on almost every corner, you’ve got to try a bunch before you can decide which is your neighborhood favorite. And after doing a little tasting around the area we have found one that we think is good enough to mention.

Aphrodite Restaurant, formerly know as Ditmars Gyro Place, is located on Ditmars Boulevard and 33rd Street in Astoria, Queens. The place itself is nothing fancy, just basic and small, but the food is pretty good. It is owned by a nice Greek family, and we usually see many of the same family members there whenever we stop by for a bite.

The last time we went I ordered the chicken souvlaki platter, and Alex ordered a mix of chicken souvlaki and beef gyro. Both of the dishes come with a small Greek salad, rice (or french fries) and some pita. The tzatziki sauce that accompanies the pita is very good. It's creamy and salty and much less chunky than some other tzatziki sauces I’ve tried.

The chicken souvlaki is very good. It has a nice, light, charred flavor to it, and is soft and juicy. The gyro meat, on the other hand, has great flavor, but is a bit drier than I would like it to be. The rice is good but nothing special, as is the Greek salad.

For desert we took home this amazing pastry. We have no idea what it is called but it is truly out of this world. It consists of a bottom layer of shredded wheat drenched in honey, topped with some sort of double cream custard and nuts. It is super rich and creamy, but somehow doesn’t feel too heavy.

We still plan to keep checking out some of the other Greek spots in the neighborhood, but right now Aphrodite is our go-to spot for some quick, cheap food.

Aphrodite Restaurant
33-01 Ditmars Boulvevard
Astoria NY 11105

Price: $23.90 (before tax and tip) - naturally we didn’t save the receipt and we only have a takeout menu for the restaurant before the name (and price) change. So my best guess is that the chicken souvlaki platter costs $9.95, the mixed gyro/souvlaki platter $10.95, and the desert about $3.00.

Food: 7

Frugal Factor: 8 – though the food itself is pretty good, the fact that you can have a full, satisfying dinner for just 10 dollars really makes this place a great value.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This past weekend we went to Long Island to visit Alex’s parents and decided we were in the mood for some barbecue food. We ventured to BOBBiQUE, in the nice little town of Patchogue, to fulfill our craving.

Upon entering we were greeted with a list of over 80 decently priced beers and a standard barbecue menu with a few twists, like fried pickle chips (which practically begged to be ordered). We weren’t greeted, however, by the extremely unorganized wait staff, and really had to contemplate staying the hour-and-a-half wait.

After some hesitation we decided to stay and when we finally sat down the first thing we wanted were the fried pickle chips. They turned out to be worth the wait - deliciously crisp, salty, and sour, all at once. They were served with something akin to tartar sauce, which really helped to draw the pickley flavor out from the substantial amount of breading. For $4.95, the portion was surprisingly large and well worth the small price tag.

For our main course we both ordered the 3-meat combo platter, which includes 3 meats of your choice, as well as corn bread and 2 sides for $18.95. I ordered the ribs, wings, and fried chicken strips, and Alex ordered the brisket (chopped), wings, and ribs. For sides we got coleslaw, collard greens, and two orders of fries.

The one thing that stuck out in both of our minds were the wings. They were not your typical bar wings, but instead a juicy, nicely grill-charred wing with a very light coating of barbecue sauce. The rub on the ribs was also quite good, though we found the meat to be just a little drier than it should have been. The sides were uniformly good, though nothing to write home about.

Patchogue is a colorful town with lots of restaurants and bars, and an easy trip from the city. If you’re looking for a day trip and are in the mood for some wings, head to BOBBiQUE if you can stand the wait.

70 W Main Street
Pachogue, NY

Price: $42.85 not including tax or tip ($4.95 pickle chips, 18.95 3-meat combo X 2)

Food: 7

Frugal Factor: 7

Thursday, March 5, 2009


It just occurred to us that we’ve never had a formal introduction. So without further ado…

Welcome to Frugal Feast NY. We are your hosts, Aj and Alex – two fun-loving guys living in Astoria, New York (at least until the rent goes up) that like to eat. Although we enjoy the full-range of the food spectrum, from haute cuisine to dollar dumplings, most of the stuff we typically eat tends to fall somewhere between the two.

Frugal Feast isn’t necessarily about finding the cheapest food possible (not everyone would think a burger and fries are worth $16, but oh, how they are wrong), but finding worthwhile, delicious food that probably won’t break the bank.

We’re not setting a price limit on the food we post, but generally meals will not cost a great deal more than $25 per person, with the vast majority being much, much lower. We will include receipts (if we can find them) or estimated prices to give you a good idea of just how much everything will cost you.

We’ll also be posting some recipes, because sometimes nothing is more fulfilling (not to mention cheaper) than eating at home. In this case we’ll try to come up with a total price based on the ingredients used.

We’ve come up with a rating system that is pretty simple. We rate food based on two qualities – the food itself, as well as its frugal factor. The frugal factor takes said food rating into account, and compares it to overall cost to help you decide if something is truly worth it.

And usually it is. Although we’ve made plenty of missteps along our eating journey, part of the fun with food is trying something new and forming your own opinion about it, even if it doesn’t taste all that great.

Thanks for reading and happy eating,

Aj and Alex

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Alex and I enjoy doing the majority of our cooking on Sunday afternoons. Pizza is something that is quick, easy, and cheap to make at home. Since we have yet to spring for a pizza stone, we have been making deep dish pizzas in our cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets are pretty inexpensive and a great addition to any kitchen. I got ours on Amazon for only $15.99

Here's what you will need to begin:

Pizza Dough

Either purchased from a local pizza place or homemade. I used our bread maker for this dough.


- 1 onion chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more depending on how spicy you like it)
- 16oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 Bay leaf
- Salt/Pepper to taste


Here you can really use anything but we made it with mozzarella cheese, thick sliced pepperoni and thin onion slices.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F

For the sauce, first lightly brown the onions in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, then add the minced garlic. Once everything is brown, add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer on low for about an hour.

Put a thin coat of olive oil on the bottom and the sides of the cast iron skillet. Be sure not to add too much, otherwise your crust will become oily rather than crispy. Then, place the pizza dough in the middle and work it out to the sides making sure that the middle is thinner than the edges to create a crust.

Once your sauce has cooled down, spread over the dough, add cheese and the rest of your toppings.

Bake for 45 minutes.


Rating: 8 out of 10
Price: about $9.00

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sage General Store

After spending the afternoon at PS1 located in Long Island City a sweet treat was much needed. Since we were in the area we decided to make a stop at the Sage General Store a few blocks away.

Inside we were welcomed by a friendly employee who helped us curb our sweet craving by guiding us towards a raspberry cookie bar, and a homemade pink snowball. We accompanied our treats with a raspberry iced tea, and a ginger root green tea. Both deserts were deliciously sweet, almost too much so. The snowball had a very similar frosting to that of a Magnolia Bakery cupcake covered in light, crunchy coconut flakes. The raspberry bar while delicious was nothing special. To us, it was just another raspberry bar that was a bit too sweet. The drinks were somewhat warm and also too sweet. We asked for a cup of ice which helped some, but next time I'd pass on the lukewarm teas.

However sweets are not all that the Sage General Store has to offer. The actual food menu is full of local organic items such as sandwiches, salads, casseroles and many others. Though we may not be running back for their sweets, our next visit will definitely entail lunch or dinner.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Price: $11.50

Sunday, February 22, 2009

PJ Clarke's

Friday night Alex and I ventured to PJ Clarke's on 3rd avenue between 55th and 56th after a long day of work in search for a good burger and beer. Upon entering the extremely crowded bar, we managed to make our way into the back where the restaurant seating is located. We were seated within 10 minutes, which was surprising considering the crowd.

We received our food within 10 minutes of ordering, which was good because we were both starving. We ordered a bacon cheese burger, onion strings, fries, and two beers. The onion strings were surprisingly delicious. Perfectly crisp, crunchy, and juicy, with just the right amount of salt. The french fries were also wonderfully crisp and fresh.

Now moving on to more important topics... the burger. For starters, I did not like the lack of lettuce and tomato. The sole accompaniment to the burger was a rather thick slice of onion placed strangely underneath it. I didn't even know it was there until I picked it up to take a bite. Not only was the onion useless, it also made the bottom of the burger bun soggy and a bit onion-y. I enjoy a little onion on my burger but this slab was unpleasant. The burger was juicy but not so much that it blew my mind.

Overall the experience was something you would expect from bar food, good but not great.

Rating: 6 out of 10.