Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Food For Thought

Monday, July 2, 2012
I did not do justice to Peter Madoff the other day when I described the crowd of reporters and photographers waiting for him to exit the Moynihan Federal Courthouse after his guilty plea. Peter, Bernie’s little brother, continued to deny that he had any role in the multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. The New York Law Journal quoted him as being “in total shock” when he learned of the monumental fraud. There are two interesting aspects to his denial: 1) Peter was the chief compliance officer for Bernie’s investment business which raises the question of what he did at work all day; 2) Peter confessed to several crimes, notably skipping paying income taxes on $40 million earnings, that were unconnected to Bernie’s own illegal endeavors. In other words, Peter cheated because he could. He apparently would have cheated the IRS even if he earned money selling Girl Scout cookies. There is a certain purity in his approach.

Long Xin Restaurant, 50 Eldridge Street, is open about one year, but it eluded me until today. It is a bright, open place with room for almost twice as many round tables as the eight now in place. It was also fairly busy, with Chinese occupants at every table, all except the French grandmother, mother and daughter right behind me. Its bright red back wall had the traditional phoenix and dragon glaring at each other and the vaulted ceiling is entirely covered by panels of blue sky and clouds. The two flat-panel televisions were turned off.

The menu has 62 lunch specials at $5.50 which include soup. I asked for Singapore chow fun instead, one of my signature dishes, when I saw that they served chow fun and Singapore mai fun. It took a while to convince two different waitresses that I knew what I was asking for, but they delivered an enormous portion of Singapore chow fun ($7.95) with all the expected ingredients (shrimp, pork, egg, green pepper, red pepper, red onions, bean sprouts) and some toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the curry-flavored noodles. It was very good, but I was only able to eat 61% of it. Service was spotty; I was not offered tea and my water glass was not refilled. Otherwise a decent joint.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
This is an extraordinary day. I know 5 people who were born on this day and, of course, I wish them all a Happy Birthday, in ascending order: Meredith S., Nate P., Carl H., Aryeh G. and David G. They encompass a span of 50 years and all of them have done well for themselves and others.

Fruit News:
Trader Joe's has donut peaches, which they call Saturn peaches, at $2.99 for 20 ounces. That's a bargain considering that Fairway is selling them at $3.99 a pound and the best deal I've seen in Chinatown in the last two weeks was 5 peaches, not pounds, for $5, an unacceptable proposition.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I realize that not all of you are fortunate enough to be able to eat lunch in Chinatown every weekday, so I thought that I would share information from the latest issue of Consumer's Report with you, if you are not a subscriber. Based on 47,565 survey responses, CR rated chain restaurants. In sum, CR found that nine chains "earned especially high marks across the board for the four attributes in our Ratings -- taste, value, service, and mood -- and were praised for menu variety, cleanliness, and a lack of noise." This could be as good or better than Grandpa Alan's culinary guidance.

The notable nine are:
Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano
Black Angus Steakhouse
Bob Evans
Bravo Cucina Italiana
First Watch
J. Alexander's
Le Peep
Fatz Eatz & Drinkz

CR claims that their respondents reported on 110,517 visits to arrive at the ratings. The result was that I was anxious to enjoy meals characterized by good taste, value, service, and mood, and I began my research -- where are these places? Are you sitting down? You can’t get there from here.

Biaggi’s has one listing in New York -- New York State, that is, not New York City. In fact, Biaggi’s is located in Victor, NY, which is closer to Canandaigua than to Canarsie. A Black Angus Restaurant opened in late 1945 at 148 East 50th Street, after WWII ended and food supplies opened up. Entrees started at $1.10 and cocktails from 45 cents, according to Today, however, 2290 Wyoming Boulevard, Albuquerque, New Mexico is the nearest location of a Black Angus Steakhouse if you want to pursue CR’s attributes for a hefty protein fix. Bob Evans has eight New York locations, Jamestown, Batavia, Corning, Williamsville, Niagara Falls, Dunkirk, Amherst and Watertown. You don’t have to be a geography maven to know that none of these cities are, in the words of George M. Cohan, 45 minutes from Broadway. Not even by helicopter.

Bravo Cucina Italiana can be found as close as Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, a bit north of Philadelphia. First Watch, apparently a breakfast delight, can be found in 14 states, but you’ll have to decide between Pittsburgh and Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania if you live at or near the Palazzo di Gotthelf. J. Alexander’s can be found in 13 states, but no closer than 5845 Landerbrook Drive, Cleveland, Ohio. Le Peep, evoking chickens and eggs and limiting itself to breakfast and lunch, comes seductively close, by comparison, at 561 Route 1 & Plainfield Ave, Edison, New Jersey, about seven miles from my brother’s home. Elmer’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has a spot in Albany – Albany, Oregon that is. If that’s inconvenient, they also operate in Idaho, Washington and California. I’m not going to calculate which location is closest, because, if I’m going to take a 5-6 hour flight for a meal, I’m heading to Paris. Fatz Eatz & Drinkz may be harder to reach than Paris, because I can’t find its web site. However, it seems to be concentrated in the southeastern United States, with headquarters in Taylors, South Carolina.

So there you have it. If you want a tasty meal at good value with nice service in a pleasant mood, you might as well come with me to Chinatown, or forget mood and go to your mother's.


  1. Alan, there are numerous Bob Evans in Pennsylvania, the most conveniently located at the intersection of I-78 and I-81 near Carlisle. When I drive to Pittsburgh, it is always a necessary stop.

  2. Bob Evans for sausage gravy and biscuits is definitely worth a stop should you pass one in your travels. There are two equidistant from us, 2 miles north or south .We go there frequently for the 55 and over breakfast specials.
    There is a Fatz in Lincolnton, NC, just

    5miles from Maiden should you ever have a chance to return there to visit Souther gentiles in their native habitatn