Archive for August 2007

Belly Laughs: Ted Alexandro on NYC Fast Food

Time for another piece of food comedy.  This is some funny shit (no pun intended), from Ted Alexandro…

 

[mp3]http://www.midtownlunch.com/blog/wp-content/tedalexandro_fast_food.mp3[/mp3]

 

For more Ted Alexandro go to http://www.tedalexandro.com/

Previous Posts: Eugene Mirman on Jack in the Box
Previous Posts: Patton Oswalt on KFC Bowls

Day in the Life: Muhammed “Kwik Meal” Rahman

Ever wondered what the white sauce is made from at your favorite chicken and rice cart?  Or where the cart even comes from?  Where do they prepare the food?  And, of course- is it clean?  Have you ever wondered what it was like to run a street cart?  Here is a glimpse into the life of one person that knows the answers to all those questions…

Much has been written about Muhammed Rahman.  Born in Bangladesh, this chef has become famous for being that street cart guy who used to work at the Russian Tea Room.  Now he owns and operates Kwik Meal, a Lamb & Rice cart on 45th & 6th which opened in 2000.  Since then Rahman has opened two more carts (one on 45th & 5th, and one on 47th & Park) both run by his brothers.  Food costs are high, and profits are low- yet he would never go back to cooking at a restaurant, because he loves the interaction with the customers you only get running a food cart.  This is a day in his life…

Photos & Timeline by Ryan Devlin

 

6:00am: Muhammed Rahman wakes up in Jackson Heights, Queens. Heads to garage (also in Jackson Heights) to pick up his cart.

6:28am: Arrives at the garage in Jackson Heights, and gets the cart stocked with goods. As is required by law, all the food, drinks and sauces must be prepared and stored in the garage, or other DOH approved facility.  Nothing can be prepared at home. Rahman buys most of his supplies directly from wholesalers and has them delivered directly to the garage.  The cart is stocked up with supplies for the day, including the meat which had been prepared the night before, and left to marinate overnight.

6:55am: The cart is hooked up to the truck, and they leave the garage with cart in tow.

 

7:25am: The truck arrives at corner of 45th and 6th, at which point the truck tows it into place before the workers straighten it out by hand.  The whole process takes about five minutes.  On this morning, the sidewalk had already been hosed down by the building’s maintenence man… but if they show up to a dirty sidewalk, Rahman will rinse it off himself while the truck waits with the cart. 

7:30am: The cart is secured in its spot.  A worker takes the truck to be parked in a Midtown garage, which costs hundreds of dollars a month.  Everyone else goes to work setting the cart up. The glass windows are put into place, and the inside of the cart is prepared.  First the pans and containers are arranged in their proper place.  Then the sauces.  After that, the propane tank is set up and the surfaces are given another wipe-down just before cooking starts. One guy sets up the beverages, putting ice in the cooler and water, sodas, etc.  After that, the workers pull on their white chef smocks and white hats.

 

8:07am: Once the cart is prepped and everything is in place, they fire up the grill, oil it down, and the cooking begins. Chicken goes on the grill first, while another worker starts throwing falafel balls into the deep fryer.  The cooking takes about three hours as they work through the chicken, lamb and beef.  During this time they will also cut and prep the vegetables.

11:00am: Cart officially opens for business.

Read more »

At Lunch Now: Treats Truck Hunting (Updated!)

For those of you who work in the high 40s & 50s, the goto Midtown Treats Truck stop on 38th & 5th, is a little too far south.  There was much begging and pleading, followed by a Treats Truck attempt to find a spot in the 50s, which resulted in the truck finally parking at 47th & Lexington, after hours of driving around.

This morning, fresh off the news that the Treats Truck has been kicked out of their normal Upper West Side spot at 79th & Columbus, came word that the truck would be attempting to find a new spot in Midtown today… possibly on “44th near 6th or 7th”.  As of 1pm, there is no sign of the truck, but as soon as they settle into a spot, I’ll let you know…

Worst comes to worst, I’ll see you on line at 38th & 5th tomorrow!

UPDATE:  As of 2:40 PM the Treats Truck is parked at 45th btw. 6+7th.  Enjoy!

Is “Lunch Hour” the Biggest Myth of Office Life?

It’s no big surprise to anyone that I am a staunch advocate of the hour lunch break.  And while I make sure to take my full 60 minutes at least 3 days a week (a few days I will bring my lunch for health and money sake), there is no question that many of my co-workers *never* take their full lunch hour.  Like so many in Midtown, they will run down to the nearest deli (in our case, Metro), and bring their boring salad or sandwich back up to their desk, and eat it while checking email or doing work.

This phenomenom was written about on MSNBC.com on Monday:

A study by chicken fast food chain KFC Corp., found that 60 percent of workers in Corporate America actually considered the lunch hour “the biggest myth of office life.”

About 55 percent of workers take a half hour or less for their lunch breaks… and women, who are forever trying to prove themselves in the work world, are not surprisingly more likely to take shorter lunch breaks than men.

Many workplace experts suspect even those workers who are allotted a half hour for lunch, often end up never leaving their desks. The move to shorter or non-existent lunches is in some cases self-imposed.

There are plenty of reasons why not to take a lunch break.  You want to get ahead by showing your boss how good an employee you are, or maybe there’s just not enough time in the day to finish all your work.  I know in some offices there can be tremendous peer pressure if nobody is taking their lunch break.  You don’t want to seem like the one lazy bum who actually eats!

But in truth, we need our lunch break.  If I don’t eat by 12:30, I will pass out… I think.  I’ve never actually tested the theory, since I’m usually chowing down by 12:01.  But more than the threat of malnutrition, you just need to get out of the office for a bit.  And apparently, taking that hour off, may make you *more* productive.  Some justification for your lunch break, after the jump… Read more »

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er (& Esca Chef) “David Pasternack”… PLUS another book giveaway!

Every Tuesday I turn over Midtown Lunch to a random worker, for their favorite places to eat lunch in Midtown. Today, I am totally honored to turn the site over to David Pasternack, Chef of Esca, and co-author of the new cookbook “The Young Man & the Sea” (w/ Midtown Lunch friend and Serious Eats grand poobah, Ed Levine).  Esca is one of the best seafood restaurants, not just in Midtown- but in the entire city… and is a must try if you love Italian food, and fresh fish.  (It also helps if you have a corporate account.)  Esca is on 9th Ave. & 43rd St., so here are Dave’s picks for lunching in that area- plus I have 5 signed copies of his cookbook to give away the end of the post.

Name: Dave

Age:
43

Occupation:
Chef

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
9th Ave. & 43rd St.

Favorite Kind of Food:
I mean, i like everything- but my favorite is ethnic food. I find it more intriguing. I’ve worked in fancy restaurants for 25 years, but my favorite foods are still Chinese, Thai, Indian… pretty much everything.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Fancy.

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
Pakistani Restaurant on 38th & 9th. Cheap and interesting food with really good flavors and great homemade naan.  I also really love Grand Sichuan, but the one near Esca is closed now. The smoked tea duck and dried green beans were two of my favorites. They would also make this fresh killed chicken dish, with bamboo shoots & szechuan pepper. It was fucking hot, but one of the most tender dishes you’ll ever eat. I also love korean bbq but I haven’t been in awhile. I think the place I used to go to is Han Bat (35th btw. 5+6th). The kimchee is killer and the spicy fish soup is perfect for when you have a cold. Comes with this egg custard on the side. Finally, there’s a neapolitan pizza place on 46th btw. 8+9th. called Trumonte Tramonti.  It’s great, and the real deal.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: Usually we’ll eat lunch here at the restaurant. Or I’ll send someone over to Shorty’s (9th Ave. btw. 41+42nd). It used to be Tony Luke’s but the owner couldn’t afford to keep the name, so he dropped it. The food is still exactly the same.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Right where I am.  New York is the food mecca of the world right now.  There are different places you can travel to… like I was in Tokyo a few years ago, which was really interesting.  But after all my traveling, I realize how many great ingredients we have compared to the rest of the country.

Esca is expensive, and the fish is the best quality. Do you have any favorite cheap seafood dishes in Midtown you could recommend?  There’s no such thing as good cheap seafood.

 

Touche.  I should have known better than to ask that question.  That being said, I still enjoy the fried shrimp from the Halal & Seafood Cart, and the $3.50 Fried Fish Sandwich at Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart.  Of course, anything fried tastes good (and it masks how cheap the fish is!)  That being said, given the choice between the Grilled Octopus & Giant Beans with Preserved Lemon I had at Esca, and the fried calamari sandwich at Tuscan Square- I think it’s pretty safe to say, I’d go with Esca. 

What’s your favorite seafood dish in Midtown?  Cheap, expensive… it doesn’t matter.  Post it as a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of David Pasternack’s new cookbook ”The Young Man & the Sea”.  Don’t have a favorite in Midtown?  Post something that proves you deserve the book.

Don’t like seafood?  Then you probably don’t need the cook book… although, the book is so beautiful, it might convert you.  And the recipes are so easy to make, even I can do it.  The Linguine w/ Pancetta & Clams that I made last night, from “The Young Man & the Sea”, after the jump… Read more »

With Latin Food This Good, La Strada Doesn’t Need to Serve Pizza

********************THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED******************

Latin food is one thing that Midtown has in great abundance, and for the most part your work location will determine where you eat.  No sense in trekking all the way cross town if you work next door to Margon or Cafe Cello, and there are now 3 Midtown locations of Sophie’s Cuban, with a fourth opening soon.  If you work in the north east part of Midtown, then your go-to Latin place is La Strada, Spanish Food & Pizzeria.

It’s set up the way most of these places are set up.  The food is out on steam tables and $6 to $7 buys you one meat, and two sides.  The menu changes every day, but usually it’s all the regulars… roast pork, roasted chicken, steak, chicharones, pork chops, oxtails on special days, and more.  Rice, beans and fried plantains are the requisite side dishes, and although “Pizza” is the first thing listed on the sign outside, the guy who served me said they haven’t sold a pizza in forever.  Pretty awesome.

What I got, latin food porn, and the +/- after the jump… Read more »

Wishlist: Singapore Chili Crab

I’d like to add Singapore Chili Crab to my Midtown Lunch wishlist.  We need some Malaysian food in Midtown!

Sunday I went to the Singapore Chili Crab festival in Long Island City.  $5 for a Chinese food container of crab, covered in a sweet and spicy red chili sauce.  It wasn’t as good as Fatty Crab’s version, but delicious nonetheless.

The aftermath, after the jump… Read more »

Midtown Links

Belly Laughs: Eugene Mirman on Jack in the Box

We don’t have Jack in the Box here in Midtown, but this is still funny…

[mp3]http://www.midtownlunch.com/blog/wp-content/mirman_jackinbox.mp3[/mp3]

Taken from the Eugene Mirman CD “En Garde, Society!” on Sub Pop Records.

Website: http://www.eugenemirman.com/
Lasy Week’s Belly Laugh: Patton Oswalt on KFC Bowls

At Lunch Yesterday: McDonald’s Angus Burger Edition

 

  Yesterday two of my life philosophies came into direct contradiction. 

    1. Never eat at McDonald’s (implemented immediately after reading “Fast Food Nation“)
    2. Never turn down free food (implemented at birth, encoded in my DNA)

I was offered a chance to try the new Angus Burger, which was just introduced here in NYC at the two McDonald’s locations in Times Sq.  The last time I ate food from McDonald’s was 3 1/2 years ago, when unemployed in L.A. I took $40 to participate in a McDonalds Focus Group (before reading FFN, obviously).  I figure, if I can try their weirdo test hamburgers, I can deal with an Angus Burger, right? 

Not so much.  There’s no denying fast food like this tastes good…  it’s engineered that way!  But, it’s funny how easily my stomach of steel crumpled at the introduction of a burger from McDonalds.  Although in fairness to the Golden Arches, I have always held the belief that the more you eat something, the more your stomach becomes accustomed to it.  After 3+ years of no McDonalds, my stomach was clearly not ready for the Angus Burger onslaught.

An hour later, not feeling altogether right, my mouth was watering the same strange way it did 3 1/2 years ago during that Focus Group.  I mentioned how much I didn’t like it on my comment card.  I guess they didn’t listen.

The food at McDonald’s always tastes good going down, and I figured this would be a great excuse to break my rule #1, and give McDonalds a chance to redeem themselves.  Unfortunately, one Angus Burger and 30 minutes with Mickey D’s version of Aaron Eckhart in “Thank You For Not Smoking”, didn’t do the trick.  Hopefully the next time I’m offered free McDonald’s, I will remember Rule #1.  Of course it would help if they stopped advertising that amazing looking snack wrap!

If you are into McDonald’s, than True People’s Champion Adam Kuban from A Hamburger Today should be your new hero (he is definitely mine).  Check out his comparison of the Angus Burger to the rest of their line-up…