Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Go Right Now to the NoMad Hotel Restaurant: White Truffles at Cost and "Yardbird" Snacks (food)

The restaurant at the NoMad hotel is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. The food and service are always excellent, and it's perfect for any occasion, whether fancy fine dining or cocktails and snacks. As if that wasn't enough, now is as good a time as any to visit (or revisit) the NoMad as they have a couple of interesting promotions going on.

The first promotion involves the shaving of white truffles at cost. I think they plan to have a continuous supply for quite a while, so they probably won't run out anytime soon. But note that even though the truffles are being shaved at cost, the incoming market cost does change. So while they were $32/4g at the start of the promotion, they are currently $36/4g.

Simple yet delicious with perfectly cooked pasta and a hint of cheesiness from the parmesan enhancing the funk of the white truffles.

As my friend was cutting carbs and not interested in either the tagliatelle or risotto options, the chef whipped up some eggs for him to enjoy his truffles with. The eggs were so soft and buttery that the small bite I tried tasted texturally like some super creamy grits or polenta.

The second promotion involves a collaboration with the chef from Yardbird restaurant in Hong Kong, a yakitori restaurant that has gotten rave reviews from locals and media alike. There are three appetizers that are only served in limited quantities at the bar or the library.

While a traditional scotch egg is hard boiled, the yolk here is perfectly cooked to a jelled, slighty runny consistency. Despite being a snack, it's a well composed dish with a full range of textures and balanced with the acidity of the slaw underneath.
This was just a delicious drinking snack. I've had fried cauliflower before so I knew texturally it would be awesome, but it worked even better with the crispy korean-fried exterior. I also liked how the sauce had a lingering depth to it as the sesame seeds and yuzu expanded the mild heat and sweetness.

The third appetizer involved chicken oysters, but due to the scarcity they ran out of it before I got there.

But the promotions shouldn't be the only reason to go back to the NoMad if you haven't been in a while. They continue to update their classics as well.

FRUITS DE MER “LE GRAND PLATEAU” (shown here for two)
The platter consists of 6 bites of seafood per order, featuring: oyster with a frozen mignonette; sea urchin custard with apple and caviar; lobster salad with jalapeno; crab bavarois; scallop with pistachios; yellowtail with horseradish. It's pretty much been a must-get dish every time I've been to the NoMad. Compared to earlier versions, I found that the sea urchin custard is now richer and deeper in flavor, while the jalapeno was moved from the scallop to the lobster to give it a much needed kick. The crab bavarois is also relatively new and unique, the cream working well with the sweetness of the crab.

This seemed weird at first, but the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness from the cheese worked well together. When I asked them how they came up with this, it turns out the inspiration was "wine, bread, and cheese". Genius in simplicity.

The NoMad Restaurant
1170 Broadway
(between 27th St & 28th St)
Manhattan, NY

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Underdog of the Week: NFL 2013-2014 Season Week 8 (sport, gambling, NFLUnderdog13)

In this series, I will pick an underdog every week that I think will not only cover the spread, but also have a good chance at winning outright.

Oh well, all streaks come to an end at some point. Just have to start a new winning streak.

Underdog of the Week:
ATL +2 (some books have it at 2.5)
ATL +120 ML

While most of my picks so far have been based on previous years' trends, we're far along enough in the season to start looking at trends that have developed during this season. I originally read this trend in Bill Simmons' article on Grantland, but it has since been written about elsewhere and makes a lot of sense. Fade the team that played against Seattle's bruising defense the previous week. Some would chalk the trend up to coincidence, but I vaguely remember similar trends from back when Baltimore and Pittsburgh had brutally punishing defenses a few years ago. Of course, it's possible that this streak will stop simply for the reason that Arizona is on 10 days' rest, but they also played a bruising 49er defense the week before playing Seattle.

I'm also curious about the line. While Atlanta is a more high profile name, Arizona has played well with excellent defense at home. Add to that Atlanta's road woes, and I would originally guess that sharps would be all over Arizona at home giving less than a FG. Yet the line hasn't moved to the key number of 3. In terms of the actual match up, while Atlanta has a losing record, all their games have been close, and none of the teams that they've lost to have been revealed to be particularly bad. If it comes down to the last possession or two, Matt Ryan vs. Carson Palmer is not much of a contest.

Interesting Stat of the Week:
So far this season, all the teams that have played Seattle have gone on to lose the following week, going 0-6 ATS and 0-2 straight up as a favorite.

ATS 6-1
ML 3-4 +30

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There Will Be Leftovers 2: All You Can Eat Wings and Beer at Mudville 9 (food)

While most of my posts tend to be on fine dining, sometimes you just have to indulge your inner glutton. Because I can eat a lot of food in one sitting, I'm often on the lookout for AYCE places that offer good food as well as good value. In addition to having an AYCE special, Mudville 9 had already been featured in Serious Eats as their wing reviewer's favorite wings in NYC.

The deal is simple. You need a minimum of 6 people. 2 hours of all you can eat wings (any of their 11 flavors), fries, and all you can drink Bud Light for $28+t/t per person. You can also upgrade to their premium beer selection for $34+t/t. The premium beer selection includes Guiness, Stella, Brooklyn Lager, Hoegarden, Yuengling, Magic Hat, and maybe a couple others that I've forgotten.

The beer is served in growlers that hit the table two at a time. The timer for the whole thing doesn't start till the beer hits the table.

There are also celery sticks with real blue cheese dressing, and the seasoned fries were hot and crispy. They were excellent when brought out fresh, although it's unclear whether you'd want to load up on fries with wings and more beer coming.

The wings were excellent. Meaty and well fried just like the fries. The buffalo sauce was well balanced and not overpowering. However, my guess is that many would consider even the superwow not spicy enough for their tastes. The waitress originally got the plates mixed up, but it wasn't hard to tell the spiciness based on the color (redder was hotter).

Some of the sauces were a little generic in flavor and a little syrupy in texture, but we enjoyed them nonetheless. The sweet BBQ tasted to me exactly like McRib sauce, and I thought even the texture was similar. The Jamaican jerk had an interesting flavor, but none of the heat one would assume given the name. I actually liked the teriyaki, which had an almost tropical fruity soy finish.

The Thai flavor was interesting, with some of the sesame flavor coming through. The honey mustard was not as sharp as I would have liked. We went down the menu list in order, and these last three definitely felt like they were the heaviest of the bunch. We ended up circling back to the Buffalo wings, which were the consensus favorite of the group.

Final damage: A rather disappointing 33 wings and 5 pints.

Being in Tribeca, the bar was pretty empty by the time we were finished at around 9pm. Overall it was very civil, not particularly rowdy, and a very comfortable vibe. The crowd was not particularly old or young age-wise.

Service was excellent and friendly. They were excited to have us eat and drink as much as we could. Beer was refilled quickly and wing orders were taken whenever we felt we needed more.

These were some of the better wings I've had in NYC. The wings were meaty, and I'd definitely be back for the Buffalo, teriyaki, sweet BBQ (hey, I like McRibs), thai, and jamaican jerk sauces. Both the wings and the fries were fried really well.

They were nice and not stingy at all. The clock didn't start till the beer hit the table. They let us know when to put in one last order before time was up, and we were not rushed as we stayed for quite a while longer to finish our food and drink. We were also able to take whatever we couldn't finish to go, which is not something many AYCE places allow.

Let's take my 33 wings and 5 pints for example and compare it to other deals around the city. If you go to a place with a happy hour of $3 pints and wings that average out to 75 cents per, that would total out to about $40 before tax and tip. If you went to a place with 25 cent wings and $5 pints, it would be about the same $33. So compared to other bar specials around NYC, you save a bit, but it's not like humongous savings. However, the quality of food and drink here was far and away better than any other bar specials I've had in NYC.

How much you drink is really the key part of the equation. Some of the other guys in the group only had 20 or so wings, but drank 8-9 pints. For those guys, it's great value no matter where you compare it to.

Overall, it was a great time and I would highly recommend it with the right group of people.

Mudville 9
126 Chambers St
(between Hudson St & Broadway)
Manhattan, NY 10007

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Underdog of the Week: NFL 2013-2014 Season Week 7 (sport, gambling, NFLUnderdog13)

In this series, I will pick an underdog every week that I think will not only cover the spread, but also have a good chance at winning outright.

Another week, another big underdog pick that just couldn't pull out the win. Buffalo had a chance there at the end in OT, but the basis of my pick was turnovers, which are just too hard to predict. On the other hand, if you faded all the big 9 point or more favorites as indicated by the stat of the week, you would've gone 4-1 ATS.

Underdog of the Week:
BAL +1 (some books even have it at 2.5)
BAL +110 ML

Week 7 can be a tough one for underdogs. Last season, only one underdog won straight up, and they did so by only one point (Tenn@Buff). My guess is that as the good teams start to pull away from the bad ones record-wise, it's tough for certain teams to find motivation. One good way for a team to be motivated, however, is to play a divisional match up. Over the past 6 seasons, road underdogs in week 7 division games were 6-9 straight up and 10-5 ATS, whereas non-divisional road dogs were 8-22 SU and 16-14 ATS.

There are two teams that fit the category this week in Baltimore and Dallas, but I prefer Baltimore. Despite the difference in record, the Steelers are a deserving favorite because their stats are actually better on both sides of the ball. The biggest advantage for Baltimore in the direct comparison so far this season has been turnovers, which as mentioned above are hard to predict. Pittsburgh, however, continues to face a rash of injuries while I can only imagine that Jacoby Jones and Ray Rice improve and open up the Baltimore offense as the season goes on. I also want to point out that the Steelers' lone win of the season came after a bye week, while the Ravens will be motivated to go all out with their bye week coming right after.

Interesting Stat of the Week:
Over the past 6 seasons, it wasn't just divisional road dogs who performed well in week 7. Divisional road favorites were even better, going 8-0 straight up and 7-1 ATS.

ATS 6-0
ML 3-3 +130

Monday, October 14, 2013

Slice Out Hunger: A Fairly Well-Run Event (food)

I'm not big on large scale tasting events, food festivals, or food fairs in general. I have no interest in waiting for hours for a cronut or at Smorgasburg for a ramen burger. But when I was catching up with a friend the other day and we had some time to kill, we decided to check out Slice Out Hunger. Slice Out Hunger is an annual volunteer-run event benefiting the Food Bank for NYC, featuring slices of pizza from over 40 different pizzerias, as well as drinks and desserts, all for $1 each.

Although doors opened around 6pm, we got on line at 5:30pm and didn't get in till 7:30pm. Even then, there were still plenty of people in line behind us, and there was still plenty of pizza. However, much of what was left were plain or margherita slices, as slices with more exotic toppings were all gone. Also, many of the more famous pizzerias, such as DiFara and Lucali, that people had been hoping to try had sold out by then.

We still ended up getting 20 or so slices each. While they did their best to stagger the arrival time of pies to keep them as fresh as possible, pretty much all of the pizza was room temperature by the time we got there.

While we took our pizza to go, many people ate them there at the church. I enjoyed the pizzas for lunch the next few days. Each one was indeed just a little different, although I had no idea which pizza came from where by then. The size of the slices varied by pizzeria, and many were very thin neapolitan type pizzas. In general, the cheeses were good and the crusts were often very flavorful and had good chewiness. Each pizzeria was clearly proud of their pizza, and there were no variations of "Ray's" or your average slice joint.

Overall, the event was very well organized and things ran smoothly. If you might be interested in going next year, here are some thoughts:

Do go if you want to be charitable and like the cause.
Do go if the idea of taking away a whole bunch of $1 slices for future lunches sounds good to you.
Don't go if you're expecting some amazing pizza tasting event.
Do go earlier if you want to sample the best on offer. Even though doors opened at 6pm, we heard some people were lining up as early as 3pm. Be prepared to wait at least 2 hours and get room temperature pizza.
Don't worry about getting stuck with pizza that you're not keen on. Pretty much all the slices I had were at least satisfactory, and the dessert and drink selections were fairly good for $1 each and just as good a use of your pre-purchased chits.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Underdog of the Week: NFL 2013-2014 Season Week 6 (sport, gambling, NFLUnderdog13)

In this series, I will pick an underdog every week that I think will not only cover the spread, but also have a good chance at winning outright.

Even though Dallas didn't pull out the victory, last week's pick was the one I'm proudest of so far this season. Not only were they the biggest underdogs I've picked so far since I started this, but it was astounding the amount of flak I got when I was telling people that Dallas had a good chance to win that game. I also want to point out that I spend a good amount of time on the "Interesting Stat of the Week" in addition to the weekly pick, and you would've hit a big winner if you followed last week's stat. By the time Monday rolled around, no underdog of 6.5 or more points had won straight up yet, and a play on the Jets to win outright as 10 point underdogs would've netted a tidy profit.

Underdog of the Week:
BUF +7
BUF +260 ML

With 5 weeks of games behind us, it is becoming increasingly clear which teams are good and which are bad. But how do bad teams upset good teams? One of the simpler answers is turnovers, something that is nearly impossible to predict. Yet over the past 6 seasons, 7 favored teams lost in week 6 because their QB threw 3 or more picks. This has happened regardless of whether the QBs were bad (Tim Rattay, Mark Sanchez), slightly above average (Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning), or fantasy studs (Philip Rivers, Drew Brees).

Buffalo is a big home underdog here because they are starting their practice squad QB, Thad Lewis. However, I think it's the Cincinnati QB who's going to have a bad game. Dalton has a history of throwing picks early in the season, having thrown at least one pick in each of his first 8 games last season and in 4 of his first 5 games this season. Add to that Buffalo's league leading 9 interceptions and 3rd ranked 18 sacks, and Dalton could be in for a long day. Also, who knows how often Lewis will even actually have to throw it with Buffalo's 3rd ranked running game?

Interesting Stat of the Week:
Over the past 5 seasons, there were no closing lines between 7.5 and 8.5 inclusive. Of the lines that were 9 or more points, favorites were 5-12 ATS and 12-5 SU.

ATS 5-0
ML 3-2 +230

Monday, October 7, 2013

There Will Be Leftovers: Whole Lamb Dinner at Resto (food)

There are currently a good number of whole animal large format feasts being offered in NYC. Many of these feature a whole roasted pig, but I wanted to do something a little different for a gathering of foodies. Resto's large format feasts stand out because they allow you to choose from a selection of animals (pig, lamb, goat, a side of beef, or fish if available) and then serve it in 10-12 different composed preparations instead of just cooking the animal whole.

I thought my foodie friends would be more adventurous, but many of them actually didn't like lamb! Luckily, CB from Eataku.com brought his lovely wife and Katie from donuts4dinner.com brought friends who were game! And so it began...

LAMB LIVER (upper left)
The large format feast at Resto is typically served in 3 "courses" or waves. The first wave consisted of a bunch of smaller bites to start us off. The liver was served with a sauce made from beer, which went well with the mineral-y flavor. The rillettes were meaty, but not particularly memorable. What was truly memorable, however, was the lamb belly pastrami. It had a nice array of pastrami spices, tasted of lamb, and was super melt-in-your-mouth tender without being too fatty. It was probably everyone's favorite preparation of the night. The lamb t-bones were also stellar, with a smoky flavor and very tasty meat.

The second wave featured more tender parts of the lamb, and introduced us to some vegetables. They did a great job with vegetables at Resto, and some in our group thought that the kale salad was the best version they've ever had. I liked the balance of the salad with the feta and citrus, although I would have preferred the bacon to have been thinner and crispier. Both the ribs and rack featured tender, juicy meat, but I preferred the ribs due to a nicely crisped up skin/layer on top and a sweet barbecue sauce that went well with it.

The third wave of dishes featured four large family-style entrees.
The lamb neck was a nice mix of tasty meat and collagen all crisped up. The curry sauce was relatively mild yet flavorful.

At first we were confused since the bones looked like legs, but it makes sense since the bone at the shoulder joint of a lamb is probably fairly big. The meat was tender and juicy, flavorful and not gamy at all. Once again the vegetables stood out as the beets were satisfyingly sweet and provided a nice texture contrast to the roasted lamb meat.

This was confit the way it should be. A crisp but not hard exterior with juicy, flaky meat. Mixed with perfectly cooked brussels sprouts, fluffy pita bread, and a thick tzatziki sauce, this was delicious and comforting. Some members of our group also thought that this was the best tzatziki sauce they've had.

They basically take the whole head, split it in two, and roast it under high heat. After that, they drizzle some flavored butter back over the brains. Only half the table indulged their inner zombie, but there still weren't enough brains to go around! The brains were delicious, super creamy and buttery, with a nice soft texture similar to perfectly cooked sweetbreads. We picked at the rest of the head as well, but not much of it was edible besides a little cheek meat. That didn't stop one of our group members from eating the eyeball though!

The perfect end to the lamb feast. Sweet, tart, refreshing, and light, yet still creamier than I would have thought.

The feasts start at an 8 person minimum, and range from $75+t/t per person for pig to $85 for lamb/goat and $125 for a side of beef. (They can't serve you a whole cow. I think) There are two seating times at 6 and 9, although we had the later seating and didn't get seated till almost 9:30. I would strongly suggest the later seating because we didn't leave until well after 1am! I would imagine that the earlier seating gets rushed a bit to accommodate the later seating. And yes, there were indeed leftovers even though we had a decent collection of eaters.

Overall it's a very unique and enjoyable experience, especially for more adventurous foodies with discerning palates. The fact that there were so many different well-composed preparations that featured not only the main ingredient but also seasonal vegetables and accompaniments made it stand out.

111 E 29th St
between S Park Ave & Lexington Ave
Manhattan, NY 10016

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Underdog of the Week: NFL 2013-2014 Season Week 5 (sport, gambling, NFLUnderdog13)

In this series, I will pick an underdog every week that I think will not only cover the spread, but also have a good chance at winning outright.

Shortly after I started this series, I was asked if I was going to pick big underdogs that provided good betting value, even though they were much less likely to win outright. Well, this week's pick is exactly that, but I also think there's a good chance of a straight up upset.

Underdog of the Week:
DAL +7.5
DAL +280 ML

There's been a lot of talk about how unstoppable Denver has looked, with Manning on pace to break all kinds of records. But now that a quarter of the season has gone by, let's take a closer look. Denver's opponents so far this season have been pretty bad, while Dallas' close road loss to the Chiefs seems much better in hindsight. Denver hasn't really been tested yet, and in the NFL, there's a very big difference between a good team routing a bad team (where big lines often aren't big enough) versus a good team given a big spread against a team that can put up a fight. Over the past 5 years, favorites in week 5 laying 6.5-8.5 points were only 7-8 straight up while favorites laying 9 or more points were 7-2.

Dallas has also won both its home games while Denver has only won on the road once. Given the small sample size, no one's willing to put too much into home-road splits, but it could easily matter. Over the past 5 years, teams favored by 6.5-8.5 points on the road were only 2-4 straight up. The Cowboys have been the poster child of inconsistency the last few years, but that's what makes them dangerous as a big underdog.

Interesting Stat of the Week:
Over the past 5 seasons, there's been at least one underdog of 6.5 or more points that's won outright in week 5.

ATS 4-0
ML 3-1 +330

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Haven't Forgotten About Baseball (sport)

With both New York teams having bad seasons, it seems that many of my friends have pretty much forgotten about baseball (and those who haven't all play fantasy). I've barely been following the sport myself, and it certainly didn't help that I wasn't able to watch last night's play-in game between the Rays and the Rangers because it ranked behind all the new fall tv shows I was DVRing as well as Monday night football in priority. But I do feel compelled to pay attention again now that it's the playoffs.

With the new wildcard play-in game, there are more teams than ever that are "in the playoffs", including the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates. (Are we back in the 90's?) Boston certainly surprised a lot of people this season, ending up tied for the best record in the majors despite being unheralded and playing in the toughest division. There are also many teams repeating playoff appearances from last year, including Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Cincinnati. But the team that intrigues me the most is the LA Dodgers.

The Dodgers interest me for a number of reasons. They were first brought to my attention by this covers.com article saying how sportsbooks could get hurt if they win it all. But what really draws me to the Dodgers are the pitchers. While I enjoy the game of baseball and its late season drama, I find baseball as a sport to be quite boring. Truly dominant pitchers, however, I do find to be a joy to watch. So while a lot of the attention has been on rookie phenom Yasiel Puig (although he did cool off considerably from his hot start), I'm focused on seeing Clayton Kershaw cementing himself as the best lefty of this generation (and possibly best pitcher overall).

So while I'm still not sure how many playoff games I'll watch, I do expect to catch all of the LAD vs ATL NLDS, with such star pitchers as Kershaw, Greinke, and Kimbrel (he's amazing) along with up and comers Medlen and Ryu. I just wish Hudson was pitching too. I always thought he was underrated despite being one of the most consistent top starters of his generation.