Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Porno Pie" Slices at Artichoke 

The pizza theme continues.

We went to see the Duplass Brothers' Baghead at the TFF tonight. We'd missed it at Sundance and both Sherpa Dan and Josh Leonard told me it was worth seeing. I was a bit concerned because I generally agree with Sherpa Dan, but Mr. Leonard and I seem to have completely opposite tastes in film (much to my consternation). Anyway, they were both right. It's a smart and nice little piece of film making that manages to be both a satire of indie films while staying totally within said genre.

Realizing that we were near the newly opened and much lauded pizza joint Artichoke on 14th near 1st Avenue. Pretty much every NYC cool hunting email (thrillist, urbandaddy, et. al.) has blurbed this place, so I've been itching to give it a go.

It's a tiny place where more than five people on line means the line stretches out the door. The line is also hard to gauge because you don't know if all of these people just walked in and ordered whole pies or only slices that need to be cut and/or heated. We stood in line, chatting with some other fun customers and eyeing the folks exiting to try to determine if this experience was likely to live up to the hype. K. noted that it looked like a pretty cheesy pizza. (Pre-WeightWatchers, this might have excited us.) There were only three choices: plain, Sicilian and the house style of spinach and artichoke. We opted for a slice of plain and one of the house.

We hopped in a cab and headed uptown while munching as neatly as possible. K. declared it "pornographic": super-cheesy and a volcanic explosion of rich flavor. I have to agree. In some ways, it's like an open faced calzone.

On both slices, the bread is doughy with massive bubbles, the sauce is strongly flavored and seems to be heavily dosed with some nice olive oil. The house slice comes across as if it's pizza that is actually made with bechamel sauce. (K. said it's like that artichoke dip you used to get when "white trash food" got trendy again at parties a few years back.) The plain slice is much easier to manage. In either case, I cannot manage anyone having more than one slice unless you'd just exited the Mojave and were starving...in which case these would be too rich for your stomach anyway. This video of the Artichoke gang making an "off the menu" broccoli rabe sandwich speaks volumes about their food ethos. If it were a piece of furniture, it would be shabby chic and overstuffed.

Bottom line: I'd have a plain slice there again but K. would rather go to a place with a more sparing approach to ingredients and where you don't feel the immediate need for a Lipitor chaser.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Slice of Life 

So last Thursday, K. said, "Let's take a walk" after we had dinner. I built on her idea and said, "Let's go to a wine bar!" So we hied ourselves over to Bin 71 on Columbus where we had a nice Banyuls and a very nice Auslese.

Dessert proved to be less nice. We ordered a molten chocolate dessert (what restaurant doesn't have one these days?) and it came burnt. Burning the chocolate cake did not enhance the flavor whatsoever. Now I should note that I frequently like burnt things (which seems to be genetic), but my beloved does not. And in this case, I had to agree.

Our waitress was rather shocked that we asked to return it. We had perhaps gone too far in sampling its burntness for her to feel it was appropriate. But she took it back and grudgingly brought another. Which revealed the problem. The center was cold, solid chocolate. And the bottom was only a bit burnt. Egads, Dr. Watson! They're making the cake, refridgerating it and then firing it when it's ordered! No wonder the bottom is burnt! They have to make the solid center turn liquid and they have to do it fast. So they broil that m*f'er until the bottom is charred. Ick. Unfortunate, because other than that silly dessert, the food at Bin 71 is quite good.

We left Bin 71 at about 10pm, feeling strangely unsated after our dessert failure and as we headed West back across 72nd Street, I noted that if Grandaisy were open I would actually opt for a slice even though we'd technically had our dinner. K. pointed out that our beloved City is the city of the slice. I agreed and said something to the effect of, "Some Saturday we should just wander around all day long splitting single slices from each joint we pass."

K. said, "Why don't we do that right now?"

We were just walking by City Pie which we've never actually tried before and I said, "Fine!"

We stepped in and looked over their selection. The plain in particular appeared to have an unusually thin crust. We ordered up a slice. Why haven't I tried this place? Is it the generic graphics? That thin crusted slice really rocked my world. It was one of the thinest crusts I've had that managed to be incredibly crisp, hold the pizza up just fine and was in no way charred. The sauce and the cheese were in terrific proportion. I found myself unexpected describing it as "a remarkably elegant slice".

From City Pie, we walked up Broadway a bit and then headed over to T&R on Amsterdam. Most Upper West Siders who grew up on the UWS are a bit religious about T&R. I've never been sure why because while I like it fine, it has never blown my socks off.

That said, we did have a bit of a fond NYC moment with with T&R when the blackout hit. T&R was furiously cooking off all of their ingredients because they had a working gas stove but no refridgeration. K. and I bought a pie and then trotted across the street to Nice Matin where they were only able to serve drinks (until the ice gave out) and had no food. Nice Matin allowed us to bring our T&R pizza inside and order up drinks.

We sat in the open doors of Nice Matin on that hot summer day watching the waves of fellow New Yorkers hoofing it uptown on foot the way we have to do when our beloved city breaks down. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like a parade and there appeared a few flatbed 18-wheeled trucks, giving a ride uptown to as many of our stranded denizens as would fit. Those folks standing up on the truck had taken to waving as if they were a parade and those of us on the sidewalks took to waving back and cheering. It was a strangely only-in-NYC moment.

Returning to our original story, the T&R slice was both enormous and workmanlike. It was of moderate thickness and pretty darn cheesy. I found it mostly impressive for its size, but perhaps I was just still flying from the City Pie slice. K. seemed to like it better than I did.

Now we were into double-dare-ya territory because there was still New Pizza Town between us and our apartment. Neither one of us was willing to back down and so our third $2.50 slice of the night arrived out of the oven just as my brother rang my cell. I explained what we were doing at what was now about 10:30pm and he was pretty amused.

The NPT slices are a sweeter sauce than most and thinner than T&R, but not qualifying as "thin crust" in the way that City Pie did. I like NPT a lot. There's something bright and happy about the sauce and it all comes together quite nicely.

All of this to say, we really need to do that wandering pizza walk one Saturday this summer. Anyone care to join us?

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