Lenny’s NY Pizza Co. – Ormond-by-the-Sea

My senior year of high school, I went to Paris for the first time. My expectations were high; I’d romanticized Paris in my head for years.  And when I got there, I was disappointed.  Same thing happened in Dublin.  I had these dreams of what each place would be like — I’d find my true love on the banks of the Seine, I’d drink a pint in a cozy wool sweater surrounded by the green hills of the Emerald Isle — dreams that reality could never match.  What am I trying to say?  That having excessively high expectations can lead to disappointment.

Over the years, there is one thing that I’ve learned to have zero expectations of: anything purporting to be “NY pizza” outside of New York. In general, I try to avoid any establishment making such a claim at all costs.  Last night, I threw all caution to the wind and visited Lenny’s NY Pizza Co’s location in Ormond-by-the-Sea. What lured me in you ask? Well, just do a quick image search for their garlic knots. It’s ok. I’ll wait.

Oh, you don’t want to open another tab?  Ok, well, I’ll just leave this right here.

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Garlic knots to die for

Do you see that parm?  The parm in the olive oil?  Zomg.  Now, these are not your traditional strips of dough tied in a knot and then slathered with garlic. No, no my friends.  Dare I say it, these are better.  The edges are crispy and the insides are pillowy soft.  And as you tear into them there are so many surfaces to dip into that cheese/oil/garlicky goodness. (I like that you add a k when writing garlicky, mostly because I really wanted to lick the plate.)

I don’t know what Lenny’s is like on a week night; we went on a Saturday at about 7:30pm and they were SLAMMED.  Like the estimated delivery time was two hours.  Our server was running all over the place.   There was a back up for the oven, but every minute we waited was worth it.  Also, giving ourselves a buffer between those garlic knots and the rest of the food was a-ok by me.

After watching the most gigantic pizza boxes I’ve every seen go out the door (24″ is their extra large!), out came the night’s special: a ziti bolognese (pork, veal, and beef in that sauce) and an eggplant stromboli.  According to our server, that bolognese simmered for more than four hours. The meat was incredibly tender and the flavor of the sauce was spot on.

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Ziti Bolognese

Now, let’s talk stromboli. Lenny’s gets a 12/10 because they peeled their eggplant. This, to me, is the defining characteristic of people who know their way around such an Italian staple.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have some eggplant parm with and without the skin.  There’s a world of difference.

So, eggplant: A+. The dough was perfectly crispy and gorgeously thin.  And the cheese. Once my blogger skills get better, I’ll go back and boomerang the heck out of that cheese pull.  I’m thinking of the leftovers in the fridge right now and I’m basically that drooly face emoji.

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Eggplant Stromboli

No, we didn’t have pizza. I told you already, I have trust issues.  But, through this showing, Lenny’s has gained my trust.  Next time, we’ll get a slice…or maybe a whole pie. And yes, there will be a next time because Lenny’s second location is only seven minutes away from our new apartment.  And, I owe you a cheese pull.

In and around Daytona Beach

When Ben first visited Daytona Beach last March, he called me and said, “There’s only chain restaurants down here!” The panic in his voice was palpable.  So began the journey to find some delicious eats.  We’ve visited quite a few places in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, and New Smyrna Beach, and have discovered some real gems.  We are always looking for new favorites, but here are some of the places that we’ve loved:

Breakfast:

  • The Cracked Egg (Daytona)

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Tia Cori’s Tacos (Daytona)
  • Mr. Dunderbak’s Restaurant and Deli (Daytona)
  • Greektown Taverna (Ormond Beach)
  • The Dancing Avocado (Daytona Beach)
  • Chucherias Houndernas (Holly Hill)
  • Aunt Catfish’s on the River (Port Orange)
  • Panheads (Port Orange)
  • Corkscrew (New Smyrna Beach)
  • Lenny’s NY Pizza Co. (Ormond-by-the-Sea)
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The Garlic Knots App at Lenny’s NY Pizza Co. in Ormond-by-the-Sea

Sweets & Treats:

  • Donnie’s Donuts (Ormond Beach)
  • Cakery Creations (Ormond Beach)

I wanted to start with a list in case anyone else was in the same boat that we were searching for the tasty foods.  Our next goal will be to give you some pictures and the yummy details about these delicious noms from around our new home.

A Night in Boston, 23 NOV 2013

I was needing an escape from New Hampshire during my visit up there to visit family for the holidays, so I booked a hotel and some restaurant reservations in Boston.

The view from my window of the Boston Waterfront area.

The southeasterly view from my window at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.

The first stop for me was Drink.  I had hit this fantastic, top-rated cocktail bar back in 2011 after a previous overseas tour (see here and here), and wanted to experience them again.

I started by asking for something with Green Chartreuse (a favorite of mine).  I was started off with a classic – The Last Word – with gin, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur, and Green Chartreuse.  Along with that, I had the very tasty (albeit tricky-to-eat) Sirloin Carpaccio.

Sirloin Carpaccio.  You have to pick it up to eat it, and it's too big for one bite.  I had some issues and was probably embarassing myself as I ate it, but it was delicious.

Sirloin Carpaccio. You have to pick it up to eat it, and it’s too big for one bite. I had some issues and was probably embarassing myself as I ate it, but it was delicious.

The Last Word.

The Last Word.

I followed The Last Word up with a Bijou (gin, Green Chartreuse, a sweet vermouth, and orange bitters) which provided more of the complex flavors of the Chartreuse.

Bijou.

Bijou.

To change things up, I asked for something with kümmel (previously mentioned here), an old, but hard-to-find liqueur which tastes of carraway, cumin, and fennel.  What I got was The Maiden’s Choice, which consisted of Plymouth Gin, dry vermouth, and kümmel.  This cocktail is great for showcasing the interesting flavors of the kümmel, although it’s a flavor that is probably an acquired taste.  Fortunately, I like it.

The Maiden's Choice.

The Maiden’s Choice.

The mixologists over at Drink have a thing for showmanship as well.  As I was enjoying my beverages, I watched them playing with fire.

Yep, that's fire he's pouring right there.

Yep, that’s fire he’s pouring right there.

I met up with some D.C. expatriates at the bar who endorsed Mockingbird Hill [Twitter/Facebook], the new Derek Brown sherry bar in Washington that I’m going to have to hit when I’m back in town.  A mixologist at Drink also recommended it.

After taking a short break after Drink (their drinks don’t want for alcohol content), I headed over to Empire Restaurant and Lounge for dinner.  Sporting a nightclub atmosphere (see – “Lounge”), I wasn’t sure what to expect the food to be like, although I’d seen high reviews for the joint.  I was happy to discover that their food program (namely the sushi, which was what I stuck to) was excellent.  Besides running Empire, Big Night Entertainment Group runs GEM, which has also received plaudits for their food.

I started off with the Hot Night in Bangkok (Avion Silver Tequila, plum infused sake, passion fruit, and Sriracha sauce), which provided a combination of sweet and spicy flavors.  It went well with the Sushi Cupcakes (broiled Maine lobster, spicy garlic butter, crispy pressed sushi rice, and marinated uni) of which I considered getting a second order.

My view of the Empire kitchen.

My view of the Empire kitchen.

The Sriracha goodness that is the Hot Night in Bangkok.

The Sriracha goodness that is the Hot Night in Bangkok.

Sushi Cupcakes.

Sushi Cupcakes.

Next up – the Hamachi Tartare Roll (with avocado, gobo [burdock root], cucumber, topped with spicy yellowtail tartare, and served in a ginger sauce) the fresh taste of the tartare went great with the ginger.

Also in this round – and one reason why I picked this location for dinner – was the ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll (with tempura cod, malt vinegar tartar sauce, and yukon potato chips).  I’m a big fan of the Fish and Chips Roll over at SEI in D.C., hence my interest in this menu item.  The Empire version adds in more of a vinegar flavor, which reminded me even more of the flavors you’d experience in a traditional fish and chips basket.

Empire's 'Fish & Chips' Roll

Empire’s ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll

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Hamachi Tartare Roll.

Hamachi Tartare Roll.

The final four dishes I went with were Nigiri-style – the Tuna ‘Hot Night’ gunkanmaki (spicy tuna, sliced chilies, sesame chili oil), Wagyu Beef Nigiri (with crispy shallots and a dark rum glaze – the beef replaced the nori as the wrap around the roll), Eel Nigiri Kabayaki (barbequed eel, sesame purée [reminiscent of peaut butter], and Granny Smith apple), and the Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’ (more Wagyu beef, along with Sockeye salmon, scallion, ginger, and sweet miso vinegar).  Great rolls.

Wagyu Beef Nigiri (right), Tuna 'Hot Night' (left)

Wagyu Beef Nigiri (right), Tuna ‘Hot Night’ (left)

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Nigiri 'Surf & Turf'.

Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’.

Closing out the evening, I made a stop over at Eastern Standard near Kenmore Square, and started off with a great Old Cuban (rum, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, sparkling wine float, mint).

Old Cuban.

Old Cuban.

Eastern Standard also likes their sherries, as evidenced by the five sherry cocktails on their drink menu.  Asking for my bartender’s favorite, I got The Veil of Sanlúcar (La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, chamomile mezcal, agave nectar, and bitters) – a great smokey cocktail.

The Veil of Sanlúcar.  Perfect way to finish the evening.

The Veil of Sanlúcar. Perfect way to finish the evening.

I’ll be back in the Boston-area every year around the holidays, and I’ll be making it a point to hit some new places every time.  If you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know!

What I’ve Been Eating, 12 Nov 2013

Sorry for the long hiatus.  I’ve been vacationing in southern Afghanistan, and now that I’m back, I figured I’d share some of my meals.

Bagram

Bagram. Mexican Food, Chicken Tenders, Cherry Cobbler

So Bagram wasn’t terrible for the limited amount of time I was there.

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This healthy breakfast was had in Maiwand district, Kandahar province.

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Significantly less healthy breakfast a couple days later, also in Maiwand.

So Maiwand didn’t score too high.  Still better than MREs, though.

Panjwai

Solid Army meal of taco meat and spaghetti. The spaghetti was spiced up with something that gave it a more exotic flavor. Hopefully it wasn’t the moon dust in Panjwa’i district, Kandahar province.

I wasn’t in Panjwa’i as long as I wanted to be, but the food on some bases wasn’t bad.  One in particular had made-to-order burgers every other week.  The one I had (sadly, no pictures) had a chipotle aioli with grilled onions, mushrooms. and jalapenos.  After the long trip to get there, it was phenomenal.

The winner for best DFAC (that’s Dining FACility for the rest of you) has to go to a location in Spin Boldak.  Consistently good meals for the time I was there, with a great dessert bar.  I had a strawberry smoothie there one day.

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Obviously, wearing your reflective belt is mandatory when you’re mixing up some fruit smoothies. Safety first, people. Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province.

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It tasted better than it looked. Note my strawberry smoothie.at 1100.

Obviously though, anyone who makes sushi at a combat outpost will win this competition.  Yes, this actually happened.

Spicy Salmon Roll, with water chestnuts and asparagus.  Senjaray, Zharay district Kandahar province.

Spicy Salmon Roll, with water chestnuts and asparagus. Senjaray, Zharay district, Kandahar province.

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The finished product. Simple, yet refined. The only sushi ever had at such a remote location? After 12 years of war…there are no firsts.

 

Tonight I’ll be having my first sushi since getting back.  I don’t know that I’ll appreciate it as much as I did with the sushi in Senjaray.  There’s something to be said for having a luxury like that out there…it becomes the best tasting thing you’ve ever had.

 

Other food that I had out there (besides all that wonderful DFAC food) included spicy chicken and lamb from a takeout joint in Kandahar City, some of the fantastic naan flat bread from Panjwa’i, Qabili Palao, and the cloyingly sweet chai (50/50 sugar-tea mix is how it usually tasted).

 

I’m glad to be back, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the food scene.  Suggestions welcome.

Gangnam Sushi House, February 2013

I’m sad to say that Osaka Sushi in Annandale has closed.  However, Gangnam Sushi House has opened in the same location…and they’ve got really good sushi.

Here’s a few photos of what I tried out when I went last week.

Monkey Brains - seaweed salad and spicy tuna wrapped in avocado and topped with roe.

Monkey Brains – seaweed salad and spicy tuna wrapped in avocado and topped with roe.

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Japanese Lasagna Roll

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Heart Attack Roll…with two big chunks of jalapeno per roll.

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Gangnam Sushi House
6669 Little River Tpke
Annandale, VA 22003

Kansas City Restaurant Recommendations

I had a request recently for a few Kansas City, MO restaurant recommendations.  In 2010, I spent six months there and was able to eat pretty well, so here’s what I’ve got:

Kato Sushi – I had an absolutely disgusting amount of sushi from this place…it was a once a week (at least) stop for me.  Lots of those chef’s special rolls that I’m a fan of.  There’s a few of them on their website, and more on their daily board at the restaurant.  Also good – KC Sushi, Moonlight Sushi, and Wasahi Sushi, but they were farther away from where I was living.

Kato Sushi Takeout.

Kato Sushi Takeout.

Bristol Seafood Grill – Something of a chain (four in the area, and two sister restaurants in seven other cities), but they have a huge brunch buffet, which includes a Bloody Mary bar.  Dinner there wasn’t bad either…especially their Seared Ahi Tuna.

Blanc Burgers + Bottles – Wow…their burgers are so good (for example, the American Kobe, with port wine onions, truffle butter, mustard aioli, and watercress on a salt and pepper brioche bun).  They also have EIGHT different boozy shakes (like the Bananas Foster one – 99 Bananas, sauteed bananas, brown sugar, 151, and vanilla custard), and these excellent locally-made sodas called SodaVie (I was a huge fan of the Citrus Chili and Thai Basic Clove flavors) which they also add into cocktails.

Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen – This place had a different name when I was there (JP Wine Bar and Bistro), but I get the impression that it’s probably the same place based on the look, the fact that it’s still a wine bar, and because JP’s URL sends me to Tannin’s site.  Tasty food and good wine (and scotch).

Oklahoma Joe’s – The award-winning barbeque place that you MUST visit.  In a gas station.  With what seems to be a never-ending line.  Look past both of those facts and order yourself a Z-Man Sandwich (slow-smoked beef brisket, smoked provolone cheese, crispy onion rings, all on a kaiser roll).

Really sad about this one…R Bar and Restaurant was hidden in West Bottoms in an industrial area…live jazz bands and excellent food (Bone Marrow Risotto comes to mind) and cocktails (I think I had my first Moscow Mule here, and they had a bunch of house inventions).  Apparently they closed.  If I owned a bar, this is what I’d want it to look like.

A few upscale places:

Bluestem – This place was excellent.  I got their ten course tasting menu with pairings when I was there (I was a fan of the torchon de foie gras with brandied apple butter, stout ice cream, and pecans, paired with a glass of Heinz Schmitt Riesling Auslese).

The American Restaurant – Top-notch fine dining by Executive Chef Debbie Gold, a James Beard award winner and Top Chef Master.  I had some amazing duck breast as a part of their seven-course tasting menu.

Duck Breast - part of my tasting menu at The American.

Duck Breast – part of my tasting menu at The American.

Michael Smith Restaurant – Michael Smith and Debbie Gold were the husband-and-wife chef team over at The American Restaurant.  In 2002, they left to open 40 Sardines, until they divorced in 2007.  Gold went back to The American, while Michael Smith went on to open his own restaurant.  This is another great spot if you’re looking to try a top tier tasting menu (best is Smith’s six-course, which was, naturally, the one that I got).

And also…

If you haven’t been to KC before, check out the Power & Light District‘s nightlife…it’s like a mall…of bars and clubs.  Also, check out the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  The building itself is worth going to see.

Power & Light's nightlife scene during the day is much less exciting, but you can see what it offers.

Power & Light’s nightlife scene during the day is much less exciting, but you can see what it offers.

I'm not sure what this was supposed to be, but the rest of the Nelson-Atkin's Museum is more awesome.

I’m not sure what this was supposed to be, but the rest of the Nelson-Atkin’s Museum is much more awesome.

Fuego, 3 November 2012

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria is a new Mexican restaurant located where Harry’s Tap Room used to reside in Clarendon.  I dropped by there the other night to meet some folks for a birthday party, but after checking out their menu, I thought I should get some dinner there first.

First off, they’ve got some flavorful guacamole.

Some good, flavorful guac.

I went for three orders of soft corn tortilla tacos each ($7 / order of two).  The tacos at Fuego come with three salsas – rojo, habanero, and salsa verde – which went well with all the tacos I tried.

I got orders of the Lengua (slow braised beef tongue), Al Pastor (spit roasted marinated pork and pineapple serrano salsa), Birria (Jalisco-style roasted goat), and Pollo (chicken tinga, shredded lettuce, queso fresco).  The vegetarian I was eating with got the Calabaza version (Yucatán-style roasted squash and spicy pickled red onions).

Beef Tongue Tacos…so good.

Goat Tacos…

Round three – pork and chicken tacos.

To not overdo the taco theme of the evening (although they were all quite tasty – especially the beef tongue), I next ordered the Ceviche de Pescado (Tilapia, habanero, red onion, fresh lime).

Closing it out with a good ceviche.

Fuego offers three-glass flights from their extensive menu of over 110 tequilas.  This time around, I went with a flight of blanco, reposado, and añejo Chinaco.

Substantial amount of tequila options…according to a tweet I received from @FuegoCocina, they’ve got over 110 of them.

Also, great specialty tequila cocktails.  Try the Mala Suerte (habanero infused tequila, triple sec, grapefruit juice, lime juice) or the Gherkin Fresca (Sauza Blue Silver, Hendricks, jalapeño simple syrup, cucumber-lime agua fresca – has a great, fresh, cucumber-y taste).

Mala Suerte…

…and the Gherkin Fresca

I’ll be trying out some of the rest of the menu next time I drop by…I expect it’ll be good.