Food For Thought

by Alan Philips

Been a couple of weeks, sorry I have been M.I.A.
Hope you've been well, we both must have a lot to say.
Been hanging around, doing me and baking in the sun.
Eating, drinking, acting as pure as a nun.
But those good moods don't eternally last,
Because it is the human condition to be a pain in the ass.
Some want money, some want power,
Others want nothing more than a drink at happy hour.
I devour those who can’t play well
Because they didn’t study, they can’t see or tell.
A proper nemesis is what we all need,
Someone who, we can't exactly read.
Someone or something, that challenges us everyday,
Because otherwise our will to conquer will decay.
Just don't play too much or have too much fun
Or one day you will wake up and wonder what you have done.
The people you see on the way up are the same people you see on the way down.
So treat them the way you way you want to be treated or you'll be "east bound and down"
You see, balance is the key to life, control your ego and you will control your strife.
Do this and you will be rewarded plenty, with trips, homes and maybe even a Bentley.
Don't and you will just keep going up and down,
And when the merry go round stops, no one will be around.
See you at the finish line, be a good person and you will be fine
But never forget about today, because that's all that matters anyway.
- Alan Philips & Josh Shames

7th Street (Between First Ave & Ave A)
A couple of weeks ago, my cousin Rob and I went out to eat with a vengeance. I met him at his house for a drink, and we began to discuss our potential destinations for an early dinner. He mentioned two restaurants on 7th St between First and Avenue A—Pylos and Desnuda—which he swore to me were absolutely magnificent. Avenue A has never been known as a culinary mecca, more like falafel and cheap drinks, but Rob has never steered me wrong, so I followed him blindly into gluttony with an empty stomach and low expectations. Little did I know that we would be embarking on a ravenous expedition, to one of the city’s great hidden gastronomic destinations. 

Pylos – 128 East 7th Street
We decided to begin with some Greek appetizers at Pylos. Pylos is a modern take on the traditional Greek bistro. The space has clean lines, and the main design element is a ceiling covered in clay pots.  When it comes to Greek, I stick with white wine, and we began with a simple dry white table wine.  Along with our wine, we shared some sumptuous appetizers including Greek Giant Beans baked in a honey-scented tomato dill sauce, and the Maroulosalata, a traditional salad of shredded lettuce with scallions, dill, and feta. We also enjoyed the meatballs, which were beautifully light and flavorful, one of the house specialties. We could have escaped this voyage with a Branzino and Baklava, but it was not what the gods had in mind (and we were restless). So without hesitation, we got up and headed next door to Desnuda.

Desnuda – 122 East 7th Street
Desnuda is a perfect 25-seat Cevicheria and Wine Bar. We were greeted warmly by the chef, Dominic Martinez, a man akin to a young Beethoven or Mozart with raw fish. Dom, as he is called, has tremendous skills with simple ceviche. I believe that he is a good partner away from being one of the best ceviche chefs in Manhattan. We started with an incredible Pablo Pabin ‘07 Albarino, one of the best white wines I have ever had. As is traditional in a Cevicheria, the wine was accompanied by popcorn; theirs is covered in truffle butter, a simple but delicious trick to wake up your palette. We shared some of their signature ceviches, my favorite being the permeant off-the-menu lobster special. Some other highlights included the Hamachi with Fiji apple and jalepeno and a yuzu marinated yellowtail, seared tableside in hot chili oil. After two bottles of wine and four ceviches, we couldn’t help ourselves. We needed more.  

Porchetta – 110 East 7th Street
Inebriated, but unusually still hungry, we stumbled out and noticed a light still on at Porchetta.  Porchetta is Chef Sara Jenkins’ sandwich shop that specializes in only this one sublime Italian Sandwich.  For those of you not aware, Porchetta is a savory, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast. It is prepared by arranging (carefully) layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolling, seasoning, and salting, before roasting over wood. The result is drop-dead delicious, abundantly juicy, lusciously seasoned, and varied in its myriad of textures. From the moist, fine-grained loin meat to the chewy, fatty crackling and the little melting bacon-like bits. For our purposes, it was a palette cleanser. We downed two of them in five minutes flat on our way to Luke’s Lobster Bar.  The food is going in way too easily—I am in the zone. Like Kobe hits jumpers, I am eating sandwiches. This is easy like LeBron’s mom.

Luke’s Lobster Bar – 93 East 7th Street
At this point I am beginning to wonder why I am not full. Is it the fact that ceviche isn’t carbs? Am I just drunk?  Or am I so intoxicated with sugar and fat-induced joy that I am tripping the light fantastic, rolling on pork fat. Whatever the reason, our bodies said “yes” and we crossed the street into Lobsterville. Luke’s is the hipster version of Mary’s Fish Camp or Pearls Oyster Bar—all of the fun and none of the hullabaloo. We both decided to enjoy lobster rolls for our main course. Luke’s differentiates itself by using little or no mayo—a lighter option and at a slightly lower Ave A price of $14.  It’s good for the heart, not so much for the stomach. In this case, the lack of mayo probably saved me from throwing up, but I cannot say it is as good as Pearls, Mary’s, or Ed’s.

Butter Lane – 123 East 7th Street
As we staggered out of Luke’s, Ginger Brew in hand and barely breathing, we looked at each other and knew our expedition was nearing completion… but not without dessert. How would this journey be complete without dessert? Sugar would be our savior, the exclamation point on a feast of gargantuan proportions. So down the street we walked to our final destination, Butter Lane, a cupcake shop not unlike Magnolia or Billy’s. I am not sure we could speak at this time, but we managed to procure four deliciously sweet cupcakes including a salted caramel masterpiece. Like two men crossing the finish line at a marathon, we downed all four (including crumbs) and coffee. In disbelief, we sat outside staring at each other in complete silence. 

As we got up and finally departed Butter Lane, this fateful evening coming to an end, I felt as if we had set a new standard in gluttony. This was not a Jewish holiday, this was not Thanksgiving, there were no excuses, no birthdays… this was just pure unadulterated indulgence. Seventh Street between First and Avenue A will go down in my gastronomic record books as a monumental achievement. For one night there was no tomorrow, no calorie counting, no skim milk; just the mind of a Middle-American school kid implanted into two distinguished gentleman, looking cholesterol in the eye and coming out victorious. Long live pork fat, feta cheese, raw fish, lobsters, cupcakes, and alcohol, because what is life without them but a sad medley of conversations and broken dreams.   

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.” - Chuck Palahniuk

Live deliciously and see you next time at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.

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