Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Shamrock Series (page 2 of 2)

The Meatball Shop

If you follow the blog closely, you’d know that I am a rather ardent fan of a classic meatball sub.A seemingly simple affair, there is a subtle art to the perfection of a meatball sandwich, and I dedicated an entire blog post singing the praises of Polito’s in South Bend last year.

 

http://www.pigskinpursuit.com/2009/10/cloudy-with-chance-of-meatballs.html

 

Respectable meatball sandwiches, however, seem to elude the entire country West of the Mississippi and I have yet to find one suitable to the palette in Texas. A trip to New York came with a handful of culinary certainties, and a proper meatball sub was at the top of that list.

 

Now you can find a meatball sub on just about any street corner in Manhattan, and though certainly delicious, they are hardly distinguishable. But in the lower east side, a mere two blocks from Katz Deli, lies a place that specializes in these spherical delights. The Meatball Shop on Stanton Street is appropriately named because they serve nothing but meatballs and I salute the laser focus of their business plan. Given my energetic zeal for the dish, I decided to put these experts to the test.

There is some variety to be found at The Meatball Shop, and literally dozens of different combinations to choose from.It’s like the Baskin Robbins of meatballs.They have about five different kinds of meatballs ranging from traditional beef to lamb, as well as a half dozen different kinds of sauce.Furthermore, you can order them “naked”, on a bed of pasta, on a slider or in a standard hero type sandwich.

 

Being a staunch traditionalist, and wanting an apt comparison to other meatball purveyors, I ordered a typical beef meatball sub with classic tomato sauce.Out of sheer curiosity I also tossed in an order for a spicy pork meatball slider.The traditional sub was a classic delight with tender meatballs filling the crunchy baguette and oozing with reams of sauce and cheese.While I wished they had stuffed a few more of those house made meatballs into the roll, it was still pure gooey delight.The spicy pork slider lived up to its reputation, as the heavy red pepper notes came blazing to life and sent me reaching for the water glass with each bite to quell the flames.

Finishing off the meal, we talked ourselves into one of their enticing ice cream sandwiches.Similar to the robust meatball menu, The Meatball Shop offers a handful of different homemade cookies that can be paired with various ice creams for a scrumptious ice cream sandwich dessert.After considerable deliberation, some lively debate and extensive polling of the table next to us, we settled on this little peanut butter and chocolate delight that was quickly descended upon like a pack of rabid hyenas.

In the end the Meatball Shop was a worthy stop for my meatball sub fix in New York. I like the simplicity of their idea, and solute their dedication to the subtle craft of the perfect meatball. Now if they could only move to a roomier location, I wouldn’t have to rub elbows after each bite with the other patrons crammed in next to me. The lady next to me was rather fortunate I didn’t harpoon a few meatballs off her plate while she chattered away distractedly. Husky fellows like myself need our space to eat, and contact only slows me down…

 

http://www.themeatballshop.com/
http://www.themeatballshop.com/menu.html

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Katz’s Deli – The Pinnacle of Pastrami

While New York is arguably the epicenter for cuisine in North America, and one can quite literally find every kind of food in the world there, no type of eatery is more iconically New York than the deli (with the lone exception of the deliciously dangerous dirty water street corner hot dog). As such, a massive sandwich at an authentic NY Deli trip was placed on our itinerary, per Kate’s exacting demands.

 

During my research, two names came to the top of the list: Stage Deli and Katz Deli.Torn between the two pillars of pastrami, I decided to confer with my friend and resident massive sandwich connoisseur Bill (made famous for last years recommendation of Fat Willy’s Rib Shack in Chicago).His response was prompt and to the point: “don’t go to Stage – that’s what tourists from Nebraska do”.Katz, he assured me, was the real deal and Friday’s lunch was settled.

Upon walking into Katz, you are handed a meal ticket and greeted with a rather ominous sign. “Guard that ticket with your life” Bryce sternly warned me pointing to the sign, and it was evident that the security guard at the door meant business. I still can’t deduce the true advantage for these meal tickets as opposed to regular “checks”, but I would posit they are a throwback to several generations ago. I certainly don’t remember seeing these irritating scraps of paper during the Katz Deli scenes in “When Harry Met Sally” or “Donny Brasco”.

The pastrami sandwich at Katz proved worthy of its lofty reputation. Blindingly simple in its construction, the sandwich consisted of a mere three components: pastrami, bread and a touch of deli mustard. But as you often read on this blog, perfection of the simple things are often the best. The pastrami here is carved off in luxuriously thick slabs of warm cured beef (brisket cut by the way), and piled generously high onto soft deli bread. Served warm, the meat is incredibly moist and flavorful, requiring only the slightest touch of mustard to offset the smoky saltiness. Forget about the crap you find in grocery store delis, this is what pastrami was meant to be.

Also adorning my meal were some potato Latkes, which is basically a Yiddish word for potato pancakes. Delicately fried to a golden brown the latkes were a crispy treat with a hint of onion that paired extremely well with the sour cream on the side.

I left Katz topped off for the afternoon, and reinvigorated by just how satisfying the simplest of sandwiches can really be. The only downside on the visit was a sobering reminder of the exorbitant cost of living in New York, when my “ticket” heftily punched out at over twenty five bucks for a sandwich, potatoes and iced tea.

 

http://www.katzdeli.com/

 

Thanks to Bryce and Kate for joining me at Katz’s, and waiting patiently while I hoofed it over there after a Subway miscalculation.

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Hill Country Barbecue – Texas BBQ in the Big Apple

Shortly after dropping my bags at Dylan’s apartment, my lifelong friend and host for the weekend, we started running down the extensive list of dinner options. To his sheer dumbfounded amazement, I informed him that despite traveling all the way from Texas, I wanted barbecue for the first meal of the trip. Mockingly bemused, Dylan agreed, and to the subway we went. Nothing whets the appetite quite like the effervescent aroma of dank subway platform.

Though it may seem strange while in New York I wanted to get barbecue, if only for comparison sake. I wanted to see if a city that, perhaps arrogantly, claimed mastery of all forms of cooking, could match the muster of the Texas barbecue joints I have come to love so much. Hill Country Barbecue would prove the most apt choice for my trial, as they modeled themselves (quite literally) after the infamous Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, and claimed to proffer genuine Texas Barbecue.

You can read up on my previous visit to Kreuz Market here:

 

http://www.pigskinpursuit.com/2009/11/kreuz-control.html

In short, I wanted to hate Hill Country NYC. I wanted to scoff mockingly at New York and their brash arrogance for thinking they could even attempt to pull off proper Texas Barbecue. I wanted to laugh haughtily at the pit master, kick his dog, and tell him there were gas stations in Texas that could smoke circles around him.

 

But then I tried it. And to my astonishment, it was actually pretty good. Not only passable, but actually decent by Texas standards. You can’t imagine how difficult those words are to type.

 

I’ll apologize in advance here for the picture quality. I forgot my usual camera on Thursday night and had to resort to the Iphone for documentation.

 

To be clear, it’s still not as good as the “Best” places in Texas, and I would still gladly prefer the floor scraps at the real Kreuz Market in Lockhart. From an experiential standpoint, there is no comparison to the open smokers and charred brick wall charm of small town Texas meat markets. But the fact that Hill Country was actually decent was far more than I had expected.

 

The sausage, which they claimed was actually flown in from Kreuz market in Lockhart, proved to be the genuine article. Naturally I opted for the jalapeno cheese variety, and while not quite as smoky, it was otherwise indistinguishable from what you find at Kreuz (pure sausage delight). The ribs were probably the most disappointing of the meal, as they lacked much smokiness and chewed a little hard for me. I don’t think they had spent enough time in the smoker. Finally, the brisket was excellent. It had a generous smoke ring, and a well formed bark. It could have been a bit smokier throughout, but still had notes of smoke and well rendered fat which told me that Hill Country pays more than lip service to proper smoking.

The atmosphere inside is modeled after, and eerily similar to Kreuz Market in Lockhart. Evidently the owner had spent some time in Lockhart, and wanted to recreate that experience for patrons in New York City. The ordering process is the same, as you order your meat at the “smoker” by the pound wrapped up in butcher paper, and then scurry over to another counter for your drinks and sides. They even offer Big Red and Shiner Beer. Finally, there are pictures of the actual Kreuz Market staff adorning the walls of Hill Country, along with old pictures of the Lockhart High School Football team tacked up in the walls of the restrooms.

In the end, it was interesting to fly halfway across the country and find the unique experience of rural Texas Barbecue in a metropolis like New York. While it certainly isn’t quite the same, the juxtaposition of a BBQ joint in a world metropolis is both interesting and tasty to say the least. It’s further proof of the old adage that “you can find anything in the world in New York”.

 

And I think it was just good enough to convince Dylan to make another pilgrimage down to the promised land to sample the real Kreuz Market first hand…

 

http://www.hillcountryny.com/

 

Thanks to my friend Dylan for putting up with my strange barbecue habits even in New York.

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