Tsuta is the world’s first Michelin starred ramen joint.
It just opened this past Friday, so there was a line when my friend and I showed up to try it. We waited about 1.5hrs in the bitter cold, but once that ramen hit our lips, it was worth it.
I tried the spicy mala tonkotsu ramen, which had a nice tingly broth from the Szechuan peppercorns that are infused in it. All of their noodles are soba, which I was initially worried about because I generally prefer egg noodles with thick broth ramen. But these noodles were perfect, and they went well with the rich, spicy broth.
This was $20 for the regular sized bowl. It comes with one slice of chashu pork. I added the seasoned soft boiled egg for an additonal $4.
Our apps came out after the ramen, which wasn’t so bad considering the place was brand new and absolutely slammed. Some of my friends who also went complained of even worse problems. Of these, the chicken was probably the best, but I’d rather share a second bowl of ramen than get these again.
Next visit, I’ll have to try their signature bowls (shio and shoyu), which feature truffle oils.
This will serve as sort of a double whammy review, since I used some nice products while cooking up these amazing steaks from New York Prime Beef.
New York Prime Beef is a high end middle meats (ribs and loins) brand that operates out of Hunt’s Point in the Bronx. I was invited in to meet the owner and employees, get a sense of the business, and try out some of their amazing products.
New York Prime Beef sells top notch prime, American wagyu and kobe beef steaks. They ship fresh overnight to anywhere in the US – never frozen unless the customer asks for it.
Each cut is beautifully packed in shrink wrap and butcher paper – even signed/initialed by the butcher who does the cutting.
Now let me tell you; I’ve had some really great steak in my day, as you can imagine. But the American wagyu strip that I took home and cooked was fucking flawless. Seriously one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, and I made it myself!
Look at the freaking marbling on this. Even the marbling has marbling.
It was a really simple cooking process. You can’t fuck it up. Season first with some salt. Heat up a little bit of oil in a cast iron pan until it’s screaming hot. Pop the steak on there for two and a half minutes per side.
But I actually used some truffle oil, truffle salt and truffle butter that I got from The Truffleist to boost up the decadence even more.
Take a look at the video:
The finished product was absolutely stunning. To be honest, this beef doesn’t need anything except for salt, but this truffle wagyu meal was fucking TITTY BAGS. I want to eat like this every day!
The texture is melt-in-your-mouth. You can cut this shit with a fork. The flavor has a buttery quality to it that sets it apart from standard beef or even prime, dry-aged beef. This stuff is like the foie gras of beef!
And that’s not to knock the other cuts they offer. Wagyu or Kobe isn’t in everyone’s budget. I also tried a prime porterhouse, and a prime dry-aged rib eye. The minimum these guys will age a cut of beef is 28-days. When I was at the facility, I saw some that had been aging for 60 days.
But anyway, let me get back to what I made at home. These babies were cut nice and thick, so I wanted to make sure I got a proper cook temp all the way through.
Sous Vide machines are all the rage these days. Everyone is buying them up because they allow you to cook meat perfectly every time. No more worrying about fucking up an expensive cut of beef!
I set mine to 128 degrees and let the fucker crank for about six hours. Then I pulled the meat out of the machine and let them rest and reabsorb some juices in the bag. Once they were about rom temperature plus, I removed them from the bag, patted them dry with a paper towel, and blasted them with a blowtorch. See below:
As you can see, I seasoned AFTER slicing and plating. This allowed me to get a better sense of the actual beef flavor for reviewing purposes.
The meat is fantastic. There’s a nice mild funk from the dry aging process on the rib eye. It doesn’t clobber you, which is good. The beef was tender and juicy, and really responded nicely to basic seasoning like salt, pepper and olive oil.
I think I liked the porterhouse a bit better. The tenderness of both the strip and filet sides was incredible.
I highly recommend this stuff. Order some today and let them know that Johnny Prime sent you. You’ll probably have the meat in time for dinner grilling on Sunday.
One of the coolest things about this spot is that the owner, Vinnie (great name), is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.
He’s a drag racer, a pilot, an old car guy (like me), and an art enthusiast. He even has some wild graffiti art on his rooftop (he supplies the paint for the artists).
I think that about covers it. I hope to see his products flood the market. They’re so good.
I’m going to use this product review and press event post as a vehicle to deliver unto my readers a comprehensive guide to truffles. Let me begin with the education portion of this post.
What Are Truffles?
You’re probably all somewhat familiar with truffles. You occasionally see them on menus as expensive add-ons to your pasta dishes, and you may see “truffle fries” offered at a higher price than regular French fries at certain restaurants. Shavings per ounce can be quite pricey, especially for white truffles.
But what exactly is a truffle? It’s a fungus. It’s a tuber-like fungus that grows along the roots of certain trees, like oak, hazelnut and chestnut. They are incredibly aromatic, with an intensely concentrated earthy flavor profile that’s truly unlike anything you’ve ever tasted or smelled before.
Some people say they’re similar to mushrooms, but that’s like saying Kraft mac and cheese powder packets taste similar to piave vecchio. Not even the same ballpark. Similar to dry aged beef, fermented foods, or smoked and/or aged cheeses, truffles offer that same kind of “umami” sensation for your taste buds.
Size & Shape
They typically range in size from something like a walnut to about the size of a softball. They get to market size overnight, growing very fast, as do other members of the fungi kingdom. However it may take some time for the spore to first germinate properly.
But just like the saying goes for dicks, “size doesn’t matter.” The same flavors exist in small or large truffles. But preference does matter (just like dicks, I would imagine). The smaller truffles are just as good in terms of quality as the larger ones. They’ll still get you off. Yet, kind of like a director’s preference for big dicks in porn, some restaurants want larger, more uniform shaped truffles so that their shavings look prettier on the plate.
Speaking of which, their shape varies based on the soil in which they grow. Soft, loose soil allows the truffle to grow and expand mostly unhindered into a more spherical shape, while harder, rocky soil will result in more odd-shaped, lumpy truffles.
Kinds of Truffles
There are (generally) four varieties of truffle: white, black summer, black winter, and bianchetto.
As you can see from above, there are specific seasons for harvesting each type of truffle (in Italy, that is). The neat thing is that some black truffles are grown in Australia as well, so we have access to them in the reverse seasons as well.
Each style of truffle is suited for its own unique purposes. For example, white truffles are best for shaving directly onto freshly cooked food, like eggs and pasta. Black truffles are better suited for grating and incorporating into sauces. If you see black truffles being offered for sale, per ounce, shaved directly onto a food item, my advice is to skip it. That’s not the ideal way to enjoy a black truffle, and you may not even taste anything.
Ripeness & Storage
The best way to tell if a truffle is good is to feel it and smell it. They should be firm, but not rock solid, and definitely not mushy. The aroma should be very powerful and fill your nose with an abundance of robust earthiness. In fact it is said that some can detect up to 120 different flavors and aromas from a fresh truffle.
Here, you can see how the degradation process occurs as a truffle goes from good, fresh and ripe to bad:
As a truffle begins to go bad, less of those invigorating aromas come through, the truffle gets spongier, and it emits a more ammonia-like scent. Eventually a white truffle will turn more brown, as well.
The shelf-life for a fresh truffle varies from 7-10 days for white truffles, to 15-20 days for black. A truffle is about 90% water, and it will lose 3-5% of its moisture per day, so that’s why it’s so important to use them while they’re fresh. The intense, characteristic flavors and aromas come from the moisture content within the truffle.
Lots of times you see truffles stored in a box filled with rice. This isn’t a good idea, unless your goal is to infuse the rice with the flavor of truffle. The dry rice will leech out all the moisture, and thus the flavor, from the truffle. My opinion: that’s a dumb move, even if your goal is to infuse the rice. Why? Because rice dishes will never sell for or be worth an amount that’s high enough to cover the cost of the truffle you just wasted by storing it that way.
The best way to store a truffle is to individually wrap each in a paper towel, somewhere cool. It should also be put into a wooden box or a glass mason jar; not plastic, as plastic doesn’t breathe the same way. Excess humidity can build up in plastic and ruin the truffle.
Where Do They Come From?
In Italy, truffles can be found in a variety of locations, as Italian geography is ideal for producing the right weather conditions that result in truffle growth.
The coveted white truffles are highly sought after when they come from the Alba, Piedmont area in the northwest, which is similar to our Napa Valley. However the demand for certain wines from that region (Barolo, Barbaresco) has created a situation where the land is being altered by vintners, with trees being removed to make way for grape vines, and chemicals being used in the soil to aid in the grape-growing process. Trees are necessary for the truffles to grow, so Alba truffles are very rare indeed. In fact, less than 3% of the truffles on the market hail from Alba, and most of the truffles from that region stay local. So be aware, if you happen to see a menu flaunting that the truffles are from Alba: it is likely a lie.
Black truffles can be “seeded” with spores and grown in other locations that have the right climate and trees, but white truffles can not. Therefore, white truffles tend to be a fuckload more expensive, as they are much more rare and localized. Think $1,000/lb.
In Italy, much of the land where truffles are hunted is public access, meaning anyone can come by (licensed truffle hunters, typically) and pick up a truffle. In other places, like Australia or the USA, the land can be owned outright so no one else can lawfully snatch up any truffles that might be growing on your tree roots.
Now that you’ve gotten a good first lesson on truffles, I guess I can begin the product and press review portion of the post.
Urbani Truffles began in 1852 and now supplies 70% of the global market with their truffles.
Urbani Truffles are in the hands of NYC restaurateurs within 36 hours of being dug up by their network of truffle hunters in Italy. Amazing! Truffle hunters go out with their trained sniffing dogs at night, to minimize noise and distractions for the dogs. The next morning, any truffles that were gathered are cleaned and sent to the market or shipped out on airplanes all over the world. Cleaning just requires getting the dirt and blemishes off (like a potato). If needed, some light brushing is done, but cleaners are careful to avoid direct contact with water, as that can harm the truffle.
Take a look at this Urbani video below, which will help you visualize the entire process.
You probably noticed some truffle products in there, like oils and canned goods. Whatever Urbani doesn’t think is fit for the fresh market, they use to create various other products.
Like their fresh truffles, these products are all top notch quality. They never use chemicals in their products, so everything is all natural. Chemicals actually taint the flavor of truffle products, and deliver too much truffle flavor and aroma up front.
All of Urabni’s truffle products will deliver a delayed and longer lasting truffle flavor, due to their rejection of chemicals in the production process.
I had the pleasure of sampling both their fresh truffles and some of the products they sell when I was invited to their truffle lab on West End Avenue.
As a matter of fact, I was there while a presentation was being given to six Art Institute / International Culinary School students who were selected as the top of their classes to learn about truffles and to practice cooking with them. Talk about having a great lunch!
First, we experienced one of the most simple and satisfying ways to enjoy fresh white truffles: shaved directly onto a fried egg.
According to Vittorio, the VP of Urbani Truffles, salt should be sprinkled on after the truffles are shaved onto the egg. Pepper can take away from the truffle flavor and aroma, so skip that.
Truffle oil goes really nicely with flatbread and pizza. This one we tried really popped, making something as boring as zucchini really exciting for a change.
We also sampled one of the canned truffle products: white truffle with porcini mushrooms. This was added to a pan of sauteed shallots and butter to make a sauce, which went on top of some polenta.
This was delicious, and I can totally see this being used to spike something like gravy or even to make a sauce for the top of a filet mignon. Really flavorful – best thing I ever ate from a can.
Another item I tried was their truffle mnustard. I plan to feature this in some recipes in the future, as I think it would be an excellent addition on a cold cut sandwich or a burger.
Finally, we tried some truffle cream cheese spread as well. This, too, was plopped onto some sauteed polenta. I can’t imagine how amazing this would be on lox.
If you’ve got room in your budget for a fresh truffle, I say go for it. Urbani delivers the freshest product I have ever experienced, and they supply big dog restaurants like French Laundry and Del Posto. Whipe up some homemade pasta, cook it, throw the pasta in a pan with some butter, fry a sunny side up egg for the top of the pasta, and shave that delicious truffle right onto it. Perfection.
But even if a fresh truffle isn’t on your to-do list, then I highly recommend picking up some of Urbani’s other products and experimenting with truffle in your own recipes that way. You can’t go wrong. Every product is amazing.
At $5 a chub this is probably one of the best deals you can find for any sort of truffle salami on the market.
While this isn’t a dry or hard type of product (typically aged and very robust in flavor), it still delivers a huge wallop of intensity.
Again, I reiterate… FIVE FUCKING DOLLARS. These things fly off the shelves at Trader Joe’s. Last October (2015) they were already sold out for the year. Since then I have been constantly checking back and calling to see when they’d be back on the shelf. I’m glad I capitalized on the opportunity when I saw them and picked up four chubs. That should last a few weeks.
I recommend you try these. I’ll be using one for a nice homemade pizza in the near future, but these babies are great just sliced thin and on their own.
Once again Trader Joe’s comes through with a big bargain win.
I was recently invited to an Instagram influencer and PR event at this little Italian joint in the village which was re-focusing its menu for the fall. I tried a few items and snapped pics for good measure.
Mushroom crostini: flavorful, but the topping was a bit too watery.
Sausage: absolutely delicious. I could eat a whole trey.
Pumpkin piadina: I wasn’t really a fan of this, which is a shame because it was the star of the show for the fall menu. It lacked flavor and the pumpkin was a bit too sweet for my savory tooth. It did have a nice texture, however, and the mushrooms were a nice addition.
We also tried some truffle french fries and truffle risotto as well, but I didn’t photograph those items. Both were very good and nice and robust with the truffle flavors.
ROMAGNA READY 2 GO
182 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012
Crispo is a gorgeous Italian joint down on 14th Street near 8th Avenue. My buddy and his girlfriend have been coming here for years. I had never heard of it, but when he told me about it, I knew we had to try it out together as a group.
We started with a bunch of apps. For that reason, and because I knew we were also going to eat pasta and steak, I took it easy on the delicious and generously portioned table bread.
First, we had a sampler app trio of speck, aged goat cheese and mozzarella rice balls. The meat and cheese came with dried fig and an apricot/fennel jam. Both the speck and the cheese were great, top quality products.
The rice balls were addicting. You can easily catch yourself popping a bunch of these in a row without even realizing what’s going on. They were perfectly fried to a golden crisp on the outside, and the inside was both firm from the rice yet oozing with delicious melty fresh mozzarella cheese. Not heavy, salty or greasy, which is the opposite of what you sometimes get when these are done wrong.
The next app was a nice, simple fried calamari. This also came with fried zucchini. There was a cornmeal aspect to the breading here, which made for a nice crisp crunch. That’s fried parsley on top, too.
Our favorite app was this crispy pork belly topped with a melted gorgonzola-stuffed fig. Underneath the pork belly was crispy polenta, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
This was one of the most tasty apps I’ve had in a while. In fact, I think this could be an incredibly successful entree as well if just magnified in proportion. Seriously, I could eat this all day. The fat is cut with the acid, and the funk of the cheese takes the flavors off onto a ride that’s more wild than the fucking Great Space Coaster.
So after all of that, we were finally ready for some pasta. This place seems to be somewhat famous for two pasta dishes in particular: the Spaghetti Carbonara and the truffle ravioli. I know what you’re thinking. “Spaghetti Carbonara? I can get that crap at any halfway decent Italian joint.” But here’s the rub: most Italian joints fuck up their Carbonara with cream, making a dense, salty and overly-heavy pasta eating experience. Real Carbonara, from what I understand, doesn’t have any dairy, other than the cheese you grate over the top! The creaminess is achieved via egg yolk.
Break the yolk, mix it around a bit, and you’re ready to rock. Just sprinkle in a green veggie and some crispy pig bits. I must say, this Carbonara was divine, and like none I’ve ever really tasted before. Not only was the pasta cooked just right, but the ingredients were well-balanced, and nothing was too salty. A big problem I usually have with Carbonara is sweating like a pig while I eat, because of all the FFFFFFFFFFUCKING salt that’s usually in it…
The hand made truffle ravioli were nice and al-dente, served in a simple brown butter type sauce, and the portion was large for a very reasonable price. I was expecting like six somewhat large ravioli in the bowl, not a dozen.
Now to the meat. My wife and I shared the New York Strip steak, which was simply grilled and then topped with a mound of red wine reduced onions.
The steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the onions (I’m a purist), I did find myself going into them every so often out of an enjoyed curiosity. The meat itself was nice, tender and flavorful. 8/10.
The steak also came with parmesan herb fries. These were really crispy, and the parmesan acts as a cheese-funk seasoning that replaces the standard salt. Very nice.
Last, we had some creme brûlée, pot de creme and pistachio gelato. I didn’t snap the gelato pic for some reason, but I did pull the trigger on the cremes (the two come in one dessert order – bonus).
I was blown away by the quality of the food here, the service, the ambiance and decor, and the portion sizes. I’m ashamed that this place never made it onto my radar in all its years in operation. But not just that: the prices are really fair. All of the food described here, plus about two or three alcoholic drinks per person (wine, cocktails, beer, after dinner drinks), plus a round of coffee for everyone with dessert, only came to $105 per person, with tax and tip included (we had four people at the table total). I was shocked.
Needless to say, I’ll definitely be back here, because there is a lot of shit on the menu that I want to try (like the pork shank).
THREE LITTLE PIGS!!! I’ve seen this stuff in markets before, and always wanted to try. I finally was able to at the 2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show. They make amazing mousses, pates, jams, mustards and other sorts of items in that vein.
This goose mousse had hints of truffle, but was super velvety and smooth. I could eat that entire log!
Whole Foods sells a reasonably priced black truffle salami at their cheese counter. The brand name is Vincenza. It’s not a bad item, and at about $6 for a chub, it comes in much cheaper than some of the high end truffle salami guys I’ve come across.
The flavor has a bit more of a spicy kick than other truffle salami brands I’ve tasted, but it still has a decent earthy, funky truffle essence. It’s not just truffle oil for the flavoring either – I can see the little black bits of truffle in the mix (it is also listed in the ingredients). That’s a good sign.
While it’s not my favorite truffle salami, it’s definitely good for when I’m looking to save a few bucks. And it’s seemingly always available in abundant quantities at the cheese counter.
It turns out this company makes some other decent salamis as well. I tried two more the following week and liked them both, though neither had the same earthy character as the truffle salami.
Venice style – similar to the truffle salami about, but without the truffle notes.
Cacciatorini style – slightly more garlicky and sweet.