Fa ra ra ra ra

I wouldn't want you to be confused by the post-ultra-pre-modern decor and sleek matte vibe as you make your way into the Peking Duck House on Mott st in NYC's Chinatown. This simply can't take you away from the fact that the Duck is fabulously authentic and delicious in every way. They re-create, as much as possible, the way the dish was done in its inception in Beijing in 11 A.D. So pay no attention to the nouveau wood paneling, the slick table scapes, the forks on the tables. This is the real deal Duck done right at the Peking Duck House. Even the music is authentic Bette Midler's Beijing hits. 

First things first, the very best ducks start by using, well the very best ducks of course! The restaurant sources the ducks, farm raised, from Long Island - minus the attitude. And unlike most long islanders, they are not force fed, and they are indeed free range. The idea being the happier your animal is in its lifetime the better he tastes after the fact. A way of life I can truly believe in. Basically the best life ever with just one bad day. So once they're fat and happy enough they're taken aside and alleviated. 

I'm going to pause there. I want you to know that I thought at great lengths about my word choice for this very important step. I just felt it important that my readers (both of you) knew that. 

Once on the other side of alleviation the duck is pluckedmassagedmelted and blown. So a normal Thursday night in Chinatown. 

Let's break that down step by step:

The plucked part is self explanatory. 

The massage. This is making room for the air. A few steps later the duck is going to be blown up like a balloon. The massage is separating the meat from the tendon from the ligament and from the bone to make room for the air. The reason you inflate the Duck is so there's no wasted skin. Think about a BBQ chicken wing. Go on, think about it. Underneath the wing is a lot of wasted skin. If the chicken were to have been blown up with air there would be more surface area therefore allowing the wing to be cooked crispy. But before you go off blowing chickens let's get back to our Duck. 

The melting. We have to melt out the fat first. The Duck spent months getting fat just to be melted out. This is done for several reasons. One being that if you didn't melt it out, He would be entirely too fatty. Another being that the Chef adds no oil or butter to this dish. Mr. Duck comes to the party with his own. (Don't we all! Some of us more than others). The chef holds the Duck sideways over a pot of steam water, slowly turning Him making sure the fat melts out evenly. 

I'm going to pause here once again to tell you that this is the exact same set up they had at my first weight watchers meeting.  

The inflation. Brhuuoomph. That's the exact science term that is used to describe the noise made when He's blown up with compressed air. Brhuuoomph

Now we cover the Duck from His beak to His feet in maltose which is the by-product of making beer. It is germinated wheat barley. The very high sugar content is pulling out any moisture, helping to flavor Him as well acting as a preservative in the process. Obviously this dish predates refrigeration. How awful would it be if refrigeration had been invented 100 years earlier? Pretty damn awful! We would be missing out on some of our best foods. I'll save that thought for another Blert. Oh that's what I'm calling these blogs...Blerts! 

So, the Duck is slathered in beer byproduct from His top to bottom (again just a normal Thursday in Chinatown) and hung to dry for 24 hours. Now we're cooking! Literally, now it is time to cook the Duck. First, He's hung on a pole and dipped inside the oven to cook the skin first. The super sweet and sticky maltose hits the fire and it turns that fabulous shiny and golden burnt-orange. Then He's placed back into the oven to roast all the way through. 

The Ducks arrival to the table is met with the appropriate oohh's and aahh's. After we give the Chef, who prepared our Duck from start to finish, a nice well-deserved round of applause, he begins the carving. Let's take a moment to acknowledge that watching the master chefs at Peking duck house carve is like watching a virtuoso play the violin. Except the music coming from the chefs instrument isn't playing musical notes. This song is no less sweet but far more juicy. A meat filled symphony if you will, and I will! 

The Chef carves the skin first and neatly piles the pieces around the outer edge of the platter. Next the meat is carved and placed onto the center of the same platter forming a mosaic of gold tinted browns and shiny bronzes of Duck meat. 

At this point the waitstaff takes over and starts assembling the dish but not before one final round of applause for our chef as he tucks his knife away and heads back to the kitchen.  

A mandarin wheat pancake (made from scratch in-house of course) is topped with the best hoisin sauce I've ever had. Seriously! I'm not usually a fan of hoisin sauce as a general rule it's mostly too saccharine sweet for me. But I could drink this hoisin like a martini. The hoisin is also made from scratch and is fermented yellow beans sweetened with dried black plum. Next is the meat and skin then cucumber and scallion and one final piece of skin and another dollop of hoisin and the whole thing wrapped up neatly and devoured intensely. 

One final note: As I mentioned, the Duck does come out with the head still intact. So if you can make it through the entire presentation without referencing the end scene from A Christmas Story, then give yourself a well deserved round of applause as well. 

Ra ra ra ra. 






The Subway sandwich of Europe

 Standing on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village between Leroy and Morton facing south is one of the best views in all of New York City if I do say so myself. And I do!  Not for the skyline or views of the new World Trade Center or the Empire State building or even the Chrysler building.  No, this a view a of Europe or at least European shopping. In my direct sight line is a cheese store, a pork butcher, bread store, behind me is an olive oil store and down the block is a poultry and beef butcher. You go to the store that specializes in an item, takes immense pride in what they do and you are shopping more on a daily basis versus a weekly or monthly grocery store run. Which is the way that I grew up in South Alabama.  The way my mother, being a true southern lady, has always gone grocery shopping Is called "going to town". She goes to the super Walmart once a month buys everything goes home cook then goes back next month. She firmly believes that if 'you can't find it at Walmart you don't need it'. 

With this blog I will be covering each and everyone of these awesome New York City specialty shops but today I'm gonna be telling you all about that pork butcher called.... Faicco's.

 Faiccos opened in 1900 and has never left the Faicco family. Today it's run by the fourth generation of Faicco's named Eddie. There's a picture in the storefront window of Eddie's little girl named Gillian who will be the fifth generation of the Faicco's whether she wants to be or not.  And one of my favorite things about the shop is all the pictures throughout the store of the family. Uncle Joe and granddad and grandma. Mom and pop family run generation to generation. The heart and soul the pulse of New York City. 

 They have become pretty dang famous for their sandwiches. If you stand on Bleecker Street long enough you'll see firetrucks pulling up to Faicco's. When you see the FDNY eating somewhere eat there! It has been vetted for you. If you can't decide where to go for lunch go stand on a street corner and wait for firetruck to pass you and follow them! Not with the lights but without the lights follow them. They're going somewhere good to eat! 

 My personal favorite sandwich is one that I used to call my Sunday sandwich. I used to have it every single Sunday. As I'm (very very slowly) approaching 40 I've had to cut back on that. With getting older I don't mind a few extra wrinkles. (So few wrinkles in fact I probably didn't even have to mention it). I don't mind the new and growing list of aches and pains. I don't even mind not being able to drink coffee as late as I used to. But I do mind when age starts trying to steal my Sunday sandwich! Aren't you happy enough to have stolen my child like wonder? I guess not. Anyway. This sandwich is a literal taste of the street. A freshly-baked crunchy on the outside soft on the inside baguette from the bakery. Mozzarella so fresh and yummy the cow had to be convinced not to keep it for herself. Crispy fried juicy chicken cutlet from the butcher. Impeccably high quality olive oil and a beatifully bright and creamy pesto. Yeah. 

One of the first times my mother came to the City to visit me I brought her to Faicco's and had her try my Sunday Sandwich. She said (this will be the best ringing endorsement of a sandwich you will hear as long as you live) "OH MY LORD! THAT IS BETTER'N SUBWAY!!!"

So if it is better'n Subway, if the bar has been set to such a high degree, it's obviously a good sandwich.