Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kyochon - 32nd St & 5th Ave

319 5th Ave

New York’s dining scene has been buzzing lately about famed Korean fried chicken joint Kyochon, and its recent descent on Midtown Manhattan. This fast-food fried chicken restaurant has just opened a new outpost on the corner of 5th Ave and 32nd St. Sadly, the reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype.

Kyochon’s futuristic, space-age design is interesting enough, full of starkly contrasting reds and whites, shiny chrome and clear plastic. But the walls of televisions upstairs are a huge distraction, and the über-modern aesthetic also applies to employee uniforms, inviting a comparison to flight attendants from a poorly costumed Tarantino movie.

Korean fried chicken is a completely different style from the Southern fried chicken of Popeye’s and KFC - and to give Kyochon their due, they deliver on the distinction. At Kyochon, the chicken (drumsticks or wings only) is fried twice for extra crispness and brushed with either a soy-garlic or hot & sweet sauce. But the glaze is a bit thick, and the hot & sweet sauce is not spicy enough to merit the cashier’s warning. The chicken itself is fairly decent, but ultimately disappointing given the high expectations Kyochon’s set up for itself.

Kyochon is located on a section of 5th Avenue just on the perimeter of Koreatown, an area full of mandoo, bibimbap, gogi gui (Korean barbecue), and – you guessed it – Korean fried chicken. In fact, Kyochon’s main competitor, Bon Chon Chicken, is about to become their neighbor, moving in just half a block away within the next couple of months. And Bon Chon makes the same chicken - only much, much better.

With so much competition nearby, Kyochon needs to start offering more than just hype.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Poll of the Week - 3.29.2010

Two weeks ago, The New York Times ran an article on “rediscovering salsa”. It’s a great read about different kinds of salsa (both authentic and Americanized) and the way different Mexican salsas enhance and complement specific foods, just as different French sauces are best suited for particular dishes.

In America, we kind of have our own definitions of salsa. People prefer radically different varieties and “salsa” conjures up specific memories for a lot of people. Maybe salsa makes you think of the jarred stuff you inhaled during your college years. Or maybe you take a fishing trip with your buddies every year and always served the day’s catch with sweet, fruit salsa and cold beer. Or maybe your favorite Mexican restaurant makes a hot, smoky salsa that you want to smother on everything within sight.

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what is your favorite kind of salsa?

And if you have any specific salsa-related memories, please share them in a Comment!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grillin’ on the Bay 2010 - Recap

The NEBS-sanctioned Grillin’ on the Bay barbecue contest was not at all what I was expecting. It was completely wonderful, and a real learning experience. I had pictured an event similar to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (only 75 days away as of March 28!), but with a secluded judging area off to the side somewhere. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a community entirely new to me – the world of competitive barbecue.

One of the first things I learned was that at these barbecue competitions, food is not available for purchase from the competing teams, although the competition’s sponsors – RUB BBQ and Chelsea Brewing Company, in this case – will sell food and beer on site.

Also, the Grillin’ on the Bay competition was less of a true barbecue competition and more of a grilling competition. Many teams were using smokers, but set up only started at 6 am the day of the competition – instead of two days prior.

Beer Belly Porkers, getting ready to compete

And finally, the judging itself was more serious than I was expecting. NEBS has over 6 pages of rules, outlining everything from what is an appropriate garnish for each category, the calculations involved in weighing the judges’ scores from each category, and acceptable definitions of “stuffing” and “bacon” – which vary from one category to another!

Judges sit six to a table and, using a double-blind judging system, score 5-6 entries per category based on appearance, taste, and texture – in that order. The rules for judging the four categories (fish, chicken, pork ribs, and “chef’s choice”) are strict, even a seemingly mild violation can be grounds for disqualification. Did you present your fish entry with a lemon wedge, or perhaps finish it with a chunky sauce? Disqualified. Did your chicken entry have a garnish of anything other than green leaf lettuce, Italian parsley, or curly parsley? Disqualified. And what if your entry missed the turn-in time by only one second? You guessed it – disqualified!

I had no idea barbecue judging rules were this specific, although the seasoned judges at my table told me that KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) rules were much more strict. Assuming all goes well, I will be a KCBS certified barbecue judge on May 2, so I’ll be able to comment more on that in about five weeks!

After judging, the scores are weighed by the Contest Representative and the top ten winners in each category (fish, chicken, pork ribs, chef’s choice, and “best overall”) are announced, with the top five winners from each category receiving trophies and prizes.

Blazin’ Buttz BBQ took “Best Overall” this year - additional winners are listed at the bottom of this post

Being a judge was a terrific amount of fun, and the food was so good! It’s important to remember to pace yourself and only have a few small bites from each entry, or else you’ll never make it through the day. The only thing I wish had been different was it would have been nice to know if you had tried an entry from any of the winning teams – but the double-blind judging system eliminates that possibility, adding a playful dash of intrigue to the event.

If you’re not a judge, though, the best way to enjoy an event like Grillin’ on the Bay is to slip in as a Table Captain. Table Captains bring the food from the Contest Representatives to the judges, present each entry, and then get to eat any leftover food! Since many entries contain more than six samples, being a Table Captain is a great way to get to see all 27 entries for each category and taste almost all of them (judges can only see and taste the six entries at their table).

My first time as a NEBS judge was kind of like joining an exclusive club for the day. Almost all of my fellow judges had been around the block a time or two, and many were Master KCBS judges (something that requires judging 30 different qualifying events, cooking with a barbecue team, and passing a written test!). It was great to see them have a sort of reunion here in New York, some traveling from as far away as Massachusetts and Maryland.

My clothes still smell like smoke from standing outside before and after the judging, but it’s a price I’ll happily pay. I can’t wait for the next one!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grillin’ on the Bay 2010

New York City’s only officially sanctioned barbecue competition is happening this Saturday, March 27 out in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The 5th Annual Grillin’ on the Bay barbecue competition is sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society and will (pardon the pun!) pit 30 pitmasters against one another in four categories: fish, chicken, pork ribs, and “chef’s choice”.

But the best part is that Little Scarlet has been asked to judge this extravaganza!

Will 2010’s competition see reigning champion barbecue team Transformer BBQ be crowned Best Overall for the second year in a row? Or will 2008’s winner Smoke in da Eye reclaim their title? Come see this Saturday and watch how it all plays out!

Grilling starts at 11 am, admission is free, and the food (and beer!) is pay-as-you-eat. But that’s not all, the Brooklyn Chili Smack Down will also be happening that same day - same location and everything! The Chili Smack Down will begin at 1 pm and is $10 for all-you-can-eat chili - at least until they run out. For a full list of competitors and full event schedule, click “Read more” after the jump.

Official website:

Location: St. Mark School, corner of E 18th Street and Avenue Z, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn

Time: 11 am - 4 pm, Awards at 4:30 pm

View Larger Map

Poll of the Week - 3.22.2010

National Barbecue Month may not be until May, but now that spring is officially here, it’s time to dust off those grills and rekindle your love affair with barbecue! Little Scarlet has some exciting barbecue-related news to share (look for it later today), but here’s a new “Poll of the Week” to get you excited.

Many people confuse barbecue with grilling, thinking that as soon as you throw some steak, chicken, or veggies on a grill, it’s automatically “barbecue”. Real barbecue, however, is cooked “low and slow” - using indirect or low-level heat and cooking for several hours. This process locks in the meat’s juices and yields extraordinarily tender meat. A lot of barbecue is also smoked, and while you can get smoke flavor by adding liquid smoke to any barbecue sauce, that taste that can only come from real wood smoke is truly something special.

For all the barbecue lovers out there, tell Little Scarlet - what’s your favorite kind of barbecue?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zucchini Muffins

Corned beef and cabbage may be the traditional food with which to toast Saint Patrick’s Day, but over the years, I’ve found that people get excited about anything green. While a few drops of food coloring can turn anything from mashed potatoes to Budweiser green, there’s plenty of green to be found naturally - like in zucchini bread!

If you’ve never had zucchini bread, don’t be put off by the idea of making “squash bread”. The zucchini melts into the bread while baking, yielding a lightly sweet, spiced bread that’s extra moist (think carrot cake, but nowhere near as sweet). Plus, you can give yourself a pat on the back for eating more veggies! This recipe calls for walnuts, but these can be substituted for pecans or even green pistachios (hello Saint Patrick’s Day!!) - or they can be omitted altogether if you have a nut allergy.

 Makes 24 muffins (or 2 loaves of bread)

Directions (modified from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook):
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups grated raw zucchini (about 3 medium zucchinis)
1 ½ cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 325º F. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix the oil and sugar together. Beat each egg in separately, then add vanilla and 2 cups grated zucchini.
  2. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the oil-sugar-zucchini mixture until dough is moistened throughout. Gently fold in 1 cup chopped walnuts.
  3. Pour batter into well-greased muffin tins until each muffin cup is one-half to two-thirds full. Top each muffin with a generous dollop of grated zucchini and a few small walnuts.
  4. Bake for 35-50 minutes; muffins are done when a wooden skewer inserted through the middle comes out clean.
**Note: This recipe will also yield two loaves of bread - use two standard 9-inch loaf pans, and adjust bake time to 50-55 minutes.

These muffins will keep for up to one week, but in the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day, Little Scarlet recommends you eat them straight out of the oven, piping hot with a liberal dose of Ireland’s Kerrygold butter!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Poll of the Week - 3.15.2010

Every year on March 17, people all over the globe band together in toasting Irish culture on Saint Patrick’s Day. In America this mostly means wearing green and drinking large quantities of Guinness!

One of the great things about America is that Americans have such diverse ethnic backgrounds. And come Saint Patrick’s Day, it means that we’re all a little bit Irish - even if it’s only ¼%! This week, kitchens all over America will start turning out Irish soda bread, bacon and cabbage, and corned beef and potatoes. And on Saint Patrick’s Day, bars will be serving pints of Harp, Guinness, and green-dyed American beers. Do you have plans to make anything special for Saint Patrick’s Day?

For all of the wonderful reasons to celebrate Ireland this week, it is hard to think of Ireland without also thinking of the Great Potato Famine, so this week’s “Poll of the Week” honors this important tuber. The Irish eat their potatoes boiled or in popular dishes like colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale/cabbage and butter) or champ (mashed potatoes with scallions and butter), and this week Little Scarlet wants to know what is your favorite potato dish?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Poll of the Week - 3.09.2010

The past few days have brought beautiful hints of spring, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 50s. Spring doesn’t officially arrive for another two weeks, but it feels like time to throw off the shroud of winter and embrace the change of season!

Winter’s harsh weather shepherds in a craving for comfort foods - mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, hearty soups and stews - but this all gets old pretty quickly and those spring peas and asparagus are starting to look mighty tempting. Before you shift seasonal gears, though, take a quick look around your kitchen and at the menus of your favorite restaurants - today’s “Poll of the Week” asks what winter staple are you most excited to leave behind for the next nine months?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taste of 7th Street - Event Recap

This weekend, over 1,000 people came out to prove that this stretch of 7th Street is the best block in Manhattan. The first inaugural “Taste of 7th Street” food festival was a great success, and I hope you’ll all be back to visit these great establishments again soon!

Did you go to the “Taste of 7th Street” event? Tell Little Scarlet what you thought!

Many thanks to all who came out this weekend - and if you think there’s another block in Manhattan that’s better than 7th Street, between 1st Ave and Ave A, let everyone know about it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Poll of the Week - 3.01.2010

Last week’s snow storm dumped a ton of snow on New York City, along with much of the Tri-state area, making this February one of the snowiest months on record. As of noon on Friday (February 26), Central Park had a record-breaking 35.9 total inches of snow, beating out 1896’s previous record-holding month!

New York public schools were canceled on Friday, along with a number of businesses, which means only one thing - snow day!! Do you prefer a quiet snow day of sipping something warm fire-side, while watching the snow come down? Or do you like to work up an appetite outdoors, sledding, shoveling snow, or building snowmen? Either way, snow days are great for indulging in favorite foods and special treats, so this week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what’s your favorite “snow day” food?

Did you have a snow day on Friday? What did you do with your time off? Hopefully, everyone enjoyed a safe, happy long weekend, playing outside and watching the final Olympic competitions!

Congratulations to the U.S.A. Olympic team for taking home 37 medals this year (more than any other country!), and special congratulations to the Men’s U.S.A. ice hockey team for a bravely fought match against Canada last night. Get ready for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, UK, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia!