Monday, October 31, 2011

NYC Restaurants: Angus McIndoe

Happier times: having lunch with Donna Murphy and Sondra Lee at Angus

Since I eat out quite often I thought I'd start to post about some of the places I frequent.  Angus McIndoe is located in the heart of the theater district.  It's on West 44th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue - in my opinion, the gold coast of Broadway - across the street from the Majestic Theater, the Broadhurst and the crown jewel, the Shubert Theater and Shubert Alley.

I met Lucy Arnaz at Angus one memorable evening

Angus McIndoe was the Eve Harrington to Joe Allen's Margo Channing.  Angus was the maitre d at Joe Allen for years.  Then there was the palace coup: Angus snared the prime location and, for a while, overshadowed the venerable Joe Allen.  For those of you who like outside NYC, Joe Allen restaurant, on West 46th between 8th & 9th Avenues, has been the theater hang out for years.  Every time I went there, I'd see at least one Broadway star - and maybe even a movie star.  Joe Allen is famous for having Broadway posters adorning the walls.  But the posters are of collossal flops.  From Moose Murders to Carrie they were all on the wall of shame.  It's a guilty pleasure to look at them and laugh.

Another great thing about having dinner at Angus - you could use the bathroom during the intermission of the show you're seeing.  Even the line for the men's room can be huge at Broadway shows.  With Angus you could breeze in and use the bathroom and maybe even catch a quick drink.  Very civilized.   I had one memorable evening at Angus.  I went to see Bruce Vilanch in Hairspray.  He invited me because I managed his house seats during his run.  We had dinner on the top floor, which overlooks the Majestic Theater.  Lucy Arnaz was there and stopped by to say hello.  As did Michael Bolton.  I had lunch there with Donna Murphy and Sondra Lee in its heyday.  It was the first time I met Donna in person - she wanted to thank me for managing her house seats in Wonderful Town.  I was trying to act nonchalant but I was a nervous wreck and starting svitzing like crazy.  It was summer - I was so embarrassed.  But Donna was lovely about it.  She and I are both friends of Sondra - she was the original Tiger Lilly in Peter Pan and Minnie Faye in Hello Dolly.  Sondra is an original member of the Actor's Studio and teaches today - I studied from her when I was pursuing acting.

Bruce Vilanch - my date at Angus

But lately, the food at Angus has really gone downhill.  I met a friend Richard there last week before seeing Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway.  Richard arrived first and was digging into his fried calamari.  I tasted it - it reminded me of Mrs. Paul's frozen calamari - it was like lard and tasted very fishy.  I had a half dozen oysters - they looked anemic and had absolutely no flavor.  The place was packed as usual, but it's only going to attract unsuspecting tourists if the shoddy quality continues.  This wasn't the first bad experience I've had a Angus recently.  Hopefully they will turn things around.  After all - I need a place to use the bathroom at intermission!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Cerviche made with fresh anchovies

Sushi quality tuna

"I don't know how to cook!" is no longer a valid excuse.  If you can squeeze a lemon and pour some salt you can prepare this exquisite dish.

Slice tuna into razor-thin slices

Add coase sea salt

Cover with fresh squeezed lemon juice

And cover

This is another dish Vincenzo taught me.  We made the dish using fresh anchovies but, knowing it's difficult to get fresh anchovies, even in NYC, Vincenzo said you can substitute other types of fish.  I feel most comfortable with sushi quality tuna as you can have that uncooked.

Fresh anchovies in the market in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast

Preparation with tuna is even easier than it is with anchovies.  You have to clean the anchovies by hand and it takes a while - but it's certainly worth the effort.  Unfortunately, even when you can find fresh anchovies state-side, they're rarely as good as having them fresh out of the Mediterranean Sea.  The good news is it's a snap to prepare the tuna for cerviche.  You merely slice it into razor-thin slices. 

Et viola! You know it's done when the tuna turns a white-ish pink

I've also used salmon using this recipe. Just be sure to have your fish monger remove the skin.  Once you put the fish in the lemon and salt mixture you cover with a plate and let stand.  It takes about 10 minutes.  You know it's done when it's almost a pink and white.  The tuna cerviche is above.  When you use salmon it turns a lovely light pink.

Tuna cerviche served with the zucchini recipe posted yesterday

I served the tuna cerviche in a counterintuitive way.  Vincenzo taught me a delicious room temperature eggplant dish which I'll post in the future.  I tried serving with the hot zucchini recipe from yesterday.  The tuna almost tasted like steak and it did take on some of the heat of the zucchini.  It was different - and I loved the results - try it!

Hot & cold.  A different taste that works!


1/4 - 1/2 pound sushi quality tuna per person
(You're going to have to eyeball this one)
2 tbspns coarse sea salt
3 lemons juiced.  I used my citrus juicer to make life easier, but you can do it the old fashioned way and squeeze by hand


Cut the tuna into razor-thin slices
Put in a bowl
Add the salt and mix the tuna around
Add the lemon juice
Cover the top with a plate and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes.  You'll know that it's done when the tuna turns an opaque, whitish color.  Serve with the zucchini dish.

Note: finish the tuna cerviche the evening it's served.  It's not good for leftovers.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zucchini ala Vincenzino

Colorful burst of goodness!

As I've posted, Vincenzino taught me some wonderful dishes when I studied with him on the Amalfi Coast.  This is a favorite - zucchini with heirloom tomatoes and onions.  In the picture with me in the chef's hat on your right, I'm in Vincenzino's kitchen chopping zucchini.  A lot of people comment on my huge NYC kitchen when It's actual Vincenzino's.  My kitchen is your typical NYC shoebox.

The ingredients

When I was waiting tables on Cape Cod during summer breaks when I was in college the restaurant I worked in, The Bishop's Terrace in Harwich, served zucchini bread.  I think that was the last time I had zucchini.  I survived on it for a good part of the summers so the very mention of zucchini made me a bit queasy.  Enough time has passed and now I'm loving zucchini.  And at least it's not in bread this time around. 

Zucchini are hardy and need to be cooked a while

Vincenzo's recipe calls for stir frying the zucchini in a hot skillet.  I cheat a bit and steam them first.  The other night I steamed them for 5 minutes, and they still weren't cooked enough.  When this happens, I just add hot water to the skillet to cook them faster.

While the zucchini steam I start to saute the heirloom cherry tomatoes

Everyone in the pool!

I had some bottled pearl onions that I added at the last minute - they're already cooked so they heat up and dissolve quickly.  Per Vincenzino - add some coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper and nothing else.  The flavors are strong enough to stand on their own.  Note my recipe calls for two tablespoons of olive oil and there's obviously a good deal of liquid in the photo above.  This is because I added water to speed along the process.  The water mixes with the ingredients and makes a nice gravy.

Ready to serve


2 medium zucchini squash per person
1/2 cup heirloom (or regular) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup bottled pearl onions (optional)
2 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste


Pre-heat sauté  pan over medium heat.
Add olive oil.
Chop zucchini into cubes.  I cut them in half lenght-wise then cut the 2 halves in half and chop into cubes.  Steaming is optional but if you steam cook them for 5 - 8 minutes.
If you steam the zucchini, sauté  the cherry tomatoes while they steam.  If not, saute the zucchini first for a good five minutes before adding tomatoes.
Once zucchini have steamed drain and add to the pan with the tomatoes.
If desired and if zucchini are taking a bit long two cook add approximately 1/2 cup of hot water. The water will mix with the ingredients and make a nice gravy.
If you have the bottled onions, add them a minute or two before the rest of the dish is finished cooking.  Add salt and pepper.
As zucchini's can vary in size you will have to do a taste test to see when they're done.  Take a few cubes and let cool for a minute on a side plate and taste (you don't want to burn your mouth).

I served the zucchini with, of all things, tuna cerviche.  I will post that recipe tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Roasted Garlic and Oregano

Garlic and oregano give the salmon a nice char

Here's a new twist on a favorite of mine: rubbing oregano and roasted garlic powder to salmon and then grilling.  

Prior to grilling pour olive oil on the filet and add oregano and garlic powder

To save on dishes, I prepare the filet right in the paper it came in - I douse the filet with about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add the oregano.  It's worth it to invest in quality spices.  I found Mediterranean oregano.  It's lighter than your standard dried oregano and has a lemony flavor. 

Not too much - a half teaspoon of each spice (my hand is still a mess from the nasty burns I got 4 weeks ago)

I found roasted garlic powder at Williams-Sonoma.  All of their products are high quality, and though they can have the price tag to match, the garlic was $6.95 - not too bad. 

Let marinate before cooking

Cook flesh side down first

There's the char we're after!

Here are my rules of thumb for cooking salmon filets: 1/2 pound serving per person and grill for two minutes on each side.  As always, make sure the pan is really hot.  Pre-heat over medium heat for several minutes before cooking.  Put the flesh side down first - if you put the skin side down first you'll burn it off, and one of the great things about this dish is the crispy skin.

Dinner is served: I bought prepared brocolli rabe and heated it in the microwave

At this time of year I'm really slammed at work and I come home very tired - usually at 7:30 or 8:00 PM or even later.  I want a home cooked meal but I want it to be easy.  Last night I cooked the salmon and heated up brocolli rabe that I bought prepared.  So, we're talking about 8 minutes of cooking/preparing start to finish.  I can handle that no matter how tired I am.


1/2 lb salmon filet per person.  Wild salmon is the best.
2 - 4 tbsns extra virgin olive oil (2 for the filet 2 for the skillet if needed)
1/2 tspn oregano
1/2 tspn roasted garlic powder
1/2 tspn coarse sea salt
1 lemon for garnish


Pour 2 tbspns olive oil on the filet.  The other 2 tpsns are for the skillet.  My skillet is so well seasoned I don't even need to add oil.
Add the dry ingredients, rub into filet and let stand and marinate.
Pre-heat cast iron skillet over medium flame for 5 - 10 minutes.  My skillet has the raised lines so you get grill marks as you would on a charcoal grill.
Grill for 2 minutes on each side - put the flesh side down first.
Microwave your side dish
Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spinach Pasta with Roasted Tomato Marinara

Easy dinner

I got a lot of mileage from my roasted tomato marinara.  It was so intense that it just got better and better when you add your favorite jarred sauce to it.  The flavor varies when you do this - it's like a new marinara each time. 

Version #7

You can also shake things up by trying different kinds of pasta.  I went to Eataly and bought different raviolis, which are best with pesto.  I got interesting pastas to go with the marinara.  Last night I tried spinach linguine.  

I sauté heirloom tomatoes and add to sauce 

Fresh home made spinach linguine from Eataly

Fresh pasta cooks in under 5 minutes and freezes really well (freeze when you get it home from the store and before you cook it)

It's so good you could have it plain

But it's even better with marinara

All it needs is a bit of parmesan

Here's the link for the marinara recipe:  It take a little bit of time to prepare, but once you do it freezes very well and you'll have the basis for many delicious dinners.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cheating on the Diet - Sweet Sausage, Tomato, Sauerkraut and Hot Pepper Hoagie

Sweet sausage hero

Even though I can be a fanatic about eating properly, I think it's important to throw caution to the wind every now and then and chow down on something that is decidely not skinny.  That's what I did this weekend.  Amazingly, the world didn't come to an end.

There goes the diet!

Sweet Sausage and heirloom tomatoes

I went 7 days of being very strict and only having fish for dinner and my usual low fat or no fat soup and salad for lunch and cereal and fruit for breakfast, time to live it up a little. 

Love heirloom tomatoes!

Whether you're cooking fat or skinny, presentation is almost as important as taste.  And\ easy way to amp up the visuals (and taste) is to use heirloom cherry tomatoes.  The flecks of color really brighten up a dish, and they're as tasty as they look.  Always cut them in half.  I sprinkled with coarse sea salt above.

Start cooking the sausage first - the tomatoes cook very quickly

Once one side has the char flip it and add the tomatoes

Everyone in the pool

I tried two different methods of cooking this sandwich.  The first go round I cooked everything in my cast iron skillet - the sausage, tomatoes and sauerkraut.  I added the roll at the end of the process.  The roll got a little extra charred and absorbed some of the liquid from the sauerkraut.  It was actually delicious - I added a little Dijon mustard to the sausage and piled everything else on top.

First method

Second method

The second time around I grilled the roll first and put it in a warm oven.  I cooked the sausage and added the tomatoes, but I microwaved the saurkraut in a separate dish.  This was very good, too.  If you want the roll dry and crispy go with the second method.  Method two will probably appeal to more of you.  With the first method and you grill everything together, the roll gets a bit soggy - but I like it because it was soggy with the saurkraut liquid.  

Decide for youself.  Life is full of such tough decisions!


1 link sweet Italian sausage (or hot if you prefer)
1/2 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes sliced in half (or regular if you can't get heirlooms)
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup saurkraut
1/4 cup hot banana peppers (from a jar)
1 brioche hero roll
Dijon mustard to taste


Pre-heat cast iron skillet over medium heat
Split roll and grill face down for a few seconds (or wait till the end if cooking everything together)
Place roll in a 200 degree oven
Add oil to pan
Grill sausage until grill marks form - about 1 - 2 minutes each side
After the first side of the sausage is cooked add tomatoes
Prepare sauerkraut - either add to pan or put in microwave for 20 - 30 seconds - it cooks very quickly
When the sausage has the grill marks on the second side remove from heat and finish off in the microwave for 45 seconds.  You don't want the inside to be raw.

Note:  I purchased sausage at Citarella and at Eataly.  The sausage from Eataly was far superior.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Walk the Walk

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry

Yesterday was volunteer day at the company I work for.  One day each year, all employees help out at a variety of worthy charities that run the spectrum from sewing quilts for children in cancer wards to helping out at animal shelters.   We call it "Walk the Walk" day.  I signed up for New York Cares.  My group visited a senior center in the Projects way up in northern Manhattan.  Even though I live roughly 100 - 150 blocks away, it's a completely different world up there.  When I got off the subway I passed a store that sells live poultry!  It was very disturbing because the poor birds were stuffed in overcrowded cages.  Hens, chickens, doves, pigeons, you name it, they were selling it.

Jeremy from New York Cares in the black sweatshirt greeted us

My colleagues and I are met by the director of the center - we're in grey t-shirts

Neil (on the right) was our group leader

Volunteer days are as much for the volunteers as they are for the people (or animals) we're hoping to help.  First, you get to know the people you work with a little bit better.  Arthur and Neil work on different floors than I do and I don't get to see them very often. 

Residents enjoying a game of dominoes

Bingo is a big deal at the center.  Arthur called the numbers.  He had to shout because some of the residents are hard of hearing.

Danie (closest to camera) and Marie

But even more important than getting to know your colleagues better is the glimpse you get of other peoples' lives.  I live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes get depressed about not being able to save or get to Europe every summer.  The residents we visited yesterday are living on food stamps, living in public housing and in some cases are quite elderly with no family.  They seemed very grateful to have new blood around.  They love playing bingo.  Their breakfast costs $1 and lunch is $1.50.  I saw what they were eating and let's just say the menu is not Skinny Gourmet Guy approved!  Mashed potatoes, mystery meet, lots of gravy and grey broccoli.  

Residents playing a mean game of bingo

It seemed that all they do is eat and play games.  When we arrived at 10 AM they were finishing breakfast.  During bingo we served them snacks and apple juice.  Lunch at 12:30.  They all lived upstairs and this was their world.  More than enjoying the games and the meals, they are each others' families and it's all about the socialization.  Our group took over a small table to the side.  It turns out it was where the lady in pink (above) usually sits.  She was obviously quite peeved that we took her spot.  She got over it eventually and gave us a friendly send off at the end of the day.

Checking the technology during a break

I left there counting my blessings.  I live in my own apartment on the upper west side.  I have a life outside of my apartment building.  I get to go out to dinner, see Broadway shows, take spin class, go swimming and I do get that occasional trip to Europe. Sometimes it just takes a look outside your world to realize there are people who are less fortunate than you are.  The people I met yesterday certainly are less fortunate, but I didn't see anyone feeling sorry for themselves.  They are grateful for what they have.  When you won bingo you got a t-shirt and a scratch lottery ticket.  Every person who won was thrilled.

If you are interested in volunteering or making a contribution to New York Cares, visit their website.  Here's the link: