Monday, April 2, 2007

Odds & ends...

Manna's, the soul food buffet place with three long-time outlets in Harlem and one in Brooklyn, has just opened another on 125th Street between Lenox Ave. (Malcolm X Blvd.) and Fifth Ave. Is it a coincidence that it's across the street from the office building where Bill Clinton sometimes hangs out? I love their collards cooked with turkey. Interestingly, Manna's was founded by a Korean family - the Parks. I don't know if it started as a produce market or was always a salad bar. Evelyn Park (who I met once - she also owns Pier 2112, a restaurant on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. just north of 125th St.) is very smart and has hired wonderful cooks for Manna's' branches.

I made reference to my favorite African restaurant in an earlier post but didn't name it. It's Sokobolie on Frederick Douglass Blvd. - west side of the street - just north of 135th St. If you didn't already know about it, you'd probably just walk by. It's the only self-service African restaurant I know, and its stews are amazing. Just GO there and let me know what you think! They often also have home made ginger beer, guaranteed to clear sinuses, even if they're not stuffed! The food is priced by weight, which makes a lot of sense. The people there are great.

In my own neighborhood of Washington Heights, a new Argentinian parrilla, Don Ricardo, has opened on Broadway and 190th Street. I wonder what this area will look like in five years - the owner's wife has her own great place, a sit-down bakery called Dona Carmen, where she also now has a liquor license. It's a half-block north of Don Ricardo and across the street from a former gas station that has closed. Rumor has it that condos will be built there.

Belmont, Bronx - Little Italy - is becoming ever more crowded as even more cafes and restaurants open in the compact stretches of 187th Street and Arthur Ave. Best time to come is during the week, when the tourists aren't there. It's still great for shopping. I used to avoid the Modern Foods supermarket on Arthur Ave. because, well, it looked too much like a supermarket. But it has a lot of the Italian imports you'll find in the Arthur Ave. retail market (indoor stalls dating to the LaGuardia era) but often for much less. For instance, liter-sized bottles of Manhattan Special, the fabulous espresso soda from Brooklyn (the name is for Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, where the Passaro family started the company about 100 years ago, I think) are $2.49 - a tiny 10 oz. bottle in the Retail market is $1.50.

Quinoa - selling for high prices in health food stores - is just $1.59 in El Pais, a supermarket on St. Nicholas Ave. at 183rd Street. I've become a recent quinoa convert and will be making a quinoa dish for Passover tomorrow night after making sure that quinoa (which appears to be a seed related to a type of spinach plant) is kosher for Passover. I also saw quinoa for sale last week at Sunflower Market, a Persian-Jewish market on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park!

More to come soon!

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