Aussie peas and pies

January 17, 2009


For the 10 readers who care, I take full responsibility for the delay in posting the details of our trip to eat Australian food. Because I appreciate you, dear readers, I will also provide you with a number of worthless excuses. I was busy. I was too full of ribs and pulled pork. I had exams. I was too excited about Tim Tebow and the 2009 Florida Gators. I was serving on jury duty. Thank you for understanding.

I wasn’t all that crazy about the idea of eating Australian food. In spite of my wife’s experience in the middle of last year chronicled here, I associated Aussie food with bloomin’ onions, soggy fish and chips and Foster’s beer. After finishing dinner at the Tuck Shop on First Street and First Avenue in the East Village, my prejudices, like most, withered in the face of the genuine article.


The Tuck Shop wasn’t fancy. There were a few stools at a counter to the side of the door and there was a table where we managed to squeeze in seven.


The menu was simple: pies. Small, personal-sized, flaky pies filled with meats and vegetables. We ate pies with ground beef, pies with thai chilis, lamb pies, and chicken pies. I ordered my beef pie swimming in thick split pea soup. The peas were fresh but just the right amount of mushy and mixed enjoyably with the pastry crust and beef.  The combo meal, the Tucker box, was also popular for including two sides with a pie for $11.  I tried someone’s vegetable of the day, brussels sprouts, and thought that they were prepared just right, simply with butter and pepper, tender with no bitter aftertaste.


fork and knife: ur doin it wrong

We had a good time here with a number of friends who managed to put down a number of Coopers and Boags, rich Aussie beers that I tried for the first time that evening.   While the Tuck Shop may have lacked elegance, it had plenty of charm and was surprisingly cheap given its location.  Look for the place with the Vegemite in the window and make sure you order your pie with peas.




Thanks to Zach, Lynne, Elizabeth and John for helping us eat the heck out of some pies, and for the photos!


Andorra redux

October 23, 2008

Because we couldn’t eat real Andorran food prepared by real Andorrans we went to Mercat in Manhattan to try Catalan food made by people who had once visited Catalonia. The room was tastefully lit and we sat at a heavy wooden table in the back of the restaurant. There were two shallow baskets containing plum tomatoes and green chilies on the counter in front of the open kitchen. A walk-in wine cellar, a large shelf, was built in to the wall above our heads.

On the very back wall of Mercat was painted a mural that looked like a drawing. In it, what I took to be a Spanish family sat around a long table. The women wore handkerchiefs on their heads and the man wore the clothes of a laborer. On the table were dishes and one steaming pot.  Maybe they were waiting for a more substantial repast, maybe someone outside the scene was preparing pots filled with rabbit stew and bringing in the wineskin from where it had been hung the previous night, but their eyes revealed their world to us. The artist included simple, single short lines, parallel to each other above and below the simple black dot eyeballs of each of her subjects denoting worry. These people were tired, and the lines in their faces betrayed their weariness and their fear that they would have to scrape by for another few days. They were tired and had little to share with us. They may have resented our intrusion into their lives.

In light of our recent forays into the outer boroughs and our research into our next country, Angola, we had started to expect welcomes into worlds that weren’t our own, but this trip served as a reminder that a lot of what people seem to be whispering and writing about Manhattan may regrettably be true. As we studied our surroundings, I couldn’t help but think that the worn down cobblestones running just outside had witnessed so much more than the conversations and goings-on of the well to do residents that lived at the architectural monstrosity across the street at 40 Bond.

40 Bond St, NYC

40 Bond St, NYC. Photo by Phillip Ritz

We had some interesting things. Grilled chilis, some spicy potatoes, a pasta with shrimp and black squid ink sauce. We had a decent bottle of wine and some cheese.  Everything was pretty good, but a tad expensive.  Maybe we’re the peasants, striving for something we think might sometime be attainable.  Peasants are supposed to be marginalized, some things are meant for people that can truly enjoy and understand them.  I felt that the simple, comfortable food here was somehow meant to be way beyond us.  We finished our bottle of wine and went to Red Mango.