Mister Softee Turns 50

Mister Softee Turns 50
Birthday Plans Include Raising Money for Diabetes Research

New York, April 27, 2006 — Mister Softee, founded in 1956 by brothers William and James Conway, is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this year. Starting on Monday, May 2nd, Mister Softee franchise dealers throughout the city and elsewhere in New York state will be selling bracelets from their trucks with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Mister Softee has committed to donating $50,000 to the organization in celebration of fifty years of serving the community.

The first Mister Softee location was in a small garage in West Philadelphia. Having soft ice cream on a truck was a new concept and the brothers had developed a system that worked better than most. They soon decided that one way to grow their business quickly was through franchising. Their early success caused them to outgrow the first garage and in 1959 the company moved to the current location in Runnemede, NJ. It is at this location that Mister Softee transforms plain trucks into Americas’ most recognizable mobile ice cream vendor.

Today Mister Softee ( has approximately 600 trucks operating in more than 15 states. The single largest market is New York City and in the last year franchises have been added in New Mexico, Nevada and California. The current management of the company is headed by the sons of the founders, John and Jim Conway.

“We wanted to do something in conjunction with our 50th anniversary that would involve both our franchisees and our customers for the benefit of the larger community,” said Jim Conway Jr.

Conway attended a JDRF fundraiser in the fall and was moved by speeches from young men and women detailing their struggle with diabetes. He continued, “Since children make up the largest segment of our customer base, a partnership with JDRF to help in the effort to find a cure seemed like a perfect fit.”

JDRF was founded in 1970 by the parents of children with juvenile diabetes – a disease that strikes children suddenly, makes them insulin dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications. Since inception, JDRF has provided more than $900 million to diabetes research worldwide. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and education about diabetes. JDRF’s mission is constant: to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. For more information about JDRF please visit

Vezzo Pizza

This is the new place on Lexington and 31st that rose from the ashes of the previous pizzeria. The old place was frightening looking and did horribly because of the raunchy smells and nasty look of the place.

Vezzo is a breath of fresh air, and I must tell you its the best pizza in a 6-8 block radius...and I've tried pretty much all there is to try in this neighborhood. The crust is thin and pliant but crunchy too. The toppings are really good. The place is comfortable and attractive as well.

I've had it plain, with pepporoni, with hot italian sausage & pepperoni (they also have sweet sausage), with carmelized onions and prosciutto and most recently a pesto pizza with prosciutto. Really and truly good pizza.

I thought all was lost for pizza above Spring Street. My other favorites are Adrienne's on Stone Street and Lombardi's. I think this is somewhere in between the two...with Adrienne's being a touch more interesting and Lombardi's being not consistent enough and with awful toppings. Blech, the toppings at Lombardi's are really bad.

Service can be great or it can be mediocre. I ordered one pie 1/2 carmelized onions and prosciutto and 1/2 pepperoni and sausage. We got the first half right, but the second half for some reason was pineapple. I called them back and they brought a whole new pie over in about 15 minutes.

The other day I ordered the pesto pizza before going to the NYSC across the street for a quick 30 minute run. I told the guy my plans and asked if he could put the order in in about 15 minutes so that it'd be hot when I got out of the gym. He looked at me like I had 3 heads. He said okay...but it wasn't. The pizza was clearly waiting around for a good 10 minutes...which was still fine...I just reheated in my oven at home...but he lied to me and said it just came out a few minutes ago (more like 10+).

But the pizza is good.


Blue Hill at Stone Barns, April 23, 2006

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Pocantico Hills, NY

Our dining partners, Sue-Anne and Doug joined us on a trip up to Blue Hill at Stone Barns as I was able to get a reservation during my walking tour and lunch up there several weeks earlier.

The fact that this is peak season for
ramps (it only lasts about three weeks), those garlicky, leek-like harbingers of spring, got me even more excited.

And sure enough, ramps would be on the a variety of different ways. There was even a large sign on the Blue Hill at Stone Barns Cafe window that mimicked my excitement. It said in large letters: RAMPS. They're Here! In smaller letters, the words "braised", "grilled", "sauteed", "baked", "steamed" offered suggested cooking methods for ramps similar to how Bubba proffered his cooking styles of shrimp to Forrest. But what makes Blue Hill at Stone Barns different in regard to ramps, than even the likes of Babbo and the rest of the Batali empire, WD~50 or even Daniel and Jean-Georges can't live up to, is that the chefs at BHSB actually forage the ramps themselves. More than sixty pounds of ramps were handpicked by the chefs the weekend previous in upstate New York. Sure, I love the ramps at the Union Square Greenmarket, and will actually pick some up myself tomorrow, but there is something extra special in knowing that the vegetables are handpicked from the ground by the one's who will cook them.

We arrived about ten minutes early -- enough time for us to each order a glass of Raventos I Blanc Brut Cava L'Hereu, (Rias Baixas, Spain). Quite effervescent and full of flavor. We toasted a great meal we were sure to have. And then we were shown to our table in the middle of the main dining room. A great spot that provided a 360 view of the room including the blooming dogwood (or were they cherry blossoms?) branches on the center service table.
Service today, provided by a host of people but led by our server Leon and manager John Evans, was fantastic. Never pushy nor presumptious, always accomodating and often helpful - whether it be with wine or dish choices. It was much better than my first visit, which wasn't all that bad. But this was perfect.

We chose to go for the 4-course Stone Barns Dinner though we were very tempted to try the tasting menu, which I'm certain we will do at another time.

The breakdown of the menu today including "Greenhouse", "Ocean" - which is a really bad name considering two of the dishes were from fresh water sources, "Handmade Pasta", and "Pasture".

Here's a rundown of what I ordered, following a description of what the others ordered (we all tried a little of everyone's food).

We were served a carefully temperatured beet soup with horseradish froth. This really worked, though consistency might have been a bit off. My shot glass full of soup and froth was perfectly even and delicious. Danna's was a bit more horseradishy, but still quite nice. A great way to start.

Butter Crunch Bibb Lettuce
Having had the soft/fried farm egg salad twice previous, I opted to try another version. This one had marinated and roasted vegetables, dried fruits, pistachios, ricotta cheese and grilled ramps. Beautiful presentation, the crispest greens you'll ever eat mixed with a velvety dressing made better with the natural juices of the vegetables. Delicious.
Local Wild Bass
This was served with a pistou of vegetables, local soybeans and greenhouse greens. Beautifully presented, perfectly seasoned and cooked with a light but crunchy crust on the fish. Clean and healthy tasting. A solid dish all around.

Grass-fed Lamb
More ramps and greenhouse greens as well as the texturally different quinoa added a nice base to the perfectly medium rare lamb. The loin was sliced so that one got small to medium sized pieces, which allowed for more of an experience with the dish. Another part of the lamb was served alongside it - I think it was the tenderloin. This was fantastic - the best part of the dish, possibly the meal. Unbelievably flavorful and tender. On a side note, the siblings of the lamb we ate could be seen walking out on the pasture through the window of the dining room.

Side of Ramps
We had to get a side of these as well. These were served in a small cast iron skillet and were sauteed with some salt, pepper and butter. Slightly crunchy in some parts, soft and pliant in others. The garlic, onion, leek and even truffle-like flavors were truly amazing. Vegetables that need the least amount of effort to taste so amazing, like ramps, are a true thing of wonder.

Dessert Amuse
We were served a fruity, slushy concoction with sangria sorbet. So good. Good as a dessert, even better as a palate cleanser.

Called D'Anjou Pear, this dish was a millefeuille of sorts of poached pears and pecorino cheese topped with black pepper ice cream. Yeah, it was a strange dish. I've been amazed at the vegetal desserts that are popping up on menus everywhere. I think we have Sam Mason (WD~50) to blame or applaud for this, depending on how you look at it. From celery sorbet at Wallse to the Passion fruit, Szechuan pepper sorbet at Eleven Madison Park to the Olive Oil Gelato at Otto, this style is here to stay for awhile. This dish was very bold and to some degree it worked. I can't say that I loved it, but did enjoy the effort in putting it together. Individually, the pieces couldn't work, but one bite of the entire dish an extent.

Petit Fours
Chocolate nibs of some kind. These weren't that good. They weren't bad, but let's just say I'm already writing too much about them. The service of these was a little too much as well. It was seved on a raised pedestal with a glass cover which was removed and taken away, albeit with little fanfare.

Both Doug and I felt that a Hudson Valley wine was appropriate for this meal, so we set off to try the Millbrook, Hudson Valley 2003 Cabernet Franc. This was a balanced wine with a unique and bold taste. It went very well with the lamb though the girls didn't enjoy it as much. I liked it enough to buy again for home use, and for $40, it was a bargain.
Danna and I had the same salad and lamb but she went for the Pork Ravioli with "30 day" sauerkraut, kale puree and mushroom confit. This was on par with, possibly better than the lamb shank tortellini at A Voce.

Sue-Anne had the fried farm egg salad, the grilled local trout with brussels sprouts, pearl onions and preserved meyer lemon sauce. This was solid as well.

Doug had the escarole soup with lime marshmallow and smoked herring caviar (incredible. incredible. I said it twice for a reason.), pork ravioli and the poached hake (semi flaky, similar but better than cod) that was served with butter chard, pink peppercorn and an almond and caper vinaigrette.

I simply can't remember what everyone else had for dessert but they were all really good.

Before Sue-Anne had even taken a bite of her salad, she suggested we come here each season at least once. That's been my thinking all along. So far I've got Winter, Late Winter/Early Spring and Spring taken care of. Next up...Summer, specifically at the peak of the corn season. I can only imagine they do great things with corn up there.

Toward the end of the meal, I asked for a copy of the menu - which was later given to me coiled like a scroll and tied with a blue, white and brown (the colors of BHSB) ribbon and asked to see the kitchen - which was granted and led by Mr. Evans. The chefs, as mentioned in another entry, are responsible for cleaning their areas. No cleaning crew, no night porters. And as we were in the kitchen late on a Sunday night...we could see the chefs tearing apart the entire kitchen and cleaning every square inch of the place. Spotless. Efficient. Sanitary. Organized. Incredible.

I heart BHSB.

More photos to come.

Duckathlon 2006 - D'Artagnan Scavenger Hunt

Duckathlon 2006

Once again, the Lartigue family, friends of Ariane Daughin (proprieter of
D'Artagnan) from her home in Gascogne, allowed me to join their team as we battled several restaurant teams in 19 different tasks.

(Bérangère Lartigue, me, Jean-Charles and Mme. Lartigue = Team Gers Gasconge)

Some of the teams this year included ones from: Daniel, Alain Ducasse, Anita Lo and her team from Rickshaw Dumpling House, the executive chef at Gracie Mansion and his teamates from the Mayor's Office, The Four Season, Craft, The Ryland Inn, Beacon, THOR, BLT Steak and Fish, No. 9 Park and others. Helene Darroze didn't make it this year, nor did Anthony Bourdain but who needs them when Jacques Pepin was in attendance, and who, according to the Gothamist, had quite a bit of fun in a kiddie pool. You can read the Gothamist's account by going


Long story short, the weather didn't dampen our moods...but a ton of wine and champagne (before we even started), duck products, bread and other tasty items tend to help make one forget about the rain.

And then the rain let up. Blue, cloudless skies appeared just as we were leaving the Chelsea Market tasks.

I was quite proud to have been able to flip the "plastic" omelette - using my left hand - 70 times within a minute...beating out the first 5 teams to attempt this.

I did well with the spice tests at Spice Market...which, by the way, is beautiful. I had yet to see the inside of this restuarant and must confess...I wanted to not like it...but found it impossible. I'll have to give the food a shot sometime.

But I failed in the flower tests (name 5 tropical plants - I got 1 right, our team as a whole got 2) and was tricked into thinking my wine guesses were wrong - bastards. We would have aced that test otherwise.

In any event, this continues to be one my most anticipated food events of the year. The challenge of speaking French, nearly a decade after taking any French classes, makes it all that much better. Plus my teammates are simply a wonderful family.

Merci Ariane for putting this together again!


Wogies, April 21, 2006

39 Greenwich Ave.

After a few beers in the neighborhood (w/ my wife's coworkers for Happy Hour), we decided to search for some food. We quickly came upon Wogies, and having read positive reviews on Chowhound (some going as far as saying the best in NYC), we felt that this would sate our appetites.

If this is the best cheesesteak in Manhattan, I will not be trying any of the others.

It was edible - and relatively tasty but a far cry from what I've gotten down the shore or made in my own kitchen. I used to make cheesesteaks at Broadway Pizza in Barnegat Light as one of my summer gigs and let me tell you...I made far better versions then and now compared to this one.

The fries were really bad (cardboard flavor), service was pretty bad (20+ minutes for 2 cheesestakes despite a nearly empty restaurant) and the cheesesteaks themselves were less than desirable.

Save yourself the trouble and make your own at home with good roast beef, onions and the cheese of your choosing.


Eleven Madison Park, April 20, 2006

Eleven Madison Park

On Tuesday, my Aunt Eileen called me having just come back from their place on Melrose, an exclusive island off of Hilton Head accessible only by boat, and asked to take my wife and me out for dinner. At first she suggested Union Square Cafe. I'd been once previously, but before I started my blog - so I was happy about that. Unfortunately reservations were impossible to come by.

She then tried Gramercy Tavern, which would have been great for the same reason as USC. But that got nixed when traffic coming in from NJ because of a nasty brushfire delayed her arrival to the city. They couldn't extend our reservation.

So she called back and said, let's go to Eleven Madison Park. Again, an exciting opportunity because a) I love the restaurant and go as often as I can b) I haven't been there since the menu and Chef changed and c) it was close enough to home and Danna's work to be able to get her to make it on time as well.

Let me just say that the menu and food is completely different under the helm of Daniel Humm compared to Kerry Heffernan. Not sure if it's better, but it is definitely more over the top - similar to what reports of Gilt have been saying.

I think we received twice as much food as we'd ordered. Maybe more. Let us count the ways.

The first series of amuses included probably the best dish of the night: a "miso soup" spoonful of foie gras creme brulee. Yeah, it was as good (if not better) than what you can imagine. Perfectly decadent and unbelievably tasty. Seriously, this was the best thing I ate all night. That was 1/5 of our FIRST amuses. At the same time we were given gougeres (the only hint of the Heffernan Eleven Madison Park) , Kumomoto oysters with avocado puree, a scallop topped with caviar, and a goat cheese and cheddar crisp or something like that. All were quite good.

The second amuse was a sea urchin soup with sea urchin foam (lots of foam tonight) and a mini peeky-toe crab salad with tiny slivers of zucchini keeping it together and topped with snappy flying fish roe. Wuh wuh wuh. The sea urchin was delicious. Perhaps my second favorite dish of the night. Oh it also came with a meyer lemon bread stick. That was just okay.

Our first courses arrived sometime after all of this food. Aunt Eileen had the house salad, which was a huge amount of greens. A bit too much for anyone. The bread on the table as well as the accompanying maple leaf-shaped butter sat forlorn at one end of the table knowing we wouldn't even get to it. I've had it before...and its usually very good, but we knew it wasn't in the cards to try this evening. Both Danna and I ordered the Provence white asparagus veloute with lobster and applewood smoked bacon. It was very foamy but quite tasty. The portion size was just right considering how much food we were given throughout the night. But if it were an a la carte dish, I'd have felt cheated. The lobster was just right but the bacon essence wasn't as strong as I thought it would be. If the foam wasn't included (not sure it was necessary), this would and probably should have been poured tableside from a copper pot.

For our entrees, Danna ordered the seared daurade with artichokes and provencal flavors. This looked delicious. Aunt Eileen had the duo of natural veal with spring vegetables and tarragon. This dish was served and then the waiter poured some jus and herbal sauce into the bowl. Not pretentous at all - but also a similar activity to the former EMP ways. My camera isn't the best, but the lighting was giving off a yellowish-green glow. Danna's entree hardly came out at all in the photo, so I've neglected to include it. Here is my aunt's dish. This dish looked like something you'd get at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

I ordered the poached, milk-fed poularde with parsnips and black truffles. The dish got better toward the end. I think the truffles, of which a thin layer was put beneath the dermis of the poularde as well as minced and in a broth underneath the bird, had a chance to meld with it. Poached expertly and certainly tasty but probably not something I'd order again. I'm still perplexed by the avocado puree that came with it. It added nothing to the dish but confusion.

After our entrees, we were given a dessert amuse. This included a passion fruit beignet and a chocolate cappucino with some sort of ice cream in it. My goodness. The beignet exploded with flavor and the crisp coolness of the chocolate dessert really woke up one's senses. Wow.

Again, the photos really suffer from the poor lighting. Neither Danna's or my aunt's photos came out very good. Danna got the Chocolate Banana Souffle with peanut butter ganache and roasted banana ice cream - this also came with a chocolate sauce you were instructed to pour over the dishes at will. My aunt got the Sheepsmilk yogurt cheesecake with roasted pineapple, kafir lime and kili pepper shortbread. She loved it, and I can see why. Nicole Kaplan, the pastry chef at EMP does wonders. A true star at the restaurant and throughout the city. My dessert, chocolate-caramel tart with chocolate pudding, caramel popcorn and caramel ice cream was also a winner though the tart's cake-like piece was a little dry. The chocolate pudding had little "coco-puff" balls (like chocolate caviar) on top of the pudding. Yum.

Of course we wouldn't leave with only that. They served petit fours as well. This included a tootsie roll of sorts, a chocolate crown with chocolate-cherry sauce topped with gold leaf, a quince-like gelee, a chocolate tart with crumbled pistachio and a meringe thingy. Too much food. That didn't stop me from trying the gelee thing, the chocolate crown and the tart. These were fine but nothing really all that special.

Overall it was a very good dining experience. Dale was our waiter again and did a fantastic job of doing what was needed to be done without ever being intrusive. Truly flawless service on his part. One of the servers though, had such a thick accent and spoke so quickly (and I don't think was as educated on the food as he could be) that it was a bit difficult to understand his descriptions. We just asked again if we needed to.

I would be interested to see what Frank Bruni would give this restaurant. My guess would be 2 stars though I think it deserves (something the NY Times doesn't recognize) 2 1/2 stars. It's not quite an experience as you might get at Country but the room and service are probably equal to it. In any event, it was very good and a lot of fun to catch up with my wonderful aunt.


Salute, April 14, 2006


I've been to Salute about five times now during the course of the last five years. This place is a goldmine. An affordable (though the prices have gone up quite a bit over the years) place for lunch in a section of town that desperately lacks good lunch options, this Italian has a strange fetish for, of all things, paper. Yes, paper. In no other restuarant that I've come across are paper and pens more readily available.

This is great for someone like me who likes to take notes about my food once in awhile, but I just can't fathom why they put mini, lined paper pads on each table with their logo emblazoned on the front. Perhaps they love their logo? Or maybe they bought so many business cards, they offered to throw in some pads as well? I don't know but it is strange.

What's not strange...but rather consistent, is the fare they serve. There are no strict regions represented here (this is not Alto nor L'Impero or Maremma) and the food is very approachable, lacking many "fancier" (foreign?) ingrediants.

I doubt that something like ramps has ever graced the menu at this restaurant. But that's not a bad thing. If you want a good caesar salad, a good pasta dish or safe bets on seafood...Salute will work just fine for you.

This is the fanciest dish I've ever ordered at Salute. It's salmon with pesto risotto, capers (top right) and a olive and sun-dried tomato paste-like spread on top. I think I also ordered the salad on this trip.

The place is large enough to pretty much never need a reservation. The bar room alone would make some restaurants below 14th street envious.

Service is fine, if not predictable. The hostesses are pleasant enough, though often forgetful/harried.

An ideal lunch spot.

Love Cafe, April 10, 2006

I love to bring my passion for the food world to my job in any way possible. In an effort to spruce up our National Diabetes Awareness Month campaign (November), I've started to get some celebrity chefs to help with our messaging and to give it a bit of star appeal. For the last two years we've worked with Chef Michel Nischan, formerly of Heartbeat in NYC, and writer of a few cookbooks that focus on healthy eating.

This year, we have, via the help of our Capitol Chapter (D.C.), made relations with the Food Network's Warren Brown, host of Sugar Rush and proprietor of CakeLove and Love Cafe - both of which can be found on U Street in D.C.

So I went down to D.C. to speak with Warren and decided to have a sandwich from his Love Cafe. I chose a grilled chicken sandwich on sourdough with lettuce, mayo, tomato and bacon. Delicious. The portion size was perfect, the bacon crispy and the sourdough was perfectly toasted to bring it all together. A solid sandwich.

Warren is as tall and charming as you may have guessed...if you watch Sugar Rush. I hope that he and JDRF can work together on some recipes and united messaging.


Crif Dogs, April 5, 2006

Crif Dogs
113 St. Mark's Place

I met up with my friend Jeff tonight at the Living Room in the LES to see one of his clients, Dayna Kurtz, perform. Having a ton of other stuff to do, I missed her performance, but was still able to hang out with Jeff for a few beers.

Afterwards, I took a cab home, but decided to stop off at St. Mark's Place where I'd get a burger from Paul's. I bagged that idea (I'd been burgered out lately and was saving myself for the Shake Shack) and headed over to Crif Dogs to see what that was all about.

I walk in - to the left is an old school arcade game, a drunk couple next to it and occasionally playing the game. To the right is a tiny television playing The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And directly in front of me is a goth chick with an infectious smile.

Having never been here before, but completely excited (Rocky Horror, Hot Dogs and a slight buzz - It was like I was time warped back to 1989!) about the prospect...I asked my hostess, we'll call her Magenta, what to order.

The drunk girl two tables over said I had to get the Chihuahua dog, which is a bacon wrapped smoked hot dog covered with avocado and sour cream. The menu, where this is listed suggests to "Trust Us". I did.

And it was very, very, very good. Surprisingly so, I confess. The drunk girl, seeing that my dog was being delivered asked "So what'd ya go with?". I responded and her reply was "You damn right you did.". Classic. As was the dog.

To keep things fair and real - I ordered another dog...this time a traditional Crif Dog with relish and mustard...and sorry to those traditionalists, ketchup. It's just how I roll.
And it too was good.

So after 2 dogs, a Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can, some of my favorite call-outs on Rocky Horror (Hey Brad, kick something flat and wet and not Janet!), I went home and slept quite well having such a fun experience.