Thursday, August 9, 2007

Best Fried Chicken Ever

Those of you who know about Korean Fried Chicken are lucky indeed. Boom Boom Chicken in Fort Lee, NJ and, apparently others, make the most irresistible, preconception-shattering, eye-opening chicken ever battered and dropped in hot oil. Off the Broiler has a good piece. Chow lists some more. Get some now!

Update: Bon Chon Chicken in Leonia is good but doesn't measure up to Boom Boom.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The state of Value in 1080p Flat Panel TV's (Updated11/26)

See bottom for update.

Like many people, I'll soon be in the market for another TV, but it's a perilous world out there. Technology is marching on incessantly, and I don't want to get caught buying the betamax of the TV world. I'd argure that 1080p represents one of many inflexion points in TV technology, a major one to some tech savvy people, a minor one to others. While resolution isn't the only measure of TV quality, it is important, so I'm watching for the best value in 1080p flat panels.

Right now, the major plasma and LCD manufacturers are introducing their 1080p sets, and they're priced, for the most part, north of $2,000 for 46-50" panels, often more. So far there's an LCD and Plasma Contender.

The LCD:

Sharp LC-46D62U 46" LCD is $1,549 at B&H in Manhattan. CNET calls it this way:

The good: Best black-level performance of any non-CRT we've tested yet; resolves every detail of 1080i resolution sources; image stays relatively true from off-angle for an LCD; distinctive two-tone styling.

The bad: Inaccurate color temperature; irregular bands across screen visible in some scenes; lacks picture-in-picture; no PC input.

I'm a pig for black levels, and this set allegedly delivers near plasma level blacks, and LCD's are bright. I might be able to live with the bad, as I'm not hyper critical of color temp. Banding may be annoying.

The competition is thin out there. The arguably somewhat better Samsung LN-T4665F is $2,100 at B&H is $400 more and is over $2k. The better by some measures Samsung LN-T4681 is well over $3k.

The Plasmas:

Panasonic 720p plasmas are now around $1500. The 720p Panasonic TH-50PC77U was temporarily $1599 at Costco, but the similar TH-50PX77U is $1594 at B&H now, and is the value leader for 720p big plasmas at the moment. If you want speakers on the bottom and can do without some front jacks (composite/Svid/Audio), you can save about $100 but going with the 75U model which is slightly taller and narrower.

Panasonic 1080p plasmas are well over the $2k mark, but coming down. 1080p Th-50PZ700U is $2,289 + $135 shipping at B&H. While the 42" TH-42-PZ700U is well priced at B&H at about $1474 + $135 shipping.

OK, I bought the 42" Panasonic 1080p at B&H for $1350 plus obligatory $135 next day shipping. The 42" plenty big enough for my bedroom where I'm viewing from approximately 11 feet. A bigger screen wouldn't be bad from that distance, but watching TV images in a dark bedroom generates some eyestrain, depending on the content, so an even bigger screen may be too bright for the setting. So far, I love the TV, and that's before calibration with the Avia DVD. A final note: after buying it, I was pleased to discover PC Mag's Editor's Choice review! I feel validated now!

PC Mag Editor's Choice Review of the PZ700U

CNET's Review

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Momofuku Ssam Bar, NYC

On Friday August 3rd, we ate at Momofuku Ssam Bar, my new favorite restaurant! David Chang is a genius. He has an amazingly creative palate and flair for combining traditional korean flavors with non-korean ingredients. For example, raw oysters on the half shell, with kimchee consomee, to us koreans: "mul kimchee." It was brilliant. The Ssam was great. Ssam is a traditional korean way to eat barbequed meat, such as Bulgogi, or Kalbi. I've been eating Kalbi this way since I was a kid, but the contemporary culinary relevance of this ancient dish surprised me. (It actually reminded me of an In-n-out Protein Burger) The lamb sausage Ssam was great also. (kimchee compote on the side).

There were four artisinal American hams on the menu. I tried the Edwards Wigwam Country Ham from Surry, VA. Not quite Jamon Serrano (not to mention Iberico), it had a pleasingly strong flavor. I would love to do a ham tasting next time. The fried cauliflower was the hint that chef was for real. Now I hate cauliflower because it is pasty and plain, but his preparation acknowledges this and adds the complimentary flavors and textures to take a one-dimensional vegetable to new heights of complexity. The frying gives it crispness, and the chilie/mint/fish sauce adds flavors to counterbalance and challenge the distinctive cauliflower flavor.

We ordered a very dry sparkling Vouvray (presumably made from Chenin Blanc grapes) which was festive and fruit rich without being cloying, and matched up well with our appetizers.

They also serve Hitachino Beer available in two of its 10 incarnations, White, and Red Rice. If you haven't tried them, they are a revelation. They keep the malt/hops flavors under wraps and go for fruit and citrus notes, but in a subtle way, not in the knock-your-socks-off way of Belgian ales.

All of this doesn't come cheap, in spite of its low-budget, East Village location. But your palate will be rewarded, for your midtown-like expenditure. That it has a very hip, downtown ambiance will either be a attraction or not, depending on what you are looking for.

2007 BMW 335i Coupe

I'm lovin' my new ride a 2007 BMW 335i Coupe ("E92" internally to BMW) delivered May 24, 2007. I wanted to do European Delivery (for 2nd time), but didn't want to wait. Photos here. is a great website to discuss or learn about 3series BMW's. Check out my profile.

For me, it has it all: potent acceleration, beauty, luxury, comfort, and handling. To top it off, it's a great value, all things considered. For those who will note the Infiniti G37: I'll accept the value proposition (full disclosure: I haven't driven it), but you get a lot of externalities with a BMW. Not to be a jerk, but prestige; the well developed enthusiast community with access to the track days, bulletin boards, etc; relatedly - the support of the owner community if you should decide to keep it for, say 10 years; the fact that it has an identity when its 5 or more years old, unlike say, the Lexus IS, which sort of fades away when it ages; the racing pedigree; the tradition; the option for Euro delivery.

This is my third BMW, (the first was a 2001 325Ci, the second, my wife's CPO 2003 530i), and I can't see this trend ending. I really don't see an alternative for me. If I go upmarket, it will probably be for a 911 C2S (997), but that ride is double the price.

BMW gives you the full, authentic enthusiast ownership experience "with benefits" for a price that not everyone can afford, but which is not stratospheric. Though I'm sure the F430 Scuderia does it better...

The Truth about Cars 335i Coupe
Autoweek "Our Take"
Edmunds Full Review
Automobile Mag Review
Everything you ever wanted to know about the E92 from
5th Gear Video Review
Vishnu Tuning's Procede Engine Modification
Autoweek review of above
Road and Track 335i vs G37
Car and Driver 10 Best Cars 2008

Applegate Farm in Montclair, NJ

On Saturday night, August 4th, I took my youngest to Applegate Farm in Montclair, NJ. Its a charming place, with very good ice cream. But forgive me if I was expecting more. Off The Broiler has a review. For its type (the country-style ice cream barn) I'll take Ted Drewes in St. Louis, MO.