The Gastronauts + The Blue Collar Foodie = Food Porn²

Gastronauts_LOGOIf you missed my first post about the epic adventure eating club known as the Gastronauts, you may not be aware that I am a super fan of this organization. However, if you have ever visited my page, you are well aware that I love food porn almost as much as Luis Suarez likes to do his best Mike Tyson impersonation while on the pitch.

Since each and every Gastronaut event contains more food porn than a sixteen year old’s Reddit feed has actual porn, I decided that it was my duty to not only take pictures of these epicurean gatherings but share them with all of you. This post will contain the last two gastronomic happenings that I attended with this epicurean society but from this point on I will make sure to post each on separately as to not overload you with foodtography.

Back in May the Gastronauts invited its members to join them at Phayul located at 37-65 74th Street in Jackson Heights for a Tibetan feast. The menu for this event was intriguing because the descriptions were very vague, unlike the other meals that I have attended. Unsure and slightly nervous, my friend and I ascended the stairs that lead to Phayul and placed ourselves at the mercy of the Chef.

A Dinner at Phayul

Churu
Tibetan cheese soup

 Chele Khatsa

Fried beef spicy tongue

 Gyuma Ngoe Ma

Fried blood sausage with onions & green chilli

 Dropa Khatsa

Tibetan style beef tripe

Fried Momos

Tibetan Dumplings

Tibetan Spices

The first thing to hit our table was a caddy that held two vessels which contained two different, slightly scary, spice concoctions that caused some minor whispering throughout our table. All of us were curious, but we were also a little apprehensive since the predominant color of these potions were bright red, and we were under the assumptions that they were going to either kill us or destroy our taste buds for the upcoming meal. Eventually, one of us dipped our fork into the evil looking spices and tasted what turned out to be an extremely pleasant sauce with a subtle yet lingering heat that was not offensive at all.

Cheesesoup

Next up in this food orgy was the Churu, or Tibetan Cheese Soup. Steph, my fellow gourmand for the evening, and I discussed this dish in particular length during the arduous ride from New Jersey during rush hour. Both of us were somewhat uneasy about eating this dish because the internets was pretty damn useless when we tried to find out what this cheese soup was all about.   It turns out that we were concerned over nothing and not only was this soup straight up amazeballs, we now crave it like Piper Chapman yearns for affection.

Beef Tongue

After conquering our first, seconds, and thirds of the Cheese Soup, Steph and I were ready for the Chele Khatsa or the fried spicy beef tongue. This dish not only looked breathtakingly beautiful, but it tasted absolutely amazing.

Beef Tongue Close

The combination of the fresh vegetables and the fried beef tongue created a sublime texture contrast and the flavor of the dish was superb. I added a small amount of the aforementioned hot sauce and savored each and every bite.

Beef Action Shot

Relax food police, before I ate the last bite, I asked my fellow table mates. I know that when eating family style there are certain rules one must follow. Unless of course you are eating with your actual family, then to hell with the rules and grab as many pieces of yummy you can before your gigantic Uncle Morty eats all the Christmas Lo Mein.

Blood Sausage

The next dish to arrive was the Gyuma Ngoe Ma or the fried blood sausage with onions & green chilies. I am pretty sure the actual translation for this Tibetan dish is THE BEST BLOOD SAUSAGE YOU WILL EVER FUCKING EAT, EVER, but since that is not politically correct, they go with the one above.

Blood Sausage Close

I am a huge fan of blood sausage, and I must say that everything that I ever knew about blood sausage was absolutely wrong and I am an idiot for every thinking it. I was under the impression that there was always a slight metallic, iron-esque flavor to blood sausage, and this was just a minor imperfection that one who eats this delectable treat had to accept and get used to.

Blood Sausage With Pepper

This blood sausage did not taste metallic at all; it had every single wonderful quality that I crave in blood sausage and none of the flaws. It seemed like witchcraft to me at the time, and now that I think of it, it still does. Furthermore, now that I wrote this paragraph, I want some right the hell now!

Spicy Tripe

Following the blood sausage was not going to be easy for any dish, but none the less the Dropa Khatsa or Tibetan style beef tripe entered the eating arena. Since the supposed death sauce was less killy than I thought it would be, I disregarded the bright red flakes and rosy glistening hue that appeared on the plate in front of us. That my friends, I can tell you, was not the best idea. Don’t get it twisted, this dish tasted amazing, but I should have taken a much smaller first bite. The heat slowly built in my mouth and set up camp on my tongue. Being a seasoned, see what I did there, professional with spicy foods; I did not go for my water or my beer and just waited the heat out as it slowly dissipated. I then of course ate more of the tripe because I can’t resist a nice kick in the taste buds.

Veggie Momo

Just when we thought we couldn’t eat one more bite of this delightful Tibetan fare, out came the PARADE OF MOMOS! And what a parade it was!

Veggie Momo Close Up

Momos are basically Tibetan dumplings, and they come with a variety of fillings. The first one we got to eat was the vegetable Momo. These were filled with a combination of potato and diced veggies. The crispy and crunchy exterior was the perfect companion to the soft center that was bursting with flavor.

Beef Momo

Beef Momos graced our table next and, in my opinion, were the best of the Grand Momo Show! If there was a momo Oscar, these tasty bastards would win hands down, and they would not even play that music in the background during his acceptance speech to kick him off the stage.   Beef momo gets all the time he wants!

Beef Momo

Hiding in the center of these pan fried pouches of dough was a succulent and flavorful morsel of meaty goodness that I could not get enough of.

I remember a time that I was not a Gastronaut, I remember a time that I was not fortunate enough to share in the experience of eating these astonishing meals, I remember those times, and I do not like them. The Gastronauts should be commended for allowing foodies like us to eat, drink, and take a thousand pictures of food without all the normies in the world staring at us with discontent and dejection. So, join the Gastronauts and in the immortal words of the sideshow performers in the movie Freaks, become, One of us! Gooble Gobble, one of us!    

A Lebanese Dinner by Naji

Kibbeh Nayeh

Raw Goat Pate

Lamb brains and Lamb testicles

Brain Salad and Testicles Served With Hummus

Beef Tongue Fatteh

Toasted Lebanese flat breads mixed with a garlic yogurt sauce and Beef Tongue

Moughrabiyeh

Large-grain couscous, served with liver

Ashta dessert

Prepared similarly to sweetened cottage cheese, and topped with fruit and crushed pistachio.

After partaking in the awesome sauce that was the Tibetan dinner you drooled over above, I was yearning for the next Gastronaut event. I was just hoping that it would work with my hectic schedule of work, writing, and studying.   Lucky for me, and I guess in turn lucky for you, I was available on the night in question and without hesitation reserved two seats for the Lebanese Dinner at Naji located at 160 Havemeyer Street in Brooklyn, NY 11211.

I may have agreed to attend without hesitation but upon further research, like reading the entire email, I was able to find my uncertainty quite easily. I neglected to read the menu for the evening and missed the eating testicles portion of the event. I had never eaten testicles before and I was concerned about the texture, the flavor, the potentiality of liquid bursting from the center as I bit into them, and a myriad of other orb related issues.

With that said, my adventure eating partner, Steph and I embarked on our journey to Brooklyn to eat the testicles and brains of a lamb that I assure you is much less happy to be attending this dinner party than we were.

Lebanese Side Dishes

Our wonderful and exceptionally helpful waitress delivered a plate of side dishes that were to be consumed with the meal as per the instructions of the chef. Steph and I both agreed that we are always a fan of instructions when eating a cultures food that we are not familiar with, so we were happy to hear that we would be guided on when and how to eat the chef’s preparations.

The Kibbeh Nayeh

The Kibbeh Nayeh, or Lebanese Goat Tartar, is considered the national dish on Lebanon and is served at feasts and festivals throughout the year. When this dish hit the table, everyone was a little nervous about eating raw meat because we are Americans, and we all know that eating raw meat could potentially cause the outbreak of zombies thus destroying the world as we know it. Although, we decided that when in a Lebanese Restaurant in Hipster Ground zero, we should all act like a Lebanese Hipster… That does not work at all. I got it when in a… Never mind, you get the point.

Plated Goat

We ate the raw meat according to the instructions that were explained to us by the staff and guess what? No Zombies! I know, I was slightly disappointed too. To be honest though, I was way too far from my house and wife for a zombie invasion to work out well for me anyway, so I was okay with the lack of brain eating, for now anyway, according to the menu.

Goat With Beer

The instructions of how to eat The Kibbeh Nayeh were fairly simple and created a lovely hand held flatbread of tastiness. We were to spread the raw goat on a plate and top it with the most amazing garlic spread I have ever eaten and fresh mint leaves. Then you take the concoction, place it on a pita, and take a bite which is followed by a piece of either an onion or a scallion. Needless to say, this did not help our breaths at all, unless eating raw goat causes vampires instead of zombies, then the whole garlic breath thing might work out for us.

Brain Salad

Perhaps raw goat does turn us into zombies because all of us were pretty freaking excited to eat us some brains. Damn Center for Disease Control, being right all the damn time, what the hell? Although, it might have been the fact that the brains smelled absolutely incredible and did not look too shabby either that caused the mental salivation.  The aroma of this lamb lobe was hard to place at first until we tasted it. There was a distinct cinnamon or garam masala flavor that was tremendously enjoyable. The texture could have been a problem, considering brains tend to be as appetizing as lumpy cottage cheese in the mouth feel category, but the chef expertly prepared this dish as a salad with a slightly peppery salad greens that created a flawless union of taste, texture, and spice.

Lamb Testicles

The moment of truth was upon us. Apparently, what separates the men from the boys in the world of food happens to be balls, which is pretty accurate in the real world too. In this case though, these balls were going to be in my mouth instead of between my legs. Go ahead… Get it out… I realize that I just typed “balls” and “in my mouth” in the same sentence. I tried to get around it, but there was no way to avoid it. When you are done laughing out loud, I will see you in the next paragraph.Lamb Balls

I summoned all of my culinary testicular fortitude and stabbed a lamb testicle with my fork and placed it on my plate with a small amount of hummus, a pomegranate seed or five, and some greens and took the requisite photos. This time I did not mind the delay, I sort of needed it to psyche myself up for what was about to happen.

Balls on a Plate

With one swift motion, I brought a small piece of these rather large lamb testicles to my mouth and ate it. I should know by now that if the Gastronauts feed me something, it is going to taste stupid good, and these spheres were not the exception to this rule. Not only were these testicles not bad, they were freaking good! The texture was nothing like I thought it would be and resembled a somewhat undercooked meatball and much to my delight; no liquid of any kind was released from the center of these balls of yummy. I ate several more after cleaning this plate, and I would definitely order them again.

Beef Tounge

With a belly full of testicles…Dammit… Go ahead… The next course arrived at our table. I was impressed with the presentation of the beef tongue fatteh because the colors were spectacular. I mean seriously, this vibrant brew looked like it should be in an art museum, not in a bowl about to be consumed. I fought off my tablemates as long as I could to make sure I got the perfect photos before it was devoured.

Tongue Close Up

This dish’s praise was magnified because it contained one of my favorite “bizarre” meats, beef tongue. Not to mention the fact that the garlic yogurt broth it was swimming in tasted outstanding and was full of tasty goodness.

Couscous

If the fatteh was not enough to get your taste buds dancing like Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Chef also sent out a serving of Moughrabiyeh, which is large grain couscous. He decided to add a little liver to the dish to add a little Gastronaut style to the mix which only added to the already flavorful combination of the spices that were having a party in the bowl.

Ashta

For dessert, we were given Ashta, which was described as a dessert that has a sweet and aromatic flavor which is often compared to the atemoya fruit. This would have been a great description, if I knew what the hell an atemoya fruit was. The good news was that we were about to find out. I thoroughly enjoyed this dessert; I appreciated the subtle melon like taste combined with the small amount of crushed pistachios that were placed on top of this pudding like dessert.

I really cannot express to you how much fun it is to hop on board one of these culinary expeditions and eat your way into the stratosphere with the Gastronauts. There really are no words to describe the feeling of apprehension, realization, and relaxation that occur at these tables, it truly is something special.

The Blue Collar Foodie Stops and Smells The Roses

Sometime between 1440 A.D. and 1450 A.D. Mr. Johannes Gutenberg created the moveable type printing press, which in turn basically gave birth to advertising. So in theory you can thank Mr. Gutenberg for every pop-up ad you have ever clicked that gave your computer the internet clap. Since this invention, several key marketing and advertising innovations have emerged, in the 1730’s magazines were created, followed by posters in 1839. The 1860’s are responsible for our roads being littered with accident causing punny death boards, and the roaring 1920’s were aptly named due to the radio being invented. The idiot box or as I like to call him, Theodore, my BFF, entered the scene in 1941. The seventies not only invented Disco but also telemarketing so that decade is pretty much worse than a Justin Bieber and Macklemore movie entitled, “What the fuck is a Macklemore?

Somehow, through the cloud of smoke that was the 60’s and the disaster that was the 70’s, the scientific minds of those generations were able to create mobile phones and personal computers which forever changed the marketing world of today. Damn near all of us carry more information that could ever be housed in one single structure in our pockets, and this data can be accessed 24 hours a day with the swipe of a finger. This technology is continuously evolving and allowing marketing firms to bombard you with immersive advertisements that are harder to ignore than a crying baby on an international flight. So, even though my blog relies almost exclusively on the very same annoying devices that I just flamed, I am somewhat drawn to restaurants that ignore the last twenty years of innovation and much like the honey badger simply don’t care to be a member of the internets.

I think I am attracted to these establishments because I feel like they are shrouded in a cloak of mystery and mysticism as they operate in a world that needs no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to survive like some sort of restaurant sorcerer. At first when I drive past these archaic relics of the restaurant world, I scoff, but with each pass, I begin to get just a little more curious about what is contained within those clandestine walls. My most recent ride on the crazy train went something like this:

Why don’t they need to embrace the limitless world of Social Media? Do they think they are better than the rest of us? That’s it; they are just pretentious smug jerks! But what if they are not? What if their food is so damned amazeballs that they know if they join the social media scene they would break the internets with their culinary genius? What if the Vincent Van freaking Gogh of Lebanese food has been cooking down the street from my house at Rose’s Place and I am missing it?

These rides on the insanity railroad are usually short, considering they always end the same way. That is, Kat and I visiting said restaurant to make sure I am not missing out on something simply because the googles doesn’t know about it. The most recent stop on the irrational rail line was as I mentioned in my earlier rant, Roses Place, located at 32-01 Broadway, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

Kat and I were accompanied by two of our gastrologist friends that were intrigued by Rose’s James Bond like internet existence as well. Although there are a few spots in the front of the building, if you are eating at Rose’s I highly recommend parking and entering in the rear. (TWSS) We chose this course of action, and parked in the back and walked to the back door.

Once we entered this fine establishment, we were welcomed by the friendly and warm staff that offered us our choice of table. We chose a table that had decent lighting for pictures, because my wife hates me, and we were offered menus. Rose’s is a BYOB establishment and even though we chose not to BOO, Bring Our Own, many of the other customers had.

With menus in hand, our attention was drawn to the extensive fare that Rose’s Place offers. We are not just talking your normal Hummus and Kebabs here people, we are talking snails, lamb brains, tongue, Frog’s Legs, and more slightly atypical dishes. Roses’ menu is so comprehensive that we had to ask the waiter for more time at least twice before deciding on what to share as appetizers and what to get for our entrees. For all the people that are not absolutely food crazy in the room, choosing a meal at a new restaurant for me is what I would imagine it is like for brides to choose a dress or for Lindsay Lohan to choose a new drug of choice, in other words it is not done lightly.

Rose's Pepper and Pickles

Pickle Plate

During this conversation, what I could only describe as a pickle plate was delivered to our table accompanied by a basket of pita. The pickle plate was full of vibrant colors thanks to the greens of the pickles, hot peppers, and olives, which contrasted quite well from the deep purple color of what I think was pickled horseradish root. I was happier than Katy Perry eating Kale when this arrived on the table because my Jewish roots basically define pickled anything as a food group all to itself.

After several minutes of discussion, debate, and several acts of flip-flopping, we signaled the waiter back to our table, and we rattled off a veritable laundry list of foodie fare that would make a stoned Shaggy and Scooby more jealous than they are of Colorado residents this week.

For our appetizers, we decided on the Hummus, the Falafel, the Armenian Salad for the table, and two Lentil Soups in an attempt to fend off the chill we had from dealing with the snow during the day. As far as entrees went, Steph went with the Inam Bayaldi, described as sautéed eggplant with tomato, onion, and garlic, Tara decided upon the Shawerma Platter defined as shredded beef marinated in seasoning, whereas Kat landed on the Kufta with Tahini, explained as ground lamb with tahini sauce. I however decided that I was feeling somewhat adventurous and threw caution to the wind by ordering the Frog’s Legs which were alluringly described as being sautéed in garlic & fresh cilantro.

With our gargantuan food order on its way to the kitchen, we started to discuss the interior of the restaurant since everyone at this table knew that I was going to be writing this review soon and wanted to make sure it was all inclusive. We agreed that the lighting was perfect, not offensively bright nor dive bar dark. The music that was playing not only set the Middle Eastern mood but was not loud enough to drown out our conversations but just loud enough to suppress our neighbors conversations. All in all the design of the restaurant’s interior was pleasant and conducive to eating and drinking.

When our appetizers arrived, I, of course, had to put everyone in a holding pattern while I took the compulsory pictures. I apologized to Steph and Tara, but informed Kat that she gets no apology because she married a crazy foodie, and the food pictures are exactly what the Mayor was talking about when he said for worse!

All of the food looked and smelled utterly fantastic. So much so, that I was unsure which dish to devour first. Luckily, our waiter brought several small plates to the table so we could share all the appetizers. We each shoveled portions of the dishes on our individual plates and began to try each and every one.

Rose's Falaffel

Falafel

The Falafel was beyond appetizing and was the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When this ball of yummy was paired with the sauce that came with it, it bordered on food pornography.

Rose's Hummus

Hummus

The Hummus which I believe was house made was just the right texture and full of flavor. The addition of the colorful spices that garnished the bowl made this dish, more attractive than Mila Kunis in Black Swan. Armed with the Pita that was already on the table, this hummus appetizer was simply flawless.

Rose's Salad

Armenian Salad

As for the Armenian Salad which was described on the menu and by the waiter as spicy, I guess they had issues in the past with people not expecting, and then not enjoying a zesty salad. However, that was the very reason I ordered it and subsequently enjoyed the hell out of it! The slight spiced nature of the seasoning combined with the citrusy dressing made for a delightful treat.

Rose's Soup

Lentil soup

The Lentil soup was like a warm blanket for my belly. I did not have much of this scrumptious liquefied beantastic concoction because I am not a huge soup fan, but from the small amount I did sip, I could tell it was quality soup. Kat was a huge fan and basically ate her portion and mine without a dispute.

Rose's frog legs

Frog Legs

After the appetizer round, I was somewhat full, but that feeling did not last too long because once the entrees hit the table it was game on. Sometimes you have to look at eating the same way you should look at running, when you hit a wall, and your body says stop, pay no attention. Your body is a bigger liar than Bernie Madoff, and that is the truth!
Once again I took my photos while my cohorts drooled over the dishes that were placed in front of them. After the photos were snapped, I dexterously picked up a leg of a frog which was lightly battered and then pan fried in an aromatic garlic sauce and brought it to my mouth. I was unsure what to expect as this was my first frog leg, but after the first bite, I knew that I was in good hands at Rose’s. The delicate white meat of the frog flaked off the bone and was extremely complex in flavor. The best way I can describe the way the meat tasted was somewhere between chicken and fish, which I found to be delightful.

Rose's Schwarma

Shawarma Platter

Slowly but surely, I walked my fork around the table, with permission of course, and tasted each of my fellow epicurean adventurer’s dishes. I started with Tara’s Shawerma Platter which was seasoned better than any Shawerma I have had in quite some time. The flavor was so impeccable that I did not even want to dip the yumminess into the sauce that was provided, and I am a sauce fiend.

Eggplant

Eggplant Plate

Steph’s Inam Bayaldi was also quite good. The best part about this dish was the texture. I find that eggplant has a tendency to become a mushy pile of tasteless goo in the wrong hands, but the Chef at Rose’s was able to keep the eggplant somewhat firm, without under cooking it. The flavors married well and when mixed with the rice that was provided with each of our entrees it was a very balanced meal.

Rose's Kufta

Kufta with Tahini

Finally, Kat’s Kufta with Tahini was nothing short of delicious. The Lamb was not gamey at all speaking to the profound skill of the Chef and his crew. Furthermore, the Tahini sauce was not overbearing, which I was concerned of, but complemented this dish faultlessly.

Rose's Beef Bite

A bite of Kufta

Rose’s Place was a great experience and I will return very shortly to try the Lamb Brains that were calling to me on this visit. Everything I ate was not only tasted wonderfully but contrary to other reviews that I read online. The portions were very reasonable when factoring in the price of the individual dishes. I still can’t believe the lack of their internet presence and could only imagine what a good public relations firm could do for their business, but I now understand how Rose’s exists in our post dial-up world. The answer is not that they are smug; it is that their food is the real deal!

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