Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Good Bean Chickpea Snacks

The Good Bean chickpea snacks

I can’t say I’ve ever found myself craving a handful of roasted chickpeas, but if I ever did…well, these would do the trick. They’re a little weird, but they aren’t bad—and they’re a whole lot better for you than, like, Funyuns (or whatever it is that you can’t stop shoveling into your mouth).

Two of The Good Bean’s three products—their chickpea snacks and their bean chips—are made in a dedicated nut-free facility. Their fruit & no-nut bars, while themselves nut-free, are made in a facility that does handle both tree nuts and peanuts (though The Good Bean uses Good Manufacturing Practices to reduce the risk of cross-contamination), so they’re perhaps a bit less safe than the chickpea snacks and the bean chips. Still, they’re a viable option for many with nut allergies, and if I could find them, I’d give them a try.

I haven’t come across the bean chips or the fruit & no-nut bars, but I have eaten my fair share of the roasted chickpeas, and as usual, I have some opinions. First off, let me be clear about one thing: These things are extremely dry. Get more than three or four of them in your mouth at once and it’s like trying to revitalize sawdust with your tongue. In small bites, though, they’re manageable—and I actually kind of like them.

The sea salt flavor is the best one I’ve tried. It’s simple and to-the-point, and it’s actually pretty addictive, once you get used to the texture. My least favorite was definitely sweet cinnamon; I couldn’t even get through the portion I used for the photograph above. It’s just so wishy-washy—too sweet to be savory and too savory to be sweet, and not at all pleasant to eat in any quantity. So when the urge hits, I guess I’ll just stick with the sea salt for now. (A lot of the other flavors have proven hard to find, but I think I’m all right with that.)

Anyway, if roasted chickpeas have been calling you—or if my glowing review has won you over—you can find The Good Bean’s products at Stop & Shop, Duane Reade, Zabar’s, and various health food–oriented markets across the city. (Perhaps you’ll even be able to find all the flavors and products I couldn’t. Good luck.)

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Essen New York Deli, Part I

A pastrami sandwich from Essen NY Deli

Man, Jewish delis are the best.

I’ve had a lot of luck with kosher food, but until now, that luck has been reserved for baked goods. I’d never been able to find a nut-free delicatessen—that is, until I heard about Essen, a glatt kosher deli in Midwood, Brooklyn that happens not to have any nuts in house.

It sounded too good to be true, so I sent Essen an email to double-check. The response I received, in its entirety, was as follows: “Hi, we do not cook with any nuts but we are not a 100% nut free environment. Any questions please call us.” That response could have meant a whole lot of different things, so I did end up calling with a few further questions.

After being transferred a few times, I ended up on the phone with someone who really seemed to know what he was talking about. He explained to me that, while they don’t cook with any nuts at Essen, they don’t like to call their food “nut-free,” as they have no means of controlling what their customers (or employees) bring in with them. They prefer to say that they make food without nuts so as not to mislead anyone with severe allergies. So far, so fair.

Bread’s trouble, though, and I wasn’t about to make a trip to Midwood without the promise of a sandwich, so I was sure to double-check on that, too. With me still on the line, the man on the phone called up his bread supplier, put him on speakerphone, and asked him whether there might be any nut traces in their rye or club breads. The answer was “no,” and that was that. Within 30 minutes, I was riding the Q to Avenue J.

[Before I move on, I’d like to emphasize just how competent and knowledgeable this guy was. I asked what “we are not a 100% nut free environment” meant, and without a second’s hesitation, he jumped into an explanation that demonstrated a degree of allergy awareness that was really refreshing—especially at the tail end of a few hours of restaurant-calling. He was patient, clear, and actually helpful, and I was incredibly grateful. Serious props to the folks at Essen for that one.]

The restaurant’s bigger than I expected it to be, with a few different rooms full of tables. There’s counter service at the front, and it’s easy enough to get food to-go, but Sam and I opted to eat in (mostly because I’m absolutely hopeless when it comes photographing food without a table to help me out). Ourselves excluded, all the patrons were Jewish—and most seemed to know one another, too. We got a lot of funny looks, but such is life in an Orthodox neighborhood for even the most modestly dressed of goyim. In all, everyone was friendly enough.

Essen has two menus: one Chinese and one with traditional deli food. Before I’d even sat down, I knew I’d be ordering the hot pastrami on rye. (How could I have considered anything else? Pastrami’s at the base of my need-hierarchy pyramid.) Sam got the Yitzy’s Favorite Deluxe (fried skirt steak with gravy on a club roll), which came with french fries and onion rings—and as we tend to, we split both sandwiches.

First came the cole slaw and pickles, though. The cole slaw was good, if a bit sweet—though it was much, much better after a few too many bites of pastrami. There were two types of pickles: half-sours, which were all right, and full-sours, which I much preferred. The full-sours tasted inexplicably like salami, but we didn’t care much. We ate them quickly, and our sandwiches arrived soon after.

The pastrami on rye (pictured above) cost $14.95, and it was worth every last penny. Fatty, tender, and juicy, the pastrami itself was really tasty, if a bit thin-cut—and the bread wasn’t half bad, either. It held its integrity, at least. (I tend to hate rye, but how can you hate anything that’s acting as a vehicle for a few inches of freshly-carved meat? You can’t.) As a whole, the sandwich was simple and delicious, and I’d already begun to crave another within an hour of finishing my first. (Unfortunately—or fortunately, perhaps—I was back in Manhattan by then. Oh well.)

The Yitzy’s Favorite ($22.95) wasn’t my favorite, though I didn’t actually dislike it in the slightest. It wasn’t at all bad, but the fried steak just wasn’t anywhere near as good as the pastrami, and the club bread was worse than the rye, too. I loved the gravy, but the sandwich was a little boring overall—and it’d cost $8 more than the pastrami, which just made me feel like I was paying more to miss out. Nothing was wrong, but I’m not exactly in a rush to order the Yitzy’s Favorite again.

The fries it came with were pretty terrible, by the way. (Like, inedibly bad. Neither Sam nor I could get through them, which is sort of saying a lot.) And the onion rings were not onion rings; they were strands of hot onion adorned every few inches with clusters of fried batter. Regardless, they were delicious, though certainly a little strange.

With tax and tip, the meal was on the expensive side, but I maintain that it was absolutely worth its price. Fortunately, Essen is far enough away that I can’t stop by every day, which should go a long way in keeping me from going broke. Their menu’s pretty big, and I’ve only eaten two of its offerings, but you know what? I’m ready to say with confidence that I love this place.

Perhaps one day I’ll let go of the pastrami (yeah, right) and try out the rest of the menu. I’d like to try their knishes, or their matzah ball soup, or maybe some of their other sandwiches, at least. Perhaps I’ll even get around to trying a few things off their Chinese menu—though I think that’ll probably deserve a post of its own. (That’ll be part II—stay tuned.) But for now, it’s pastrami for me.

Find Essen New York Deli at 1359 Coney Island Avenue, between Avenue J and Avenue K. (It’s not that far away, really. From Manhattan, it’s 40 minutes on the Q, tops—way less if you’re starting off downtown.) Beware, though: They are Jewish, so they won’t be open on Shabbat. They close at 2pm on Fridays, and they don’t reopen till 11am Sunday mornings.

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Joe’s Pizza

joespizza

If you Google “best pizza in NYC,” you will come across Joe’s. That’s just the way it is, especially if you’re looking to purchase by the slice. And while the articles that’ll come up are all just products of a huge best-pizzeria circlejerk, there’s just no denying that Joe’s is good.

It’s places like Joe’s that give New Yorkers grounds to brag about pizza. Theirs is simple, cheap, and quick—exactly as pizza should be—and it’s good, too. As their website says (errors intact): “At Joe’s, you won’t find any pretentious concoctions nor do we serve bargain pizza made with who-knows-what.  It’s just the old-school, real deal New York Pizza.  No string-bean, asparagus covered, wild turkey surprise pizza here.” And it’s true: Joe’s is the real deal.

As far as I can tell, they’re pretty much nut-free, too. (Really, most plain old pizza places are.) At Joe’s, there’s pizza, there are toppings, and there are drinks. Sometimes, there are salads…though I’ve never actually seen one. That’s it. No nuts—that I know of.

Of course, if that isn’t enough for you (and why should it be?), I’m sure the folks at Joe’s would be happy to answer any questions you might have. I’d recommend asking in person, though. In my experience, calling pizzerias to ask about allergens typically doesn’t go all that well. (It’s near-impossible. “Nuts? No, sorry. We have pepperoni, sausage, peppers…”)

Does Joe’s offer the city’s best slice? I have no idea. My personal favorite is (and probably always will be) My Little Pizzeria‘s plain slice, which I’ve been eating regularly for half a decade now—but what do I know? (A few things, I guess. But only a few.)

In any case, I like Joe’s. A lot. For a good lunch, it’s so absurdly cheap and easy—how could I not be a fan? My preferred Joe’s is the one located at 7 Carmine Street, right off of Bleecker. It’s open till 4am (5am on the weekends), and it’s right across from Father Demo Square, whose benches make up for the lack of indoor seating at Joe’s.

There are two other locations—one by Union Square (150 14th Street, between 3rd and 4th) and one in Williamsburg (216 Bedford Avenue, between North 5th and North 6th). I’ve never been to either, but I assume they’re pretty similar to the Joe’s on Carmine—i.e. worth a try, at the very least.

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A Guide to Tree Nut–Free Peanuts and Peanut Butters

You can spend as much time as you’d like combing through Google results; you won’t find much in the way of information on tree nut–free peanut products. I’ve been complaining about this for a while (and I’ve blogged about it before, no doubt) but I figure it’s probably time to actually do something about the issue.

So…I have. I reached out to approximately half a billion peanut and peanut butter companies, and this post is the result. I’ve only included companies that are reasonably allergy-friendly, so if a brand’s not on this list, I’ve either never come across it or I’ve come across it and found that it’s probably not a viable option for those with nut allergies. (Or! A handful of stick-in-the-mud customer-service representatives have kept me from being able to find out much of anything about a company’s facilities. That happens a lot, actually.)

The products that have made this list are peanuts and peanut butters that probably won’t kill you…if you’re allergic to tree nuts and tree nuts alone, that is. And if you can’t eat peanuts (or if you’re in the mood for a change of pace), scroll down to the bottom of this guide for a section on other nut-free spreads.

(Looking for tree nuts free from cross contamination with other tree nuts?)

Continue reading

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New French Bakery

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I wish I could say I’d found a nut-free French bakery, but…I haven’t. What I have found is a nut-free bread company that supplies packaged “take & bake” breads to various supermarkets. So French bakery? Not quite. Useful product, though? Definitely.

New French Bakery doesn’t advertise itself as nut-free, but there’s nothing about tree nuts (or peanuts) on any of the packaging. That doesn’t mean all that much, though, so I sent an email to double-check. Within a day, I received the following reply: “Yes, our facility is tree nut and peanut free.” So that’s that, I suppose.

I’ve categorized New French Bakery as “truly nut-free,” but really, things aren’t so black-and-white. These companies exist on an allergy-friendliness spectrum, and I’d say this one’s probably a bit less nut-free (whatever sense that makes) than a company like Enjoy Life, which requires allergen statements from suppliers, employs batch testing, and is generally defined by its allergy-friendliness. Still, a nut-free facility is a nut-free facility—it’d be silly to expect anything more.

I picked up a bag of the French dinner rolls at Gristedes (the only place I can seem to find these things) and froze them that day, as the packaging recommends. A week or so later, I threw a few into the oven for 12 minutes and ate them with some cheese, and they were all right, but certainly not anything worth getting excited over. Had they not been warm, they would’ve been pretty lame—but warm bread is warm bread, so I couldn’t be all that disappointed.

From what I’ve tried, it seems as though New French Bakery’s bread is, at the very least, a few steps above most of the bread you’ll find at the supermarket—and it’s nut-free, too, which certainly helps its cause. It’ll do in a pinch, and it’ll certainly do if you’re accustomed to being denied bread.

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Taqueria Diana

taqueriadiana

I know, I know. This blog is filled with posts about nut-free taquerias; how could I possibly have found another? Well, I actually have an answer: I found Taqueria Diana here, where I ended up after a Google search of “best nachos in NYC.” 30 minutes later—after I’d called and made sure the folks at Taqueria Diana don’t use any nuts in their kitchen—it was time to go.

I went pretty late in the day, and they were out of both carnitas and elote—which, to be honest, had me pretty disappointed—so I got a tray of nachos al pastor and Sam got a burrito (also al pastor). I tried his burrito, and…it was pretty bad. The filling was mostly rice and beans, and when Sam gave up on holding the burrito together and let its contents spill into onto his tray, I couldn’t deny how much what fell out reminded me of a cockroach infestation.

Unnecessarily mean comments aside, the burrito was undeniably mushy and bland, and I probably won’t ever eat another. The nachos, however, were a different animal entirely. (Not literally. Same meat.) For $12, it’s a huge portion—and it’s really good, too. Seriously: I can’t stop ordering them. It’s becoming a problem.

The chips (homemade!) are strong enough to hold the toppings: cheese, beans, guacamole, crema, salsa, jalapeños, carrots, salsa verde, and the meat of your choice. There’s plenty of cheese, always fully melted and well-distributed—and there’s a whole lot of guac, too, which I can’t help but appreciate. The salsa verde isn’t all that flavorful, but there are squirt-bottled salsas of various heat levels all over the restaurant, so the verde’s a non-issue, really. Even the beans are good (and I’m unashamedly anti-bean).

Best of all, these nachos are entirely free from that nasty-ass, movie-theater-tasting slop called “nacho cheese” that everyone and their mother seems to need to drizzle over tortilla chips. (Ugh. Ugh.) They’re missing pico de gallo, too—but I’m willing to accept that as long as nacho cheese stays out of the picture, too.

The pork itself—which is the one meat they never seem to run out of—is pretty dry and boring, but that’s my only real complaint. The earlier I go, the better the meat is—so perhaps it’d actually be good if I could manage to show up around lunchtime. (Or perhaps they won’t be out of carnitas. One can hope, right?) Meat aside, though, these nachos are pretty solid, and I’m grateful to have found them.

Two tacos— from Taqueria Diana

I’ve tried the tacos, too—al pastor and chicken, both pictured immediately above)—and while I prefer those at Los Tacos (and Otto’s, too, on a good day), these definitely aren’t bad. There’s plenty of crema to go around, and I’m a sucker for anything with a bunch of cilantro sprinkled on top, so it wasn’t all that hard for these to keep me chewing. Still, the tortillas were sort of shitty, and both meats fell totally flat. The al pastor was as described above, and the chicken was mushy-soft, in a tuna-fishy sort of way.

Via delivery—and only via delivery, because I can’t seem to ever get out the door before 3pm—I’ve actually been able to get my hands on both the carnitas and the elote. Though everything got a bit soggy in transport, I can still say that I liked the carnitas a whole lot better than the al pastor. On the other hand, the elote fell a bit flat. It had way too much mayo and not nearly enough cheese, and the corn itself was pretty bland—though perhaps it would’ve been better if it hadn’t just traveled a few miles in a tin foil cocoon.

Anyway. I’ve done a fair amount of complaining in this post, but I do like Taqueria Diana. The tacos are good, the nachos are great, and the elote’s all right, I suppose, though it’s not as if I’ll ever crave it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get my hands on their carnitas in-store—or maybe not. Either way, I’ll probably continue to eat at Taqueria Diana. That’s kind of just what I do.

They have three locations: one on 2nd Avenue, between 7th and 8th (129 2nd Ave); one on 6th Avenue, between 17th and 18th (601 6th Ave); and one on the corner of 9th Avenue and 39th Street (524 9th Ave). It’s not McDonald’s, so they’re all a little different. I’ve only been to the 6th Avenue location, but I look forward to trying the others, too.

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America’s Best Nut Co.

Southern Homestyle peanuts from America's Best Nut Co

Tree nut–free peanuts are trouble. I’ve written before about how tough they are to find, so I won’t rehash—but suffice it to say that they aren’t easy to come by. In fact, America’s Best Nut Co. makes the only safe shelled peanuts I’ve managed to find in years (and years) of half-hearted searching.

Their website is pretty lean, and they have no email address, as far as I can tell—so I did the unthinkable: I called. The (very, very kind) woman I spoke with confirmed what I’d heard: that they don’t have any tree nuts in their facility, and that their peanuts should be entirely nut-free. Unfortunately, she also told me that their peanuts aren’t sold in any New York stores. Fortunately, though, they are sold online, so—well, I’m eating a handful as I type this. (Literally. One-handed blogging is a slow-going labor of love.)

Shipping was expensive, so in the interest of efficiency (and certainly not because I’m a pig), I ordered three tins: one lightly salted Southern Homestyle, one unsalted Southern Homestyle, and one sea-salted. All three were great, but I liked the lightly salted best, as they were a nice happy medium between the other two. (Duh.) The peanuts themselves taste great, and the salt complements their flavor nicely (rather than covering it up, as it tends to with the sea-salted variety). Plus, unlike the unsalted peanuts, these don’t grow boring after too many handfuls. They’re frighteningly addictive.

The unsalted did have their perks, though. First, they’re a classic—and second, they’re super greasy. These are some oily peanuts (though they aren’t unpleasantly so in the slightest). It’s a nice touch—in my eyes, at least—and it certainly sets these peanuts apart from those you’ll pull out of a shell.

In all, America’s Best Nut Co. is a lovely company that makes some damn good peanuts. My only gripes, really, are that they can’t be found in stores, and that they’re too expensive (for me) to order regularly.

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Crif Dogs

Two John-John Deragons from Crif Dog

All right, I’ll be honest. I heard about Crif Dogs from the second episode of Anthony Bourdain‘s The Layover, during which Bourdain spends a day or two eating and drinking in his native New York. I wasn’t all that impressed with the episode—I mean, he wouldn’t stop raving about Shake Shack and Papaya King, which I just can’t get behind as the city’s best cheap eats—but that’s beside the point.

The point is that he and David Chang (of Momofuku) went to Crif Dogs, and I drooled profusely as I watched the pair down a few scallion-topped hot dogs. I have a lot of weaknesses, I know—but scallions are way up there. Seriously: I’m embarrassed by how much I love them. And as if the scallions alone weren’t enough to reel me in, the dogs’ buns were spread with cream cheese, and the whole shebang was topped with everything bagel seasoning.

Figuring my odds were pretty good, I decided to call Crif Dogs the next day. It’s a relatively simple hot dog joint; what need could they have for nuts? None. They have no need for nuts, and they don’t use any nuts or nut products in anything they sell. And their buns are made in a nut- and peanut-free facility. What better news was there to receive? (I guess they could’ve told me they were nut-free in the vendor-vetting sense, but it’s all right that they didn’t. I was very pleased with their level of allergy-friendliness, even though I can’t quite categorize them as “truly nut-free.”)

I should mention, though, that Crif Dogs does use peanut butter (Skippy, which is made in a peanut-only facility) for one of their signature dogs. And although guy I spoke with told me that the peanut butter’s kept separate and that those with peanut allergies shouldn’t have any trouble eating at Crif Dogs, I figured its presence was something worth noting.

It was good news all around, and I was very, very excited. But I was a little apprehensive, too. I didn’t want to get my hopes up—what if Crif Dogs turned out to be on par with your average Papaya King (or worse yet, your average Papaya King imitator)?

Well, it didn’t. Crif Dogs is way, way better than Papaya King—which doesn’t mean all that much, I guess, given how mediocre Papaya King tends to be these days. Let me try again, then: The hot dogs at Crif Dogs are really, really good—the best I’ve eaten in a long time, for sure—and…well, go eat one (or three or six) and see for yourself.

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Naturally, I started with the John-John Deragon (pictured at the top of this post—and spelled “John-John” on some menus and “Jon-Jon” on others, which drives me a little insane), the everything bagel–inspired hot dog that Bourdain and Chang put me onto. I didn’t know what to expect, really, because the thing sounds simultaneously sacrilegious and delectable. (In fact, the sacrilege is literal. As Bourdain remarked, “there’s a whole Jewish–pork violation there, which actually is kind of a turn on.”)

Taste-wise, though, there’s no sacrilege here. This hot dog is delicious. The scallions are plentiful, the everything seasoning is spot-on (though a bit too salty), and the cream cheese isn’t off-putting in the slightest; in fact, it’s a rather nice touch. All the ingredients come together perfectly, and the first time I tried this dog, I was one happy camper. The best part is definitely the hot dog itself—the perfect thickness, with a satisfyingly firm casing—but each and every component is solid in its own right.

And the John-John isn’t even the weirdest thing on the menu. There’s a bacon-wrapped dog topped with avocado and sour cream. There’s a bacon-wrapped dog topped with teriyaki sauce, pineapple, and green onions. There’s a bacon-wrapped dog topped with peanut butter, pickles, and crushed potato chips. (Yeah, they love their bacon at Crif Dogs. I don’t—at all—but I’ll live.) There’s a cream cheese schmear dog. There’s a B.L.T. dog. There’s even a dog-substitute for vegetarians. In short: Crif Dogs sells a lot of shit, and it all intrigues me.

Of course, they have their fair share of standard offerings, too: ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, sautéed onions, relish, raw onions, chili cheese, baked beans…you get the gist. And though I haven’t yet had a chance to try each and every thing I’ve been eyeing, the things I have tried have been pretty damn tasty. Truthfully, it seems hard to go wrong at Crif Dogs—unless you don’t like hot dogs, in which case I’d recommend going somewhere else. (Or, you know, reevaluating.)

And honestly, I’d still frequent this place if their atmosphere sucked—but it doesn’t. It’s small and darkish with inoffensive music and laid-back employees, and there are plenty of retro arcade games to fiddle with while you wait for your food. (Oh, and Crif Dogs is also home to the phone booth that doubles as the “secret” entrance to speakeasy Please Don’t Tell, which serves hot dogs, too.)

Find the Crif Dogs I’ve written about at 113 St. Marks Place, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. Or check out their other locations—there’s one in the West Village (120 Macdougal, between Bleecker and 3rd) and one in Williamsburg (555 Driggs, between North 6th and North 7th). Bonus: Thursday through Saturday, they’re open till 4am. Go wild.

(Oh, and for a complete list of the bars and restaurants Bourdain visited on the New York City episode of The Layover, see this Travel Channel summary.)

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Lombardi’s Pizza

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Lombardi’s, which has been around since 1905, was America’s first pizzeria. It’s pretty well-known—and not just for its historical significance. Their pizza (always New York-style, which they more-or-less created) is known to be pretty damn good, if a bit expensive. So I was pretty excited when I saw them listed on AllergyEats a few months back. Evidently, they don’t use any nuts in anything—so I was basically obligated to give them a try.

The first time I went, I asked the host whether there were any nuts present in the kitchen and whether there might be any chance of cross-contamination. He confirmed that there were no known nuts in anything they served and went to double-check with someone else about the cross-contamination issue. A few minutes later (the wait for a table was around 20), another man showed up and told me that the only way there’d be any nut traces in anything would be if their flour was cross-contaminated, and he didn’t believe it was. Of course, he couldn’t make any promises, but overall, I was satisfied with his answer.

The first time I went to Lombardi’s, my boyfriend and I split a plain Margherita pie, which we both loved. The mozzarella was fresh and well-distributed (though I wouldn’t have minded if they’d have doubled the cheese, really), and the tomato sauce was pretty much perfect—none of that sugary nonsense you’ll find at lesser eateries. My favorite part, though, was the crust: never soggy, never burnt, and never too thin nor too doughy. Perfect, really.

I’ve since discovered that I prefer the white pizza (pictured above), which is made with mozzarella, ricotta, romano, basil, and a whole bunch of olive oil. The whole thing is incredibly rich and creamy, and I highly recommend it, especially to the sauce-averse. It can get a little sickening after too many slices, but that’s more a problem with me and my overeating than with the food itself. Really, I have no gripes with this pizza. It’s good.

Actually, I have very few Lombardi’s-related gripes at all. (Well, I have a few. It’s tourist-heavy, it gets pretty crowded around mealtimes, and it’s cash-only, with an ATM that costs almost $4 per withdrawal.) But those issues aside, Lombardi’s is pretty good. And it’s  nut-free. What more can I ask for?

Find Lombardi’s at 32 Spring Street, on the corner of Mott and Spring. Remember to bring cash, though—and come ready to watch in awe as table after table of middle-aged tourists take to their pizzas with forks and knives.

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Peanut Butter & Co.

A jar of White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter

I spent last Friday on Roosevelt Island. Please don’t ask why; I really have no idea. Around the third hour, though, I ended up at Gristedes, the island’s only real supermarket. (There’s also a deli, a Duane Reade, and a natural market of sorts. For anything else, you have to travel.) None of this is relevant, of course—but Roosevelt Island is Twilight Zone–weird, so…I guess I wanted to mention where I was.

It was there, at that overpriced and poorly reviewed Gristedes, that I finally decided it was time to pick up a jar of this expensive-ass peanut butter.

I hated this stuff as a kid. I really did. I always thought it was gritty, bland, and generally unpleasant—though that didn’t quite stop me from trying every flavor I could find. I’m not sure whether it’s changed or I have, but…something‘s different, because I absolutely love this peanut butter.

A lot of tree nut–allergic people—especially those with a history of reacting to traces—express frustration with finding peanut butter made in a peanut-only facility. I usually eat Skippy (which, as far as I know, isn’t made in a peanut-only facility), but I know plenty of nut-allergic people for whom brands like Skippy aren’t an option, so I figured it was probably worth looking into some other companies.

One of the companies on my list was Peanut Butter & Co. Prior to my Roosevelt Island adventure, I’d sent them an email, and their reply was as follows:

Our peanut butter is manufactured in a facility that only processes peanuts. While many of our other products like jams, jellies, and peanut snacks may not contain tree nuts or seeds in the ingredient list, some are processed in facilities that also process tree nuts and seeds. Please check the label of the individual product you are inquiring about for more information.

Really, that was the answer I was looking for. But given how much I’d hated their peanut butter as a kid—and given that I’ve never seen a jar of it on sale for less than $5—it wasn’t as if I was ready to sprint to the supermarket and pick some up. It comes as no real surprise, then, that I had to be so hungry on such a strange island for this stuff to even begin to appeal to me.

Anyway…I bought some. I chose White Chocolate Wonderful, because white chocolate and I tend to get along pretty well. The jar cost $5.99, which made me sort of angry—but once I got my spoon (okay, finger) in there, all my anger dissolved. It wasn’t gritty or bland like I remembered; instead, it was smooth and flavorful—though not unpleasantly sweet, which I’d expected it to be.

Honestly, it’s really fucking good, and I feel a little bad for spending the last 10 years hating on this stuff. What’s done is done, though. I’ll guess I’ll have to right my wrong by overspending on Peanut Butter & Co.’s peanut butter till I’m sick of the stuff.

Find Peanut Butter & Co. everywhere: Gristedes, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Duane Reade, Food Emporium, Citerella…and a whole bunch of other places, too.

[Edit: After some further consideration, I’ve decided that Peanut Butter & Co.’s is probably my favorite all-purpose peanut butter. White Chocolate Wonderful, which tastes nothing like white chocolate, but rather which tastes like a standard sweetened peanut butter, is like an upgraded Skippy, and Dark Chocolate Dreams, which is ridiculously rich—like brownie batter, honestly—is perfect for finger-licking.]

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