Grease Is Good!

Are lard, eggs, and fish tacos the new health foods?

So eggs are back again, and with a vengeance. There's a new place in Williamsburg called EGG (135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn, 718-302-5151), which uses organic eggs from Columbia County, presumably lower in cholesterol than non-organic eggs. But who knows for sure? The federal government is more interested in coddling giant food manufacturers and helping them disguise unhealthiness than in inspecting and certifying organic or free-range status. But while Egg only serves eggs till noon (hot dogs take over afterward), other places serve organic eggs throughout the day. CURLY'S VEGETARIAN LUNCH (328 East 14th Street, 212-598-9998) offers a belt-busting three-organic-egg all-day breakfast, and you can goose it up with a side of tofu bacon that is surprisingly tasty. But hey, real bacon is good for you too. For more elaborate egg dishes, seek out Fort Greene's ICI (246 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-789-2778), where your choice of certified organic eggs runs to old-fashioned concoctions like shirred eggs (cooked in a baking dish with cheese, Virginia ham, and collards) and wiggly poached eggs deposited on stone-ground grits swimming in stewed tomatoes. Other places serving organic eggs include ORGANIC HARVEST CAFÉ (253 East 53rd Street, 212-421-6444), JOSIE'S (300 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-769-1212), PARK LUNCHEONETTE (334 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-383-3571), and CUP DINER & BAR (35-01 36th Street, Astoria, Queens, 718-937-2322).

Mexican cafés run by real Mexicans know that eggs are not just for breakfast anymore, and the range of choices at places like Red Hook's EL HUIPIL (116A Sullivan Street, Brooklyn, 718-855-4548) includes huevos à la Mexicana (scrambled with tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños), huevos con chorizo (with crumbled sausage), and huevos con nopales y rajas (with cactus and roasted peppers). A similarly broad selection is available at SAN FRANCISCO DE ASIS (1779 Lexington Avenue, 212-427-4440), TULCINGO DEL VALLE (665 Tenth Avenue, 212-262-5173), and VIVA MEXICO (3913 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-853-0707).

Of course, seafood in general, and fish in particular, have maintained an aura of sanctimonious healthfulness, partly because fish contains varying amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These long-chain organic acids with an even number of carbon atoms are close chemical cousins of the dreaded trans fats, but omega-3 fatty acids are believed to lower blood cholesterol. Other sources of these magical compounds—or at least alpha-linolenic acid, which may convert to omega-3 in the human body—include flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, tofu, and hemp seeds, so you'd better stop cleaning your stash so carefully. The current mania for fish is reflected at expensive midtown seafood spots like AVRA, GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR, and ESTIATORIO MILOS, but you can get a much better deal on local fish at Egyptian outer-borough and Jersey seafood spots, including BAHRY FISH MARKET (484 Bay Ridge Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-680-8135), where whole fish are displayed on ice in the front window and the baba is lip-smackingly laced with pickle juice. At SABRY'S (24-25 Steinway Street, Astoria, Queens, 718-721-9010), you can dispel the salutary effects of omega-3 in one of the nearby hookah parlors; MORGAN SEAFOOD (2801 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City, New Jersey, 201-792-2400), a few blocks south of the Journal Square PATH stop, is long on Alexandrian atmosphere.

East Harlem's premier health food emporium
photo: Tamara Rosenblum
East Harlem's premier health food emporium

Pigging out can be good for you.
photo: Tamara Rosenblum

A new way to enjoy fish, and one that provides regularity-restoring roughage in the bargain, is Baja, California, fish tacos, which have developed into a major food fad here over the last few months. (I, for one, am willing to consider them among the healthiest of meals.) PAMPANO, the upscale Mexican joint partly owned by Plácido Domingo, does a wonderful fish taco at its fast-food stall called POMPANO TAQUERIA (Crystal Palace food court, 805 Third Avenue, 212-751-4545), sided with piquant and freshly made sauces that may be slathered ad libitum. The guacamole is well worth ordering too, as much for the size of the order as for its creamy, cool taste. Good fish tacos are to be had at LA ESQUINA (106 Kenmare Street, 212-646-1333), a lean-to near the old police headquarters on Centre Street that grills its fillet in plain view before tucking it into a soft corn tortilla.

MERCADITO (179 Avenue B, 212-529-6490; 100 Seventh Avenue, 212-647-0830), too, does a mean fish taco, and so does the newly opened TACO CHULO (318 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 718-302-2485), mincing the fish and tossing it with fresh herbs. The latter place–created by former employees of Angelica Kitchen—has distinguished itself from other upscale taquerias by offering a plethora of vegetarian choices on its taco-centric menu, and concocts one of the city's only versions of the Tex-Mex classic chile con queso. However, it takes the recipe slightly upscale by deploying Velveeta instead of the usual mystery cheese food product, then stirring in the canned Rotel chiles. You can bet there are plenty of trans fats in the Velveeta, though—if you're taking this pep talk seriously. Miniaturized tacos in the style of Mexico City's taquerias can be acquired at the STANTON SOCIAL (99 Stanton Street, 212-995-0099), where three-to-a-plate fish taquitos are heaped with mango salsa, making a satisfying appetizer. Award for best fish tacos, though, goes to newcomer CENTRICO (211 West Broadway, 212-431-0700), in the old Layla space in Tribeca, where the pair of swordfish taquitos comes heaped with a finely diced cucumber-and-mango salsa and microgreens.

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