Taking a break from my normal exposition on stats, New York or pizza I’d like to espouse the wonders of baking soda and vinegar!

My sink was clogged, not with anything specific, but just years worth of gunk.  So after scraping out what I could with my hands and a wire hanger–and wanting to avoid caustic chemicals like Drano–I searched the Internet to see if Listerene or Coca-Cola might do the trick.  But extensive searching led me to baking soda and vinegar.

It’s very simple:  Stuff a half cup of baking soda into the train then pour a half cup of vinegar down it, return the sink stopper and wait 15 minutes.  Then pour down another half cup of vinegar, close the stopper and wait another 15 minutes.  After that pour a gallon (a tea kettle’s worth) of boiling water down the drain and you’re done!  Not only will it unclog your drain, it leaves all the chrome shining like new!

For those of us who never got to make a model volcano in science class it was really awesome watching the baking soda and vinegar react

Pi Day Celebrants

As mentioned earlier, yesterday was Pi Day so a bunch of statisticians and other such nerds celebrated at the new(ish) Artichoke Basille near the High Line.  We had three pies:  the signature Artichoke, the Margherita and the Anchovy, which was delicious but only some of us ate.  And of course we had our custom cake from Chrissie Cook.

The photos were taken by John.

Pi Cake 2011
NYC Data Mafia
NYC Data Mafia

Pi CakeHappy Pi Day everybody!  I’ll be out celebrating with the rest of the NYC Data Mafia eating pizza and devouring the above Pi Cake, custom baked by Chrissie Cook.

Today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday so there are plenty of reasons to have fun.

The cake below was my first ever Pi Cake in what is sure to become an annual tradition.

Pi Cake 2009

Update: Drew Conway does far more justice to our fair, irrational, transcendental number.

Update 2:  Engadget posted this awesome video of “What Pi Sounds Like.

Last Wednesday I made a trip to Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn.  Since that place is well covered and lauded I won’t talk about the pizza, as amazing as it is. 

I gave Dom a copy of my thesis (pdf) on NYC pizza and he loved that his place was one of the few pizzerias mentioned by name (along with Lombardi’s and Otto Enoteca, two of my favorites) in the paper.  My friend captured these great photos and I’m extremely thankful to Dom for letting me in his kitchen. 

And to make the trip all the more surreal, Avenue J was lined with lulav and etrog vendors trying to clear out stock before Sukkot started.  The juxtaposition of Di Fara and the surrounding Orthodox neighborhood was striking and really shows the beauty of New York City. 

Gallery of photos below.

After years of waiting a new Artichoke Basilles our dreams have been answered.  The new spot, which hasn’t even been updated on the website yet, is at 17th and 10th opened this weekend.  Unlike the original location this one has seats and wait service and only sells pies, albeit smaller than the originals.  There is a side shop where they sell slices, but I didn’t venture in there.

The pie, seen below in the blurry iPhone shot, is just a smaller version of the pies at the original shop and were just as tasty.  One pie was too much food for a friend and me, so figure one pie ($17) for 2.5 to 3 people.

Additionally, they have a larger selection of pies and non-pizza food, such as salad and the sorts.  They don’t have beer or liquor yet, but should soon.

Updated (September 29th, 6:27 PM):  Slice Review.

Last week Slice ran a post about a tomato taste test they conducted with Scott Wiener (of Scott’s NYC Pizza Tours), Brooks Jones, Jason Feirman, Nick Sherman and Roberto Caporuscio from Keste.  While the methods used may not be rigorous enough for definitive results, I took the summary data that was in the post and performed some simple analyses.

The first thing to note is that there are only 16 data points, so multiple regression is not an option.  We can all thank the Curse of Dimensionality for that.  So I stuck to simpler methods and visualizations.  If I can get the raw data from Slice, I can get a little more advanced.

For the sake of simplicity I removed the tomatoes from Eataly because their price was such an outlier that it made visualizing the data difficult.  As usual, most of the graphics were made using ggplot2 by Hadley Wickham.  The coefficient plots were made using a little function I wrote.  Here is the code.  Any suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated, especially if you can help with increasing the left hand margin of the plot.  And as always, all the work was done in R.

The most obvious relationship we want to test is Overall Quality vs. Price.  As can be seen from the scatterplot below with a fitted loess curve, there is not a linear relationship between price and quality.

More after the break. Continue reading

Eye Heart New York has a post with a graph showing the distribution of health code violations and the letter grades they received.  Kaiser at Junk Charts takes the original data and makes a few graphs of his own.  Based on those visualizations it seems that there is not much difference by borough or by cuisine.

This is similar to a system in LA and Singapore, though something tells me an ‘A’ in NY is still only a ‘B’ in Singapore.  The picture below is from an ‘A’ restaurant in Singapore which was so clean that I had no problem eating off a banana leaf.

New Yorkers, known for being tough, might not be deterred even by ‘C’ grades.  Commenters on Serious Eats seemed to relish eating in a ‘C’ joint as it lends greasy, authentic goodness to a place.

The New York Times has a couple pieces today about ice cream.  The one that really caught my attention (thanks to Pat Kiernan) is on the skyrocketing cost for a scoop of ice cream.  I had somehow gotten used to paying three, four or more dollars at places like Cones, L’Arte del Gelato or the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (I still need to get a t-shirt from there).  Even trucks, which you think would be bargain prices, are charging north of $4 for a scoop.

The article points out Grom, in particular.  I recently visited the location on Bleecker and Carmine and paid $5.25 for a small.  While the gelato was good, I’d rather walk down the street to Cones or L’Arte del Gelato where the prices are (slightly) lower and the gelato tastes better, at least to me.

What really gets me going is that on my trip to Italy last year I paid much lower prices.  Gelato in Venice only cost one Euro.  Even with the conversion rate at the time it was less than $1.50.  Florence was a little more at two Euros and Rome hit the top costing between three and four Euros.  You would think those tourist heavy cities in one of the more expensive countries to visit would have more expensive gelato, but I guess not.

The other article is about egg free ice cream and how it helps pull out the flavor.  I love ice cream of all kinds so I can go either way, but the article should be an interesting read.

Last night I attended Amanda the Foodie’s ice cream crawl which is part of a series of food crawls she organizes.  I’m not good at estimating crowd size by sight (give me a few equations then sure) but I’d say 60 to 80 people showed up.  She had a break up into groups of 5 or 6 and go on different routes so the shops wouldn’t be overwhelmed with customers.  She also went so far as to negotiate discounts for us ahead of time.

I was there alone so I made new friends on the spot.  Our list of ice cream stations included Blackwell’s Oragnic Ice Cream Truck (the driver was very rude and did not honor the discount), Three Tarts (we had Rosemary and lavendar ice cream sandwiches), Miss Softee (we skipped because we all had her before), Roneybrook Farm (Cinnamon, Pumpkin) and L’Arte del Gelato (also skipped because a few of us were there yesterday).

My group decided to add The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (Doug is awesome and has GREAT toppings) to the list so we hustled over to Union Square just in time to sample his wares.  We had the Salty Pimp, Monday Sundae and Vanilla with Sea Salt and Olive Oil.  I also gave the location to Amanda so she could tweet it to everyone sending a rush to Doug as he was trying to close.

Metromix covered the event and which is where I found that picture of me with the spoon.

The other day I found myself walking down 7th Avenue South, as is usual, and I decided to pop into Blecker Street Pizza.  I haven’t been there in years because of all the other great pizza in the neighborhood like John’s, Keste, Number 28 (which is claimed best by Citysearch), Risotteria (so I’ve heard) and Joe’s.

I remember not being a blown away by the place and I reaffirmed that this time.  It’s not awful but it certainly isn’t the Best Pizza in New York as the Food Network seems to think.  With all the good options around the area I think it will be a while before I pop back inside.

This makes me doubt everything the Food Network says.  I’ll be sticking to Travel Channel’s Man v Food starring Adam Richman who regularly shows his affinity for Lombardi’s with his t-shirts (as seen below) and loves L&B Spumoni Gardens.

Adam Richman Getting Made Up