Category Archives: Midtown West

47 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Allegretti’s Provencale Fish Soup Has Found a New Home

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  From what I’ve read, it sounds like I’d like it.

The bad news – Allegretti closed down around the end of 2010.

The good news – Chef Alain Allegretti took his famous Provençale Fish Soup over to his new restaurant, La Petite Maison, which opened in December 2010 in the old Aquavit space (13-15 West 54th Street).  Officially, they call it “Traditional Provencal fish soup with rouille and garlic crouton” ($14; was $13 at Allegretti Restaurant and $12 when NY mag published their feature).

The bad news – I hadn’t done enough research when I was back in NYC a month ago, so I didn’t realize Chef was already at a new restaurant AND was making the same soup there…so, this means I didn’t try it and won’t be able to tell you what I think about it right now.

The good news – Google is awesome, and lots of people have written about it.  So, here’s some info…

Soup Background
“Always Hungry New York” interviewed Chef Allegretti about his fish soup on June 28, 2010.  If you want to see how to make it, definitely visit the website.  Here’s what I learned: Chef grew up in the South of France, and his grandmother would make fish soup every weekend for the family.  Since her version was extremely fishy, he decided to adapt it to a less fishy, more “American” version for his restaurant.  The hefty price comes from the fact that making it is a long and detailed process, and the ingredients that go into it, such as saffron, are very expensive.  One batch costs about $600, which is insane!  I wonder if I would be able to taste the $$$ and love that goes into this.

Chef Alain Allegretti's Provencale Fish Soup (photo from "Evenings with Peter" blog)

What New York magazine said in their “50 Tastiest Soups” feature in 2009:
“In much the way that Marseille is not known for its pastrami, New York is not a bouillabaisse town. No matter. Not when we have Alain Allegretti’s transporting fish soup at our disposal. Redolent of saffron and garlic and the heady perfume of expertly boiled fish carcasses, it comes in a tiny white bowl but contains an ocean’s worth of flavor.”

What another blogger from “Evenings with Peter” said:
“I don’t like soup for dinner ordinarily and I didn’t like the bouillabaisse too much in Marseilles, but this fish dish demands a standing ovation! Extraordinary!”

What New York Times‘ Frank Bruni’s friend said in 2008:
“’It tastes exactly the way it should,’ she said, rushing the words out as soon as the soup was down. She wanted the rest of us to know. She wanted to crow. She wanted to be done with talking and get back to the soup. She was even making those mm-mm noises, or something oddly close to them, as in the goofy Campbell’s commercials from years ago.

What she meant…was that that it tasted of Mediterranean waters — scorpion fish, rouget — and of Mediterranean sunshine, the tomato flavor robust and true. She meant that it had some proper mischief in it: a blast of fennel, a flicker of Pernod, a murmur of saffron.”  Read full NYT article

What Time Out New York said in 2008:
“Slurping it down, I was left craving one thing: more of their croutons, Gruyère and garlicky rouille—the usual accompaniments—for soaking it up.”  Read full TONY article

What New York Times said recently on March 22, 2011 about the soup, which is now featured at La Petite Maison:
“It arrives on tables with all the flavors and fragrances of that region present and singing in tune: fantastic.”  Read full NYT article about La Petite Maison

Soooo, the good news – I’ll be able to try the soup the next time I’m in NYC.

The bad news – I probably won’t be there for a while.  Hopefully the resto is still in business by the time I get there, and hopefully Chef has the fish soup on the menu that day.  If not, I’m going to think something fishy is going on…

Allegretti – CLOSED

La Petite Maison – NOW OPEN
13-15 W. 54th Street
New York, NY 10019


Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


Off the Beaten Path: East/West Ramen Fest – 5 More You May or May Not Want to Try

Ramen.  I clearly eat a lot of it.  Here are reviews of five more bowls – one in LA and four others from two new sister restaurants in NYC headed up by the well-known, Chef Hideto Kawahara.  If I die while eating ramen, I’ll be dying a happy woman.

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Daikokuya's Daikoku Ramen (photo courtesy of website since mine's stuck on home laptop)

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  I didn’t dislike it, but I can do without it.

My last four visits to LA, I asked JM to take me to Daikokuya since I had heard so much about it.  The first three times we tried going, we either didn’t want to wait (consider an hour wait at least) or couldn’t get in since they weren’t taking anymore names before closing.  The ever-present lines at this restaurant remind me of Ippudo in Manhattan.  The fourth time, we decided to be patient and stick it out.  Luckily for us, a lot of people played our previous roles and skipped out, seeking another time that wouldn’t test their patience (good luck with that, folks!).  So, instead of waiting maybe two hours, we stood restlessly outside for an hour and ate dinner around 10:00 pm.

I went a little nuts and ordered the Combo Meal ($11.50) with Daikoku Ramen and a bowl of fried rice.  If you order a la carte, it’ll cost you $8.50 and $7.50 respectively.  Here’s when I wish I had a much bigger body because the portion sizes were more than I could handle.  I wonder if I could’ve requested the half portion of ramen with the combo meal…

Chopped fresh scallions, raw bean sprouts, menma, sesame seeds, curly noodles, three kurobuta (“Black Hog” which is as prized as Kobe beef) pork belly chashu slices, and a perfectly cooked melt-in-your-mouth whole marinated boiled egg floated (seriously THE BEST EGG ever) within and on top of a milky cloud of tonkotsu and soy sauce broth.  I had also requested the richer, kotteri flavor broth which used additional soup extracted from the back fat (according to their menu).  I can’t say if it made a difference since I’ve never had the original version.

All in all, I really didn’t have anything bad to say about it.  I just didn’t experience anything that made me want to go back and wait in line again.  I’d rather quickly grab a seat at another Japanese restaurant across the street and gobble down their super soothing udon noodles in a hot pot.

Daikokuya Little Tokyo
327 E. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-1680

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HIDECHAN (New York City)

Hidechan Spicy Miso Ramen

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  How can a chef be so inconsistent?  The ramen here is one of the worst I’ve had in the city and in no way compares to the deliciousness at its sister ramen joint, Totto Ramen (below).

My brother and sister-in-law took me to the new Hidechan in midtown east since they had been wanting to try it (and they know about my souper journey).  The whole experience turned into one big nightmare because 1) the ramen was a big disappointment and 2) immediately after we sat down, my brother (he’s older) decided he would ask me if JM was going to propose to me anytime soon.  Imagine the look of horror on my face.  I was nearly speechless.  I expected those words to come out of my dad’s mouth, but surely not his.  I’m not getting THAT old, am I?  Ok, maybe I’d been wondering the same thing from time to time, but, sheesh, no need for the added pressure from my own bro.  He’s supposed to be the chill one to tell me it’s all good, and there’s no rush…right?

After this awkward moment, I was hoping that Hidechan noodles would soothe my pounding heart.  They didn’t.  The Hakata Spicy Miso Ramen ($10.50) came with straight, thin noodles that were way too soft for my taste.  It wasn’t until after we ordered that we noticed a tiny little piece of paper taped to the table’s chopsticks container that said we could specify how we wanted the noodles cooked and how rich we wanted the broth.  Sucks that we saw that too late, and the waiter never asked us.  If he did, I would’ve ordered my noodles al dente, not soft and mushy, and my tonkotsu broth rich, not super light and underwhelming like they made it.  I was also unsure about the spicy miso paste.  The medium-sized scoop sitting on top of the bowl was mushed together with a bunch of ground beef (or pork?).  It almost seemed too beefy and was definitely not spicy.  I’ve never had spicy miso served this way.  Is this typical?  Anyway, last little note, if you order a boiled egg to accompany the bowl’s standard kikurage, scallions and bean sprouts (with the crazily, tooth-hurtin’ yellow heads), add $1.  But I would really think twice about spending even a dollar here.

248 E. 52nd Street (near 2nd Avenue)
New York, NY 10022

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TOTTO RAMEN (New York City)

MY OVERALL TASTEFUL OPINION:  NO MSG automatically gives this restaurant a leg up on any in the city, but each ramen “flavor” has varying degrees of yumminess.

This past month my work lunches have been TOTTO-lly filled with ramen (yes, yes, very corny.  The man is rubbing off on me, to my dismay).  After my very first time, I went back for more two days later…and two more times after that…and I’ll be back again next week.  So, yes, I think it’s safe to safe that this has miraculously taken over Ippudo’s #1 spot on my list of NYC ramen houses.  Aside from the thankful NO MSG policy, you never have to wait too long, even when it seems like the sidewalk is packed with newbies and fans.  I’ve tried three out of the six noodle soup varieties already, and here are my thoughts starting from my least favorite.


Vegetarian Ramen ($11)

MY TASTEFUL OPINION: I’ll stick with the good ol’ meaty versions.

Totto Vegetarian Ramen (observe the wooden pedestal in right photo)

Even though this is vegetarian, this is the second most expensive one on the list.  Most likely, it’s because they use organic noodles and other expensive items.  But I did in fact wonder if the extra costs also came from the fancy presentation – your cute round white bowl is, oddly, placed atop a wooden pedestal.  Sometimes vegetarian food does need some sprucing up to make up for a lack of meaty goodness, and meaty goodness is what I missed.

I’m no crazy carnivore.  I love my veggies.  I need my veggies.  But, for some reason, I was depressed while eating this.  I couldn’t get used to the seaweed and shiitake mushroom broth (which also had “peppery Yuzu paste,” sesame oil and a squeeze of fresh lime), even though those ingredients are some of my favorites.  Yuzu always piques my interest when I see it on the menu, but maybe I only like it in my cocktails or on cold raw fish.  The thin, soba-like noodles were a tad too soft, and I wish the raw chopped onions were softer and more cooked (only ’cause my stomach can’t handle raw onions).  The sprinkle of dry seaweed on top expanded nicely in the hot broth and intermingled with the random mix of cooked vegetables – cauliflower, zucchini, slice of red pepper, and corn.  While they were cooked to perfection, they were lacking some kind of sauce.  Think raw vegetables with no dip.  The only thing that made me happy were the slices of seasoned avocado.  I’ve never tasted avocado like this.  It tasted just like my favorite Chinese jar of fermented tofu.  I’m sure none of you know what that is (and it sounds disgusting), but it makes this lil chicky very happy.

Even though I didn’t care for this, vegetarians might.  I heard that a vegetarian friend of mine liked it.  I guess you can’t really find non-meat options on ramen menus, so Totto is smart for including this on theirs.  I do find intelligence sexy…


Miso Ramen ($10.25)

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Much better than its sister’s Spicy Miso version.

Totto Miso Ramen with Side of Spicy Menma

The highlight of this dish was the curly, thicker al dente noodles.  No other ramen spot that I know of serves this kind.  And, just like men appreciate women with meat on their bones, I sometimes like more meat on my noodles.  Mmm.  The two slices of pork came a tad thin and tough.  I’m not sure if they torched the meat too long that day (yes, you can watch them torching the pans of sliced pork), or if they just use a different style for this bowl.  Whatever it was, I didn’t prefer the toughness.  Like its counterpart, Hidechan, you had to mix in a scoop of miso paste and ground pork with the chicken paitan broth, but somehow this tasted a lot better.  It must have to do with the more flavorful broth.  So what about the accoutrements?  You get the typical half egg, scallions and bean sprouts, of course, with the apparently typical Totto addition of raw chopped onions.  I ordered a side of spicy menma (add $1), and will never order it again.  It was unusually salty and just not good.  I overheard two women’s reactions to the non-spicy menma, too, and they also complained about the saltiness.  Sans additional menma, I think I could order this again, especially if they let me get extra miso on the side.


Chicken Paitan Ramen ($9.25) + Whole Broiled Egg ($1)

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  I might be eating this once a week…at least.

Totto's Chicken Paitan Ramen

The menu’s description: “These straight homemade noodles are cooked al dente style in a whole chicken and premium soy sauce based soup topped with scallion, onion, char siu pork, and a nori.”  You can see the ginormous pot of soup boiling with whole chickens (poor chickens), and you sorta want to dive in and bathe in it (or is that just me?).  But if I can’t bathe in it, then I’ll ingest it.  I’d be even happier if they canned all this richness so that I could slurp it at home, especially when I’m sick.  The torched pork slices were super tender, and they were joined by morsels of seasoned pork chunks that took me to another world.  Sure, this is a pretty plain bowl of ramen: a minimal variety of garnishes that are mostly a mute beige color leave the eye somewhat forlorn.  A friend who recently tried it said it was like a really great chicken noodle soup and was not impressed.  But, leaving out the vegetarians, who doesn’t like chicken noodle soup?  And who wouldn’t want one that’s pretty mind-blowing?  Personally, I think that if you can take the simple and minimalist approach, without the help of flavor enhancers, and still make foodies obsessed, then you’ve got a winner.

Totto Ramen
366 W. 52nd St. (btwn 8th and 9th Aves)
New York, NY 10019


Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

NEWS! Soup Nazi’s Back!

To all the midtown west peeps –

Soup Nazi’s reopening his storefront on 55th street (btwn Broadway and 8th Ave) on July 20th!  Read the short NYT article.

10 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Trying to Overlook the Negatives: Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  If you’re going to try this, for every spoonful of soup you should have a gulp of water.

It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m staring out my dirty windows trying to write this post before I get started on more work.  Three months after moving into this brand new building, I still have to look past the grime covering the windows to get a glimpse of the beautiful sun shining through.  This is what I had to do with Momofuku Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup.

I almost didn’t get to try it on Friday because, after arriving, we were told by the host standing outside that there was a private party going on and the restaurant wasn’t even officially opened yet.  She said the Chambers Hotel was still serving a limited lunch menu on the Mezzanine level, but she didn’t know if they were serving the soup.  We walked upstairs to look at the menu, and, hallelujah, the soup was there!

As the host took us to our seats, I started sweating because it was so damn hot and humid inside.  This was going to be a not-so-great experience if I had to eat hot soup in a hot environment.  But ask and you shall receive, and the cool air

Má Pêche’s Arnold Palmer

was finally turned on.  Supplementing the cool air were a bottle of beer and a special Arnold Palmer ($5) made from Má Pêche’s calamansi lemonade (calamansi*, lemon juice, simple syrup, mint) and jasmine iced tea, which had a refreshingly delicate citrus flavor.

I was both expecting and not expecting a mind-blowing soup because the Momofuku name was behind it.  I had Momofuku ramen a few times (and it still needs a review on this blog), as well as dinner at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and each time I’ve left unimpressed and annoyed that I spent a lot of money.  However, Momofuku still has an incredible reputation, so this was me hoping that I could see past my bad experiences and finally enjoy something I would rejoice about.

Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup

To my dismay, that didn’t really happen with their Hue-Style Chicken Soup.  I enjoyed the mix of ingredients that were in plain sight – fresh slices of mushrooms, real tender pieces of chicken, fresh cilantro, fried shallot flakes and Asian rice noodles.  The more hidden ingredients that my palate could figure out – star anise, lemongrass and fish sauce – provided some pleasant company.  But, at $12 a bowl, I wondered if they used about $9 worth of salt.  In fact, all of their dishes had salt dumped into them.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been as noticeable in the soup if I wasn’t eating the sodium-ridden side dish, too.  At this point, I was thankful for my many drinks so I could wash it down.

Why didn’t I just stop eating?  Well, I was investing $12 just for the bowl of soup, and wasn’t about to waste my money and spend more money to fill up my stomach.  So I forced myself to get over the saltiness, delight in the parts that I liked, and finish it.

This is similar to how I handle my personal relationships.  As I invest more of myself into a relationship, my expectations increase.  I expect the same that I give.  Over the years, however, I’ve realized, after a number of disappointments, that the only way I could lessen these disappointments was if I changed my own expectations and, from that, changed how I interacted with certain friends.  For example, flakers get invited less and less, but I’ll still be able to have a good time with them whenever we happen to see each other.  They’re still fun people, after all.

I’ve been a work in progress, trying to look past the rough spots and enjoy the shining moments underneath.  This doesn’t mean I never feel let down anymore, but it does mean that I feel happier overall.  If you rub enough salt on the wounds, though, and don’t provide me with an ounce of happiness, then my investment ends there.

So, Má Pêche, I think you’ve filled me with enough salt for a lifetime, and I won’t be coming back.

*Calamansi is popular in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, and is also called “lemoncito.”  It is often described as a cross between a tangerine/mandarin orange and a kumquat.


Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

7 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Where’s the Beer? Alsatian Country Soup at The Bar Room at The Modern

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Saving money for something special?  Spend it on a bowl of this.

Last June, I was at a sports bar watching the NBA finals and was faced with a decision – do I get the $10 glass of wine or a $5 beer?  Normally, it would’ve been an easy decision.  I’ve tried beer and hated it, so wine or a cocktail were my standard drinks.  But, knowing that I would be at this bar for a while and not wanting to spend a lot of money, I forced myself to drink Blue Moon.  A few hours and two pints later, I grew to love beer and have been slowly growing a sexy little beer gut ever since.

So, when I saw “Alsatian Beer Soup” on New York‘s list, I thought someone had heard my prayers.  Two loves combined into one – could it really be?  Even so, for $16 I could also get four Starbucks tea lattes, two full lunches during the week, or four actual beers at happy hour.  Could I sacrifice some of my vices to try some beer soup?  Not really, which is why C and I went to The Bar Room a couple days ago and shared.

Disappointment and confusion started things off.  When we sat down at the bar and looked at the menu, we saw an “Alsatian Country Soup with Benton Ham and Rock Shrimp” for $16.  Was it the same thing?  The only things similar to New York‘s blurb were “Alsatian,” “Benton Ham,” and “Soup,” but why would they call the soup something different?  Where was the beer?  I WANTED BEER!!

The Bar Room at The Modern's Alsatian Country Soup

When the soup was placed in front of me, it at least looked just like the magazine described.  If I didn’t know where I was,  I would’ve thought they brought out a latte and biscuits.  A ceramic bowl was topped off with a layer of foam and then decorated with what appeared to be cinnamon, but was actually crushed spiced bread.  A fresh bakery scent caught my attention, and C and I discovered it was coming from the warm mini slices of actual spice bread that were delicately placed inside a napkin.

Looks can be deceiving, and the precise presentation had a sophistication that set high expectations for the flavor.  But I’m happy to inform you that, beer or no beer, this could be my favorite soup yet.  Lucky #7.  Why must I always have such expensive taste?!

The white foam was masking a coffee-colored broth that further hid a bountiful amount of colorful treasures.  Chunks of dark pink ham, orange-white shrimp and green celery filled

The Hidden Treasures

each spoonful.  One ingredient that New York had highlighted, the Nantucket Bay scallops, were missing.  Perhaps they were finely chopped to the point of being unnoticeable.  I wasn’t about to go fishing to find them, though.  Since the menu featured “rock shrimp,” maybe the scallops were replaced.  Seasonal thing?  No clue.  I may be not be refined enough to understand.  I do know that I was enjoying something special, and that is all I can really say.  I can’t even guess at how they created the broth.

Back to the mysterious beer that New York also highlighted…again, where was it?  I didn’t think to ask the bartender if beer was indeed used, but I’ll make sure to find out whenever I go back.  Maybe the chef changed the name after the magazine went to print, thinking it was misleading to call it beer soup, if it was only a minor component.  Or he thought it sounded too frat-like for the more civilized ambience.  Whatever happened, this is one case where the deception didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth.  If I could afford eating this every week, I would.  But, until we make more money or The Bar Room triples the portion, C and I won’t be able to make this one of our go-to options for lunch.  Sad times.

So I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but one thing is for sure:  the next time I have it, I’ll probably have it with a side of beer.

The Bar Room at The Modern
9 W. 53rd Street (btwn 5th and 6th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019


Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

Off the Beaten Path: Maze at The London’s Cauliflower Soup

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  You’re paying for the Gordon Ramsay name, not the soup.

Sometimes you have to go off the beaten path to experience new things and possibly end up where you’re meant to be.  I’ve decided to add this new “series” because, as you can guess, I’m always trying new soups.  There’s no reason to limit my blog to New York magazine’s tastes.  Who knows, I may discover something that’s better than their 50.

So far, I’m not off to a great start.  I met a vendor for lunch today at Maze at The London – Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant.  I’ve been there many times since it’s so close to my office, but I’ve never had the Cauliflower Soup ($14).  Since my vendor was treating, I decided to indulge a little and ordered the soup to start. 🙂

Maze at the London's Cauliflower Soup

A few minutes later, the waiter placed a shallow white bowl in front of me with a spoonful of smoked trout and caviar.  Completely perplexed, I thought it was a weird amuse bouche…until he presented a small carafe of milky substance – the soup – and poured it into the bowl.

It made for a pretty picture, but that’s really all it was.  I took a bit of smoked trout, a bit of caviar, and a bit of soup and thought, “Give me back my money!”  Then I remembered it was my vendor’s treat and felt relieved for myself but bad for her.  At $14, this soup better have some miracle drug in it because, otherwise, it just wasn’t worth it.  Or give me a whole pot of it.  You’re probably paying for the Gordon Ramsay name, and the “labor” that goes into bringing out the bowl and pouring the contents in separately…oh, and to see Philip Seymour Hoffman there.  Cut all the fancy flourishes, and bring me the soup for half the cost.

I am glad I finally tried it, though.  I probably would’ve regretted it had I not ordered it, especially because I don’t generally care to spend that much on a soup, and I would’ve kept wondering, “What if that’s a mind-blowing soup?!”  So I have to thank my vendor for giving me this opportunity.  Sometimes life presents you with opportunities, and you just have to seize the moment. 😉

This particular entry is dedicated to one of my best friends, C, who finally got herself to test the waters on a different path – one that could potentially lead to a successful and satisfying new career.  I’m extremely proud of her and can’t wait to travel with her down many more large highways and interesting side roads.


Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

6 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Being Salty Isn’t the Worst Thing: Men Kui Tei’s Tan-Tan Ramen Has Its Shining Moments

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Those with or at risk of getting high-blood pressure, beware!

Today is a get-straight-to-the-point day – a clear sign that I’m still feeling sick and tired, despite a really fantastic day filled with much luck and good news.  If you’re also in a lazy mood, then just know this:  Men Kui Tei’s Tan-Tan Ramen ($8.50) matched my current state – salty.  But, just like my day, it had some bright moments.

Men Kui Tei's Tan-Tan Ramen

The curly noodles were cooked to perfection, a nice al dente, and they were topped off with generous portions of ground beef (that wasn’t spicy like it looked), bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and scallions. You could enjoy a bit of everything in every bite.  So, while the broth may have contained one too many grains of salt, it still managed to enhance, not kill, the other flavors and the overall experience.

As a salty person myself, I would say to the non-salty people to proceed with caution.  And, if you need more evidence that being “salty” isn’t the worst thing, read this article:  ;o) ;o) ;o)


Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!