Sunday, April 15, 2007

roundup

There have been some new finds of late, and although one or two were in Chicago (props to Chef John Bubala at Timo!) there are some in NYC as well.

1. Takashimaya: When C suggested we go there for tea, followed by a visit to MOMA, I was suprised and delighted. Usually our weekend plans involve an EV or LES brunch and some good old fashioned retail. Nestled in the windowless basement corner of this jewel-box Japanese department store, Takshimaya's cafe has many charms. The first is that it brings you to this beautiful store. Not that I or anyone I know could afford a sock in this place, but it is one of those places that just knowing it exists and taking it in, makes your world a more beautiful place. I imagine I'll be 60 and dreaming: "when I grow up and become a millionaire...I'll buy this frock...." Anyway, it is quiet and serene down there and the bento box is terrific and I am happy to report that it goes well with champagne. The meal was so good, it comforted me through the sad surprise of hearing that my dear friend C is moving away from NYC.

2. Grand Central Oyster Bar: Do you have a friend who lives in Westchester? Do you struggle to find a place to eat together when she comes in to Grand Central Station? Does the thought of eating oysters in said station give you the giggles? or, the heebyjeebies? Well, get over it, because it turns out that this strange place, caught in time, is a really good place to get--yup, you guessed it, oysters. Crazy, right? Make sure to use the bathroom, because it affords you the opportunity to pass by the old school countertops and then through the saloon. Wacky.

3. Palo Santo: It's all well and good to drag my old friends on my food quests; they are mostly a game bunch, humoring me, and eating well along the way. But it is also fun to make new friends, people whose priorities line up more clearly with my own (1. food 2. wine 3. everything else). One of these friends brought me to Park Slope new-ishcomer Palo Santo, on a strange stretch of Union Street, just east of Fourth Ave. It's Latin-Mediterranean fusion, nestled in the ground floor of a refurbished brownstone. Counter-seating with a view of the kitchen is fun, but so is the back room with three communal tables and windows looking out on what appears to be a Zen garden. Go for appetizers and wine--the food changes almost daily but there are, according to my friend, a few repeat appearances. I loved everything, especially the pork belly with fennel grapefruit salad and the octopus with cilantro and jalapeno. Damn!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

slow food mexico

It turns out, I really like spas. This might seem obvious--trite almost, like announcing one's love for chocolate, or...freedom, let's say. But it really suprised me how well I took to a life of leisure. It was leisurely, yes, in the way of lying by the pool, of lying in a hammock, of reading The New Yorker while in a hottub, yes. But also it was leisurely in a Trivial Pursuit kind of way; you know, the orange pie slice that stands for "Sports and Leisure."

I hiked. I yoga'd. I tennis'd. I pilates'd. I foam rollered. I worked my abs and back.

OK, but we are here to talk about food. I am fond of lists and so I will list for you the many miracles of food (and of slowness) that exist at Rancho La Puerta.

1. Chef Jesus Gonzalez: Slow Food devotee, miracle worker. A handsome, sweet and talented chef who turns fresh Mexican produce into healthy, low-fat, delicious gold. He even did a demo and J and I learned how to make a kickin' soba dish, and lowfat guacamole (there's a secret ingredient and if you ask, I will tell).

2. Organic garden: Rancho La Puerta has its own organic garden and it is a marvel. I don't know how they keep the bugs away but they do. The produce is lush and abundant. After a hike there, and a beautiful breakfast, the head gardener took us out into the fields, and as both a farm cat AND a farm dog rolled at our feet, the gardener grabbed stuff right from the earth, cut off hunks with his pocket knife and passed them around to the group. I can still taste that fennel...

3. You can make Mexican hot chocolate with butternut squash puree. Isn't that weird?

4. It turns out, that if someone cuts it up for me every morning and puts it out in a bowl, I can eat untold quantities of fresh papaya. I didn't even know I liked papaya before this trip.

5. Los Amigos: If you ever find yourself in Tecate, Mexico, and I hope you do, ask someone to take you to Los Amigos, the taco stand across from the McDonalds. The tacos con carne are excellent (especially after 6 days of spa diet) and the quesadillas are outstanding. We chickened out of the horchata (ice cubes...local water...) but I will attest that these treats taste great washed down with a Coca-light.

In conclusion, I urge you to save your pennies and get your hide to Rancho La Puerta. They open a cooking school this July and I think that will only make the place that much better. And should you find you need a friend to go with you, or someone to climb into your suitcase and make sure the airport workers don't steal your stuff, I would happily take that on.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

the farm bill

Greetings, friends after a too-long hiatus. I am guessing for most of you, this meant you were holing up with a box of Lucky Charms, beacon-less in the world of food.

Well here I am, with a bit of edjamacation. I am here to tell you about The Farm Bill. Some of us like to call it the Food and Farm Bill, because this helps non-farmers realize that the issues covered in the bill pertain to them as well. The Farm Bill is a multi-year bill that gets reauthorized every four years--and that year is now. It covers everything from commodity crop subsidies to land conservation to food stamps. For those of you who have read Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" and are freaked out by the overwhelming dominance of corn in our food supply, then you might be interested in this here bill.

I recommend to you www.farmandfoodproject.org, which is a website representing the point of view of a coalition of groups seeking to press for policy change in this version of the bill. In their words: "This broad and growing alliance believes that by working together, it can make real progress toward supporting family farms and local communities, improving health and nutrition, ending hunger, and increasing biodiversity and improving the quality of our soil, water and air."

You can sign on to their statement "Seeking Balance," and then maybe even contact your local reps and let them know that you have signed on. You may think that if you live somewhere urban your reps won't care, but in fact they need to know that urban folks care just as much as rural folks about these issues.

OK, off the soap box now.

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