Monday, December 27, 2010

7 things I learned about food in 2010

Would I be human if I didn't create a round-up of 2010? If you prick me, do I not attempt to make bite-sized meaning out of the passage of time?

Sunday, December 05, 2010


I just read that The Elephant--a small little Thai-esque restaurant on 1st street--will be closing its doors. I only ate there once, in 1998. It was a date with a man who had chased me down the street to ask me out. Seriously!

I was in grad school at the time, and went to see a production of "Waiting for Godot" at Classic Stage Company, starring John Turturro and John Goodman (wait is that even right?). After the show, I used the payphone in the lobby, because--hello--it was 1998. When I finished my call, I stepped away, the guy behind me approached the phone and I heard him say "shoot!" The guy had no change for the phone so I offered him a quarter. He gazed at me, as if in a trance, and silently took the quarter.

Ten blocks up I felt a hand on my arm and heard panting.

"I'm the quarter guy (pant, pant)."


"Sorry, I just ran 10 blocks to catch up to you."

"Um, thanks?"

"I promise I'm not crazy, but I noticed you during the show, and then you gave me that quarter, and....I just had to follow you and see if you would give me your number and let me ask you out sometime."

And so we went to The Elephant. Apparently it's been around for 17 years and my visit there was 12 years ago. So it was a five year old neighborhood staple at that point, way cooler and more expensive than places I would ordinarily eat. My date was "old" (35?) and looking for a wife, it was perfectly plain. Which seemed about as far away from my life as a person could be.

I love New York because every neighborhood, every corner, every restaurant that stays open or shuts its doors holds a story from my life. Some strange, some amazing, some perfectly ordinary.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Italian feast

In my suitcase back from Italy I brought several edible treats including one kilo parmagiano reggianno and one bag of Sicilian lentils. What I didn't do was save space in my bag for presents for friends. So I committed myself to use the foodstuffs I bought for myself to cook up dinners for my friends. I vowed to spread the love and tonight I got to make good on that promise for the first time.

Did I mention that my oil shipment arrived from Lorenzo last week?

Purva and David came over and I cooked up:
And it was very very good. It bears repeating: if the ingredients are amazing, you don't have to do much to eat like a king.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Perche no?

Back in NYC I don't ever eat out alone. Except maybe a slice at Joe's now and again as I make my way home. Not that I am so popular, but if I am alone, I stay home since I like to cook for myself and it's cheaper. I save my going out money for socializing.

In Rome, I was solo for most of my meals and I tried not to make them hurried little affairs. I tried to relish them. But I discovered that--in Rome at least--one gets mixed responses. I present case 1, at Da Lucia in Trastevere.

"Buona sera. Uno, per favore."

"Solo uno???"


"Please wait outside." After 10 inexplicable minutes, the fellow came out and said "solo? ma, perche?"

"Perche no?" I asked, full aware of my larger metaphorical question.

"Lavoro? Vacazione?" He is still searching for some plausible reason. He seats me in a half empty restaurant and proceeds to rush me through my meal. Not only am I alone but I am not having 4 courses and I have ordered my water rubinetto (the word they don't want you to know: tap water. It's free! And tasty enough). He keeps coming over pityingly, trying to figure me out. Eventually I am given a bill with several incorrect overages (including aqua minerale). I leave not yet feeling the magic of eating alone.

Another meal is disastrous on many fronts. I headed to a pizzeria recommended by Amy (Pizzeria San Calisto). It was terrible. This made no sense since Amy is entirely trustworthy when it comes to food recs. It took me about 24 hours to sort it out; I went to the wrong place.

At this wrong place, I was pursued relentlessly by the waiter, who asked me out on a date and eventually was removed from my table by the manager. I had a magazine out. A glass of wine for crying out loud. His constant interruptions with questions asked in fast Italian I could not understand, were killing my mojo. I don't remember this scene in "Eat, Pray, Love."

I found the perfect solo meal at lunchtime one day--at another rec from Amy. It was a beautiful day but this place had no outdoor seating. I popped inside and it was quiet and cool. The other diners were all Italian--mostly businessmen, and one priest. The staff took good care of me but basically left me entirely alone to slurp down spaghetti alla vongole, verdure mista, fantastic focaccia and a nice little bottle of red (I asked for a bicchiero, I am sure of it, but....). I was not a pitiable mystery; I was not a woman looking for a man. I was a person, looking for good nourishment and some quality alone time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Torino, Piemonte

I have spent a fair amount of time in Torino at this point but to suggest I know the city is a laughably incorrect statement. To suggest that I have eaten what it has to offer is also quite off the mark. In my two times there I have mostly been marooned in a southern corridor of the city, mostly behind a desk, on my feet, slowly dehydrating myself into laryngitis.

There were short forays out, both in 2008 and now in 2010--which is a wonderful thing because Piemonte is a wonderful place to eat and an even more wonderful place to drink delicious, affordable red wine (Nebbiolo, Barbera d'Asti, Barbera d'Alba). They are my absolute favorite wines in the world.

We had our staff meal the first night at Tre Galli. The carne crudo, a specialty of the region, was a revelation. Yep, that's raw meat; this rendition had shaved truffles and sea salt on top and it was sitting in an egg-based sauce of some kind. It was terrific, as was the braised tongue. As was the vegetable tart. And basically everything else we had.

Its sister restaurant Tre Galline is also good--especially their pasta. The chestnut gnocchi was so so very good. It's a little fancier and required slightly softer voices (sotto voce).

I could not for the life of me find the neighborhood pizza place (near Corso Sebastopoli and Corso IV Novembre) that I fell in love with in 2008. That is what I get for having a bad sense of direction. But we did get farinate again from the lowkey place on our corner and it always makes me happy. Farinate = chickpea flour pancake. And we were directed to a very good Napolitano pizza place called Cammafa.

On the final morning, voiceless and exhausted, I headed to the rightfully famous Bicherin and alongside Jenny and Suzanne and Taylor (who has just launched Good Food Jobs) we sugar-bombed it with insanely light but rich zabaglione, the local specialty "bicherin" (a coffee and chocolate drink) and several other things but I am embarrassed to continue listing them. Pics of the bicherin and the zabaglione are up above.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Open Up

Last Wednesday on my way out of work I passed a man with a few bags of CSA loot and a giant vegetable tucked under his arm. It was a majestic sight. I blurted out as I passed, "is that a daikon?"

"I guess, yeah," he said, drawing it out and handing it to me. "I don't know what to do with it--you take it." And with that I was the proud new owner of a marvelous daikon radish. He headed to his car and I, chuckling, headed up Jay street to the F train. He pulled up beside me in his car and called out the window, "what will you make?"

"Slaw? Refrigerator pickles?" I shrugged, smiling.

"Well, let me know...somehow..." and then he was off. And I was off, on my daikon adventures that led me to Back Forty where C and I were the recipients of magical treatment including comped pork jowl nuggets and glasses of wine. People on the street stopped to gawk and then ask questions. My cab driver was mesmerized by it.

I tweeted: "Am thinking I should bring a giant daikon radish with me everywhere. It really starts conversations."

Once home I turned it into Asian refrigerator pickles (per a recipe from Sherri Vinton's new book "Put em Up!"), and today brought one of the jars to the CSA pickup with a note for the guy that read "Did you give your daikon to a young woman last week?"

I got a high from the street conversation that led to my funny radish adventure. It made me think about how closed i can be, especially on the streets of NYC, but other places as well. I realized that there are ways in which I have lived my life closed like a fist, protecting something in its palm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The last of the very good stuff: corn

A week or two ago, on twitter, I bragged that the corn zucchini pancakes I'd made the night before were equally good, eaten cold the next day for lunch. Then I promised I'd write up the recipe. As time dragged on, I worried that I was missing the window for a post about corn to be relevant, but it looks like the last dribs and drabs of corn are still showing up at the market (and last night I had an amazing corn dish at Momofuku noodle bar--with miso butter. Yowza).

So here goes--I grabbed this easy little recipe off the internets because it didn't require buttermilk. The first time I made it I even substituted water for the milk (didn't have milk either, sad to say). Even without milk they were tasty, but they improved when I added milk the second time. Also I had some zucchini in the fridge and had just recently discovered how easy they are to grate on a box grater (oh yeah I should blog that raw zucchini salad I made up).

And so, here you have 'em, corn zucchini pancakes. Can I get a hallelujah?

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar (scant or less)
1 tsp kosher salt
4 ears corn
1 small or medium zucchini, skin on, grated and drained
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and 1 tsp salt in a medium bowl.

Cut kernels from cobs and use the back of a knife to scrape the pulp from the cobs--this is a marvelous technique that I can't believe I only started doing this summer. Add grated zucchini. Whisk in eggs, oil, and butter. Add to flour mixture.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot, then melt butter to grease the pan. And then make pancakes, you know what I'm saying? Wait until you see bubbles in the batter, that's how you know you're ready to flip them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just do it: a zucchini story

1. What to bring to office potluck? Just take those zucchini in the fridge, grate them with the box grater; squeeze all the water out; add the zest and juice of a lemon; add several glugs of olive oil and one of white wine vinegar; add salt & pepper and some chopped mint from the windowsill plant I keep forgetting to make use of.

2. What to do about the fact that I haven't volunteered in several years despite my desire to? Just sign up to be a volunteer at God's Love We Deliver, even if it is a 6:30 am shift.

August Dinner Party

For my latest post on WellandGoodNYC I wrote all about a dinner party I threw and how you can do it, too.

It features the terrific recipe web site Food52, as well as some serious seasonal produce. And some glam shots of me sweating it up over a hot stove.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

What I learned on my summer vacation

Each summer, in an (albeit abbreviated) Italian tradition called Ferragosto, my office closes for one week. I had big plans to go to Turkey. When those plans fell through I tried to create a week full of mini vacations along with some down time. I had a long wish list, and as I sit here typing on the eve of my return to the office, I feel happy and relaxed. And I learned a few things, too.

1. When you go away for a week in summer, you miss one week of peak produce shopping. Doh!

2. I don't see Mara enough. In addition to her other qualities, she is a wonderful cook.

3. Cape May is beautiful, with lovely beaches and charming architecture full of old farmhouses, beach bungalows and Victorian homes. Everyone grows tomatoes, making them the zucchini of the area. Roll up your car windows or people will leave some on your front seat. If you're a visitor from up North, be a good guest and you might get sent home with a small cardboard box full. Score!

4. Go off the beaten path there, to a local bar called Mayer's (Meyer's?). They are known for their scallops but I will remember them for the dude who tried to pick me up by offering me a plate of gravy fries. Also memorable was the weathered fisherman who explained how much less fun fishing is now that the fishing stocks have disappeared. He also told me that I am "beautiful," that I "look like Chelsea Clinton." Hmmm.

5. Leaving a buffer on the back end of vacation is a great idea. It leaves time for farmer's market shopping (corn, eggplant, ground cherries, peaches, nectarines), hanging out with bro/sis -in-law and nephew, painting the livingroom, laundry, yoga, birthday drinks, Brooklyn Flea, La Colombe coffee, etc.

6. There are so many delicious things you can do with tomatoes. BLT was terrific (Grandaisy bread, mayo, Dom's bacon, Cape May garden tomato); roasted tomatoes (with parmesan cheese, spinach ravioli and pesto) are also a great idea; snacking on cherry tomatoes is never a bad idea.

6. I said I would do some work, and I didn't do any work. i think this was probably a very good idea.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Easy breezy

I headed out to Breezy Point last weekend for a day of wave watching and hanging with friends. The food Google map in my head went off: taco alert!

Rockaway Taco (and environs) made me feel like I was transported to Southern California, in a good way. And while I made the mistake of getting only one fish taco (the carnitas could not compete), I was a very happy camper. The elote (corn) was also perfect. And the watermelon juice was a delight. There were other things to be tried but--despite nightly wishes to be transformed into a cow--I have only one stomach. We pulled up to the curb, spilled onto the grass and got covered in crema and guac.

I will go again--next summer, certainly, when we return to Breezy, but maybe before then, too.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Emperors Need Mentors, too

Oh dear, where have I been? Things got nutty, and blogging for pleasure went bye-bye.

In the meantime, I wrote this piece for Civil Eats, a sort of review, I guess, of a new book called My Empire of Dirt. It's about what it takes to learn to grow things. Last summer I learned to ride a bike, and this summer I promised myself I would learn to grow things.

As I wrote about earlier, I started with basil, anise hyssop and sungold tomatoes from seed. The anise and the tomatoes, sadly, didn't make it. I liken those losses to my early failed cooking & baking experiments.

So I bought a beautiful organic heirloom cherry tomato plant and a neato mint plant at the farmers market. I re-potted them with organic soil. I staked the tomato plant. I left town. I returned. I smelled something funny.

Soooooo my cat peed in the tomato plant (that damn pot was big enough for her to climb into. Blargh.). But the good news is that the mint plant isn't quite dead and the basil plant is thriving! I offer this night-time photo as evidence. I really am bursting with pride.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Too Much

Our country has gotten really fat--troublingly, uncomfortably fat. Michelle Obama is worried. The CDC is worried. Parents are worried, doctors are worried. Even the military, experiencing a shortage of healthy-weight young people to serve, is worried. Or are they? Just saw this post on Eater about Guatanamo having a giant fast food mothership on it.

Also, just saw a piece on ABC about how we're making our pets obese as well. The culprits: over-feeding our animals as a substitute for love and the amount of crap pet food companies are loading into the food. n.b. the piece is called "Heavy petting," because apparently someone over there loves a good pun as much as I do.

A buddy forwarded me a link to an article about CSPI's Xtreme eating awards--which go not to competitive hot dog eaters but to restaurants that offer single servings that contain enough calories to feed a small family. This makes me really mad, it does.

I think about too muchness a lot. I sometimes joke that I am like a cow that you have to bring back from pasture because I will keep eating and eating. I am a completer. Leaving anything behind feels strange, so I empathize with the eater who finds themselves at the Cheesecake Factory polishing off a 1,400 calorie dish. Why the F is this restaurant serving such a thing? Wouldn't it be more economical for them to serve something smaller? Oh right, food is cheap.

I read all these stories (above) in the past week alone. With a few episodes of "Biggest Loser" and Jillian's new ridiculous weight loss show thrown in. I cry when I watch those shows, mostly because they have been genetically engineered to bring women to tears (like sugary, fatty foods engineered to make us crave them), but also because I see people trapped in a world where the food cards have been stacked against them, where too muchness is the easiest choice in every direction.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Going great together

The combination of strawberry and rhubarb is so perfect, only nature could have invented it. Which is to say, by being ripe together at the exact same time, may be nature's way of saying "yo, you could eat these together."

For this reason, I decided making a dish with both radishes (pink lady variety) and peas was a very good idea, even if I couldn't picture how it might turn out. For good measure, decided to throw in spring garlic. Totally excellent combo--one greenmarket trip, one dish.

For the record, am still exploring what/who I go great together with.

Quinoa with spring garlic, radishes, and peas
(2 small servings)

3/4 cup quinoa
3 pieces spring garlic--white bulb up to light green--minced

1 small onion
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt n pepa
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
2 cups shelled peas
1/2 bunch radishes, trimmed, sliced in half

  1. Saute onion and spring garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat
  2. pinch of salt with that as you soften until translucent
  3. Add the quinoa (which you have already rinsed several times)
  4. Add the wine, bring to a boil then simmer for a few minutes until wine evaporates
  5. Add the water, bring to boil, then cover, lower heat to simmer
  6. Let cook for 20 minutes or so
  7. While that's happening, heat up the remaining olive oil in a pan
  8. Also, bring some salted water up to a boil (this water is not in teh recipe above)
  9. cook peas for 3 minutes
  10. Brown radishes in heated oil, a minute or two on each side
  11. When quinoa is cooked, and when peas and radishes are cooked, mix 'em all together

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grown & Cooked in Detroit

Here I am in Detroit. In a really tall, very odd hotel with a sick view of Canada and its Caesar's Palace, taunting us with their Canadian gambling and free healthcare and whatnot.

Lots of inspiring stories here, people all over the country bringing kids into gardens and changing their lives in one way or another. And it sure makes me think of a line from a poem by my favorite poet, Mary Oliver: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Any way I wrote some of it up on the Slow Food USA blog, here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Layer of fat

"But I thought you were philosophically opposed to cleanses," Julie wrote to me, in an email yesterday. "It's true," I wrote back, "I am." WTF then? Why did I spend two days in agony, carb-less, sugar-less, caffeine-less, alcohol-less, meat-less and dairy-less?

Here's where it went awry:
1. I saw Gwyneth Paltrow on "The Marriage Ref," and suddenly after years of indifference, I swooned. Look at her amazing body! And that shiny blond hair! And the effortless, upper-crust charm! I went to her oft-mocked web site, GOOP, and decided I should do like Gwyneth and do a cleanse to rid myself of my winter layer of fat (n.b. on pork belly and short ribs, THIS IS THE BEST PART).

2. I had been traveling for work a fair amount and had a few too many airport meals, some of which consistent of double-wide packs of peanut M & Ms, one of the on-board snacks you can purchase on a Delta flight. I felt full of sugar and I hate how much I love sugar, how it rules me.

What I learned:

1. Everything I already knew. Exercise in extremes are a disaster.
3. Sometimes 5 ibuprofen are not enough.
4. Starting the day with a cool glass of lemon water is a delight! I will continue this.
5. Grandaisy Bakery's raisin walnut roll is AMAZING, and not just because I hadn't eaten carbs in 2.5 days. The crust is perfect, and I believe it has fresh ground peppercorns in it. Zing!
6. This kale salad is wonderful. I ate it two days running for lunch and I have no regrets! Inspired by a recipe on Eat Drink Better.

1 Cup uncooked quinoa
3 Stalks of kale
1 small Cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 Cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 avocado, diced
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 lemon's worth of lemon juice
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Cook quinoa according to instructions on box or bag
Meanwhile, get rid of the thick stalk on the kale, and roughly chop the leaves
Toss them with the cucumber, the lemon juice and the vinegar
Then add cooled quinoa. Then sesame seeds and pine nuts. Mix to coat.
Then put diced avocado on top and sprinkle with sea salt

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Growing Power

Last week, I attended the WK Kellogg Foundation Food & Community conference in Phoenix AZ. What a chance to see the major players in the movement, and to understand who we are--in our samenesses and differences--and where we're going.

Fast forward to my plane ride home, via Detroit. In first class, the President of the foundation. Two rows behind me, in coach, Malik Yakini, head of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. In other rows, lots of other Detroit-based food and community-growing hoi polloi. Next to me, a young woman from another Detroit urban farming program called Greening of Detroit. It's her second flight ever, the first being the one out to the conference. When the plane makes strange noises she turns to me, open and sweet, asking: "is that normal?"

Turbulence begins, worsens. Before I know it I have grabbed the sizable girl next to me and burrowed my face in her upper arm. Feeling pathetic I think about how I am 20 years older than she is, and how I have been on hundreds of flights in my lifetime. Quaking, fearful, I realize how much power there is in that plane--the future of the food movement (esp the local Detroit food movement) hung in the balance. I felt confident the world wasn't ready to lose all of them, that the plane just had to make it to Detroit safely, and so gradually let go of my death grip on the shoulder of the girl next to me.
* * * * *
Speaking of growing and speaking of power, adios to another friend from work. Julia heads off to be an intern at Growing Power in Chicago, a rather hot shit thing to do.

I myself am growing seedlings (can you see them in the picture above?) with the help of my fairy greenmother, Cerise. These are sungold tomatoes, before I culled out 1/3 of the sprouts. With handholding. When they're sturdy enough they'll go out on the fire escape so the cats can't eat them. The eating part will be for me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How does twitter help grow food?

That was the subtitle of my talk at Ohio University last night, where I was a guest speaker for earth month. I explained to the students how if you pour water on your computer while it's on the twitter homepage, actual food will grow out of your keyboard.

But seriously.

Sustainability coordinator/guru Sonia Marcus hosted me for a super fun day during which I visited an Environmental Journalism class, participated in a round table lunch discussion, chatted with a News Writing class, and gave a talk focused on Building Online Communities in the food movement (see above).

I really enjoyed talking with the students, and having the opportunity to reflect upon my writing, reflect upon this blog, and how it ended up being the foundation for allowing me to "become"/call myself a writer. In thinking about things, and in being asked to answer smart questions, I came up with answers that surprised me sometimes.

Professor Hans Meyer covered my talk here. My main takeaway: every time I see a photo of myself giving a talk, that is what I am doing with my hands. Also, n.b. that his students were assigned to live tweet my talk, and I really enjoyed reading their commentary once the talk was done. You can read the comments here, and please take note that I was described as "adorable." I will dine out on this for the next week at least.

Lastly, I mention Athens, the only town in Ohio that could make you forget the other lame places in Ohio. Super locavore, nestled in Appalachia, home to wild pawpaws and black walnuts, and a local cafe that has slow food posters all over the walls, and delicious homemade bialys-Athens, I heart you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bits & Pieces

1. My friend John is famous! John is a great cook and a great guy. I just randomly found this piece about him on Apartment Therapy. He's too modest to have sung it from the rooftops, natch.

2. I sing from the rooftops. I wrote this piece on Gristle, a book edited by Moby, all about the negative impacts of industrial meat production.

3. Well and Good NYC covers what to bring for lunch. I bring my lunch almost every day--as do most people at my office. I love that I work in a place where that's the norm.

4. Just ate my first ramps of the season, at the end of a long, hard day. Thanks, Deena, for bringing them to me, and for 4 years of friendship & laughs (& for getting all of my "Friends" and "Seinfeld" references).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Crop Mob

Well, Flash Mobs have already hit the mainstream (I saw one on a season 5 episode of "Weeds" last night); aren't we all ready for the Crop Mob now?

About 2 months ago the NY Times ran a piece on Crop Mobs in the Chapel Hill, NC area, describing it as a "monthly word-of-mouth (and -Web) event in which landless farmers and the agricurious descend on a farm for an afternoon." The food movement got giddy with excitement. Within a week or so, a CropMobNYC group popped up on Facebook and I signed on up.

This past Sunday 4 Crop Mobs were scheduled for four different urban farms around town. I went to Bed-Stuy Farm, where 20 of us met with the generous and inspiring Rev. Robert Jackson and Rev. DeVanie Jackson. We tilled, and clipped, composted and shoveled, hammered and sawed. Also we broke for snacks and ate DeVanie's homemade fig jam from last season's figs.

We brought our own work gloves, our own water bottles, and our own lunch. I left the house in a hurry, throwing together this curried chicken salad quickly, with what I had on hand--kind of like the Crop Mob itself.

Curried Chicken Salad
Leftover roast chicken, cut into chunks
1 large celery stalk, diced
2 tbsp raisins, dark or golden
1 cup Hawthorne Valley yogurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 shake cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all ingredients except the chicken, celery and raisins
Then add the rest and stir well

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Food Porn

This article in the Times about people taking pics of their food and posting them on the interwebz made me think a few things.

1. Why are they always "breaking" trend news that broke like 5 years ago? Yawn.

2. I just can't get that excited about pictures of food.

You've probably noticed I don't have many pics on here (trying to be better about it). I don't have a fancy camera and/or a stand-along flash to get things just right. I appreciate the simple beauty of the pics on blogs like 101 cookbooks, Not Eating Out in NY, Smitten Kitchen, and Chocolate and Zucchini. But the charms of, say, Food Porn Daily are lost on me.

I like words more than pictures, I suppose.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

My first day of spring

Spring faked us out a few weeks ago, sunshine bursting through the clouds. I hope none of you fell for that. I did--sent my winter coat to the dry cleaners and everything.

Real spring was this weekend and I headed out to the farmers market hopeful, heady with excitement about ramps. I saw no ramps. But I did buy tulips and daffodils, knowing full well my cats will eat the leaves and make themselves sick. Also Flying Pigs eggs, with two pale green ones that I scrambled up for lunch.

For dinner, a giant Quattro's spring chicken, roasted with 2 different varieties of heirloom potatoes, including the Makah Ozette (a Slow Food Ark of Taste variety) which is delicious but hard to clean. I had to get inside all the nooks and crannies with the tip of a very sharp knife in order to pick out the dirt. Tried to rationalize the bits left behind by thinking about the article I read in the recent food issue of the Oxford American, all about the Southern tradition of eating soil.

Next week, the hunt for ramps continues.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Highlights and new discoveries

Some highlights and new discoveries. I love my regular places (Franny's, Marlowe and Sons,etc.) but sometimes its good to branch out:

The Jane Hotel: There's been a gradual renovation and evolution over at The Jane Hotel and I am loving it. Gone is the lobby theatre where I saw the marvelous "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and the laughed-so-hard-I-peed "Debbie Does Dallas (the musical)." Now the lobby has been carved up into an actual hotel lobby for the super cheap and tiny rooms upstairs, as well as into a wood paneled old-timey bar and a larger, cooler version of NoLiTa's Cafe Gitane. It's vintagearrific and they make a great cappuccino. Plus great light from the Hudson.

Co.: Have now been to Jim Leahy's Co. on 24th and 9th four times. Which is enough to say, for absolute sure, that it rocks. I haven't checked out every pizza place that everyone's buzzing about (Motorino, I'm coming soon, I promise) but I put forth Co.'s slightly more doughy crust as one of the best. Plus I love the space and the servers are so nice.

DiFara's: Oh, speaking of pizza, did I mention I finally got my ass to DiFara's? HOT. DAMN. It always surprises me when something so hyped is actually that good.

Hundred Acres: This really shouldn't count as a new place since I have been going to brunch here on a regular basis for the past 2 years (in fact I reviewed it in the NY Post magazine!) But it's turned out that when friends come to visit from out of town they say: OMG can we go to the brunch place near your house? And that reminds me for a sec that I shouldn't take it for granted. It's good. The food is good, the space is nice, the bloody mary rocks. And they take reservations, and they never give you lip.

Iris Cafe: I am so proud of Rachel! She opened this adorable little cafe deep in Brooklyn Heights a few months ago. It seemed like a modest endeavor, even if she was meticulously curating the menu, and training her baristas to be hardcore experts in the Stumptown style. Fast forward and she is being reviewed by the heavy hitters, including "Best Cafe" in NY Mag 2 weeks ago. Totally deserved. Get yer ass there for a homemade stickybun, or a ham and cheddar biscuit with a soft boiled egg on top.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chicken Chow Fun, for Dad, because of Dad

5 years ago, I wrote this post, called "Dad." It was the five year anniversary of my dad dying, and so I made a pilgrimage to Chinatown and tried to recreate a dish I hadn't had the sense to learn from him, because I hadn't thought I'd need to.

5 years later, my nephew was here to eat it with us, and this time I'll write it down so that if he ever wants to make it, it's here in cyber space for him. Hell, he already loves to read cookbooks and he's only 18 months old.

1. Head to Chinatown via Vanessa's dumplings on Eldridge, where for a buck you can get 4 fried pork and chive dumplings.
2. Stop and watch the bike polo tournament on Chrystie and eat out of your styrofoam container.
3. Look for the rice noodle ladies. For a while.
4. Find them at Grand and Bowery on the Northeast corner and buy 1 bag of rice noodles for a buck and a bag of bean sprouts for 50 cents. Next door buy ginger, scallions, snow peas, garlic, onions.
5. Buy Murrays chicken thighs at Gourmet Garage.
6. Trim chicken into skinless chunks.
7. In a wok, heat up 2 tbsp canola oil.
8. Cook chicken pieces until cooked through, remove from wok.
9. Fry up some sliced half-moon-shaped onions; add minced garlic, add minced ginger.
10. Add a bunch of cleaned and trimmed snow peas, then a few tbsp soy sauce.
11. add in sliced scallions, rice noodles, more soy sauce.
12. Add chicken and bean sprouts, keep tossing until all is well coated.
13. Forget to take a picture; or if you want to do this whole recipe one better than me, you could actually remember to take a picture. That'd be awesome.

This dish is so insanely good. I want to say, for the record, that I appreciated the hell out of it, even when my Dad was alive, and that I appreciated the hell out of him, too.

Allora: Dad, for you, because of you.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The udder truth

You walk into Whole Foods and you face a wall of milk. Depending on the branch, the selection will vary. Same thing with Gourmet Garage, Food Emporium, you name it. That’s because supermarkets each have their own buyers. So, how do you decide what to buy? What’s healthiest? What’s worth the extra money? Here we clarify some of milk’s greatest mysteries about rBGH, organics, expiration dates, farmers markets, and whether or not skirting the law for the unpasteurized raw stuff is worth it.

Read the whole post at WellandGoodNYC!

And while you're there, why don't you read their piece about the wonderful Mary Cleaver--owner chef at Chelsea Market's The Green table (and the catering company Cleaver & Co.) Mary catered my boss' wedding and in the rich tapestry of beautiful meals I have eaten in my life, it stands out as a dazzling and delicious thread.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eating in: not so hard

A week ago I wrote about Cathy Erway’s book The Art of Eating In and about HuffPost’s challenge to its readers to like Cathy did and eat in for one week. So, here goes my progress report, day 4.

For me—as for many of my colleagues—this isn’t so very different from a regular week. I usually make my lunch at least 3 days, if not all 5 workdays. Although lunch eats in DUMBO are better than in some neighborhoods, stuff I can make at home will almost always be better. It seems to be merely a matter of organization/planning, and making the time to prepare something. True, I’ve been eating kale salad for four days running, but it did have blood oranges and avocado on top, and those sweet potatoes I baked in the office toaster oven sure made the office smell good.

On Monday, Anna Lappe came to our office and wrote this lovely piece about the merits of eating in and how it made her lunch date with Josh (Viertel) more fun and more delicious.

I myself found that the challenge got me:
Eating at home with a friend in a very casual and potluck-y way that made both of us think: why don’t we do this more often?
Using up food in my fridge and not throwing out as much as I sometimes do (i.e. no produce was harmed/tossed in the making of this experiment)
Eating less
Spending less money

The bog trick will be the weekend, which is often structured around dinners and brunches and the like. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not Eating Out in NY

Day 1:

Not only have I decided to follow the HuffPost's challenge to eat in for one week, I have also decided to try to eat healthier (every once in a while I must remind myself not to eat every single meal as though it were my last). Hence the baked sweet potato and kale/citrus salad I had for lunch. One hour later I felt like gnawing off my own fist.

Note to self: tomorrow, pack protein.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Art of Eating In

My latest, via the Huffington Post.

Apparently I am going to avoid restaurant eating for one whole week. Easy? Not sure yet. Reports will follow.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Biscuits, 2 ways

Every few months I have the ladies over for dinner. I know lots of ladies, but for whatever reason, this group--mes soeurs--are called "the ladies." Making a nice home cooked meal is how I lure them to my apartment. "Bring wine," I say, and they do. Sometimes they bring their boyfriend/fiance/husband type person, and this is also nice. We have had these gatherings all over this city: in the East Village, in Cobble Hill, and here in UPS depot land (I have also supped with them in Los Angeles, Paris, Santa Fe, North Captiva and beyond but my dinner parties have remained in NYC).

Last weekend we gathered for chicken pot pie, something I hadn't made since an avant garde restaurant menu a couple of years back. After much hunting I found the red ribbon bookmark in The New Joy of Cooking right where I had left it--can you tell I don't use that cookbook much?

I topped it with buttermilk biscuits, a recipe torn out from an old Food and Wine magazine. I did the recipe wrong but liked what I came up with. They're insanely buttery and if you manage not to overwork them, they are flaky and light.

A few days later I made use of the remaining buttermilk and some Mountainview Farms bacon, plucked from the freezer, and made bacon shallot buttermilk biscuits for the 4th annual meat lovers an
d chocolate lovers potluck at my office.

Buttery Biscuits
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (that's 10 tbsp. yup, you read correctly), chilled and cut into thick slices
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 425
whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
cut the butter into the flour using two knives or this cool implement I have that I don't even know the name for
stir in buttermilk until dough is just moistened
dust a work surface with flour; make sure it's cat hair free
turn the dough out onto the surface and knead 2-3 times
pat it into a disk, about 1/2 inch thick
use a biscuit cutter, or the rim of a glass and cut out circles
put the biscuits on a baking sheet and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt
bake for 20 minutes, until golden

[to make the bacon ones, cut your bacon into small pieces, then fry it up, not too much since it will go in the oven later; saute minced shallot in the bacon fat; let both bacon and shallot cool; when you stir in buttermilk to the dough, also toss in bacon and shallots]

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cat food

This is kind of a recipe post. A recipe for what cats won't eat, even if they're starving, apparently.

Came home late Monday night, empty handed (f*ck! forgot cat food!). 'Scool. Cats like people food--this I know because I can't eat a meal without them crawling on my plate.

So I grab two eggs--NICE eggs, farmers market eggs--and scramble them slowly over low heat. Divide them between 2 small plates, put them on the floor.

Cats are totally uninterested.

Open the fridge, grab a container of this lovely french whole milk yogurt, pour it over the eggs. Buddy is interested. Seymour, no. The tang is intriguing to him; this is the same cat who likes Listerine.

I grab a few hunks of homemade chicken pot pie, plop 'em on the plate. I am getting desperate now, as are the cats. In a final, pathetic bid, I grab 2 slices of Jenny's homemade cherry galette. After all, Buddy had sneakily mawed several pieces during my dinner party a few nights ago.

He licks excitedly but once the sprinkled crust sugar is gone, so is his enthusiasm. Seymour, long gone, empty-stomached, gazing out at the UPS depot.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Soda Savings

My soda-less life: 1 month and counting. I just realized a perk, which is that I have saved $15 by eliminating my afternoon Diet Coke habit. That being said, I miss the nice guy at the deli downstairs. Maybe I should stop in and say hello.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ma Famille, en Paris

Yesterday's NY Times article on La Tour d'Argent, the old school fancy restaurant in Paris that lives on generations down the line, triggered some memories for me.

According to this web site I found, this restaurant has been around since the dawn of time--truly, for hundreds of years in some form or other. So, when my parents brought me and my brother there, circa 1985, it was--how do you say?--quite well-established.

To say we had no money back then isn't entirely true, I guess, since there we were, a family of four in Paris, on vacation. But this trip was certainly a luxury, and one that I imagine my parents had to budget for very carefully. They understood that France is about food. So in between Louvre visits and Tour Eiffel climbings, they scheduled in two fancy dinners, one of which was at the Michelin-starred La Tour d'Argent.

I will not forget that plate of food for as long as I live; I had never seen food presented before. 3 small medallions of beef arranged in a circle, interspersed with little bundles of buttered, julienned carrots, each tied with a chive. And a small dome of potatoes in the center. Amazing! And 6 waiters circling around the table like synchronized swimming swans.

On the way out we stopped in the gift shop and my father scrounged together the remaining francs in his pocket to buy an insanely overpriced ashtray as a reminder of this decadent French evening.

P.S. The next day I insisted on being brought to McDonald's on the Champs Elysees, declaring myself "sick of French food." A Canadian TV station snagged us on the way out, interviewing us to find out why in god's name we would travel to France, the home of fine dining, and go to eat at McDonald's. My parents were mortified, but said nothing, my father no doubt fingering the porcelain ashtray in his pocket.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Foodie miles

It seems like whenever I travel somewhere I come back and say how I ate up the local food and am super psyched to come back to the variety of NYC.

I just spent a few days at a resort in Jamaica where the only good food was the jerk chicken, peas and rice, and plantains they served every day for lunch and dinner. When it was all hot, it was divine--but buffets are tricky.

Anyway, with all this talk of food miles, and competing studies about local food's ability to leave a smaller carbon footprint, I got thinking about foodie miles. What if I calculated the carbon footprint of the trips I've taken to eat the world's treats? Hell, I traveled all the way to Singapore --to see my friends, natch--but basically to eat at hawker centers. I think this gives me an F minus in the personal food miles department.

Monday, January 04, 2010


For NYE, I threw a last minute insta-party, and it went like this:

(Good friends and a moderately big apartment help, btw. I don't take either of those things for granted, even if it seems that way when I stick them in parentheses).

Stuffed Mushrooms (see Bittman's "How to Cook Everything"): they are very easy and very delicious and make use of pantry staples like bread crumbs, olive oil and grated parmigianno reggiano, which I keep in my freezer.

Stuffed Dates: slice open a date, stuff in a little blue cheese, pop a roasted almond on top. Repeat.

Pigs in Blankets: Mini Applegate Farms cocktail franks, a little biscuit dough, some good mustard.

Use what you have: I had a box of red velvet cake mix thanks to CC, so I bought cream cheese frosting ingredients and got to work the night before the party. I also had lots of leftover Rice Krispies and marshmallows from the Avant Garde Restaurant, so I made rice krispie treats.

Invite a chef: John is an amazing chef and generous to boot, so that meant beautiful creme caramel, a savory cheesecake that I'll call a "sformata," a white bean dip and chocolate truffles. I mean, hot damn.

Invite friends to bring stuff: You might get a cheese plate from Saxelby's, homemade deviled eggs, tons of good champagne, homemade pickled beets and homemade BBQ sauce. Hypothetically speaking.

And voila. Add a TV for watching the ball drop, and heat (my boiler punked out the next day) and you're all set.