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.