Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Melon balls wrapped in prosciutto ham

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at Edible Schoolyard: a place I've read about for years, and a place that inspired the work I support today (school gardens, reconnecting kids with real food). The master educator Esther took us through an exercise she does with her students, one that encourages them to document a "food memory." Here's what I wrote:

1984, I think. My dad's surprise 39th birthday party. His "Jack Benny birthday," my Mom kept calling it. I was wearing a white zip-up jumpsuit with a bright pink belt and feeling very grown-up about welcoming the guests, all of my parents' closest friends. It was a really big party in our medium-sized NYC apartment.

My mom had made all of the food, including a bunch of passed hors d'oeuvres. My dish, that I was tasked with walking around for several hours, was a platter of balled cantaloupe, each ball wrapped in a strip of prosciutto. In 1984 this was pretty revelatory—the first wave of a "gourmet" explosion that would include goat cheese and sundried tomatoes, pesto and fancy vinegars.  This hors d'oeuvres platter was my mother's way of being cool and of the moment.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

You are eating horsemeat: or there are 450 places where something could go wrong with your food

Horse meat.

Pig bung.


What do these three things have in common?

Or maybe your first question is "what the eff is pig bung?" Let me explain. This week, three stories came to my attention. Two because they're making headlines, and one because it was on "This American Life" two weeks ago and I only just listened to it this morning.

Horse meat: Europe is horrified to discover that its beef supply has some horse meat in it. In some cases traces, in some cases up to 80%. Of what was supposed to be beef burger meat. Salon does a great job of covering the issue and it implications.  Now the fact that horse is being eaten is not what should horrify in my opinion, though I suspect for many people that is the case. What should horrify is stuff like this, from Salon:

"While the explanation of where some of the horse meat could have come from is straightforward, how it got to dinner plates is not. As Lichfield explains, “It came from abattoirs in Romania through a dealer in Cyprus working through another dealer in Holland to a meat plant in the south of France which sold it to a French-owned factory in Luxembourg which made it into frozen meals sold in supermarkets in 16 countries.”

Leading to: "There are 450 places where something could go wrong before your food gets into your hands."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why I can't give up my NY1

I love NY1. I have always loved NY1. I love it like I loved Cosmos, the diner that was kitty corner to my childhood apartment (but is now gone, remodeled and thereby reduced). I love NY1 for still being here into my adulthood. Many things I’ve loved about this city I’ve lost along the way, but NY1 is my loyal friend. It’s not just with me in my house either; where I go, NY1 goes too.

Sometimes I go to the theatre and I see Roma Torre there, and I giggle like a schoolgirl.

Once I watched the NY marathon and I saw John Schiumo run by, sweaty and tired, like a regular person. I cheered him on:  “Go, John Schiumo!” He flashed me a thumbs up.

I saw Pat Kiernan outside the Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Center once (RIP), and he was surprisingly tall. In my mind, I pictured him Michael J. Fox sized. This was before he was pop-culture-famous and before he moved to Williamsburg.

Once I saw Roger Clark in my neighborhood Brooklyn dive bar (Magnetic Fields, RIP). He was on a date and started making out with his lady friend. So awkward! So real!

Walking through Chelsea Market during rush hour, on my way to pick up some meat at Dickson’s, I saw Lewis Dodley headed home. His mustache is just as interesting up close. THESE PEOPLE ARE REAL PEOPLE.

I mean, when I passed Barbara Walters in Central Park, it was like watching the Queen of England walk on gilded tiptoes through the neighborhood dump. She had shellacked hair and six inches of make-up. She was wearing a wool Chanel Suit and stockings and heels, and it was 98 degrees out. NOT REAL.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Brooklyn Bridge, a short history

The other night as I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought a bit about our history together.

1. Butterflies: An ex-boyfriend and I, early in our relationship when things were breathless and full of potential, stopped at Bahn Mi So 1, and then walked together over the bridge, stopping in the middle to sit on a bench and eat the sandwiches and try not to get pork pate stuck in our teeth. Do they still have benches in the middle of the bridge? Hmmm...not sure they do.

2. Bad date: Once I made a second date with someone to meet in the middle of the bridge (I have to hope and assume this was before the "Sex and the City" movie). I caught sight of him, awkward and sweaty and as I headed towards him I thought, woefully, "oh noooo, this is never going to work."

3. Engagement: My dear friends Amy and Vic got engaged on the Brooklyn Bridge. I won't tell this story (it's theirs, and they are masterful storytellers) but suffice to say it is a story that is both hilarious and a tearjerker, all at the same time. n.b. it was 100 degrees that day.

4. Transit strike: When the MTA went on strike in late 2005 I had plenty of opportunities to walk the bridge in a short amount of time. In December. I remember cruising across one morning trying to get to the school I was teaching at on the Upper East Side (I made it!) and then that evening, heading back across and finding Marty Markowitz in his overcoat and scarf, using a bullhorn to let us all know that "there are bathrooms and hot apple cider at Borough Hall!"

5. Boot camp: My sister-in-law brought me to something called "Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp."  We turned the bridge into an outdoor gym, running and squatting and doing pushups on the railing. Making spectacles of ourselves, all sweaty and determined. At the end of the bootcamp, as I was pushing off the side of the bridge to do a final sprint, I caught sight of that boyfriend (see Butterflies, above), 5 years post-breakup.

6. Bicycle: When I moved back to Brooklyn a year or so ago, I forgot my bicycle back in Manhattan. So one day I ventured to my old place, reclaimed the bike, strapped on my helmet, cruised down the West Side highway bike path, across Warren street, and onto the Brooklyn Bridge. It's only once you are on a bike that you notice a few things about the bridge: the approach is ever so slightly totally uphill; the bike lane is wide enough for one bike, but must accommodate bikes in both directions; tourists do not understand that walkers go on one side and bikers go on the other. Chaos. Terror. Me ringing my little bell and saying "oh excuse me, pardon me, oh sorry," and sweating bullets the whole time.

7. Photo shoot: I have saved the best for last.  One night, at about 8 or 9 pm, I headed across the bridge, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. As I got near the middle I came upon a photo shoot, someone posing in the clear sparkly night, a big light, a photographer, an assistant perhaps.  As I got closer, my eyes focused on the model: Neil Diamond, in a tuxedo, with some shellacked hair and terrifyingly white teeth.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Tacos tacos tacos

Many years back I spent a fair amount of time in Los Angeles. Once I lived there for a month, on the couches and air mattresses of friends. I spent my days going to agent meetings, yoga classes and the gym, but there were very few agent meetings so it was mostly yoga and the gym. There were fish tacos involved. Also smoothies. Also a car, in which I could tote my giant bag, and my gym clothes, and my change of shoes and not break my back in the process. I was smitten.

Since leaving acting behind, I hadn't been to LA, until this weekend when I hopped off for three days, to meet up with friends who were also staying there. We stayed at this beautiful little cottage in Echo Park.

Tacos, tacos, tacos
My second day I had masa for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast was at Tacos Delta, on Sunset, in Silverlake. We ordered chilaquiles and huevos rancheros (tomatillo salsa verde) and they were very good.

At about 2 pm I realized I hadn't eaten lunch. I googled "Silverlake fish tacos" and found a thread on Chowhound that started back in 2008. Much back and forth about a guy named Jimmy who sets up under a tent and serves fish and shrimp tacos, Baja style. Supposedly excellent.
"He is no longer there!" 
"He is there!"
"Follow him on twitter! [oh, we must be up to 2009 or 2010 on the thread now...]
"He is there Thursdays and Fridays 12-3 pm!"

I looked at my watch. It was 2:15. It was Friday. I hopped in my batmobile (rental car) and flew off to the corner of DeLongpre and Virgil. First time through I missed  him. I was expecting a cart of something, on the corner, but he was tucked into a factory driveway. And there were tables and chairs. And he was friendly and chatty. And there were other gringos there. And I ate one shrimp and one fish and they were EXCELLENT.

In the evening I met my old friends Karl and Malia. They suggested an old Hollywood classic not known for its food, but for its kitschy ambiance, friendly service and welcomeness to kids. It is called El Coyote and while my green corn tamales were oddly, overly sweet, the guacamole was chunky and fresh and there were free soda and Iced Tea refills and a guy played the guitar for my friends' daughter. I did not have a margarita because then how would I drive my batmobile? As far as I can tell every single person is driving drunk in that town.

Other highlights
  • Umami burger: recommended by everyone. I met my high school buddy Maia there and I had the classic umami burger which was delicious and included a mushroom and a parmesan crisp on top. That evening Amy, Vic and I spend 15 minutes Googling "umami" and reading definitions out loud to each other. This burger tasted a lot like the descriptions. Also there were truffle cheese fries (oof, too much, too much I tell you) and also celebrities at the table next to me.
  • LA Mill: wonderful latte in Silverlake. Especially delicious after a 2 mile run around Silverlake reservoir. Triumphant latte. 
  • Forage: A recommendation from Jen. Healthy, delicious, farm-fresh food, sorta cafeteria style. The City Bakery of Silverlake? Minus the by-the-pound feature that screws you into a $20 plate of salad at City Bakery.
  • Scoops: After a short hike in Runyon Canyon (more about canyon house ogling than exercise), we hit this nifty ice cream spot, where a "single scoop" has two scoops in it. Who doesn't love that? Highlights were Brown Bread flavor, and Pistachio Jasmine Honey.
  • Street: This place has a street-food themed menu that was pretty cool and well executed. And a totally weird vibe/ambiance that would never appear in NYC. The aesthetics of these two cities are surprisingly different sometimes. Kaya toast, which I had not had since Singapore, was delicious. Also vaguely Singaporean and also delicious was the coconut fried rice with pork belly, pea shoots and a fried egg on top. It was all tasty, and I was charmed by the head chef coming out and asking us if we were warm enough (most of their seating is outdoor) and then bringing us blankets when we said we were chilly.
  • Farmers Kitchen: right at the corner of the huge and wonderful Hollywood farmers market. Walked around the market with Ari, ogling the gorgeous produce, the beautiful fish, the myriad gluten free breads (!), then stopped in here for tomatoes, eggs and walnut pesto and marveled that it's tomato season already.
And if you can believe it I ate all of that in THREE DAYS.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Abrakebabra (or, food poisoning and the modern era)

A window into my life:

I emailed the following to my old, dear friend A. I figured he'd like to know since he was there with me when I ate the offending kebab, and since he then had to hang out/rehearse with me as I suffered the after effects:

I just tweeted this: "A tweet I just read abt kabobs reminded me that I once got food poisoning from a late night kebab shop outside Dublin called "Abrakebabra.""

And then get this:

Abrakebabra tweeted me back! Hahahahaha! I love social media.

They wrote:
@eathere2 Really?! Well that has ruined our day! :( #wehavechanged 

A wrote back:

Perhaps now you can tweet about how the Immodium stopped the diarrhea, but not the gas.  This led the to the "ohhhh I'm so bloated, if only I could fart" tech rehearsal.  Maybe Immodium will tweet back at you and say: "we have a new product line that stops the lighting but allows the thunder. :( #wehavechanged."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A third kind of cook

Some cooks like recipes. My mother, for example.

Some cooks develop a sense of what works well with what, and improvise with what's at hand. They also develop a handy set of reliable favorites and standard techniques. My father, for example.

In fact, most people I have met who enjoy cooking fall squarely into one camp or the other. I never had a chance to ask my father about his technique, or the history of how he came to be a wok wizard (most of his inventions were stir-fries of one stripe or another).

For me, also the second kind of cook, I started by unintentionally memorizing flavor combos that work well: mushrooms and thyme; rosemary and potatoes; cilantro and lime; tomatoes and cheese; avocado and...everything. And then just worked from there.

Truth: I had never met anyone who cooked like T. He told me about a dinner he whipped up for his friend, at her house.

Him: "Yeah, I made steak [I think it was steak] with a balsamic/grape reduction."
Me: "You just made that up?"
Him: "Yeah."
Me (inside my head): "That sounds weird."

Then he cooked for me one night and it was one of the strangest meals I ever had. He arrived fresh from the Key Food with what seemed to me to be an entirely incongruous and random set of ingredients. Almost like he had played a private game of Supermarket Sweep. It involved orzo, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, raw mushrooms, raw scallions and...blackberries. Now, I didn't care for this meal, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I admired it, in a weird way. Admired the courage that came with flying without a net (recipe) and not relying on tired old flavor combos. The risk of it all. Go big or go home, the meal seemed to say. Did I mention it had two sauces, both drizzled on the plate with homemade sauce drippers made out of Ziploc baggies?

The last meal T made me was an omelet for breakfast. I came back from the gym to find him chopping up things he had found in my (empty, I thought) fridge.

Him: "I am making you an omelet!"
Me (inside my head): "Gulp."

And then he served me a gorgeously cooked omelet, filled --I think--with a thin layer of my corn salsa, cheddar cheese, chopped red onion. It was absolutely delicious. And a little bit strange. This is a third kind of cook, I thought to myself.