Sunday, March 13, 2011

BK Swappers in the New York Times!

Here's an incredible piece of press.
The New York Times published a piece all about BK Swappers—our little food swap has gone big. And while I always thought that I'd be writing for the Times before I was ever featured in the Times, I am completely thrilled nonetheless!

Many thanks to the very kind Debbie Koenig for the story, and to all my fellow swappers for always making it so fun and delicious. The next swap is scheduled for April 10, more details to follow this week.... stay tuned. Email us at if you'd like to be added to the mailing list.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What's up

Thought I'd give you all a rundown of my recent goings on, since I have a number of new and exciting developments in my work world.

First off, I am very happy to announce that I am now working with the Brooklyn Flea. The esteemed creator and curator of all things Flea, Eric Demby, has hired me to help him out with blogging and other editorial tidbits, so check out my stuff at There are just a few posts up there to start before Eric lets me go crazy with all the great things there are to say about the Flea, its vendors and fans. It's a very exciting opportunity and I can't wait for the summertime shopping and eating to be had (the outdoor markets start April 2 in Ft. Greene and April 3 at the new riverfront location in Williamsburg).

I'm now directly involved with BK Swappers, a group created for cooks/canners/picklers/bakers/makers and all around cool domestic types to share their homemade goods. BK Swappers was started by Kate Payne and Megan Paska, both of who are my heroes—these women couldn't be more motivating and amazing. In her upcoming book, The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, Kate is taking back the phrase homemaker and making it about as empowering as it gets. I am truly honored that she was willing to hand-off some of the swap responsibilities to me when she moved back to Austin, TX. Meg is a beekeeper, urban gardener and soon-to-be author, and she makes me wish that I lived in a building where I could keep chickens in my backyard (she has bees AND chickens! in Greenpoint!). The next swap is to take place on February 27, and though it sold out in record time, send me a note if you're interested in getting involved in upcoming events. I predict that the swaps are going to hit another level of amazingness soon, so watch out.

I'm continuing my food-focused freelance work with recent writing published in amNY and Metromix; I contributed to a few of NYC & Company's travel guides while also doing various editing and writing projects for them (they are the official tourism agency for New York City, so I am pleased to promote the city I love); I've been copy editing for V and Manhattan magazines with hours scheduled at Interview next month; and have fun articles planned at some new outlets for me, like Garden Design's website.

Thanks for checking in on me. Very nice of you.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The pasta pot

Today is the sixth anniversary of my mom's death, which is hard to believe. The cosmic confusion of the passing of time, the way her loss feels immediate and recent yet so very far away. I'm not doing anything special today in her honor; there is no grave to visit so that takes away that ritual, and I'm not religious in any way so there's no service to attend. But what I did last night was cook pasta in the pot that my mother used to make pasta my whole life. I imagine she acquired the pot in the late '50s, maybe early '60s—all I know is that every single time she cooked pasta for dinner, the water went right into that pot and got generously salted right away. The pot remains in pretty good shape.

My mom was not a particularly passionate or enthusiastic cook, nor was she any kind of foodie. She and my dad would make fun of the family friends who insisted on ordering sushi in Japanese ("uuuuuniiii," she would drawl, as if just saying the word was the height of pretension. Though to be fair, using the word "uni" was probably more pretentious in 1983 than it would be today). My mom didn't like Gourmet magazine, and insisted that every recipe began with the words, "Take a pint of heavy cream." Our cookbook shelf was slim, and the volumes were rarely consulted. I wonder sometimes what my mom would make of my food obsessions.

As an opera singer who studied in Rome in the mid-1950s, my mom did learn a thing or two about Italian food, and she made a mean meat sauce. I used to love her eggy, bacony version of spaghetti carbonara, a dish I continue to attempt to perfect, without much success. I think my parents even made basil pesto at some point in the '80s (gazpacho and hummus were big experiments then too, back when they seemed so exotic and weird!).

When my mom passed away, my sister and I had to sort out all of her things, the accumulations of a relatively long life—she died the day after her 70th birthday after a three-year struggle with lung cancer. I took the pasta pot right away, along with the mezzaluna curved knife she used to chop garlic and onions super fine. That mezzaluna is so worn-out that its wooden handles give me splinters. I took the cast iron pans, the ones with white enamel on the exterior, all mottled and chipping away but that still make an excellent burger on the stovetop. I took a few of her mugs, most of the mid-century modern Rosenthal china that my parents bought in Europe after they were married, and the groovy bright-orange colander (which has now turned into a crayon container for my nieces).

So in honor of my mom I continue to use this metal pot with all its scratches and a plastic handle that's loose and gets too hot to touch. This pot has boiled enough pounds of spaghetti to climb me back like Rapunzel to my childhood of family dinners. That pot has produced hundreds, thousands, of batches of noodles and cottage cheese, a Susie Lerner specialty made with Manischevitz egg noodles, Breakstone cottage cheese and generous amounts of butter and black pepper. My sister makes that for her kids now, which makes me really happy.

Last night I made linguini with zucchini and brown butter–poppy seed sauce, a weird combination inspired by a recipe from the Sfoglia cookbook. It was way decadent and rich, and is nothing my mother ever would have cooked in a million years. It's amazing to think this one pot has fed me my whole life, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rainy Sunday food swap

I just got back from a great food swap event, put together by a woman I met on twitter. Twitter is now officially my favorite thing online—I've created genuine relationships through these little blurbs, 140 characters at a time. And it all got me an invitation to a party this afternoon, where 25 cool NYC food folks got together and swapped their homemade jams, butters, pickles, chocolates, breads, candies, cookies, eggs, oils, sourdough starters and more. It was a great group of people and it was a treat to meet in real life the people I've been chatting with online.

I brought to the party this surefire hit: lemon-marinated shrimp. A few party-goers asked for the recipe, but when I went to look for it on epicurious, the recipe was scaled to a yield of 50 (!!!) and called for 10 lbs. of shrimp. Here's an easier version, a variation on the one in the Gourmet cookbook, which is where I discovered it in the first place.

Three cheers to twitter and to Kate and the joy of the rainy Sunday food swap.

Lemon-Marinated Shrimp

1 large lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds (toasted and then ground)
3 T white-wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 T water
1 T sugar
2 t dried red chili flakes
1 T plus 2 1/2 t kosher salt
2 T pickling spices (bay leaf, celery seed, mustard seed, clove, etc.)
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined (tail can be left on, if you like)

Zest and juice the lemon. Whisk together zest, juice, coriander, vinegar, oil, water, sugar, chile flakes, and 1 T kosher salt in a large bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Bring a pot of water to a boil with pickling spices and remaining salt, and cook shrimp 60-90 seconds, or until just cooked through. Drain. Add warm shrimp to marinade, tossing to coat.

Cool shrimp slightly and put in large sealable plastic bag with marinade. Marinate, chilled, turning bag occasionally, at least 8 and up to 24 hours.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I have a favorite chocolate cake that I've made probably 100 times. People go crazy for it. The recipe is not an heirloom family creation or of my own invention; it's from the insert that used to come in Scharffenberger's 62% chocolate bar (in its pre-Hershey's incarnation). I believe it is an adaptation of the chocolate orbit cake from David Lebovitz's fantastic cookbook, Room for Dessert. It's a rich and super dense flourless number that always comes out great.

I'm fascinated by issues of originality and ownership in cooking. A friend's mother once requested the recipe after I brought the cake to a party, quickly adding, "Only if you're willing to give out the recipe, that is." I can't imagine not sharing the recipe, especially because the recipe isn't even my creation to begin with! I forwarded her the recipe, but started thinking more about cooks who are proprietary about their specialty dishes. I know another woman who is famous for her English toffee. And hot damn, if that isn't the best English toffee in the entire universe, for reals. But as far as I know, she has never divulged that recipe to anyone.

So who owns a recipe? How does one claim authorship of this roast chicken or that chocolate cake? Because unless you're working at El Bulli, Alinea or WD-50, it's doubtful you're doing anything new. Very few preparations or flavor combinations are happening on my kitchen counter that have never been tried before.

I think the core of this conversation is acknowledgment and credit, and how complicated it is in this media landscape. There are so many recipe blogs out there, many by genuinely accomplished chefs and home cooks. But the lack of crediting sources is troubling. I saw a recipe on a blog recently that was an obvious rehash of a dish from famous restaurant cookbook. Just because this chef replaced mint with parsley and cooked it for 15 minutes longer, does she get to say it is an entirely new and original recipe and get away without even mentioning its inspiration?

Now, to come clean. In my last post I added in a few recipes. Let me credit those properly.

The potato gratin comes from a very classy vegetarian cookbook my sister gave me a million years ago, called The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine. It's got beautiful photographs and relatively upscale food. (Though who's to say that this cookbook's gratin is an original recipe anyways? It's only a variation of a traditional French preparation that's been made a zillion times over a few hundred years. Nonetheless, it's a great book that was very formative in my early years of cooking.)

The kale-chip technique was taught to me by my friend Remy's brother, at a dinner party a few months ago. Now I can't stop making them myself.

The fruit crisp is technically called Willie's Crisp, and my introduction to it was through a little promotional pamphlet from Saveur, well over 15 years ago. Again, this recipe is a classic one—in the recipe's headnotes, it is credited to Marion Cunningham, who in turn credits a kid named Willie. It is always wonderful.

Monday, February 22, 2010

All bad things

Things must be back to normal—I'm putting heavy cream in my coffee again.

Last summer I was diagnosed with thyroid disease and had to change my wicked ways. Thyroid issues deeply affect the way the body processes, well, everything. Its function in the body is primarily hormonal and metabolic, and problems in the thyroid can make the entire physical system completely break down on a number of levels. I was exhausted and miserable for many months there, and while I will spare you list of symptoms I experienced for a few months before my doctor figured it out and got me on the right medication, it was my crazy cholesterol count that really shocked me.

Here is how I changed: I started putting nonfat milk in my coffee instead of my beloved half and half. When I work in midtown I buy oatmeal (made with water) for breakfast instead of the amazing tomato-ham croissants I used to get from Pret a Manger. I only ate at the Shake Shack once in the latter half of 2009 (the travesty!). I bought less bacon, baked fewer cakes, tried to skip dessert and started taking pilates classes. Who am I?

Food and eating is such a defining aspect of my identity and personality that this forced change in my diet has been very challenging. My instinct is to lop off tablespoons of butter for my cooking at home and order the most outrageous dishes on the menu: foie gras, bone marrow, pig parts and deep fried things always.

My palate does not agree with these dietary shifts. My cravings are all salty-fatty-fried (not sweet and chocolate, like the girly clichés of a Cathy cartoon). Sometimes all I want is a salad or some steamed vegetables, but then the salad I get is the one with fried shallots, poached egg and lardons, and I have to remind myself that just because I ordered the eggs Florentine and not the Benedict, the spinach smothered in Hollandaise is not much healthier than the ham.

But wait—it gets more complicated! Though I am on big-pharma pills on a daily basis to regulate my thyroid function, there are a lot of people out there who believe that thyroid issues are resolvable through diet alone. And the worst news there is that many of the so-called healthy foods I love are forbidden, primarily cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts. How terribly disappointing. I guess the kale chips I love aren't as good for me as I thought.

But overall, I'm improving. I've lost a bit of weight, my doctor is pleased with my current state of health (well, okay, after my last check up last week he mentioned that I still should watch the high-cholesterol foods), and I feel like I can allow myself the occasional treat. Like today, where I put a splash of heavy cream in my coffee (left over from a Valentine's dinner where I made one of my favorite dishes, Gratin Dauphinois), and will probably eat the amazing grapefruit cake (thanks Thomas Keller, what a recipe!) I made yesterday for breakfast. And lunch. (Hey, it was even dinner last night.)

In celebration of my relative good health (and with a nod to service journalism and this post actually having a point), here are a few recipes. All bad! One involves pouring an entire container of heavy cream over a pan of potatoes. The other involves pouring an entire stick of butter over a fruit crisp. And the third is very very good for you (except if you're me). Enjoy.

Gratin Dauphinois
Preheat oven to 350.
Thinly slice 4 russet or Yukon gold potatoes (this is where a mandoline is your best friend—a utensil that changed my life! You want the slices so thin you can almost see through them.)
Layer potatoes in a medium baking dish. In between each layer, dot with butter, add a little bit of crushed garlic and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg, plus salt and pepper. When you've used up all the potatoes, pour a half-pint of heavy cream over the top of the entire dish.
Bake for at least 90 minutes.
This dish is so ridiculously good that it really only serves 2 or 3. Double it up if you've got more than 3 at the table.

Kale Chips
Preheat oven to 250.
Wash one bunch of kale and pat dry.
Cut leaves crosswise into thirds. Toss with a very small amount of olive oil, a few tablespoons of soy sauce and salt & pepper to taste.
Array kale leaves in one layer on baking sheet.
Bake for at least 30 mins, stirring leaves around once or twice.
When all the water has cooked away and leaves are crispy, remove from oven and serve.

Fruit Crisp
1 c flour
1 c sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg, beaten
5-6 cups fruit
1/2 cup sugar
2 T flour
1 stick butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375.
Mix together the first 4 dry ingredients, set aside.
Slice fruit (berries, apples, pears, any kind of stone fruit all work well. Anything really, it's super versatile) and mix fruit with 1/2 c sugar and 2 tablespoons flour (cornstarch works here too).
Pile fruit into baking dish.
For the topping, take dry ingredients, and slowly add the beaten egg. Mix until combined, so that it is crumby and sandy. If too dry, add a little bit more egg.
Sprinkle topping all over fruit to evenly cover. Pour the melted butter all over the top of the dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until browned.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The highest cholesterol in the whole wide world

I've been around, just not around the blog world lately. I've been here and here and here though not so much here of late. So many places to go on the internet, how does a girl choose the right place to talk about food?

Professional eating is getting a bit weird for me, though, since some medical issues have forced me into a world of oat bran and away from my beloved pork buns.

My doctor told me that I have the highest cholesterol count he's ever seen. And my doctor, though acting as my regular GP, is a pulmonary specialist, so I am assuming the man has seen some cholesterol in his day. You want to know my cholesterol number? 423. Yes, that's right, 423; no, I did not transpose the numbers. (Anything over 200 is considered not so great. Over 400 is off the damn charts.) These numbers are so bad that it is surprising that I am sitting here typing and not actively dying of a heart attack.

(But take solace, friends. This is all part of a recently diagnosed thyroid-related issue, one that is currently under control through some serious medication, so rest assured that I am fine and will only get better each day.)

Overall, this is not good news for a food writer. But I understand that my diet needs to change, drastically, and that puts me in a strange position. I am having a very difficult breakup with my dear friend butter. Me and butter love each other very much and it is sad that we have to part. My relationship with butter is like that sexy ex-boyfriend you know is no good for you but you keep sleeping with him anyways because he's so hot. It's heartbreaking. Literally.

So what do I do when put in such a dire medical position? Terrible terrible things, it seems. I checked out the new Brooklyn outpost of street carters Calexico on Union Street the other night, where I had a great torta with carne asada. No, not cholesterol-friendly, but damn delicious. A good torta is very hard to find on the east coast, so that was an exciting development. Great array of salsas there, too, with the super verdant green sauce as my favorite.

And last night, thanks to my friend Brian Smith and his newly formed PR company, I went overboard at the opening of the new Bark Hot Dogs on Bergen Street in Prospect Heights. Nothing like a dinner of hot dogs (loved the chili relish), ridiculously crisp onion rings, chili-cheese fries and a peanut butter shake to get the blood moving properly. It's no good for me, but I will be back there for sure, especially since those onion rings fit my perfect onion ring fantasy (I'm picky on onion rings and don't like the giant, over-battered donut-esque ones. I like 'em in a kind of shoestring style, and Bark gets that very right).

I'm avoiding a number of new restaurants that I am otherwise dying to try. The steak and burger at Minetta Tavern is calling my name, but I keep ignoring its siren song. The whole menu at DBGB draws me in with its intense pork bounty, but I demur. I'm trying to make some healthy choices, and eating in NYC is more and more fatty and fried and offal-rich every day. My arteries are fighting back, and it's getting in my way professionally.

Today I am off to lunch at Locanda Verde, a restaurant I haven't been to yet that I've been anxious to sample. We'll see how I do with my healthy ordering, though the duck meatballs [sorry, lamb sliders, rather] look awful good...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Eating in late '08

Some new restaurant rundown. Lots of new and exciting eating lately, but lots of missteps in there too.

Finally went to the new Momofuku Milk Bar last night. I went in the evening so I didn't get to sample the insane-sounding breakfast pastries (deep-fried poached egg on a homemade english muffin with pork? Um, yeah, there's a way to start the day that I can get behind). I bought a slice of the crack pie which was a perfect midday snack; it's pretty much a pecan pie without the pecans, all sweetened condensed milk, Karo corn syrup and sugar. Gnarly but great. The soft-serve was good, but the chocolate fudge was so treacly sweet and has too sticky a mouthfeel for me. I got the "brown-butter solids" as a topping, and found those disappointing too. High expectations and all, but believe me, I will be back for pistachio cake, peanut butter cookies, and the aforementioned breakfast sandwich. The one real, egregious error in my book? The fact that the most intense fish smell kept wafting in from the Ssam kitchen down the hall—such an unpleasant scent to go along with your chocolate cone!

Buttermilk Channel is the absolute closest restaurant to my house. When I went the other night, it was raining, hard, but the place is so near to my front door that it wasn't even worth it for me to open the umbrella to get from point A to B. Got to love that for convenience, and obviously, I want to love the place. BUT. They got some work to do, oh yes. We sat at the bar and the guy working was wildly spacey, just not paying us any attention. The kale and endive salad arrived totally undressed and the croutons were large chunks of bread, nothing more. The kale was also unchopped, presented as big, full leaves. Which was pretty, but impossible to eat—I was wrestling with slicing each leaf up into manageable chunks. Sarah's green salad was equally tasteless, not bad, but just not much of anything. She also got the bratwurst, which arrived uncooked—call me crazy, but I don't like my pork sausage served raw in the middle. It was easily fixed, but they seemed kind of scared of us after that. The donuts at the end of the meal were totally redeeming, however. What was funny was that the waiter told us there was only one donut per order, and the plate arrived with three donuts, each with its own little munchkin perched on top! A welcome mistake. Regardless, I am going to keep going back, I am rooting for these guys. It's the neighborly way.

Other great dishes I've had recently:
At Bar Q, I had the eggplant miso which was the most damn delectable eggplant I have ever had, or at least in my limited eggplant memory. I also had a chili–kaffir lime margarita there that blew my mind, I loved it so much.
Braeburn just opened in the West Village, where I enjoyed a lovely, sophisticated dinner with Sue and Sarah, and we all went crazy for the passionfruit peekytoe crab salad. I am a fan of anything with passionfruit, but what could have been kind of fruity-lame was a totally fresh and exciting dish.
I had a great coconut chicken dish at The New French on Hudson, which is not really so new nor particularly French. Alas, I'd go back.
I've now had two great brunches at Char no. 4, filled with biscuits and ham and really strong coffee. Though I've yet to go there at night and drink some of the bourbon they are so well known for, I like the place lots and am happy to have it in the 'hood.
Down the block, I had a mediocre hot cider drink at the Clover Club. Too frou-frou for me for Smith Street, thanks. I'll stick with my new winter addiction of rum cider at the local, Abilene.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I know, it's been forever. Here is some of what I've been up to.

Metromix reviews:
the General Greene
plus stories on coffee, and Manhattan and Brooklyn restaurant weeks.

Citysearch reviews and write-ups:
2nd Avenue Deli
Padre e Figlio
Kuta Satay House
Pop Burger

A silly Daily Candy piece on Batch

Plus, I will soon be blogging for, and am already contributing posts to Metromix's blog, York'd. I wrote a long article about the lovely Madame Chocolat for Chocolatier magazine, and contributed restaurant blurbs to the soon-to-launch Manhattan magazine. Cool!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fast-food croissants

Sometimes the best bites come from the most unexpected sources. This week I have developed a new love for what might be the best croissant I have had in the city. And yes, that flaky, tender croissant comes from... Pret a Manger. Apologies to Patisserie Claude and Marquet and all my usual French pastry places.

I have a soft spot for Pret, mostly because I love the little packaged triangle sandwiches sold at every Boots and Marks & Spencer in England; so much better than the overstuffed, too-big-to-eat style of sandwich that Americans prefer. I love the thin bread, weirdly un-American fillings (curried chicken salad, prawn salad, egg and cress, salmon and cucumber) and the diagonal cut fit for a kid.

I've always been a sucker for a coronation chicken salad, which is always the first one I grab off the shelf at any Pret in the world. This is a total digression to the topic, but when I was about ten years old I went over to my best friend Sasha's house, and her mother had a bowl of curried chicken salad in the fridge. It had grapes and nuts in it, which I thought was completely weird, but I loved the dish and it became a marker of sophistication for me. Sasha's mom is a wonderful cook, and I always held her Gourmet-inspired cooking in high regard, and I saw that chicken salad as the epitome of high-class eating. Not that my mom was making crap, mind you, but she sure didn't put grapes and curry powder in the chicken salad; she was more of a diced celery kind of lady. When I started putting lime and dill in my tuna salad, a trick taught to me by a high-school friend, my mom thought that was pretty radical.

Anyways, it should be said that the sandwiches at Pret a Manger in its homeland of England are far superior to the ones available here—years ago there was a great New Yorker article about Pret's American expansion, and they detailed the marketing meetings where executives discussed the strange American penchant for huge, multi-filling sandwiches that fall apart after a few bites. Apparently Americans are scared of mayo, which was probably scary to a culture that calls egg salad "egg mayonnaise." (People are weirdly fearful of mayonnaise I find; it's one of the most-cited items on many people's do-not-eat lists.)

At the Pret a Manger that's downstairs from the office building where I am working this week, they have a small case for breakfast pastries (in the morning it's muffins and scones, in the afternoon they put in cookies and sweets), and every day I manage to grab a pastry that's still warm. I also love that they give you free jam and butter (organic butter even, in those cute individually-wrapped pats). And their coffee isn't so bad either.

Monday, April 07, 2008


It seems almost too food-blog meta to post about my dinner at momofuku ko last night, so for now, here is a photo. I took this at the very end of the night, I was the only one left in the restaurant. Everyone was super nice and the food was ridiculously fantastic.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New coffee

Because coffee is the greatest beverage ever invented, I want to write about a few new coffee places that recently opened up in Manhattan (my part of Brooklyn is still sadly lagging behind when it comes to a decent cup, for some reason. Williamsburg is well served by a few excellent places, but where's the strong coffee in Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens, huh? Someone needs to jump on that business idea, quick).

My current winner is the new Gimme Coffee in Nolita, an offshoot of their original Williamsburg store. They have a narrow counter spot on Mott Street staffed by the coolest, nicest people who pull the most ridiculous cappuccinos. I like the kind of coffee drink that's super rich and chocolatey, and along with my favorite at Ninth Street Espresso, Gimme succeeds in giving me exactly what I like. With a mediocre drink, sometimes it's as if all you can taste is milk (I am still baffled by people who willingly drink large lattes—why not just order a pint of whole milk and put some espresso powder in it, 'cause that's really all it is...), and other times the coffee flavor is too lame or acidic to really shine. Gimme totally gets it, and I love that every time I have walked in there over the last month or so, I have run into someone I know (including the proprietor of another new favorite coffee place, Abraço) and/or had a great, hilarious conversation with the folks behind the counter. And they do that pretty leafy design thing in the foam, which I find charming.

I also liked the Mercury Dime, the new coffee house opened by the same guy as Milk & Honey, the semi-private cocktail lounge downtown (where it actually makes me sad to go because the last time I visited several years ago was with a guy who has now passed away... Apologies for the morbid aside). Basically, anyone who has such a knack for mixing such spectacularly balanced, creative cocktails is bound to have a talent for brewing coffee, too. Mercury Dime is on one of my most favorite blocks in all of Manhattan, 5th Street between Second Avenue and Bowery; a lovely, downtown block with great restaurants and a quiet, leafy vibe. I liked that Mercury Dime was also hushed and relaxing, with thick carpeting and low music, and a soft-spoken quirky hipster behind the counter. They also give you a mini palmier with every cup (I was told they come from the infamous Patisserie Claude), which is a very nice touch. Nice place.

To top this off (ugh, bad coffee pun?), here is the link to the coffee article I wrote for Metromix (with fabulous pictures from Kate!). Both Gimme and Mercury Dime opened right around the time when I turned this in, so sadly, they couldn't be included. I learned so very much writing this article—I don't think I have ever enjoyed researching a piece as much as this one, and I realized how much there is to know on the topic. Like wine or chocolate, it is a deep subject with infinite information to be uncovered about the history, the product, cultivation, techniques, and the rest. I know I am nowhere near to being a true coffee geek, but I am working on it, and hope to attain total coffee dorkiness soon.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I had a funny realization last night: I have eaten nothing but sandwiches for the last three days. Sure, there was a half-pint of raspberries, chocolate nut candies, shortbread cookies and a ginger scone in there too, but mostly, nothing but things between bread for me.

This came up because of a conversation about the Sandwich Party, Lisa Davis's annual make-a-creative-sandwich-to-share picinc event. I am very proud to say that Lisa even named a sandwich in my honor last year when I was unable to attend (I think it involved brown-sugar bacon and fig jam with brie and watercress).

Thursday was a chicken salad sandwich from 'wichcraft—I usually love 'wichcraft, and find that it's a reliable spot for really good, if overpriced, sandwiches. I am always happy when I have a job near Bryant Park and get to go to the kiosks there. Still, the best thing they make there is that peanut butter sandwich cookie. A cookie, I know, but still a sandwich! For dinner on Thursday I made a Molinari dry salami and arugula sandwich on an English muffin. And then I watched Lost and went to bed, the end.

On Friday I had a flank steak sandwich from this lovely gourmet to-go spot in Chelsea called Brownstein's. I was working at Martha Stewart Weddings way over on 12th Avenue and 26th street, and the lunch options around there are slim. I ended up at Brownstein's two times last week, even though, like 'wichcraft, it's crazy expensive. It seems all wrong to spend $18 on soup and a sandwich for an office-break lunch, y'know? Dinner on Friday was a global interpretation of the theme, with my favorite street cart treat of Kwik Meal falafel. I stood in the rain on Sixth Avenue eating my falafel on grilled pita and killing time before a performance of Passing Strange. (Go see Passing Strange now!)

Yesterday I kind of forgot to eat except for half of a deliciously spicy-sweet Vietnamese sandwich from Hanco's on Bergen St. I asked for it extra spicy and they definitely indulged me. Bahn mi are so damn good—I got their classic version, with its array of odd spongy meats and salty pate, lots of cilantro and carrot and hot hot chilies. I just finished the other half for breakfast.

Tonight: a square meal, promise.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Current favorites

Some favorite dishes of late:

Jerusalem artichoke soup at Shorty's.32
This was served at brunch, a ridiculously flavorful and rich puree topped with basil oil. We thought there had to be lots of brown butter in there, but the waiter demurred. No matter, I would order this soup again and again.

Gruyere gnocchi at One If By Land, Two If By Sea.
I enjoyed a nice opportunity to eat there last night, at a press dinner to showcase the new chef, Craig Hopson, who is Australian and quite hunky, truth be told. My favorite dish of the night was the gnocchi, which reminded me more of a cheese fritter than anything else. An outside crunch, a super creamy center with no doughiness, and very satisfying. I could have eaten 15 of them in a bowl, alone.

French ham on a baguette at Amy's Bread.
I Imagine that if I lived in Paris this would be my daily breakfast. Nothing complicated about it at all—a few thin slices of ham on a fresh baguette smeared with a healthy layer of butter. There are a few pickles in there too. Perfect. I don't know what took me so long to adopt this as my favorite snack.

Fried chicken at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill.
Blue Ribbon's created a strange amalgam of all of their restaurants at the new Columbus Circle location. They brought their coveted fried chicken recipe to the sushi bar—when I saw it on the menu I expected a fried cutlet, a sort of tonkatsu preparation, thinly pounded and crispy. But instead, this was a good ol' Southern recipe, dressed up for a Japanese setting with a dusting of paprika and chile powders; the dish comes with a ramekin of wasabi infused honey to drizzle over. Sticky and greasy, good attributes both, in this case.

The brussels sprouts at Spotted Pig
This is not a new revelation to most people who eat well in New York, but man, oh man, are those brussels sprouts great. I had never ordered the sprouts there until New Year's Day, where I went with Anthony for the world's best first-day-of-the-year meal. If 2008 proves to even remotely resemble the rich, buttery joy of those brussels sprouts, it will be a good year indeed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reasons not to be a vegetarian in NYC

I hereby present the top 13 reasons, as of this moment, why I will never become a vegetarian in NYC:

- The Shack burger (with a strawberry shake)
- Pork and watermelon salad at Fatty Crab
- Mortadella rustica at Caputo's on Court Street: Italian mortadella studded with bits of prosciutto
- Plates of Benton ham at Ssam Bar (plus the pork buns at Momofuku)
- Lomo Adobado sandwich at Tia Pol
- Daikon radish and fried sardine salad at Sake Bar Hagi (my newest favorite place - thanks, Robin!)
- Salt-crusted shrimp appetizer at Pearl Oyster Bar (these two fish dishes made the cut because they are both somewhat "difficult" - a lot of work and/or eyes involved)
- Green curry short ribs at Kittichai
- My aforementioned favorite, the steak sandwich at Pastis
- The good ol' pastrami sandwich from Katz's (and then down the street to take home a quart of pickled salmon in cream at Russ and Daughters)
- Mongolian beef at Mama Buddha on Hudson
- Fresh killed Ahzhou chicken at the Chelsea Grand Sichuan
- Rib-eye steaks purchased from Staubitz butchers on Court Street and grilled in a ridiculously hot cast iron pan in my kitchen

And another baker's dozen of favorites foodstuffs that would get me by if vegetarianism was forced upon me by some omnipotent otherworldy power (and it would be that unhealthy vegetarianism, too, the kind where you eat mostly cheese, bread and fried things):

- French fries from the Astro Diner on Sixth Ave and 55th St.
- Malfatti, the sublime chard and ricotta gnocchi, at Al Di La
- Cardamom lassi from Lassi
- Ronnybrook Dairy milk fresh from the bottle while standing at the farmer's market on a sunny day after having just bought three vanilla shortbread cookies from City Bakery.
- The world's best feta, from an Australian company called Meredith Dairy, available at Fairway and Whole Foods
- From a place I dislike generally, but the onion rings at Coffee Shop in Union Sq are profound.
- Hummus and fennel salad at Blue Ribbon market (ideal picnic food)
- A dish I just tried for the first time last night: sauteed pea shoots with pine nuts and golden raisins, at Mercat
- Kwik Mart falafel
- Brussels sprouts at Ssam Bar (though most likely this has some ham in it somewhere)
- Zucchini and mushroom pizzas at the old Sullivan St. Bakery
- French toast at Frankies 457 Spuntino, with a side of roasted sweet potatoes
- Another previously discussed favorite: the breakfast salad at Chicory

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Olive oil cake

I haven't been posting recipes here, but my baking experiment last night was such a success that now's a good time to start.

I wanted to bring dessert to my friends Jason and Jerry's dinner party; because of time constraints and sheer laziness I was limited to what I had in the cupboard. (Such an old fashioned word, cupboard, as if cabinet is some great modern improvement.) Olive oil cake came to mind - weird, since I had never made it before or read any recent recipes. But I had the last cup of the McEvoy olive oil that is so grassy and green, and it should be put to good use since it's so amazing. I just finished a half gallon of the stuff, over how much time...6 months? Is that a lot of olive oil?!

A quick web search brought up a few decent versions, some with interesting add-ons like cornmeal, orange zest, rosemary or currants. I ultimately chose the one that called for the exact number of eggs I had in the fridge: 3. The original recipe used 2 lemons but I had only one lemon and an almost-overripe orange. I liked the idea of cornmeal, so I used a little bit – I feel like I used too much cornmeal actually, so in the recipe below I lowered the amount. The recipe I nabbed was all sorts of messed up - it called for milk but never mentioned when to add it to the batter. It omitted salt, which seems to me a gross oversight in any recipe, savory or sweet. I also used less sugar and upped the cooking time. So here is my thoroughly altered recipe for olive oil cake. Overall, a major success: not too sweet, a pretty complex flavor without any sort of olive-y note and a perfectly crumby texture. (I just like the word "crumby" so I try to use it often. That and "garlicky.")

Of course, thanks to Jason and Jerry for the ridiculous martinis and an all-around lovely evening.

Olive Oil Cake

3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp grated lemon and orange zest
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/3 c cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8" springform pan, or line a cake pan with parchment paper. I floured the pan with a little cornmeal mixed into the flour, and it added a nice extra crunchiness.

Place egg yolks, sugar, olive oil and lemon zest in a large bowl and mix until combined. In another bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Alternating with milk, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. With a mixer, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan and turn the oven down to 325° and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The cake will rise and turn a nice deep golden brown color. It is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Dust with powdered sugar, garnish with lemon zest and serve with crème fraiche and berries.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Solo Laady

Regarding my last post on Pastis, I was cleaning out my wallet the other day and came across my receipt from that meal. Yes, I was eating alone at the bar on a weekday afternoon. But why did they have to designate me as a "Solo Laady" on my bill? Sounds kind of pathetic...and somewhat Dutch, no?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Steak sandwiches

Damn, that steak sandwich at Pastis is just the best steak sandwich in town.

I went in there on a freeeeeezing cold day in NYC, sat at the bar by myself and chatted up the very nice bartender. He was kind enough to think that I had something to do with fashion week, since the floor was jammed with gorgeous young frenchmen fresh from the runway, tall blonde women on cell phones and rich european men in suits. They must have been on hyper-warp fashion week mode since my food came out with lightning speed, but wow, oh wow that sandwich is great. Roughly chopped skirt steak (is it skirt? I've really no idea) is intensely beefy and sometimes almost gamey (as gross as that sounds, I mean that in a good way), salted and peppered agressively. There's a strong gruyere melted over the top, some sauteed onions in there too, all on a perfectly soft roll that yields perfectly to the teeth and soaks up all the juices as you eat. They get 100 extra points for serving the sandwich and the accompanying crispy fries always with a small ramekin of mayo (eh, they would probably say it is some sort of aioli). Perfect.

I contend that Pastis has the best food of all the McNally places - I usually find myself annoyed at Balthazar (huge crowds and medicore food), and disappointed at the Odeon (overpriced and mediocre food). Schiller's is great for some things, but not as good as it used to be.

But back to the steak sandwich, a dish that can be seen as the hamburger's ignored older brother. It was something my mom always used to order in restaurants, and felt like a special treat to me, fancy and casual all at once. But I can't even think of one other steak sandwich in town that I've noticed on a menu, much less sampled. I'm sure there are a thousand other versions in this city. I think I'll make it my February campaign to uncover the steak sandwiches of New York!