Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brownstone Brooklyn Final 12 Hours

One course of many. (This was from a Sausage Party we had last month. We don't always label our food.)

The Amateur Gourmet posted a fun scenario earlier this week -- it's your last 12 hours in [insert your city/town/neighborhood here]. What must you eat during these final hours if you could never, ever return?

I'll play. I'm going to narrow the focus from all of New York City to my beloved Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens/Brooklyn Heights area -- Brownstone Brooklyn, if you will. If it were my last 12 hours here I wouldn't want to stray far from home; I'm a homebody, even in fantasy scenarios. And, while The Amateur Gourmet stuck to three proper meals, I think I would have more of a mini-meal tour. Also, he was remarkably restrained in his intake. I can pack it away even when the prospect of exile isn't an issue, so you better believe I'm not going to be dainty or "save room." There is always room. 'Tis a gift.

I would start the day with an unconventional breakfast of house-made warm pita, muhammara, and babaghanouj from Fatoosh. We always go months forgetting Fatoosh exists and then can't go a week without craving the muhammara, a tangy red pepper dip. They also (usually) make the best baba in the neighborhood.

Next, a chocolate cloud cookie for post-breakfast dessert from Tazza by way of Baked bakery in Red Hook. This cookie. Oh my, this cookie. It's actually the perfect hybrid of a brownie and a cookie. The staff at Tazza, especially the nice man who reminds us of Henry Gale from Lost, is probably used to the slightly obscene moans of pleasure we emit whenever we visit and savor one.

Then, to kill some time, I'll probably take a break and run my favorite loop -- down to 4th Place, up through Brooklyn Heights to the end of the Promenade, back down to 4th Place, home. Shower, water, time for more food!

Off down Court Street to one of the Italian bakeries that sell lard bread, which I talked about back during Thanksgiving. To review -- a slab of super-crusty bread, saturated with lard and studded with chunks of sausage. I'll buy a loaf and pick at it throughout the rest of the day.

Oh, Lily! Hellooooo, darling store. I love you, yes I do! I'll stop eating for a visit to buy one of, oh, EVERYTHING. That means you, sweater dress in the window. You're mine.

Then, off to Ki Sushi. Stick your nose in the air and giggle to your friends that I'm a clueless hick, but I have never had better sushi than at Ki, including a visit to Blue Ribbon. The tuna and salmon nigiri and sashimi are buttery perfection, the wasabi is worlds better than any neon green or even normal green paste all the other local places offer, and the ginger is a subtle treat all its own. A Sushi Deluxe platter, please.

Cocktail time is next. I'll go to Cubana Cafe for a mojito. I haven't sought out many of my beloved mojitos in my neighborhood, but they make a respectable one and would probably also put out a little plate of complimentary fried plantain chips and salsa. Score!

Finally, a small plate to finish off the day -- Potato Gnocchi, Oyster Mushrooms, Proscuitto And Mache from Chestnut. Pillowy bundles of dough and potato, crunchy proscuitto, earthy mushrooms...I daydream about this dish. The (formerly $25) $30 prix fixe dinner on Tuesday/Wednesday nights is one of the best deals in any borough -- any appetizer, any entree, any dessert. Tonight, though, the gnocchi will be enough.

A quick walk home, admiring my new Lily duds in the store windows as I pass. To bed, and then off to a new land where things will never be as lovely as they are here in Cobble Hill.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ko Ko. Ko Ko Ko.

Our meal this evening at Momofuku Ko, before I forget it.

Course 1:
Homemade pork rind
Black pepper biscuit (oh my, so buttery--lardy?--and good)
A fried nugget of black rice and pork belly

Course 2:
Sliced raw fluke over a pool of buttermilk and white soy, dusted with poppy seeds and chives.

Course 3:
Bacon dashi with sliced mushroom, zebra beans, and tiny black seed-things (we don't remember what these were. They tasted slightly mustardy. And like horseradish?)

Course 4:
Smoked, poached egg with caviar, sous-[something?? it sounded like he said bide. it wasn't vide] onions with sweet potato vinegar (who knew onions could be this good? better than caramelized, really), mini potato chips, and parsley

Course 5:
Sweet corn ravoli with charred corn, chorizo, lime zest, cojito cheese, and pickled red onions. This might have been our #1 savory course of the night, but honestly, that's like choosing a favorite panda child.

Course 6:
Seared scallop on a puree of pepperocini (!!) with bok choy, burnt onion marmalade. The pureed pepperocini was surprising and divine, especially with the sweet scallop and onion marmalade.

Course 7:
A huge mound of shaved foie gras over lychees, cubes of riesling gelee, and pine nut brittle. SO BIZARRE. As bizarre as it sounds. The foie gras was in a huge pile -- light and airy in the beginning but then it melted in your mouth.

Course 8:
Muscovy duck -- three parts, we think the tail, breast, and belly -- with Chinese long beans, mung beans, dried cherries, and water chestnuts

And then, 2 of the best desserts I have ever EVER had:

Course 9:
A small scoop of cantaloupe sorbet over a smear of cashew praline. Good god, it was simple and amazing. Salty and sweet. Jeff doesn't really care for cantaloupe and he loved it, as well.

Course 10:
This might be a contender for my favorite dessert of all time.

Side one of the plate--lightly pickled strawberries with peanut crumble
Side two--yellow cake ice cream (think an ice cream version of boxed batter) with shaves of peanut halvah
Middle--a generous smear of strawberry sauce


We decided against wine parings (you know, to be somewhat reasonable) and instead got a bottle of lovely 2005 Riesling Kabinett. Like the night, it was perfect. No, I don't remember the name. I'm in a food coma.

BTW, there were 8 empty seats. 3 different groups of people were no-shows. WTF? There were three (friendly, fun) chefs for the 4 of us there. We had the best night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What's Your Cereal I.Q.?

Working in the dining hall in college surely made this a little bit easier.

I got 15/20, and I'm both proud and also a little disappointed. I also have a hankering for some Cracklin' Oat Bran.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


A day ahead with nothing to do. A DVR filled with unwatched episodes of The Daily Show, Good Eats, Niglella Eats, Jamie at Home. Jeff makes an 11am pot of Irish oatmeal, thick and chewy and hot. He takes his with honey and cinnamon. I sprinkle mine with mixed nuts, or eat it with a spoon heaped with a blob of peanut butter, the hot oats making it melty.

Oatmeal means we have the time to cook it and enjoy it. Oatmeal means laziness and happiness.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Must-Have Meals

My life is filled with certainties. I’ll always reach for the sky blue version in the t-shirt display. If there is an R.E.M. record in a jukebox, I will surely play it. I would much rather stay home and watch Whose Wedding is it Anyway reruns than leave my apartment.

The same loyalties of course apply to food. Because the single thing I will not eat or drink in this universe is beer, anything goes. Beef, pork, seafood, extra-spicy, raw, creamy, fruity...bring it. I was lucky enough to marry a man who eats the same way (but with a beer on the side for him). Even so, we go gravitate toward certain dishes time and again. The following are our must-haves -- as in, “are you going to get it or am I?” Because one of us has to.

I recently decided that if I were only allowed to chose one meat to eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be lamb. I love games like that.

If you’re dining with us, and spot this spicy lamb sausage on the menu, play the game of “which one of them will claim it first?” Bet on Jeff. While I always tend to peruse the rest of the menu just in case there’s something else I might want more (there isn’t), he’ll claim it and I’ll stamp my foot and demand that FINE, but he better let me share.

I would marry this wide, flat, ribbon pasta if I could. Alas, a signed ketubah prevents me from doing so. I love how it acts as a canvas for sauce and cheese. This is a one-noodle-per-forkful pasta -- you really get to savor its texture and bite. Pappardelle highlights include Pappardelle with Chanterelles and Thyme on the Babbo tasting menu, Flat Pasta, Pulled Braised Rabbit, Graviera Cheese from Kefi and Pappardelle with Lamb Ragout at Noodle Pudding.

We've had many octopus experiences, but two stand out as stellar. One was in Korea Town during a Korean BBQ-fest. We cooked chunks of raw octopus ourselves until it had the slightest char. Simple and delicious. The other was at Kefi again, the Grilled Octopus, Bean Salad appetizer. Octopus is a lot of things, but it's rarely tender. Yes, some are easier to the tooth than others, but never before had pieces been as yielding as these. Paired with chickpeas and a light, springy dressing, it's a dish I think about often.

Nicoise Salad
This one is just me, not Jeff. Crisp green beans, flaky tuna, silky egg white, mushy egg yolk, salty capers and olives, sweet tomatoes…the perfect mélange of textures and flavors. A good nicoise is the perfect salad.

Yes, we like our wine to taste like kicky apple juice, and no I am not apologizing for that.

Banana pudding at Sugar Sweet Sunshine
When will we ever look right past trays of pumpkin, lemon, and vanilla cupcakes (the best in New York, no less)? Why, for The Perfect Dessert. I don’t want to know what’s in it or how they make it. The thickest, creamiest pudding you could ever imagine, starring soggy hunks of Nila Wafer and real banana. If we are within a 20-block radius of the Lower East Side, we are going. No debates.

My goal in life is to get better at calling dibs on ideal menu items. Jeff almost always orders better. I used to be Queen of Calling Shotgun, so I know I can rise to the challenge.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes?

I am seriously craving the "peanut butter mashed potatoes" that the awful Lisa concocted on last night's Top Chef. (Why won't she just get SENT HOME??) The main judges all thought it sounded absurd and I get the impression that it wasn't the best received combination (although the steakhouse guest judge raved about it), but I just CAN'T stop thinking about how great it would be to have a big bowl of warm, creamy peanut butter mashed potatoes. WANT. NOW.

Maybe I just want a big bowl of peanut butter that I'm allowed to eat with a spoon. PB Mashed potatoes are (somewhat) socially acceptable. Eating spoonfuls of Jif is not.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Googler Wife's Banana and Chocolate Tart

This morning, for the first time ever, I morphed into one of those people who comments on Epicurious! You know, those “this recipe was great, but I just decreased the amount of butter and added persimmons instead of blueberries and tossed some chopped raisins in because my son loves them and substituted half the potatoes with yams and cooked it in a round pan instead of a square one, but otherwise I kept it exactly the same” people? They’ve always existed in a land where confident home cooks live unbound by the written word of their recipes. I want to move there. But man, improvisation is scary.

For the past few years, I’ve been making Marcella Hazan’s Farmer’s Wife’s Pear Tart, which I read about years ago on The Amateur Gourmet’s site. It’s as simple as simple can be – mix your batter, chop up your fruit, stir, pour into a pan, dot the top with butter, and open your oven 45 or so minutes later to a thick, fruity pancake. More a thin cake than a tart, it’s fluffy but not doughy, and sweet but mostly due to fruit. I tend use less than an entire cup of sugar (rebellious!) and it comes out just fine.

Around the last time I made it, Jeff started talking about a banana dessert he had at work that day. My brain went, mmm, bananas. Mmm, bananas and chocolate. Mmm, bananas and chocolate in my pancake tart, maybe? Mmmm. And since that time, I’ve wanted to experiment. Would it work? (I mean, duh, of course it’s going to work. But I’m timid when it comes to culinary change, so bear with me.)

I made it this morning, subbing out the pears, replacing with three sliced bananas, some cinnamon, and a few handfuls of chopped semisweet chocolate. (Oh, how cavalier! “A few chopped handfuls.” I would hate me.) Dare I say it improved upon our beloved pear tart? It was gooey where it used to be a tad juicy, with chocolate chunk surprises throughout. A new staple is born. Playing with food is fun. Who knew?

Banana Chocolate Tart (adapted from original recipe by Marcella Hazan by way of Amateur Gourmet)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9-inch pan. I use a springform pan (thank you, wedding registry!), but any pan will do.

In a medium bowl, beat together 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk. Mix in 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, and a good shake of cinnamon (I think I put in about 1 1/2 teaspoons). Mix until combined -- this will be a little bit lumpy, but don't worry.

Slice three bananas into thin coins and chop up semi-sweet or dark chocolate and add to your personal taste. I added chocolate chunks until they were dotted throughout by batter but didn't overpower it. Much more banana than chocolate. Chocolate chips would work fine here, too.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Chop up about 1/4 cup of cold butter and push butter chunks into the pan all over your uncooked tart. When you put the tart into the over, it should have butter polka dots all over the surface, slightly pushed in.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the top of your tart is light brown.

Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream!