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!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fresh, Local, and Organic -- Here I Come!

I want to be one of those people who stops by her local farmers’ market when it’s open, buys what’s fresh and local, and cooks up an inspired dish for dinner. In my mind, I link myself with that crowd... nod knowingly when I read about the wonders of organic produce and quietly roll my eyes at people who buy wan tomatoes from Key Foods in the dead of winter.

Truth is, I’m a sham--a food elitist with absolutely no cred, what with my nightly takeout from Joya or a can of Amy’s Soup with toast. At least the pink tomato people cook. I can barely be bothered to warm up leftovers the next day.

There is a tiny farmers’ market right outside my Financial District office. This summer, I vow to stop by at least once a week, pick something that captures my fancy, and cook up dinner for me and my husband. Look out, honey, there’s asparagus in your future!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Better than Popcorn

While I trust that the chefs on Top Chef Season 4 are talented, they certainly didn’t impress me with their imagination last night.

The task: create a six-course dinner, in which each course is inspired by “your favorite movie.” I think “your favorite movie” should right now be defined as “the movie of your choice,” because if the rules were strict, someone like Jeff would have to design a meal based on I [heart] Huckabees.

But hey, maybe they should have been strict. What would have happened has the contestants been asked to write down their favorite movies during the interview process, then been told the assignment? That certainly would have pushed their limits more than, “hmm, I like Vietnamese food – let’s make spring rolls that we can say were inspired by Good Morning Vietnam!” They might as well have picked The Godfather and served ziti. It would have been more appropriate.

The only imaginative dish of the night came from the team that chose Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—they had the first course of the meal and created a salmon dish with wasabi, white chocolate and “caviar” made from tapioca. It was colorful, inventive, and apparently delicious…all a perfect capture of the movie.

I’ll play the game. Below is a short list with some of my favorites, and the meal I would create (or buy) to commemorate it.

Big Night: Duh. How did no one even mention this one? A perfectly cooked omelet on a plain white plate served beside a tear of baguette. Says more about the movie than the famous timpano, and is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. Yes, Tom Colicchio would be all, “This is an embarrassment; you spent three hours on this?” But he can kind of be a dick, so who cares what he says? I’m going to play the game pretending this wouldn’t be presented in front of Judges' Table, okay?

Before Sunrise: Something that would make you linger. Something delicious and sweet…but casual. Something familiar. A picnic! Yes, a picnic basket with good cheeses, a bottle of wine, and a bar of dark chocolate.

Before Sunset: Well, definitely something French. And it would have to be a snack, since the entire movie takes place in the span of 85 minutes or so. A pain au chocolat with black tea.

Being John Malkovich: Oh boy. Something inside something else. I guess a turducken? Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich.

Reality Bites: Something cheap, and with coffee. If you make something purposefully greasy and a little gross would that be bad? If we’re really aiming to capture the movie, then diner food—floppy toast, greasy scrambled eggs, bacon, a side of weak coffee, and a cigarette.

25th Hour: Greasy takeout New York Chinese food, served with a shot of vodka.

Clueless: Colors! Too easy, but too fun not to mention. Vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

Magnolia: Frogs legs. Lots of them. No side dishes. Plopped randomly all over a big plate. Done.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Really Miss Those Cookies

The best black and white cookies I ever had were at the lobby snack nook of Scholastic's Soho office.

There were hefty buggers, big bulks of cake rather than cookie. Each one must have had about 800 calories, each one of them delicious. The cake was very thick in the middle, not too dense, yet not spongy-light. It tapered off to perfect, lightly browned edges.

The best part was the icing (duh?). Oh man, I still daydream about that perfection, four years later! The white icing was super-thick and crackly. Nothing made me happier than to break it off in thick, sugary sheets. Soft white icing, you have no place in my heart. The chocolate icing wasn't as firm, but was far from gooey. Still, I usually left it on the cookie and ate it like a normal person instead of peeling it off.

I ate one every day. I'm not proud. Things in life weren't the rosiest then, and my daily B&W was my comfort, my happiness...the element of my day that brought with it nothing put sweet, sweet joy.

The cafe switched its breakfast pastries to its afternoon pastries at about 11 a.m. I'm not sure how or when I figured this out, but as soon as I knew the schedule, I would scamper down the stairs to the cafe at 10:59, greet the kind man who worked there daily, and pay my $1.25. He slipped my treat into a small paper bag with tongs (don't break the icing, don't break the icing). I ran up the stairs, spread a napkin in front of my keyboard, and basically went to my special place for about 10 minutes.

I really miss those cookies.

One day, however, not everything went according to plan. Restless and craving my cookie, I went downstairs at about 10:50. The croissants were still out. My friend, who had taken to getting my cookie ready and bagged right when he saw me enter, was standing idle behind the counter.

"Oh hi, um, are there any black and white cookies...?" I tried to sound shy, a little embarrassed. I attempted to offer a knowing glance, a c'mon, buddy, you know about my little problem, let's see if you can cut me a little slack, mkay?

"No, I haven't put those out yet."

I stared. "Um...okay? Are there any back there I can, just, y'know, grab a little early?"

"Oh no, I don't put those out yet."


He wouldn't go to the back room to get me a freaking black and white cookie!? For real? For really real? Mortified, I slunk back upstairs and went without. I wasn't showing my face down there again.

I boycotted for a day. Two days later, I went down at 11:45 and, sans eye contact, asked for my freaking cookie. I didn't smile when he handed over my bag and change. It took me a while to smile again.

New York Magazine just released its annual "Best Of NY" issue.

Under the Best of the Classics section they give their pick for best B&W:

William Greenberg Jr. Desserts
1100 Madison Ave., nr. 82nd St.; 212-861-1340
The perfect blend of cake and cookie, WGJ’s version of this New York yin-yang icon is unbeatable—and the icing is never crusty.

Dude, crusty icing is THE BEST PART.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Um, to my two faithful readers...sorry? Wedding, honeymoon, sickness, laziness, blah blah blah, I haven't posted, whatevs.

I am fully revved up to be a somewhat faithful blogger once again, for really real.

First, here's bridesmaid, bride-to-be, and eater extrordinaire, Haley, to tell you a little bit about our pre-wedding rehearsal dinner!

SPG is now SPP! But I could not do the wedding blogging-justice, and I would be sitting here crying my eyes out if I had to write about how happy and lovey the whole evening was. So the rehearsal dinner it is …

To get to the private room in the back of Symposium Greek Restaurant on 113th street between Amsterdam and Broadway, you walk through the dining room and then the kitchen. You emerge from the narrow kitchen into what feels like an outside patio. Trees shoot through the ceiling and leaves dangle overhead. Strung lights add to the outdoorsy feeling.

The tables were set with carafes of red and white wine and pitchers of sangria. Before being seated everyone roamed, grabbing a drink to take along. The sangria was a hit.

Once we sat down, the waiters brought out plates of family style appetizers and baskets of warm pita. We grabbed and passed the stuffed grape leaves, olives, yogurt sauce, eggplant dip, feta cheese and veggies. Delicious!

I had a little love affair with what came next. A huge shout of oopa! introduced bowls of flaming cheese. Dishes of perfectly browned, flaming cheese. It’s my new favorite food.

A squeeze of lemon puts out the fire before you can dip in with some pita or your fork.

The main course was a choice between moussaka, spinach pie, chicken kebabs and a lamb dish. My fork made the rounds and everything was great. But we had one thing on our minds. So Andrea worked her magic and scored us an extra flaming cheese. Oopa!

Father of the Bride: happily oopa’ing or in awe of our extra flaming cheese?

A strong Greek coffee and sweet and yummy baklava-type dessert followed. And then SPP gave her bridesmaids warm cuddly robes.

Stuffed and happy, there was more mingling and no one wanted to leave the cozy garden.

Way fun and total yummers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pizza That Lives Up to the Hype

I obviously have been neglecting things here. To be honest, I pretty much plan to until sometime after January 20. No excuses, no apologies, just a whole lot of eggplant-colored ribbon, personalized M&Ms, and menu cards to sift through and not ruin before next Sunday.

In the meantime, Kimmy And has graciously volunteered her guest blogging services. Read on for an account of her trek to our fine borough.

After well over a year living in this fine food orgy of a city, some friends and I finally made the trek to Grimaldi's Pizzeria one Sunday afternoon. Nothing like a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to work up a good appetite and an hour-long wait in the cold to push you over the line into ravenous hunger. Each time the door swung open, we were greeted with a small burst of intoxicating pizza smell. Finally, the hard-working man in charge of the line ushered us in.

You really get to know your fellow diners here, sitting practically elbow to elbow in a mid-sized room of red and white checkered tables. For the first few minutes we could do nothing but gaze longingly at the pizzas on nearby tables. Then we contemplated the toppings list and decided unanimously on mushroom, crushed tomato, and ricotta cheese. No one was even distracted by the calzone option - we were here for pizza, and pizza we would have.

The kitchen area is wide open, so we got an up-close look at the creation of these masterpieces before they slid into the giant coal-burning oven. The raw ingredients spread about the prep area pretty much blew our minds with how unbelievably fresh and delicious they looked. This picture unfortunately does no justice to the endless half-moons of mozzarella, the huge, gorgeous mushrooms, the piles of freshly grated parmesan.

When the pizza arrived not terribly long after, you could taste what a difference good ingredients make. Ambrosia. I literally chewed piece after piece with my eyes half closed in enjoyment. I'm not even a basil person usually, but I took exception in this case. The crust was doughy and supported the toppings well. The sauce and cheese melded into one delicious substance that I could gladly eat forever. I might have liked a little more mushroom, but I would never question the proportions chosen by these artisans.

After quickly and enthusiastically decimating our large pie, we of course wanted another. However, we decided to quit while we were ahead and head just down the street to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for dessert. As we stepped outside, the line had grown even longer, but we would never again question whether it was worth the wait.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria
19 Old Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY