Thursday, November 30, 2006


Streetmeat is not the most appetizing name for anything, which just proves Shakespeare right. Today for lunch, I had what is definitely one of the top bargains in NYC. Lunch from one of the Halal carts. But not just any cart, the one I like is at 54th & Park, SW corner. It is tempting to assume that the fact that these carts are more numerous than McDonald's means that they have a similar philosophy to McDonald's (it's about consistency, more than anything else - like taste). But this is just simply not the case.

One day a colleague volunteered to run out and buy lunch, and he brought back the same styrofoam dish, but the meat was vinegary - a totally different meal. And one I didn't love. He was one block off and I ended up with a totally different and, to my taste, vastly inferior lunch.

But today, I went out myself and went to the right corner. The line of 15 people moved really quickly, which was good because I was starving. I got my usual: spinach rice, lamb, 'salad', lots of white sauce, lots of red. It's the kind of lunch that shouldn't taste as good as it does. There's very little in NY that you can do for $4.50 and eating great food til you're stuffed is generally not one of those things. But today I did (as I do about once a week).

PS For an extra $0.50, the deep fried eggplant is a nice touch - but he was out today (I was running a bit late)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Jane Austen

Tonight at dinner, I mentioned this blog to my friends with whom I was dining (there really aren't any other reasonable reasons to explain whipping out a camera and flashing a shot).

When I mentioned that out of respect for my friends' (and acquaintances’) privacy (I have spent a decent amount of time working in the security space, so I am perhaps a bit sensitive), I refer to people by initials, one friend made an unexpected leap: Jane Austen.

Now, Miss Austen is in fact one of my very favorite authors (the Pride and Prejudice movie was an abomination, not because of the acting or photography, but because they thought it was enough to simply keep the story – they lost her language, which is insupportable – but I digress). Jane Austen is entertaining and witty and her stories end happily (yes, I'm a bit of a sap like that). It took me a minute and then I realized what they were saying, all of the Miss C_____ and _______shire militia (as in “Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the ______shire militia removed from Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family.”, but again, I digress).

And so, with Miss Austen as the new guiding light to this blog, I continue in what makes me comfortable.

So, tonight, I had dinner with 3 friends after a fundraising even for Leadership Prep (shameless plug on behalf of C – this is a great charter school in Bed-Sty, trying to raise the bar in education). We wanted something close and good and so headed 2 blocks to P. J. Clarke’s. Downstairs was a 30 minute wait, which we weren’t in the mood for, so we decided to head upstairs. I had never been upstairs at P. J. Clarke’s (I would think almost everyone in NY has been downstairs at least once), but my friends O&A gave it thumbs up.

C and I have very similar tastes which tonight was perfect as it allowed us to share a very nice Fig, Stilton and Frisee salad (they split it, no fuss – and 1 full fig each) (sorry the picture is a bit blurry, but the figs still look amazing, don't they):

and a medium rare hanger steak with onion strings - there's another huge plate of the strings (it’s great to have friends who like exactly the same things you do).

It’s really nice upstairs there: a mellow atmosphere, a really nice wait-staff and some subtle, but pretty holiday decorations (and we didn’t have to go anywhere near the mess tonight at Rockefeller Center.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Week's Worth

So, in response to an idea by Sam of Becks & Posh (, I spent last week taking photos of everything that I ate. The photos are in the mosaic alphabetically and I have listed the food below that the same way. Given the week, it seemed more interesting that way than by normal meal increments.

Before you look, I do want to point out that seven servings of pumpkin pie is most definitely not a normal week for me.

List of food for the week:
Artichoke, Asparagus and Spinach Dip
Bagel & Cream Cheese
Cheddar & Broccoli soup & Cucumber, Tomato and Mozerella
Chocolate Chip Cookies & Milk - 2
Coffee (decaf) - 3
Cranberry Bread
Croissant & Raspberry Jam
Dill dip & Cucumbers (I didn't eat the other veggies)
Greek Dips (Hummus, Taramasalta, Roasted Eggplant) & Pita
Grilled Cheese & Vegetable Soup
Macaroni & Cheese
Pumpkin Bread - 2
Pumpkin Pie - 7
Thai Basil with Beef - 2
Thanksgiving lunch (day of, leftovers) - 2
Turkey & Apple Crisp

I just want to reiterate for anyone who now assumes that I am a total food wacko - this was really was not a normal week of food for me. Except maybe for the chocolate chip cookies. And the Thai basil beef.

And also, in the interest of full disclosure, while there's only one picture of Thanksgiving lunch (day of), the plate did somehow seem to keep refilling itself.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mmmmm Cheese!

Tonight I went to a cheese class at Murray's ( It was amazing. Herve Mons was the instructor. If you haven't (as I hadn't) heard of him, he is "one of four master affineurs recognized by the French government as a 'Meilleur Ouvrier,' or master craftsman". He's awesome. He not only knows his cheese, he's got both a passion and a sense of humor about food. I was totally enthralled. (Some women go for poetry, but I'm a sucker for a guy who knows his food.) If you have the chance, check out his cheese!

We started off with a bit of a game. There were 20 glasses of water in front of us: 5 columns, 4 rows. Each column had a different taste (sweet, sour, bitter, salt - and nothing) and each row was progressively stronger. The goal was to guess the column's taste as early as possible. I got all of the columns right and got bitter and sour exactly right (turns out the first row was a plain water for each), the salt column I identified correctly from the first row - but it wasn't in that one (they did use NYC water which is clorinated - I'll do anything not to be wrong). I missed the sugar row entirely - interesting question as to whether that's the hardest to identify (they said that it disolves very cleanly in the water making it more mellow than sweet) or whether as an American I just have a 'naturally' high sugar threshold. Anyway, I felt reasonably pleased with my identification abilities. It was actually a fun test.

After that though, we got to the best part: the cheese. We were given the following plate

Clockwise, starting from noon, we had:

1. Brillat Savarin

2. Tomme des Templiers

3. Lavort

4. Comte

5. Maroilles

6. Bleu de Sassenage

7. Persille du Malzieu

I'll cheat and let you in on the ending - the Comte and the Persille du Malzieu were the very best (though all were outstanding), now I'll go back for a few more details. We were encouraged to describe the cheeses according to all five senses (we even got a comment about people's lack of use of touch with food - clearly Herve has not met my brother L, but that's a story for another time). It's really hard to put the words to what you're smelling and tasting (the touching, etc. are easier). I have the same problems with wine, though it has gotten easier with practice. Anyway, I found the Brillat Savarin to be a very (very!) nice triple creme, soft, creamy, a little salty, a hint of sour (and according to Herve) a hint of mushrooms in the rind. Next was the Tomme, this, it turned out was a bit too young (about 2 months) and was to show us how it was a bit too sour - which I am proud to say I did notice, I have a feeling though that those two months could have made it amazing. Next was the Lavort, which was a few months (1.5, but who's counting) too old, which also seemed to make it a bit too sour. These two had been chosen to show us what happens when you don't have impeccibly aged cheese. The Comte, it turned out, was to show what happened when you do. It was amazing. And that's an understatement. It was sweet, with just the lightest hint of sour and nut, it was moist, but not buttery. I ate the whole thing - and would have kept going if there had been more. The Maroilles was also wonderul - I got the sweet and tangy (he called it lightly bitter), but missed the barn smell. The Bleu de Sassenage was salt, crumbly, soft and damp, and a little astringent (with apparently that little hint of mushroom that I keep missing). But, while it was great (really!) it totally lost out to the Persille du Malzieu which was an amazing blend of grainy, moist, soft, very salty and sweet. It was heaven.

And then the wine pairing. The three pairings that worked the best were

  • The Comte with the Arbois Savagnin Puffeney 2002 (walnut (and I got apricot too) overtones in the wine with the nutty cheese
  • The Persille du Malzieu with the Dom. Baumard Coteaux de Layon 2002 - not that pairing a blue with a sweet wine is that much of a risk, but it was lovely
  • And the one that surprised me, the Maroilles with the Brookly Lager - they both had a bit of a bitter finish that was just great

The thing I learned here was that if you taste the cheese, but leave some in your mouth, then take a sip of the wine/beer and use that to swallow with, it will (with the right pairing) truly enhance the experience. I've paired them before, but never quite as firmly as "don't swallow the all of it" and it does take it to the next level. Try it.

I, being everyone's ideal customer, did buy a bunch of cheese's on the way out. Including one that is almost inexplicably named after me. I will apparently be having a cheese tasting at some point in the near future. Feel free to stop by.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cranberry Sherbet (Really!!)

There does seem to be somewhat general agreement that cranberries are an important part of Thanksgiving, so I don’t feel that I need to defend that as an assumption. They often show up in the form of jelly (occasionally, depending on one's predilections, in the form of cosmo’s), but in my family, we have them as a sherbet.

While there is not any part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal that I would willingly part with, there is something very special about Cranberry Sherbet. The story is that it’s a recipe of my grandmother’s (given the recipe, she was clearly a non-recipe kind of cook). I have no detail other than that. All I know, is it’s really the perfect accompaniment to a Thanksgiving meal.

Why, you may ask, should one go beyond the traditional jelly? For me the answer is a combination of three things: taste, temperature and color. Cranberry sherbet is a bit more tart, a bit more cranberry-y than most of the jellies that I’ve tried (I’m okay with having jelly as well, I quite like it myself). Everything else on the table is at least room temperature, if not hot, the contrast of the cold is very refreshing. And the color is a slightly neon cranberry color; it fits in with the rest of the fall tones, but adds a bit of excitement (it’s really pretty!).

Cranberry sherbet does what any good sorbet does, it cleanses the palette. It just does it in a way that keeps the taste in the Thanksgiving mood.

It’s really pretty easy. Go ahead and try it!Cranberry Sherbet
Cranberries (1 bag should serve about 6-8 people)
Lemon juice (1/8 cup per bag of cranberries)

Wash the cranberries. Put them in a stockpot and cover with water (they’ll bob up to the top, so don’t keep filling, just nicely covered with water). Bring to a boil for a few minutes. Strain (I use a colander) into a bowl.

Measure the juice as you put it back into the stockpot. Add ½ - ¾ (depending on your tart/sweet preference) as much sugar as you have juice. Boil until it thickens (there should be scum on the top). Freeze (at least overnight). Several hours before serving, add lemon juice and whip with a mixer (hand is fine if you’re like me and don’t have counter space for one of the nice ones). Freeze again. Serve (we usually just do a small scoop each because it does melt as you’re eating everything else – feel free to go back for seconds, I do).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Simple Things

Some day I'll do a whole post on how food at all levels of 'fanciness' can be fabulous. But today, I'll just give you an example. On a Sunday morning, there is nothing better than a New York bagel (not round bread, but a real bagel, water bath and all). And cream cheese. Enough said.

The Main Event

So Wednesday night's frantic evening of shopping for supplies, cooking one meal (to eat) and prepping the second totally paid off. The menu for the evening:

Hors d'oeuvre (which I actually had to look up the spelling of - turns out to be a word that I read much more than I write):
Cheese plate:
- St. Andres (probably my favorite of the triple cremes)
- Bucheron (an aged goat cheese)
- Aged Gouda (if you haven't tried this, you should)
- Fig cake (this replaced the more traditional crackers - I was first introduced to this by my brother, it's a very different taste, and one I really love)
- Wine: Navarro Vineyards 2004 Zinfandel (a really nice zin with a lot of fruit up front, and a strong, but not overwhelming finish - if you haven't tried their wines, I highly recommend them (you have to order direct, I've been on their mailing list for a bunch of years now and have never regretted it))

Main course:
- Jambalaya
- Sauteed spinach
- Wine: Malbec - terrible of me, but this was the wine that C brought and I recycled the bottle in a fit of cleaning. I don't remember what it was, but I liked it - it held up well to the spice of the Jambalya. (you'll see many more bottles on the table than are listed, this is what happens when you have generous friends)

- Flan/Creme Carmel
- Wine: Trentadue 2001 Viognier Port (This is a really unusual white port that I find works well with lighter desserts, I used to get their sample shipments as well when I lived in CA and am just waiting for the results of the new laws so that I can get them again)

The cheese course was put together by choosing three cheeses that I was in the mood for. I find that the St. Andres is just a really good standard cheese - everyone seems to like it. The other two offered enough variety to be interesting, but not enough danger to really risk having cheeses that people didn't like (and J, who is not a goat cheese fan, even said that the Bucheron wasn't bad for a goat - which is a high compliment). The fig cake went over well with 4/5 (hey, Trident considers that a success, so I do too).

For the Jambalaya, we were supposed to use L's friend Jill's recipe, but she didn't get it to us in time (it does seem to me that more people should be ready to say how high when I say jump). So we went for the fallback of epicurious. I have an entire shelf of cookbooks, and yet I find myself using epicurious more than anything else. L didn't love the recipe on the site ( though, so she changed it adding more spice (she and I both really like spicy food - something to keep in mind if you're ever invited over for dinner) and not doing the baking part (both of us have done a fair amount of cooking and we couldn't really figure out what the recipe said, so we decided to alter that part too).

The spinach was just sauteed with garlic and a little lemon. Some things really are best simple.

The flan/creme carmel (C is Mexican and so if it wasn't true flan, I had the out of saying it was Italian not Spanish/Latin - she liked it, so I needn't have worried) was a first time dish for me. I again went with epicurious: and this time followed it exactly. I thought it turned out quite well (both the one I had that night and the one I had the next night - the joys of having an odd number of people over for a dinner party when most recipes are for an even number).

Dinner Party Prep

My friend L. and I love cooking. Even more, we love cooking for other people. We're trying to have people over about once a month, but initially we had trouble finding times everyone could make. We realized that getting everyone together on a weekend is tough (this was especially true during the summer) and so we came up with the two night dinner party.

On the first night, we do all the shopping, prep and any cooking we can do ahead of time. Then, ideally, the second night, we only have to finish up what we're doing. The only hitch that we've found is that we also need to eat that first night. So we've taken to whipping up something really fast and easy for us to eat (ordering in just feels a little wrong when the purpose of getting together is to cook).

For this night, in addition to the meal for tomorrow night, we also whipped up a quick Penne Puttanesca. I'm a fan of pasta cooking that doesn't require recipes and takes advantage of what's in the cupboard and fridge. This one actually turned out particularly well (the picture is close up because I keep forgetting to take photos and the sides of the bowl were no longer pristine).

I've included an estimate of the recipe (serves 2):
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1/2 c olives
2 T capers
dried spices:
- crushed red pepper (mine was sweat inducing hot, which I love)
- black pepper
- salt
- oregano
- basil
1/3 c ruby port
fresh basil (mine is actually frozen - the bunches they sell are usually too big for what I need, but I've found that freezing them, while it is not that good for color, is totally fine for taste)

Saute the onions and garlic. Add the tomato paste, dried spices, capers and port. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Add olives (I don't know that you need to wait to add them, but I always do) and fresh basil.

The port and the basil seem to add that touch of sweet to balance the salt of the olives and capers (and salt - I tend to like salty dishes) and the spice of the pepper.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Vegas baby!

In what has become an annual event, my college friends and I headed off to Vegas this past weekend. Some in the crowd are actually big gamblers, but I go for the food - and the company. And this year, I also went for Mick. I'd never seen the Stones in concert - and I have to say, if you have the chance, go!

But back to the food. It's not like I need to leave NY to find great food, but I do make it a point to try to eat well wherever I am. We had reservations at Nob Hill and it was good. Really good.

We didn't have time for a full tasting menu (and it's a cookbook tasting menu, so you get to keep the cookbook, but it made it a little pricey in my opinion). My friend, Dr. J, and I decided to split the truffled fondue as a starter. This was really good, but not my favorite part.

I went back and forth in deciding on the main course - deciding between the steak (with foie gras, which I am a total sucker for) and the lobster (another strong favorite) pot pie. I chose the lobster for two reasons: 1. it was unusual (and I love lobster) and 2. my friend I got the steak (word of warning in the event that you have dinner or any other meal with me, I am a firm believer in food sharing).

The lobster certainly wins on presentation when it arrives at the table on the cart
They plate it by putting the shell on the plate and then covering it with the contents. As you can see from the pictures, it looks amazing; the unfortunate thing is that I didn't have my camera set on video to capture Dr. J's dance when he first saw it. That dance would be even better proof than the picture of the dish of how good it was.

That said, as amazing as it was, I's steak was actually better. Her filet was truly the best steak I have ever had in my life. The first bite was a little taste of heaven.

Believe it or not, after all the cheese and cream (and the random bites of other peoples' food), we still had room for desert. And boy was it worth it. I do love chocolate souffles (and thanks here to C&R for giving us a bit of theirs, which convinced me to order my own) and this was not just a good one. It was a truly great one. We missed the beginning of Bonnie Raitt (she opened for the Rolling Stones) and I don't regret a minute of that. It was a simple chocolate souffle with a bit of espresso gelato (here's a picture of it taken after the first couple of bites - I'm still working on remembering to take photos at the right time). It was amazing, ethereal, fantastic, etc. You get the picture. It was a truly great chocolate souffle.

Again, I know that I can get great meals in NY, but this was a meal that was worth the flight. This plus the concert was a truly great night.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Typical Japanese Lunch

In what seems like another lifetime (and no, I don't channel Shirley McLaine on a regular basis), I lived in Japan. And my version of comfort food has been influenced by the time I spent there. To understand what types of food I'm talking about when I say this, it is first important to understand that sushi isn't an everyday lunch food - at least not in any of the places I worked. We had lunches of beef curry (one of the most popular brands is Vermont curry, which none of us really ever understood as a name), stir fried ginger and pork, noodles (lots of noodles), scrambled egg and chicken (the name loosely translates as Parent-Child over Rice), Korean Barbeque (there's a whole other story there) and, yes, occasionally sushi.

And while I wouldn't say today was a bad day, I will say that a lunch of deep fried pork cutlet sounded absolutely perfect. Deep fried pork cutlet (ton-katsu) is one of the most popular lunches in Japan. I believe that this is due to the sauce. While the pork itself is wonderful, it is the thick brown sauce (I have absolutely no idea what is in it) that makes the dish truly wonderful.

One of the reasons that I love New York is that it is possible to get Japanese food here that tastes like real Japanese food. And so today, I went down to 47th and Madison (a short walk from the office, if one walks really quickly) and had lunch with my friend Sarah at Katsu-hama.

I am in fact still getting used to the whole taking pictures of ones food - as you can see, while I got the (clockwise from top left) tea, miso soup, pickles and rice - as well as the plate of deep-fried pork cutlet, cabbage and mustard; I left out the brown sauce that is so key (don't worry, I didn't forget it when I ate the deep-fried pork cutlet (I really just like saying 'deep-fried pork cutlet', it sounds somehow decadent).

I highly recommend this as a lunch, especially with the colder weather settling in.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's not that I'm lazy

The better reason is that one batch of cookie dough makes a lot of cookies. And unless one is entertaining - or has had a particularly bad day, it is really too much. And so I have realized that I can use technology to solve my problem; this must be what the freezer was invented for (Nestle and Pillsbury make cookie dough for the fridge, I don't use any preservatives in mine, so the freezer seems to make more sense). I make a full batch (or two), roll them into balls, freeze them (did I mention my love affair with Ziploc?)

and then whenever I want cookies, I just pop them on to a cookie sheet

and 15 minutes later (takes longer to cook frozen - that's the perfect amount of time to have them still soft), I have cookies even better than what you get in first class on some airlines (and notice that I use the nice china from my mom - not the plastic that the airlines do).

And so tonight, as I sit on my couch reading, I am able to enjoy three (okay, four) piping hot, soft and chewy chocolate-chip, oatmeal raisin cookies (use the Nestle recipe add 2 c of oatmeal and about as many raisins as chocolate chips). And milk.