Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Whole Flock (Friday)

We had dinner tonight at a restaurant (Los Fuentes - right next to the one stop light in Todos Los Santos) that had more than just your traditional creche. They had a raised platform bigger than 2 tables with the manger, a flock (at least one) of sheep, a bunch of shepherds, 3 wise men (in 2 inch heels - which I didn't understand) and a stream. It was truly impressive. I forgot to take a photo.

For dinner my brother L and I split tortilla soup and the Mexican combination.

The tortilla soup was good (but didn't surpass the best I've ever had - which was at The Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas). A nice blend of tomatoes and spices.

The Mexican Combination included a chicken enchilada with a salsa verde (which I loved - the verde was both spicy and sweet - and L was so-so on), a tamale (which L loved and I was so so on - I'm just not a tamale person in general), a chile relleno (which was very good) - and a sope de chorizo (a mini, but thick taco with chorizo, some salsa, etc. - this wasn't actually included, but my mom ordered it and couldn't eat everything on her plate).

For dessert, I really wanted Flan. And so we got it. But it was served with a chocolate sauce, which I wasn't crazy about. the one that we had the other night was definitely better. But I did like the people at this restaurant. And the margaritas were good - and served in cool glasses.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Twas The Night After Christmas (Tuesday)

We tried to go out for Christmas dinner, but everything was closed (except for the place serving a turkey dinner, which excited none of us) – so we went back home and ate there (none of us were really that hungry after that guacamole-fest lunch and so we made a random vegetarian sushi roll kind of thing: nori around quinoa mixed with chiles with a center of cucumber, sweet potato, avocado, carrot, etc. – it was really good (!) and nice and light and spicy).

But we were committed to eating out tonight. We had it narrowed down to three restaurants and chose the one with the nicest garden – Los Adobes de Todos Santos. It was a beautiful rock lined succulent garden and we ate on the deck overlooking it all.

We all decided to have soup and a main dish (and I insisted on flan for desert – I wanted to compare it to my earlier effort). I ordered the Caldo Pepito soup, which was basically a cilantro chicken soup with pumpkin seeds and little corn meal balls (4 of them varying in size between a marble and a ping pong ball). It was good. My mom’s soup was amazing! It was described as a cream of Mexican beans and chilis, which hadn’t excited me, but it was truly ethereal.

For my main dish, I had the Chiles en Nogada(some random guys on the street mentioned that this dish was invented as the Mexican national dish after Mexico declared independence – the colors, but most websites seem to name mole poblano as the national dish). It was a perfect blend of sweet and spice. Basically, it’s stuffed peppers. But the pepper is a poblano (instead of a green bell pepper – which is one of the very few foods which I truly don’t like) and the stuffing is meat (for their version a mixture of pork and beef with raisins), then there is a walnut cream sauce and the red pomegranate jelly (green pepper, white walnut sauce, red pomegranate).

I got my flan for dessert. It was a lot more flan-y than the one I had made (which was closer to crème brulee); by that I mean it was heavier and more solid. The sauce too was slightly more burnt tasting than mine had been, but I mean that in a good way. So, it was totally different, but very good (though on a regular basis, I probably prefer mine (as does my Mexican friend C by the way)).

The margaritas were nice as well.

The Best FT So Far (Thursday)

We’ve had a couple of fish taco meals so far, but today’s lunch was by far the best so far (that said, P’s favorite place has been closed all week – rumor has it that it will be open on Saturday (our last full day)).

We went back to Fonda el Zaguan. We needed to run a few errands in town and after a rather mediocre morning of surfing (i.e., the surf wasn’t great, however, I did have my (personal) best ride of the week) we had the time and energy for a leisurely lunch in town.

My mom and I decided to split the guacamole, ceviche and fish tacos (a la plancha, with corn tortillas) – but they were out of the ceviche, so we just got the guacamole and fish tacos (we weren’t starving). I got two of the tacos (picture to be added when I get home) and she had one; we split the guacamole.

Like all of the best places, they provided an array of salsas to choose from. I chose to use all of them: salsa verde (a wonderful spicy, sweet tomatillo salsa), a red ranchero-type sauce, a salsa fresca and one that looked like a combination of carrots and jicama (more of a cole slaw than a 'traditional' salsa).

The fish was fresh, the tortillas were warm and I loaded it up and enjoyed every bite.

The Tomato Epiphany (Wednesday)

Anyone who knows me knows that I love tomato products: tomato sauce, salsa, ketchup, etc., but that I don’t particularly care for tomatoes themselves. My friend K did get me into the Italian tomato, mozzarella and basil thing – which I considered a huge step forward (though how anything with olive oil and balsamic could be bad is beyond me). But I had never really done the tomato thing; then yesterday, L and I stopped off at the fruit guy (kilo marker 62-ish) and bought these cherry tomatoes. He started eating them in the car on the way home. I was intrigued and so, without any real hope that I would enjoy it – tried one. It was like candy. By the time we got home, I’d had forty or fifty (they’re really tiny, like small bright red grapes – they have that same pop of flavor and liquid as grapes too, only the flavor is deeper, more earthy, more tomato-ey (I really need to find better ways to describe tastes)).

Today we went over to the east side of Baja to explore a forty foot waterfall (and do the Mexican cliff diving thing (which I chickened out of, settling for a fifteen or so foot rock, but which P, L and O all did – and was awesome (until the 3 Mexican teenagers did the 80 foot jump - at which point it was still pretty cool)) as well as the farm where L has been living.

By the time we got home, we were all hungry. We heated up some chorizo, which everyone else mixed with scrambled eggs – and which I mixed with the left over ratatouille (from lunch yesterday – made with garlic, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.). Every time I felt one of those tiny tomatoes (we hadn’t cut them up, just tossed them in whole), burst with sweetness in my mouth I was so happy. I won’t say that I’m a total convert, but I do think I’m a lot closer than I was last week.

Wednesday's Ratatouille
Quantities based on number of people to be served/Actual ingredients can vary based on availability of fresh vegetables
Summer Squash

1. Sautee the onions in olive oil
2. When lightly golden, add in garlic, eggplants and summer squash
3. When eggplant and squash are lightly browned, add in tomatoes
4. Cook for a few more minutes

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holy Guacamole (Monday)

Today for lunch all I wanted was guacamole. We had fresh hot tortillas, 7 ripe avocados (for 6 people), chilies, limes, onions, a few mini-tomatoes and so I got what I wanted. (The best guacamole, in my opinion, includes the other flavors, but never forgets that it is about the avocados.)

Basically, we made a vat of guacamole and I filled tortilla after tortilla. After a great morning out on the waves, I can’t imagine a better lunch.

Plus I got some fresh strawberries for dessert.

The Best Way to Start the Day (Sunday)

We’ve been trying to be out at Los Cerritos (a truly great surfing beach) by about 9. Given the 2 hour time difference, it hasn’t actually been that difficult to be awake even on vacation. And when I got up this morning, I realized that I wanted more than just fruit.

So I took a little of the left over steak, a little of the left over quinoa, some of L’s home made mole (really ranchera sauce with cocoa powder, but oh, so good) and a tortilla. The steak had the kick from it’s chili marinade, the mole has an earthy chili taste (not super spicy) and the tortilla holds it all together. It’s so easy, it makes me wonder why my usual breakfast at home is generally café au lait (to go).

For desert, I took a section of papaya. Papayas are like eating a whole fistful of vitamins – if the vitamins are really delicious. It’s one of those foods that I never can quite believe it tastes so good and yet that with every bite I can practically feel my health improving.

After that breakfast, I was ready for anything (except, apparently, the 6 foot wave that I completely chickened out on).

L and I then split the Mexican Combination at Felipe's for lunch (kilo marker 60ish on the carretara). It was really good! It had a chicken enchilad with a nice rich tomato sauce; a spicy chile relleno that was well balanced chile/cheese, a nice fish taco and (most surprisingly) a tamale that I really liked (it was sweet - with a hint of cinammon).

Food Heaven (Saturday)

I love Mexican food anyway, but especially after a day of airport food, I was pretty excited to get to the good stuff.

We stopped for lunch at Marina’s (right on the carretera, maybe kilometer marker 62 (?)). I was dying for fish tacos and despite other temptations ordered that. My brother O went with me, my brother L ordered the Machaca con Huevos (I’m really big into machaca after a fabulous weekend in Monterrey for a friend’s wedding a few years ago – especially after a late night out).

It’s a terrible thing to envy someone else’s plate. Because, while my fish tacos were good, the machaca was amazing. All I can say is that this machaca confirmed my belief that a little machaca, egg, tortilla and salsa is just about as close to perfection as we can get.

When P arrived, he really wanted to hit Fonda el Zaguan (on Juarez between Topete & Hidalgo) in Todos Santos for ceviche. L had started some steaks marinating the night before, so a few of us went into town for a ceviche snack.

It was awesome! We had ceviche, salsa fresca and guacamole. Pure bliss! Sitting outside at a little table in warm weather, eating fabulous fresh food (with plenty of flavor and kick) makes one understand the allure of the tropics (and we’re only just at the Tropic of Cancer).

When we got home, L grilled up the steaks and served them with quinoa and salad fresh from his farm.

And nothing like margaritas with fresh Mexican limes

L's Steak Marinade
Marinade for as long as possible - we did for 24 hours

Olive Oil
Chili (little red Mexican ones)
Red Onion (diced)

A day of lots of different flavors. A day of good food.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Food Purgatory (Friday)

There's nothing like a day of travel to put one in a bad food place. NY to Todos los Santos was an 18 hour trip (including taxi, 2 flights, a stop at Costco, and getting lost on a sand road where a Uturn is not a good idea). I ate two meals, both in airports:
1. A bagel with eggs and cheese in JFK (fried eggs, which is somewhat reassuring as you're pretty sure they're real eggs, but the cheeze looked like Cheez Whiz - though there were a couple of straight lines which made me think it was that plastic american stuff).
2. Then I waited to 30 minutes for a faux quesadilla in LAX (it was that or a BK burger). It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. And having heard that a lot of volume guacamole is only 2% avacado - it's hard to enjoy something that you don't have a guarantee on.

So even without any transportation issues (pretty impressive this year - for other people), the traveling part of travel can be fairly unpleasant.

But the view when I got there was worth it

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Great Expectations

I'm off to Baja tomorrow for a week of surfing, 80 degree weather, fish tacos and who knows what else. I will provide updates on the food I find - though I'm not promising anything about reliability.

PS I really don't like Dickens

Happy Birthday L

Just because I didn't give my brother L a birthday present on time doesn't mean that I wasn't thinking of him on his birthday (and I did call). I just wasn't sure what to get him. And I knew that I'd see him the last week of December, so I figured I could let it slide for a couple of weeks and still seem to be totally on top of things.

And then, suddenly, it was easy. I was cruising the Menu for Hope and there it was - the tea with Harold McGee. This was someone my food-nutty brother would really enjoy meeting. So rather than an okay gift (no other inspiration had struck), I would get him the chance at a spectacular gift. And so he's got a bunch of tickets for the tea with Harold McGee as well as for the Taste 3 Conference Pass. (I'm pretty sure that those are the ones he would like best).

And, as with most shopping trips, I bought something for myself at the same time (totally different things, so I'm not messing with L's chances - which I will talk more about if I win).

And if we don't win (likely given my history (yes, I've taken enough statistics to understand that they're independent, but I still never win)), then I guess we helped the UN World Food Programme. I'm good with that. And hopefully L is too (though I'll keep my fingers crossed on him actually winning the prize(s)).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tapas Baby!

So my friends A&P came into town this week and we met up for dinner tonight. When I still lived in SF, A and I (along with a couple of other friends) formed a group called Gourmet Girls - the purpose of which was to get together once a month (or so) and eat good food (which often, though not always, the hostess cooked). There were a number of things that I was very sad about when I left SF, and leaving this group was easily in the top 10. The only good thing is that the group is so crazy about food (and me?) that they come to NY relatively often.

So tonight, we went for tapas. A spent a year in Spain during high school and loves Spanish food (works for me - as she's made at least one fabulous Spanish meal for me that year). We decided to try Casa Mono (Tia Pol is my usual choice for tapas, but I wasn't in the mood for standing and waiting for a table (even for the chorizo and chocolate) or for the hike over there - though there are many times when it really is worth all of that hassle, just not this week/month). Casa Mono - we didn't have reservations, but it seemed like we would be early enough that it would be fine. And ... it was.

A&P (great couple in a food blog, right) were there ahead of me (now, I know that I can be difficult, but the traffic in NY during the holidays is so bad that I'm sure it's not just me that it makes crazy ... completely bonkers - I was beginning to think that I would never get there). But then, A&P had gotten there before me and we got seated after only about 20 minutes (theoretically you can sit and wait at Bar Jamon, which is indeed cute and around the corner, but was in fact very full). The hostess was really nice - she seemed to like P (he is reasonably charming (might I even go so far as to say fairly charming)) and seated us pretty quickly (and she responded to my only marginally funny quip with a nice smile and a friendly comment - which is more than I can say for many of my friends and family).

We got the three end seats at the bar. Angelo was our waiter. He was also very nice and seemed okay with our attempts at humor/friendliness (P said that he was happy to hear that his seat got a free serving of 'that':

Angelo actually laughed. Not a bad start to the evening.

I have to say. The ham looked amazing. And yet, despite the desire to see Angelo cutting it. I wasn't quite in the mood for ham. And besides, we were sitting right there - and I figured that we'd see the show at some point

I don't want to say that I'm always right, but...

We then had to choose what to order, while we had bread with really good olive oil (for something like this I really like the oil that tastes like olives like this did) and I got a really nice Tempranillo (the cuarto thing is a bit annoying as a concept, but as a practice, it really is the perfect amount of wine).

A insisted on bread with tomato, which I was lukewarm on, but okayed - and which turned out to be absolutely fabulous (it's that bread with the big bite out of it on the plate)! I really can't explain why it was so much better than I anticipated. I insisted on the pimientos, which were also fabulous (though no one else was into them - A&P aren't huge spice food folks). And we got the pumpkin and goat cheese croquettes - which were nice. There was also a frisee salad (which I'm normally lukewarm on) with Manchego (which I love) and which was absolutely good.

Our second 'course' was skirt steak with marmalade (I could have eaten thousands of these - they were so good!), grilled scallions and bacalao croquettes (I love bacalao, but I like the one that's more like a dip, this one was a hunk of fish - and I wasn't such a huge fan, I mean, it was fine, but not what I was looking for)

At this point, I was reasonably full, but still in the mood for a sweet.

And so we ordered dessert. And drinks. Angelo recommended the Jerez for me - Hidalgo (I think it was an '03). I've had good sherrys and bad sherrys and so I was iffy, but he told me this was sweet and good - and that it would work with the dessert we had ordered. I tried a sip. And we had a winner! A ordered some special coffee that I can't remember. It totally worked for her.

And for dessert, we chose ... the Burnt Creme. I have to say, I'm a huge fan of burnt cream. (Though, people should stop trying to translate Creme Catalan and Creme Brulee into English - there are a class of things that should only be translated as ideas or concepts, never directly - though it does make me smile).

The little things on the side are basically beignets around bay leaves. They're not the easiest things to eat (you can't eat the bay leaf), but they are really yummy. Though not as good as the burnt creme!!!

Overall - thumbs up on Casa Mono. But definitely get the steak and burnt cream.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Being a food critic is one of those things that seems wonderful, but there's got to be a downside. I look at this article A $3,000 taste of Vegas and maybe understand. With that kind of budget, to be too full to try the 10-course at Guy Savoy seems criminal.

I myself have had weekends of total food decadence when I know I'm not enjoying a meal as much as I could as if I were hungry.

That said, it's still not a bad problem to have.

Spicy C

We wanted a relatively quick meal before heading off to J's birthday party. So my friend M suggested i-chin. She had been there last week and loved it and wanted to go back. And I'm always a fan of asian fusion, so I was totally amenable.

M had very set ideas on food quantity – she had skipped lunch (I had had lunch, though some might not consider a bag of potato chips and a bunch of cookies lunch, I hadn’t been hungry) and so wanted to make sure that we ordered enough. So she suggested appetizers, soup and main dishes, but said that she was fine with pretty much any actual dish choice.

When I saw the appetizer list, I was drawn to the cauliflower. I really wanted the cauliflower. M was indeed totally flexible, so we got that as well as the wontons. The cauliflower was even better than I had imagined. Better than I could have imagined. It was awesome!! Really great!! It was lightly fried (I think) with onions and chilies - plus some black pepper. The flavor was somehow delicate and strong - very well balanced. It tasted so good, so very, very good. I want to run right out now and get more. Really. The wontons (we ate 2 before I remembered to take the photo, so while not a huge portion size, it's not as tiny as it looks) were also nice, though not quite the transformative experience of the cauliflower (and cauliflower is so good for you - all that vitamin C, great to have especially in this cold and flu season).

I didn’t finish all of my soup, though it had a really nice, spicy flavor (Apparently, I really was full from my ‘lunch’) and I wanted to enjoy the rest of the meal.

For our main course, we had gotten the green curry tiger prawns (M had had it before and was dying to have it again) and the Sichuan chicken (I had also been intrigued by the Szechwan lamb, but M isn’t a huge lamb fan, … so I have to go back and try the lamb another time). M described the flavor of the prawns as green – which I think was the cilantro, and which was really fresh. I don't have a better word than green to describe the flavor. The chicken was nice as well, a little spicy in a spicy, rich sauce.

We didn’t get dessert - both because we were pretty full, but also, to be honest, none of the choices grabbed me (I had been hoping for something Pandan, we had that at a noodle place a couple of months ago, and it is one of my very favorite flavors, it just doesn’t show up on the menu very often). But, even without the dessert though, this place is worth checking out – good, solid, spicy (harder to get good, spicy food than one might imagine) asian fusion right in midtown.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Once a year, my friend C and I celebrate with a meal where anything goes. Without regard for budget, portions, etc., we order (not to say that we're too strict otherwise, but for this night it's explicit that there are none). This year we chose Etat-Unis on 81st (between 2nd and 3rd). (And if you haven't been, you should definitely go).

C was in charge of the wine. The interesting thing about the wine list was that it had a ton of what I consider 'expense account' wines ($300+). But it also had a bunch on the double digits (and low $100s). So we weren't really tempted to stretch on the wine (yeah, no holds barred, but we aren't entirely irrational). We went for a nice pinot - it ended up being a bit weak for me, but nice (of course, I don't remember what it was, which maybe shows something).

I don't want to lead anyone to believe that I'm entirely predictable, but I don't think that anyone should be embarassed to state that looking at this menu,

my assumed order would be the fois gras (I love fois gras!) and the lamb (not just lamb, which is always great, but olive and spinach as sides). In fact, choosing any other combination for me would be entirely irrational. And yet...

As I looked at the menu, I was intrigued by the Dungeness crab souffle

and it was so perfect. It was the right combination of crab and lightness. And it was surrounded by what may be the most incredibly rich reduction that I may have ever tasted. I, of course, insisted that C try some. And I kept eating more and more sinking into the sinful softness.

For my second course, I couldn't get my mind off of the veal. It was 'lucious'

The lamb, while it looked delicious, was apparently only 'grilled'. That doesn't quite stack up to 'lucious'. I even asked the waiter about the veal/lamb difference. He said that the lamb was 'dynamite'. But at the end of the day, there are two issues: 1. I only had his word for the 'dynamite', the 'lucious' was right there, in black and white, 2. 'lucious' is just a better word - try saying it out loud, right now, it just rolls off your tongue, and pulls you back in - 'lucious'...

And so, despite the fact that any rational person would have chosen the lamb for me, I went with the veal. And ... it was lucious. The veal literally melted in my mouth. And egg noodles are never bad. It ended up looking like a light beef stew, but in my mouth - it was ambrosia. I want to go back and have it again. Now. Tonight.

And still, we had desert (remember, indulgence). There wasn't even a pause on this one. The chocolate souffle is a must no matter where and at Etat Unis, the date pudding is a mandatory. And so, we had both. I love chocolate souffles, and this one is good. And yet, the date pudding is probably better. It's so hard to choose between two things so close to perfection. Luckily, we didn't have to! We paired the chocolate souffle with a Rocha 10yr port and the date pudding with a 1990 Domaine de Rancy Rivesaltes Ambre.

A perfect meal for our night of indulgence.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Leave it to me.

In the same way that a tasting menu leaves decisions to the chef, selecting the omakase option in a Japanese sushi restaurant leaves you trusting the man behind the counter. Tonight we went to Sasabune (73rd and 1st). My friend J is a big friend of Nozawa in Los Angeles and Kenji at Sasabune apparently learned under Nozawa's second in command at his place in Hawaii. For anyone who knows Nozawa, there are (apparently, I've never been there) plenty of similarities. They start at the beginning, with the Trust Me theme

It's not bad advice to follow. We had a fabulous meal. I knew that we were off to a good start with the origianl table setting. I never get enough ginger in restaurants, I love it to balance the flavors, and always need to ask for more. Except here.

As you can see (or not, as it's totally out of focus), they provide a serious amount of both wasabi and ginger.

But that is not it, the sushi itself is fabulous. We started off with a yellowtail sashimi appetizer. The slices were thin and soft, very fresh. The sauce (ponzu?) also had a bit of a citrus element. A slightly unusual taste, very delicate. Next was two pieces of tuna (I didn't take pictures as the flash was somewhat distracting in the small space) - the toro was absolutely amazing (I got a second piece for 'desert').

Then we had some fluke, some more yellowtail, some bonito, and it went on. I took one more picture (had to do it) when we got to the oysters. They were amazing. I don't know what the sauce was, but it was a little bit spicy.

This was a really nice meal. I highly recommend checking this place out! These are good hands to leave yourself in.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cookie Factory

It's that time of year. Work is heating up as everyone is trying to get things done for the end of the year and social life is heating up as everyone is trying to squeeze in celebrations. And so of course adding 200 cookies to the mix is no problem. Of course I agree that having good food at the events is totally important and that clearly sleep is second behind cookies. But there's definintely a point at which you can't give up more sleep. For those of you who, like me have reached that point, the solution is to make cookie bars instead of cookies.

The difference between making 5 pans of cookies (approx 40 cookies per 9x13 pan) and making 13 pans of 15 individual cookies is enormous. I finished 2 pans of cookies in about 20 minutes plus 30-40 minutes of cooking time, which means less than an hour total for 40 cookies (and only about 10 active minutes per pan) or less than 2 hours and 20 minutes for 5 pans (2 hours and 20 minutes for 6 pans too - I just ran out of eggs, so only 2 pans of congo bars with 3 pans of the other). And (if you choose your cookies right, like I did) fabulously good! (Even with huge spreads - as we had at both events, mine were the cookies that got the accolades.)

These two recipes are ones that my family has used for years, neither of which is that unique, but both of which are the ones that people come back for seconds and thirds on. But the timesaving technique of bars over cookies will work with other recipes as well (and feel free to let me know if you have a good one!)

No Name Bars (We called them Snickerdoodles, which they aren’t, others call them Seven Layer Bars, but I don't like that name - they are the pan on the left)
1 9 x 13 pan

1 pack graham crackers
¼ lb butter (1 stick)
7 oz coconut
6 oz butterscotch chips
6 oz semisweet chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Melt butter in pan.
  3. Crush graham crackers. Mix into butter. Pat to form a crust in the pan.
  4. Cover with coconut.
  5. Shake out the butterscotch chips. Then the semisweet chips.
  6. Cover with the sweetened condensed milk.
  7. Bake 30 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

Congo Bars (much better than chocolate cookie bars, though they look the same, these are a signature dish for my family - they are in the pan on the right )
1 9 x 13 pan

1 box brown sugar
2/3 cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
9 oz semisweet morsels

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix brown sugar and oil.
  3. Add eggs. Mix.
  4. Add baking powder and vanilla. Mix.
  5. Add flour. Mix.
  6. Add chips. Mix.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Simple Things

I'm a huge fan of good food, and I'm bothered when people assume that this means expensive food. I find good food at all prices (and have a lot of fun looking for good examples).

This meal is an example of huge value for money - it's cheap and good. I eat this more than anyone would believe and am happy every time.

Egg in a Hole
1 serving

2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter
1 slice bread

salt & pepper

  1. Rip or cut a circle (1.5 inch diameter) from the center of the bread.
  2. Toast one side of the bread in the buttered skillet. Flip the bread (it's important to get both sides really fried).
  3. Break one egg into the hole and the other against the bottom of the toast (the balance of egg to toast is wrong with just one egg).
  4. Flip when cooked on one side.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Enjoy!

Somebody else cooking!

On Saturday night I was invited over to J & B's house - I do love dinner parties. And J is a great cook (my pictures do not do this meal justice - I really need to work on this). She made veal with fusili and vodka sauce. This is not a sauce that I normally make or order. And after this meal, I'm not sure why, as it was totally awesome.She served it with the veal, lightly grilled on her stovetop. The recipe is incredibly (!) simple. I highly recommend this - both to people in a hurry and those who are not so much.

J’s Vodka Tomatoe Sauce
Sauce for a side of pasta for 4-6

1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 whole cloves garlic
1/3 (to taste) red onions diced
1/3 cup vodka (Smirnoff of course!)
1/4 cup cream (to taste)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup sweet peas
1/8 lb prosciutto torn in little pieces
1/3 cup Locatelli grated cheese (this is saltier than parmigiania cheese, so I prefer, you can also use parmigian but then you'll want to add some salt)

  1. Saute onions (until clear) and garlic
  2. Add everything else except peas, prosciutto and cream; cook for about 15 minutes
  3. Add remaining ingredients and cook another 10-15 minutes
  4. Enjoy!

For desert M brought along a blueberry pie - proving that there are some more than decent store bought pies. And ice cream - always an important option.

It's not just that it's nice to have someone cook for you (which is indeed nice), but that it's always nice to eat great food!


You may recall from my post about my recent cheese course (Mmmmm Cheese!) that there are some who have strong beliefs about food involving all five of the senses. And I don't know that there is anyone who would disagree with the fact that the sense that most often gets short shrift in food is touch. And yet, there are times when it is easy to see what those who try to keep food to a from the silverware to the inside of the mouth kind of perspective are missing. There's something about touch which does just look good:
Couldn't get a shot of the fingers, but you can imagine. This was an ice cream sandwich where touch was enjoyably and effectively employed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I've never been to a place that I had to swear I would only tell blood relatives about (I jokingly said that I would need to get married so I could bring my friends here, and H. negated that idea with a no nonsense look. Blood relatives only.).

Basically, we headed out for a night of drinks - friends, friends of friends, etc. It was loud and fun. But C hadn't eaten anything all day and even after 2 glasses of olives (I am so not exaggerating on that one, they had no food, no apps, no peanuts, just olives and so she ate 2 glasses worth - talk about a dry martini (badump bump)) she was still hungry. And so, our new friend H said that he knew a great place in ______shire (see my Jane Austen post for this one, it's actually a NY neighborhood, but I couldn't put anything in (even letters) without giving clues), which was only 11 street blocks and 1 avenue block from where we were. It was a taco place. C, being Mexican, was sceptical. I, being a food snob, was also sceptical. But he convinced us.

There was some hemming and hawing among the crowd at the bar and finally it was just the three of us, C, H and I left and caught a cab (2 things: 1. H was totally relieved as he was figuring that 3 was a good number for this place, 2. It's freezing outside, which is the only reason one would take a cab for the equivalent of 14 street blocks).

We got out at a rather un-preposessing corner. And then walked from there, one, two, third storefront. Were we stopping to buy lottery tickets? Did we need to pick up the latest copy of the Post? Was it time for a hit of Nicorette? No, really, we were going for dinner. There was a small neon sign in the window, "Mexican Food". At this point, I figured that I had had a decent lunch and so I was fine whatever happened. But, not only did I not have high hopes, I didn't have hopes (except for a tiny flutter in my stomach that said that it was too ridiculous to have this place be bad).

Miguel greeted H as an old friend and C and I as new ones (it's rather embarassing being the one with the worst Spanish when everone else's is effortless, but no one seemed to mind - perhaps I'm overly sensitive). We walked to the back, past the 9 guys on stools (H mentioned that he'd never seen it so crowded; I mentioned that I'd never seen that many men in grey and pink jackets in that neighborhood). The menu went from 'normal' to 'you really need to know what you're doing' in about 13 lines. I ordered from the top two - Bifstek and Enchilada (described as spicy carnitas). C ordered from the bottom and got Pork Belly and Pork Skin (they sound better in Spanish, but apparently, the translation has skipped my mind).

C also decided that she wanted a michelada to drink. H and I got Pacificos. She mixed her own, first the beer, then one condiment, then the next. They didn't have helado, which she was disappointed about (given that it was freezing outside, I was fine with that) and no salt for the rim, but even so, after I tried a sip, I was totally sold. And so she made me one too. It really did seem like it was going to be too much. But it was just so good. These are the ingredients. Really!

And then the tacos came. We got to put onions, green sauce, red sauce (or any combination thereof (H said he always uses all 3; C said that she had never seen a Mexican mix the red and the green; I mixed because they were there)) on the tacos and then dig in. And boy was this the high point of the week. This is a taco! I know that Mexican food in New York is generally abysmal. I know that I (used to) wait for trips to SF to have decent food - I completely wrote off NY, didn't even bother. But now I've been reborn. I now know there is good Mexican food in NY. And I know where to find it. And boy is it good. Really good.

My 2 tacos (Bifstek and Enchilada) were amazing (sorry, didn't want to use the flash - really didn't seem appropriate with the wall decor).

I also tried C's (forgot about the flash here, so it looks the best).

The Pork Belly (far right) was fabulous, the Pork Skin (middle) was rich - I'm not even sure whether I liked it or not (definitely didn't love it). It was just so rich; that was almost more important that the taste. (The left one was the Enchilada, same as mine - didn't try hers, but mine was fabulous).

I also learned that I am apparently a weird eater. Halfway through the meal, C had eaten 1 1/2 of her 3 tacos. H had eated 1 of his 2. I had eaten 1/2 of each of my 2. H said that it was like eating a hot dog and a hamburger side by side one bite at a time. I'm okay with that. I like to balance all flavors - that is probably how I'd eat a hotdog and hamburger at the same time. I just didn't realize that that was totally abnormal. And can I just say, with the beef and the pork that I had - balancing them was the perfect thing to do - they were so good - so very, very good.

I'm sorry that I can't give the address. H made me promise. And I take promises seriously (which means that everyone out there can trust me and take me to their favorite holes in the wall). That said, if you find me on the right kind of night, I might be willing to bring you along (oh yes, I'll be back (and C ordered delivery for tomorrow while we were there tonight, so she's a fan as well - I don't know if they had ever had a $37.00 order before she ordered a huge meal for dinner tomorrow; dinner for me tonight was $6 plus tip, including the drink (don't ask what I paid for 2 slightly better than mediocre Shiraz's at the bar beforehand).

PS While there are a couple of neighborhood clues in here, there aren't enough to find it. Which is too bad, as it really is worth it. But call me and we'll hit it late night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Let There Be Light

I am not a huge fan of cake. Okay, there are the occasional exceptions (flourless chocolate cake; K's cake (the one with oatmeal and yogurt and whatever, that L, her 11 year old thinks is nasty); ice cream cake), but generally it just doesn't do it for me. So once I was old enough to move away from the Cookie Monster sheet cakes (my mom did great kids' cakes - we got to choose the design), we needed something else. Somehow (mom?) we ended up with Blackbottom Pie from the Joy of Cooking as our tradition. And so, tonight, with guests coming, I made myself a birthday pie (it's not something that one can find out at a normal NY restaurant birthday dinner).

Despite the title of this post, I didn't add candles (the smoke alarm had already gone off once while making the biscuits - apparently I either need to clean my oven or move, I'm leaning toward the latter). Light is okay, but I don't know that we really need an inferno. The pie was good. It tasted a bit lighter than my mom's. And I'm relatively convinced that she must add sugar to her whipped cream (something I'm normally totally against, but might balance better here).

The other interesting thing was that I used Valhrona instead of Bakers and I'm not sure that was a good switch. The Bakers seems to give it the Blackness, whereas the Valhrona was definintely brown, chocolatey. That said, it was yummy. Everyone seemed to enjoy - and I had seconds.

I didn't get pictures during the meal - apparently there's this thing called a battery that one needs to be aware of in the camera. So, while the chili was awesome (not too spicy, but plenty of flavor) and the biscuits were moist (another plug for AG (Impulsive Late Night Biscuit Ecstasy - twice this week - to be honest, I hadn't finished the first set, but figured I needed hot ones for guests)), you've just got to imagine it. I did take a picture of the last of the pie before clean-up (found the charger):

Black Bottom Pie
A Deep 9-inch Single-Crust Pie

1 tablespoon gelatin
¼ cup cold water

2 cups whole milk
¾ cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 ½ oz. melted unsweetened chocolate
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon or more rum (optional)
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ oz. shaved semisweet chocolate

  1. Soak gelatin in cold water.
  2. Scald milk. Combine with ½ c sugar and cornstarch. Beat egg yolks until light. Slowly stir the milk into the eggs. Stir in the sugar mixture. Cook these ingredients in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until the custard coats a spoon heavily.
  3. Take out 1 cup of the custard. Add to it the unsweetened chocolate. Beat until well blended and cool. Add vanilla. Pour this into the crust.
  4. Dissolve the soaked gelatin in the remaining hot custard. Let it cool, but not stiffen. Stir in rum. Beat until well blended 3 egg whites. Add cream of tartar. Beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Beat in gradually, a teaspoon at a time ¼ cup of sugar. Fold the egg whites into the custard. Cover the chocolate custard with the rum-flavored custard.
  5. Chill to set.
  6. Whip cream until stiff. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually. Cover custard with the cream. Top with semisweet chocolate.
  7. Enjoy!

Monday, December 04, 2006


So, what do you do if you have 10 people showing up for a book club/dinner tomorrow night and won't be able to leave work early enough to cook - you cook the night before. And so tonight, armed with my list of ingredients, I headed off to the grocery store. I had found a fabulous looking Pork Chili with Tomatoes on epicurious (a great place to look for recipes, especially if you're already at work and realize that you need to stop at the store before going back home). Basically, it had me at the poblanos. I don't know what it is about them, but I love just about anything made with poblanos.

My first stop was the standard grocery (lower prices, but fewer options with produce, etc.) where I picked up a phenomenal amount of pork as well as the other ingredients. With 4 very heavy bags weighing down my hands (did I really need the 5lb bag of sugar, when I'm not quite out and had 2 huge cans of stock for this recipe - No), I staggered the two (Avenue) blocks home.

I then darted back out to the good grocery to get the poblanos, non-anemic looking cilantro and green onion, etc. And they didn't have any poblanos. Yes, it's December. But I would have sworn they had some in last week, but maybe it was indeed last month. And now, I'm stuck with 7 (count 'em) 7 pounds of pork and no poblanos. It's too late (i.e., it's 8pm and I haven't eaten anything for tonight's dinner yet either) to choose another dish and so I'll improvise. I'm totally fine with improvising. Except, I've never really improvised with heat/a fairly main ingredient to this extent.

The store has some nice looking Italian Sweet Peppers and some beautiful Jalepenos (turns out I don't know how to do a tilda on my computer). I buy about the right amount of Italian Sweet Peppers and a handful of the Jalepenos. But how many to actually add? The quickest way to make a chili dinner into a pizza dinner is to add too many and then you're dialing. My gut told me one, but I really hate bland food too.

It turns out that we are left relatively on our own on issues like these. I tried the usual sources for basic facts - The Joy of Cooking (actually, I didn't really think they'd list it in Equivalents, but I had it open for the pie I'm baking next (if I don't fall asleep first)), but they only do food size conversions (of course that would have been useful about 2 hours earlier when I was trying to figure out how many onions was 6 cups (I'm also really bad at figuring out how many yards I am from the green - but there they give you nice little markers, right where you need them). I've enclosed a picture, not because I really think anyone doubts that Joy of Cooking was not helpful, but because I've never taken a picture of a book (and it's not like this site is going to win any photo awards anyway) - see 'Green Peppers' right at the top, but no Poblanos (and no heat conversions anyway):

Then I tried my mother, who was clearly not dealing with reality, "Why not just half and half?" (Uh, mom, have you ever tried a Jalapeno?). But then, a flash, "Wait, last night I made soup and put in 2 Jalapenos, O & I thought it was perfect, but F thought it was too hot". Given that my mother has no taste buds in her mouth (she could not eat the spice level she eats if she had any left, I figured that 1 or 1+) was perfect. (Thanks mom!)

So, it's been reducing for about 20 minutes (and it needs to reduce a bunch because the largest pot I have is an 8 Qt, which turns out to be about 2c too small) and I tried a bite. It definitely needs some time, but I figured it was pretty obviously a little too bland. I cut up half of one of the back-up Jalapenos (already roasted, I'm not a total idiot) and walked over to the pot. And that's when it hit (okay, so clearly it needs to simmer for a while to bring those flavors together). I did add a bit more of the chopped Jalapeno, but figured I didn't need the whole half.

Looks pretty good (and how cool is the steam), now I just need to stay awake for another hour. Oh yeah, and make the pie.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In the Beginning

Having read any number of food blogs, it's clear that people generally food blog because of a love of food/tastes/wine/restaurants/etc. But I'm often curious as to the impetus - what got them off the couch and typing (or, if they're like me and have a laptop and wireless, what got them typing while still lazing on the couch).

I just whipped up a batch of biscuits (a total Sunday morning indulgence). And as usual (at least for the past few months), when I'm in the mood for buttermilk biscuits, I go back to a recipe from the Amateur Gourmet.

Impulsive Late Night Biscuit Ecstasy

And I realized that this recipe was one of those milestones along the path to me starting my blog. This was the first blog recipe (though not the last) that I tried while I was still just reading. But making it made me feel a little bit like I was participating in the world of blogging.

Now I'm trying to remember what my first comment was. If I remember, and if it turns out to be interesting, I'll post about it.

But back to the biscuits. I highly recommend that you try them. They're so easy (~35 minutes from flour to mouth (20 minutes cooking time)), and so good - which is why they've become one of my mainstays.

Today I'm having the biscuits with butter (totally unnecessary, but that's what an indulgence is) and Sarabeth's jams (Strawberry Raspberry and Mango Strawberry). I often use clotted cream (didn't have any and didn't feel like going 'all the way' downstairs and 1 block away to get it - feel free to refer back to the earlier 'lazy' comment) and my mom's homemade strawberry jam (out of that too - mom, if you're reading this, that sounds like an addressable problem - hint, hint).

Saturday, December 02, 2006


At first glance it seems that specialty tonic waters are just one more example of excess. But then maybe that's not the excess; maybe that's about actually making things good. Maybe the whole HFCS version is more excessive than the specialty version. Isn't it a bit riduculous to have politics define that we use a sweetner that doesn't taste as good as the cheaper (without interference) and better tasting one. I'm willing to pay for quality, but wouldn't it be better if we made things good in the first place.

We had lunch at Per Se a month or so ago. And we tried their Gin and Tonic - with their special tonic. And it was good. It was even great. And then on Wednesday, the New York Times raised the broader issue:
Specialty Tonic Waters, Subtly Sweet

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Hamburger Fray

One of the great things about NY is the battles that exist that will never be won (e.g., the best baseball team, the best way to get from a to b). Everyone has an opinion and arguments are not about convincing, because no one ever converts. And so, as I write this post on my favorite hamburger, I am in no way deluding myself into believing that I will sway those who have an alternate belief system. I am merely exercising my right as American to expound on the joys of a burger from J.G. Melon’s.

I know the detractions. Yes, it’s pricey (for a burger, not bad for a dinner); yes, the wait is long (I waited 2 months for a table at French Laundry, so I guess, relatively, 40 minutes isn’t bad); yes, it’s on the Upper East Side (I’m not even going to get into that one). I also know the burgers that people put up in comparison: Shake Shack (good burger, better shake and awesome to be outside), Corner Bistro (good burger, after drinks), etc.

But at the end of the day, what matters is the burger
and the burger at Melon’s is amazing. It may even be perfection (not something I see often in my life and so I’m somewhat hesitant to make that call). I order the same thing every time: Cheddar burger, medium rare, grilled onions. When it arrives, I add ketchup, pickles and raw onions. I then cut it into quarters – it’s so juicy that it has a tendency to mash into a mess if you try to eat the whole thing at once. Life is good.

Deja vu - all over again

There is almost no week where I don't have streetmeat for lunch once. But I do try to avoid overdoing it. Everything in moderation (of course, that includes moderation). Apparently this week was one of those weeks when the moderation was in moderation. That and the fact that I wanted to show how much better the aforementioned eggplant make the lunch - they're the slightly darker, slightly shinier dark things along the top.

(As an aside, and I'm sure I'll get more animated about this at another time, my views on 'good' and 'bad' food are pretty much as follows: I think that food that is pretty 'pure' is good (includes everything from chocolate to red wine to cheese to foie gras to whipping cream, etc.) and food that is not is bad (includes a lot of fast food and processed food). I stay away from things like trans-fats and try to eat organics, etc. when I can. But I don't stay away from fat or red meat or anything else good. And as of my doctor appointment on the 17th of November, my cholesterol is right on target. Whatever I'm doing, it works for me. )