Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We Ate New York

After begrudgingly returning to Orlando after a dream-like weekend of gustatory bliss,I'm in the process of compiling all of our food photos from New York—some of which are good, some of which are not-so-good—and in the next day or so, I'll be gradually posting all of them with some captions.  No real writing - just some gloating. 

To whet your appetite in the mean time, here's a photo of the Chinese feast we stumbled upon at a quick-serve lunch restaurant around Main Street in Flushing, Queens.  So preeeeeeeetty...

Bon appetit, yous guys.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New York Nosh: Update

We've picked our poisons for our long weekend Spring Break in New York.

Here's the rundown:

Blue Hill
Executive Chef: Dan Barber
Noted for: Basically inventing the farm-to-table movement. They grow pretty much everything (animals included) at the Stone Barns property upstate. Next trip, we'll be visiting the farm.

Katz's Delicatessen
Since 1888
Noted for: Pastrami sandwiches as big as your head. Seriously.
Equipment needed: Backhoe, antacid, Dr. Browns cream soda

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Executive Chef: Cute-as-a-button David Chang
Noted for: Making ramen an art form, crack pie (not made from actual crack, but as addictive as), steamed pork buns (second favorite food)

Saturday: GAME DAY - beer and sausages. And that's just the company.


Peruvian Chicken Shack whose name escapes me
Noted for: Amazing 'pollo a la brasa' rotisserie chicken, chop suey
Equipment needed: Working knowledge of Spanish language, chastity belt (My Cliff is Peruvian and he is hott)

Executive Chef: Michael White
Noted for: Elegant Italian seafood, excellent $89 prix fixe dinner menu, swanky Chelsea location.
Equipment needed: Loaded credit card, air of sophistication

Along the way there will, of course, be hot dogs and Regina's pizza, a trip (or two) to Dean & Deluca, and who know what else along the way. I'll keep ya'll posted.

I may not come back. 

*Photo of Marea courtesy of the New York Daily News
** Photo of Blue Hill courtesy of

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Get Surreal

Fair warning: this post has little to nothing to do with food.

I've been in an incredibly pensive mood. I'm not sure why. It might be the uncharacteristic chill in the Florida air or the impending stormclouds or the unrectified longing to carefree days on the beach eating coconut shrimp tacos. It might me any one of those things that has me thinking about Salvador Dali, the artist and his work.

The Espace Dali, a tiny space in Montmartre, was the first museum I visited in Paris, and so bizarre were his works that they instantly captivated me. Alice in Wonderland, The Rose (above), Three Surrealist Women, all the symbolism and surrealism took me for a wild ride and had me questioning life as I knew it. What did everything around me mean in the wide world? Was I misinterpreting signs in my every day life? What was life, anyway.

The woman I worked for in Paris had a Spanish painter ex-husband whose father knew Dali intimately. In fact, her father was Dali's art dealer while he lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Dali Museum stands today. It's a wonderful place. You should go visit it, take the tour - it's well worth the trip.

So Dali has been a part of my life ever since I was young and laid eyes on those melting clocks.

The Persistence of Memory (above) is a painting that means a lot to me, how immovable and resistent time and memory both are is something I've grappled with throughout my life. How do I get over failures and traumatic events in my life without being able to forget them completely?

Funny enough, in my current place of work, there are a group of Dali originals, the Alice in Wonderland sequence. Often, I feel like Alice in a Wonderland of plastic products I know nothing about and only pretend to understand.

When my friend Kelly and I went to Dalifest a few years ago, I bought an adorable cookbook (here's the food!) called Surreal Gourmet Bites by Bob Blumer, "The Surreal Gourmet." It's a collection of not-what-they-seem appetizers like a hangover cure that looks like Pepto Bismol but is actually a raspberry and banana smoothie, or a panna cotta that looks like a 3-minute egg but is filled with white vanilla gelatine and a creamy mango "yolk" center. It's adorable, well worth some time, and available on

Anyway, as I contemplate the rest of my life, I see it as The Rose, rising from the desert, with a glow of promise and optimism, but still too far out of reach to be of any consequence.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gnoshing on the Big Apple...Again

It's soccer season again.

This means two things: hurriedly scheduled trips to random MLS cities (Salt Lake City, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, Dallas, San Jose, etc.) and one or two amazing trips to the city where my heart and appetite reside— New York City. For the record, I have never lived there, but my stomach, yearning for street food and drippy pizza, has always been a New Yorker.

The New York Red Bulls will be opening the season at their new stadium against the Chicago Fire (who have the most clever team name in the MLS), which also means that my Cliff and I will be there, in New York, later this month.

My heart starts to race as I think about exiting the subway and stepping into the five-spice-scented air of Flushing, Queens, biting down on pillowy char siu bao. I yearn to slather some mustard on a dirty water hot dog and crown it with kraut on Houston St. and fold my pizza in half as I walk down the sidewalk in Central Park. The problem this all presents is where to eat sitting down.

All the foodie hype about Chef David Chang decided the first place to visit when we take the International Express 7 train from Queens to Grand Central.

Momofuku Noodle Bar seems like the perfect fit for us. We’re both suckers for pan-Asian cuisine, and to taste ramen broth and noodles that take 5 cookbook pages and 3 days to explain and create sounds like a bowl of heaven to me. First stop: David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar (and probably Momofuku Milk Bar—the dessert wing—next door).

Since the Travel Channel has unofficially changed from “where to travel” channel to the “where to pig out” channel, my Cliff and I have become mildly addicted to the show—no, the train wreck—Man VS. Food, hosted by chef Adam Richman. Adam travels the country (that’s where the ‘travel’ part comes in) in search of the biggest and most disgusting food challenges across the fifty states. It’s something to watch a 40-something man devour a liter of vanilla milkshake. It’s something else to watch him hoark down SIX of them and then watch him race to the restroom. Food wins.

Regardless, we watch this show. On a trip to Manhattan, Adam visited a New York landmark: Katz’s Deli. I’m a sucker for bagels and lox. According to my mother, I have some Polish Jew blood in my veins. I can’t pass up a chance at a pastrami reuben (Again with the sauerkraut! Mazel tov!), and the one from Katz’s looks too good to ignore. Second stop: Katz’s Deli.

Here comes the hard part. Last year, we ate at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole. The picture below is excatly where we sat! The seven-course tasting menu ran us about $125, but included wine, petits fours, and chocolates as well as a delicious green apple sorbet as a palate cleanser and salmon crudo for amuse bouche. It was one of the best meals of my life.

Now, I have do decide where to go that will equal or top that meal. Per Se? wd-50? La Grenouille? Bouley? Les Halles? Gilt? Le Bernardin? I have no idea. I’ve made reservations at Babbo and Perilla so far – should I make a third? This is the million-dollar—or at least the $300—question. Feel free to chime in. I’ll be scouring for a table for two.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Eating the Magic City: Birmingham

Last weekend, my Cliff and I returned to Birmingham, Alabama, for a wedding. A friend of mine, with whom I interned with at Cooking Light magazine, was marrying a guy I told her she should marry a year ago. I told you so, MaryAnne.

We stayed with my roommate, Donna, senior food writer for Southern Living magazine. Her intern roommate now is a chef - and this is how our delicious weekend started:

When Liz walked in the house, she said, "I have some pretty nice semi-aged goat cheese here, if you're into that." Yes, Liz, I'm into that. It was then that I remembered why I stayed at Cooking Light after all - free high-quality comestibles.

I think, during the time I lived and worked in Birmingham, I maybe went grocery shopping once or twice. All of my food came from the test kitchen, where 'grocery giveaway' is a Friday event. Anything left over from the test kitchen's week goes up for grabs, and sometimes, there are real finds - like this goat cheese. The stuff smelled a lot funkier than it actually tasted. Though it smelled like wet workboots, it's creamy, grassy and tangy.

Full Moon BBQ, labeled as 'the best little pork house in Alabama,' is one of my favorite eateries in The Magic City.

In the thick of downtown, Full Moon does pulled pork right (above), and their coleslaw is unique enough that I think about it almost weekly from 600 miles away. It's vinegar-based, rather than creamy, and brims with cabbage and sweet onions and celery. The half-moon cookies are on's food bucket list, "Top 100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die." They're crispy and half-covered in thick, tempered chocolate.

That night, we took Donna out for her birthday to Bettola, an italian spot in Pepper Place, the spot of the ancient Dr. Pepper bottling plant. Now a chic pizza joint, Bettola makes fresh-as-can-be pizzas with sauce as vibrant red as fresh-picked tomatoes and mozzarella that bubbles and squeaks.

We enjoyed the mascarpone pizza with ham and arugula far too much. An appetizer platter with wild boar salume and velvety white bean dip was the perfect palate tantalizer.

The wedding was lovely, ended early, and afforded us the opportunity to visit the second location of Richard Blais' new FLIP Burger Boutique in the Summit Mall area. We'd enjoyed our meal at the original location in Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Georgia, so we couldn't help but indulge in a liquid nitrogen milkshake (I ordered the Krispy Kreme shake - hot and NOW!) and the Southern Burger.

This thing was EPIC. It's a little hard to see in the photo, but it was so rich and full of fat, I felt my HDL-levels rise and my arteries harden like plaster. A chicken-fried burger patty, topped with pimento cheese, fresh cucumber pickles and doused in red-eye gravy. I felt almost embarassed. But not embarassed enough not to eat most of it (Cliff enjoyed the rest after his rBQ brisket burger smothered in Arby's-style red bbq sauce, crowned with North Carolina slaw).

On Sunday, we were lucky enough to eat at home. Donna made delicious omelets and grits - pure Southern comfort. A Greek grocery in Birmingham, the name escapes me, makes a sort of Greek version of pimento cheese - feta and olive oil spiked with oregano and other spices. Folded into the grits, it was heaven.

I just recieved an e-mail from IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) revealing the nominees for their annual cookbook awards. Birmingham residents Frank Stitt of Bottega and Chris and Idie Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, as well as my dear friends at Cooking Light and the Southern ladies and gentlemen of Southern Living were all nominated. Maybe, as New York feels the stretch of the Great Recession, Birmingham will be our next foodie destination...