Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunsets and Seafood in Santa Barbara

Driving fast on the 101, as the highway stretches and curves with the coastline while the sun conducts its orchestra of colors playing in the sky until it slips behind the horizon's edge- it's as if the world is expanding. Even if it's just for the day, Santa Barbara is a nice respite from LA. At the very end of Santa Barbara's pier is a spot that offers fresh, straightforward seafood in a laidback atmosphere that the East Coast just doesn't have. J and I sat at the counter next to an gray-haired surfer wearing his dinner sweatshirt, shorts and flip flops talking about the day's waves while having a bottle of Anchor Steam with his meal. No loafers or madras plaid at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. California...

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.
230 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3571
(805) 966-6676

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Food and Beauty

JD and I received a wonderful gift for Christmas from friends who love food maybe as much as we do. JF and MS gave us a subscription to a gorgeous paperback culinary journal / cook book that is at once visually stunning and intimate. Canal House Cooking is the creation of two women who know their food. Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, together, have spanned all facets of the food industry, from food magazine publishing, editing, photography, chef, recipe developer, and restaurant owner, to name of a few. But despite being industry veterans, Hirsheimer and Hamilton have taken a homespun approach to their seasonal cook book, by not only self-publishing, but by keeping their inspired recipes in simple form so the rest of us can make delicious and pretty meals at home too. Their 'home kitchen' where the recipes are created, executed and eaten is in the Delaware River Valley, a place that I've been fortunate enough to escape to several times over the past few years. I have enjoyed so many meals prepared with locally grown ingredients at my cousin's Bucks County country home of big meals and marathon eating. I can't wait to try one of their recipes for the next feast. Here's a peek at V.2

Monday, December 21, 2009

New AmsterDAMN!

Intrepid vendors stood at the South Street Seaport just after the blizzard, hawking their goods, and ringing their bells at the hour of the last outdoor market of the season. The New Amsterdam Market is a convergence of the most passionate and skilled purveyors, bakers, mongers and artisans that offer up the best stuff from the region. Samples abound from chocolate to cheese...and if you are still hungry after the freebies, there are food stalls where fresh oysters are shucked on the spot and herby, fatty, yummy Porchetta sandwiches from the East Village are carved from the source to fatten you up for the winter. It's heavenly for a food lover and if it wasn't so frosty out, I would have stuck around for a serious degustation.
'Til the Spring...

Crop to Cup Family Farmed Coffee

Escot Valley Farm cheese

Porchetta sandwiches

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicks and Babies

This is for JD, a Chick-Fil-A fiend. Atlanta, Georgia, the birthplace of Chick-Fil-A (over 40 years ago!) This was taken on Peach Tree Road while rushing my friend to the hospital for the surprise month-early delivery of her beautiful baby boy. Though the thought did cross my mind, drive-thru was not an option.

Fridays are Bananas!

The end of the work week can drag, so we look to a good, old fashioned sugar rush to perk us up. Sometimes a theme is good for narrowing down the plethora of dessert choices in the neighborhood. This Friday's theme: BANANAS

Banana pudding trifle that comes cutely intact in a mason jar and ...

...a small banana cream pie from Kitchenette are two good ways to get a sugar buzz while also getting in some potassium, vitamin C and B6.

156 Chambers Street
New York NY 10007
(212) 267-6740

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Comfort Me With Shakshuka, For I Am Sick of This Cold

I'm not sure I would make it through the winter without the help of one of my favorite comfort foods: SHAKSHUKA. Shakshuka is a popular Israeli egg dish that originated in North Africa. It consists of poached eggs in a perfectly spiced sizzling tomato stew served and eaten straight from the pan . A place to get it is the very affordable Hummus Place (now 4 locations) in Manhattan. You can also add the spongy, salty haloumi cheese to make the dish even more hearty. It is served with fluffy regular or whole wheat pita.

I can't mention Hummus Place without mentioning my other absolute favorites like Hummus Masabacha made with whole chickpeas served warm (add an hard-boiled egg and it's perfect!)

...and Kadaif dessert which is so divine that I almost cried the first time I had it. Dry kadaif, vanilla infused ricotta, shredded halva drizzled with honey date sauce. I usually have this with warm fresh mint tea.

The quintessential comfort meal to ward off the biting-cold of winter...

Hummus Place
71 7th Ave South
New York, NY

(212) 924-2022

Monday, December 7, 2009

Exquisite Corpse On Fruit

Novelist, poet, essayist, Andrei Codrescu held an exquisite corpse workshop followed by reading at the Sunday Salon at Jimmy's No. 43 in the East Village. He suggests smooth surfaces like bananas, pears and even grapes. Seasonal fruit like persimmons are good too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It Hits the Spot

St. Marks Place has a new dessert spot, and thank goodness it doesn't involve pumping sour frozen yogurt under glaring lights. After eating ramen, yakitori, pho, banh mi, pad kee mao, or Korean fried chicken on the block, head downstairs to a more sedate place for your toothsome treats. Spot is a respite from the usual clamor on street level with a minimal industrial-chic vibe of cement floors, raw wood benches, candlelight and boxed sprouts of green grass (a nice change to the space that once housed the ever-perplexing The Iron Fairies store). Pichet Ong (Batch and P*ong) creates these sweet innovations by borrowing from the variety of desserts and
ingredients spanning Asia. Items on the menu include sparkly cupcakes like Vanilla Caramel Vietnamese Coffee and Chocolate Green Tea Fruit Jam, artful entrees like Poached Persimmon and White Miso Semifreddo, Jackfruit Cake (made with basil seed, rum toffee and coconut), Chocolate Chip Coconut cookies, and beverages like Hot Ovaltine, Bubble Tea and Homemade Passion Fruit Soda.

Vanilla Caramel Vietnamese Coffee and Chocolate Green Tea Fruit Jam cupcakes

Soft Cheesecake with walnut lemon and huckleberries.

Spot Dessert Bar
13 St. Marks Place (between 2nd and 3rd Aves.)
(212) 677-5670

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Taken by J in Chinatown. If I look at these long enough, I might become a vegetarian again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dénouement at Raoul's

This is a wonderful way to end a meal at Soho institution, Raoul's French bistro. Crème Fraîche Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Tart, Calvados, Fresh Mint Tea and Coffee. The cheesecake is light, creamy and unforgettable.

180 Prince St. (btwn. Sullivan & Thompson Sts)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 966-3518

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Emotional Restaurant List (gets more emotional because of all the goodbyes)

1) Blue Hill
2) The Spotted Pig
3) Blue Ribbon / Blue Ribbon Bakery
4) Brown Cafe
5) Souen
6) Raoul's
7) Omen
8) Totto Yakitori
9) Five Points
10) Sripraphai
11) Kuma Inn
12) Eleven Madison
13) Bao 111
14) Shorty's 32
15) Mermaid Inn
16) Palacinka - CLOSED (goodbye crepes)
17) Market Table
18) 9th St. Market - CLOSED (goodbye fluffy pancakes w/piles of fresh fruit)
19) Prune
20) 'inoteca
21) Minca
22) Soba Koh
23) Hummus Place
24) Una Pizza Napoletana - CLOSED (goodbye pizza pie!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Like Water for Pizza

I've been hearing about the fabled Lucali pizza for the past few years from a gastronomically-inclined friend, JF, who had moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan and was so thankful that there was a really good pizza place that opened around the corner from him. Any pizza conversation, or food conversation for that matter, or even Brooklyn vs. Manhattan conversation, 'that really good pizza place around the corner from me' always managed to find its way in. Also emphasized was the story about how it was a neighborhood local, Mark Iacono, who spared this once old soda fountain from becoming a cold, cold chain. Iacono wasn't even in food (more like marble and granite), he was just a sentimental guy whose loyalty to his quickly-changing neighborhood inspired him to open a special pizzeria. Iacono was also loyal to the discerning palates of the of neighborhood and did his homework before opening. He scoured the five boroughs interviewing locals to learn the key elements of a making a good pie.

By coincidence, three years later, we were asked by Brooklyn friends to meet them for drinks and pizza in their neighborhood and it so happened to be none other than JF's 'that really good pizza place around the corner from me'. The wait to eat at Lucali was over 45 minutes, but considerately they call you on your cell when you're up so we were free to roam. It's also BYOB, which is nice because you can go as low-brow or high-brow as you like. There's no menu, but instead the server lists the fresh toppings of the day to pick from. It was worth the trek out to Brooklyn. The brick-oven pizza rivals many of the top pizzerias. The toppings were fresh, the sauce just slightly sweet and crust thin, but not
too thin to stand up to the ingredients.

To not speak about the ambiance, would be leaving a crucial element of Lucali's charm out. Layered in wool from head to toe, we walked through the quiet, wintry brownstone-lined streets to finally arrive at a warm candle-lit dining room of rustic wooden tables and chairs and honey-colored Venetian plastered walls. The intoxicating smell of freshly baked pizza - tomatoes, herbs, spices - filled the air and we were safe from the cold night. In the back, a marble L-shaped counter is anchored by the radiant fire emanating from the brick oven. Men in fitted white t-shirts prepare the dough at the waist-high counter, tossing and stretching, tossing and stretching in the flickering glow cast by only a few candlesticks. They spread the red sauce in concentric circles and expertly dress the pizza with toppings before feeding it to the mouth of a hungry oven. Lucali makes pizza sexy. JF said that since it first opened the prices have gone up, so he's a little bummed out. Maybe he isn't as impressed by the ambiance...

Lucali Pizza
575 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 858-4086

Friday, October 30, 2009

Keste - The "It" Pie

All those mourning the loss of the East Village's Una Pizza Napoletana, should really try Keste pizzeria in the West Village. They serve authentic Neapolitan pies adhering to the strict guidelines of the age-old tradition of Neapolitan pizza making. Though the craft is taken very seriously here - as evidenced by the tiled wood-burning oven anchoring the back of pizzeria - the atmosphere is no-fuss casual and friendly. The crust is thin, chewy and just charred enough on the underside of the pie. (Just a friendly note: Walk with caution when passing the oven area on the way to the bathroom, there might be flour on the floor and it can be a little slippery.)

Keste Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker St
(between Morton St & Jones St)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-1500

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You Need Lots of Hygge and Lots of Kroner To Eat In Copenhagen

On the cusp of the frigid cold, S and I were what appeared to be the only tourists in Copenhagen (aside from Obama and Oprah who were lobbying for the Olympics to be held in Chicago). Maybe it was the cold droplets of rain, the gusts of Nordic wind that had a good laugh at our coats and scarves... and the fact that rice costs $4 and a couple of spring rolls from a Vietnamese take out place can cost about $10+ (which we didn't try because we couldn't rationalize it comparing it to $2 in NYC's Chinatown) that S and I had Copenhagen to ourselves. If it wasn't for stretching out S's hearty minestrone soup (with the addition of a fried egg on Soup Day 2, penne on Soup Day 3, etc), I would've probably starved to death. Apparently the Danish know this too, which is why they take so much care in creating the perfect ambiance for relaxing, entertaining and dining at home, the respite from their steely winters and outrageous costs of eating out!

The flat we stayed at reflected this certain ambiance or what the Danish call hygge. Hygge is loosely translated into 'coziness', but seems to be more of a Danish approach or even philosophy on how to live life, giving even the most everyday things or moments attention and care; things that people from other parts of the of the world would commonly overlook. Which is perhaps why Dane's are also so focused on design and why a box of salt or baking chocolate look like they should be sold at MoMA. It's a very difficult word to translate, but trying to grasp it is part of the fun.

Back to food. The following are Danish treats that our kroner could buy as well as some icons of Danish life.

S's Minestrone Soup with Fried Egg

Pølser is delicious! Crisp. Snappy. Well-spiced, but not over-spiced. After my puzzled look at the autonomous bun, the woman in the wagon demonstrated through universal unofficial sign language that I am supposed to alternate bites of bun then pølser, bun then pølser. The wagons are conveniently 'peppered' throughout the city and they offer about 8 different kinds of sausages.

Flødebollers. Marshmallow-like center with a thin wafer base covered in a shell of chocolate. S had to get them, and I'm glad she did. Similar to those cheap marshmallow Santas or bunnies or like a fluffier Mallomar.

Lagkagehuset, Christianshavn. Wonderful bread and pastries!

Danish flaky pastry with poppyseed paste and chocolate. S's favorite!

Frederiksberg Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød. Danish open-faced sandwich on dark rye bread.

Salami onion with a little 'sky' or salty gelatin cube, liver paste and pickles and beet, roast beef with pickles and horseradish pickle and curryish mayo. The liver paste was a fraction too intense for me.

Egg, potato, breaded fried fish the sauce is almost a curry mayo with a slight sweetness- I took most of it off because it was a little too much for each portion.

Hansen's nougat flavored ice cream bar or 'lolly'. Rich and creamy, all natural and apparently one of Denmark's best. Even in the cold, we had to try it. I probably would've enjoyed it more if 1) it was warm and 2) if I could breathe and wasn't sick. I equally enjoyed the packaging.

Carlsberg beer. Only one in 5 days. Shame on me.

Ricco's coffee. The cappuccino gods were listening.

An example of nice Danish packaging. Baking chocolate.


Espressocycle. Why don't they have these everywhere?

One of hundreds, thousands(!), of nice Danish bikes


...and more hygge.