30 April 2009

Favorite Food Blogs

The UK's Times Online posted a list of "50 of the world's best food blogs". I chose to view the ommission of my own blog as an oversight. There's always next year to correct the mistake...

In the meantime, I love to patronize the blogs of fellow "food enthusiasts" as Matthew Wexler would say. (Matthew has a new blog called Roo de Loo).

Here are a couple that didn't make the list but should.

  • My favorite is Ms. Glaze's Pommes D'Amour; she's so damn readable. A graduate of gay Paris' Le Cordon Bleu by way of Cornell University, she's a pedigreed chef in a fancy New York restaurant. Her personal life, the travels to and from Paris, her native California, and new home in New York, and beautiful recipes all feed into the strong narrative of a girl trying to make it in the man's world that is the world's top restaurants. It could be turned easily into a novel, TV show, or movie (revealing her Cali show biz instincts?), and I read it as such for its feeling of escapism.

  • Tea and Food is more of a mixed bag as it's sometimes more preachy than pleasurable, but I do love how it often showcases out-of-the-mainstream ingredients. His Boston focus also means that he sometimes has food stories I haven't come accross before. The bottomline is that I keep on coming back for more, which is the ultimate mark of a good blog.

Twitter Cookbook Magic

Although I've resisted the Twitter bug, I succumbed to the charms of this New York Times article by Lawrence Downes.

Maureen Evans, a British Columbian living in Belfast, condenses a range of interesting, complex recipe into the 140 character formula of Twitter. As Downe writes, they read like haiku, teensy gems, or Faberge eggs. It's a brilliant food writing innovation, especially when there's a certain sameness to all the prose written out there (a critique I apply to my blog as well).

Find the link to her Twitter page here.

Samples recipes:

Chevre-Pomegranate Portobellos: stem/oil 4shrooms; stuff w 8T chevre/s+p. Wrap w 4pce prosciutto (opt). 25m @375F/190C. Top w pomegranate.

Brown Dal: fry T oil/t cumin; +c onion/2t garlic&ging&chili&curry. Simmer20m+c brwnlentil/3c h2o. Blend+2T lemon&buttr. Srv w cilantro/rice.

New Eggplant Parmesan: cvr3tom/s+p/3T wine@low7m; puree. Slice/oil2eggplant; 15m@400F/205C. Dip w egg/crumb&s+p. Broil+c parm. Srv on puree.

Surprisingly intelligable, no?

29 April 2009

Sam's Falafel

Just off Broadway on Cedar Street, way down at the tip of Manhattan near Wall Street stood the largest line for falafel I've seen in a good while. Naturally, I dragged a friend and went to try it. 20 minutes later, sandwich bag in hand and out of lunch break time, we had to bolt back to the office.

Sam's Falafel is no amateur. He hands out fried pita chips to keep us waiting in line (wedges of nearly stale pita that still held the nice granular texture inherent to grain, and the taste not of salt but of well-salted dough). What's more, for a $3 sandwich, it's hard to go wrong.

While perhaps not the best I've ever had (and in fairness, I've eaten a lot of falafel in my day, in many countries), this one was both credible and delicious. The falafel was toothsome and freshly fried, doled out in a generous portion. The chickpeas constituting it were coursely pureed and well seasoned. I especially enjoyed the addition of slices of fried eggplant, which were thick-cut and not too greasy. Sam's hot sauce is the spiciest I've ever come accross in Manhattan, which is a good thing! Instead of the fried onions, though, I would have prefered hummus or baba ghanoush to echo the fried eggplant slices. Worthy of a repeat? Definitely.

22 April 2009

BACKSTAGE PASS: Food Bank Can-Do Awards 2009

Food and celebrities united for a good cause made for a fine evening yesterday.

Since it was a glitzy fundraiser for the Food Bank For New York City attended by many consciously skinny people, the emphasis wasn't necessarily on the dinner. I, however, couldn't be so easily distracted and caught this appetizer waiting for CEO Lucy Cabrera in our volunteer's lounge. Without the benefit of a menu, I can only tell you that it was a breaded , fried jumbo shrimp on top of a bed of shredded carrot and a plantain crisp. Some sort of risotto formed the base. I appreciated the orange sauce on the plate, the official color of the Food Bank. I will have to dig deeper with my informants at the organization for the exact description.

For the main, a seared piece of white fish served alongside baby leak or a steak with potato purée was the choice. Neither looked particularly interesting, and I'm suspicious of the kitchen's ability to cook such finicky proteins for a few hundred people at a time. Fish and steak are so easily overcooked, and judging by the paste-y, wilted vegetables accompanying the meat, it was probably inevitable in this case.

At any fundraiser it's well recommended to keep the booze flowing in order to open up people's wallets. Can-Do did not skimp in this regard. Every moment of the 6pm-1am event featured not only an open bar, but roving waiters with wine and pre-mixed cocktails. The Food Network hosted a dessert buffet which I did not witness. Sweets never hold my attention. The accompanying champagne, however, I was sad to miss.

I enjoyed spotting Bill Clinton (who showed up at 11pm dead tired, not his usual self), Anthony Bourdain (doting heavily on his wife, Ottavia Busia), Mario Batali (the life of the party), Tom Collicchio, Anne Burrell, Susie Fogelson, Katie Lee Joel, Emeril Lagasse, Jimmy Fallon, Isaac Mizrahi, Kenneth Cole, Bono, and Jon Bon Jovi (the honoree of the evening). My more music saavy friends spotted various members of REM. Of course those are only the people recognizable to me. Check out the various paparazzi sites of the event for other famousity:

PR photos
Getty Images

Unfortunately no original photos from this photographer as I was working the event in an official capacity.

Which reminds me, I need a new camera for taking pictures of food - after 4 years of service this one isn't cutting it anymore. Any suggestions?

20 April 2009

Making Stock / Dancing with a bag of Peter Luger Cow Bones

I took my bag of Peter Luger steak bones out to dance at the Alphabet City Lounge after dinner. It was worth it, and it was surprising how little shame I felt in the act. Good meat will do that to me.

The ultimate payoff, though, was in the stock. With little more than the 2 T-bones of gnawed-on bones and half a large onion, I boiled up a delicious stock in just 2 hours.

There's a lot of pride in good homemade stock. I always feel a safe (and a little smug) knowing I have some in the fridge. It's the fact that it turns what would have been trash into culinary treasure.

The key, I've found, is to keep a sturdy container in the fridge or freezer for each prospective stock after a meal of meat on bones (chicken, beef, lamb, whatever). Then, as you chop up vegetables for other dishes as the week goes on, save the bits you would have thrown away (especially things like onion peels), and add them to the stock pile. Once the container's full, shove everything into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for as long as you can manage - 2 hours is just fine. Cool, strain into another container, and put it in the fridge (or freezer) until you need it. Magic!

19 April 2009

Peter Luger Steakhouse

First of all, thank you to the person who posted this exquisitely evocative photo of Peter Luger's facade on Flikr. Last Saturday was my second visit in as many years to the steak shrine - about the right frequency necessary to keep cardiac arrest at bay. Peter Luger is one of the few New York institutions that still garners respect. I've gotten yawns when bragging about multiple trips to 3 Michelin-starred Per Se, but everyone musters up some interest in Luger's extreme steak.

They cook only the Porterhouse cut, USDA Prime, selected by Luger staff, aged on premises for up to three weeks. After that, our waiter intimated, the stink isn't worth it. A real Porterhouse is a thing of beauty, the buffet of steak. The T-bone of our 4-person-sized steak stretched for half the table. The cut includes the New York Strip (my favorite for its texture and flavor), the filet mignon (could live without that - it's what non-meat eaters think of as good steak), as well as beautifully long strip of tenderloin. Eating a Porterhouse makes me want to apprentice to a good butcher.

I can cook an amazing steak (if I say so myself), but even my best effort looks wimpy next to a Luger's Porterhouse. Their crust sets it apart. It is crunchy, salty, and thick like a hand-made potato chip. Yet it doesn't compromise the rare meat inside.

The key is the oven. Heat inside reaches 1300˚F, according to our waiter. The crust's complex flavors emerge with no more coaxing than a good sprinkle of iodized table salt. It's the aging and quality of the meat that make the difference.

And their bacon! It's almost worth the schlep to Brooklyn in itself. Served as an appetizer, it comes as a thick-cut steak of ham with a minimum of fat marbling. Again, the searing gives it a great toothsome quality while preserving the meat's integrity.

I would hand over a ransom to learn who their bacon supplier is. Any ideas?

13 April 2009

Back after a cold winter's night

It's been a rough two weeks! I've made and consumed two chicken stocks to finally defeat a long and nasty cold that's been circulating around NYC and hit me twice.

The last stock I made was particularly good: made with the left-over bones from a dinner at Pio Pio, carrot, and garlic, and boiled for 2-3 hours over a low heat.

I like chicken soup with a base of finely diced carrot, onion, and red chili flakes, sauted in olive oil. A good homemade broth always makes me happy, as does filling out the soup with bite-size chunks of potato. Lemon and cilantro or parsley lift the flavor at the end. Rarely do I actually add chicken to the soup, prefering the essence and flavor in the broth to the actual meat. However, a chicken soup as described above with the addition of thigh meat and a bag of frozen corn kernals was a delicious treat worth repeating. Corn in chicken soup is a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, and reminds me of the small town of Middletown, PA where my mother was raised.