Posts Tagged ‘food’

Today we met up with some friends at Smorgasburg, the artisanal food fair at the site of the Brooklyn Flea Market. My plan: to eat, drink and be merry.  Their plan: to gaze in wonder at my belly and the fact that I’m not due till November.

Because of my incredible size Alex and I drove there which meant dealing with the traffic cops who suddenly decided to redirect the bridge and tunnel traffic as per their whims (seriously on the way back we were re-routed away from the Holland Tunnel three times for no good reason), and the adventure of driving through the hipster “slums” of Williamsburg before you hit the fancy-pants redeveloped waterfront. The best way to describe hipster “slums” is to imagine The Wire country of Baltimore but the products being pushed on every street corner are ironic hats, orthopedic foot wear and vintage plastic glasses frames that would have got you beaten up in grade school but are now the bleeding edge of hipster fashion.

Any way back to Smorgasburg the food is good. Some of it very good and some of it okay and a little too fancy for its own good. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the names of the stalls – it was hot, and we were eating as we walked which meant I was focused on staying upright. The best thing I ate was a roast pork belly roll and it was so good I had two. It was simple and delicious. The roll contained fat and crackling as well as the meat. If I go again then I’ll just eat that over and over again. Perhaps they do a bulk discount. The Bite Sized Kitchen did meat on a stick which was also tasty, the kimchi pork buns from We Rub You were disappointing (not spicy enough and meat cut too thin), and we also had grilled sweetcorn covered with peach butter and salt that was okay (bit of sweetcorn purist and if the produce is at its peak it doesn’t need to be slathered with anything). For desert we split a mint biscuit mochi that again was just okay, and our friends went crazy for (like everyone else) frozen banana. Literally a frozen banana shoved through a meat grinder (or something similar) to produce an frozen banana “ice-cream” but only made with bananas. Absolutely genius as the mark-up must be phenomenal. I am trying to figure out how to make these at home.

Drinks wise you have every iteration of lemonade and ice-tea going. Since I’ve started making my own watermelon juice I can’t part with $5 for something I make at home for  significantly less (it’s the same with ice-tea and lemonade). We settled on a pineapple, mint and spring water concoction that was delicious and I will now be making at home, and selling on a street corner near you.

I am really glad we went, and would happily go again but my main criticisms is that everything seemed to cost $5 and up, and the portion sizes were on the small size (perhaps artisanal is the new tall?). I’m not just saying that because I am 7 months pregnant with the appetite of a small army. The quality of the produce is excellent but I think they could increased the portion size or have some ‘Two pork buns for $7″ style offers without hurting their margins too much.

Alex took a few photos and they are up on his Flickr site.

Last week was Alex’s birthday, and as luck would have it I had been able to book a table at Momofuku Ko for the Friday night. Perfect way for us gastro ninjas to celebrate. Now I am not sure how much luck was involved in getting a reservation at Ko as it was probably more down to sheer perseverance.  Ko is a tiny 12 seat restaurant, part of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, and to keep things fair you can only book a table through their online reservation system which springs into life at 10am each day. Trying to get a table this way is not for the faint hearted, many wannabe dinners get dispirited after a few rounds of battling their fellow foodies and give up. Not me though because I knew that Alex really wanted to eat there and after a month or so I was able to snag a reservation for 9:50pm. Ugh – so late but so worth it.

The first thing you need to know is that Ko is tiny. The space could house a sandwich shop or some other hole-in-the-wall eatery but you wouldn’t expect a restaurant serving this type of food. All twelve diners are seated at the bar facing the galley kitchen, and watching the magic happen. Chang has managed to create a fine dining-esque restaurant without the restaurant just the kitchen table. Genius.

The second thing is that there is no menu, and vegetarians should go eat at the falafel cart outside because Ko does not accommodate those who aren’t willing to cheat on tofu. As we were working our way through the tasting menu I was trying to keep a mental note of what we were eating but I failed as I got lost in the creativity of each dish. But, I can tell you that there was an egg with caviar, scallops that had been drowned in butter, an Asian ricotta dish that baffled the taste buds (“Is this Asian? Is this Italian?”), duck, frozen shaved fois gras, and oatmeal ice-cream with a caramelized apple cake. I think there may also have been a pate and a panna cotta, and who knows what else.

It was an amazing experience, and the birthday boy left happy.

On the menu

Posted: 10/30/2010 in food
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I am really throwing myself into cooking at the moment. It’s one of the conditions of my temporary secondment to the “home office” (the others include not spending all day in my pajamas watching Netflix Instant and studying my spin toned ass off). I love being able to plan our meals for not just the weekend but the week, and being able to break out of my comfort zone by not relying on recycling the old favorites. My plan is not to repeat meals as much as I use to and make sure that there are yummy things for Alex to take for lunch at least 3-4 days a week. This means that I too have yummy things for lunch. Win win. Over the last two weeks I’ve made:

I’ve got a thing for ricotta at the moment. Love it’s texture when baked, and the lemon ricotta pancakes are to die for. Even Alex was impressed and normally he gets a little snarky when I mess around with the usual pancake recipe. Though in his defense it’s normally because I am trying to sneak things into the pancake batter, that in his opinion do not belong, like chunks of fruit that then go on to distort the pancakes true form.

This week I am channeling Nigella and Jamie, and plan on making:

I’ve also got a whole chicken to roast so I’ll have to figure out something to do with it beyond roasting, and I need to bake something mid-week. Decisions decisions.

I love brunch. But, what I don’t love is paying upwards of $12 for French toast, pancakes or eggs.  For that money I want real thought and fresh produce going into the dishes. What I hate even more is brunching with friends with everyone cooing over mediocre food, and don’t even get me started on lackluster diner food that come in gargantuan portion sizes.

Given how easy it is to whip up some pancakes or scramble an egg we should demand higher standards when we eat out for brunch. I don’t want to be served food that I can make better at home, nor do I want to be charged an additional $3 to have “fresh” fruit added to my French toast. Especially when I am already paying $4 for a glass of “fresh” orange juice.

I’ve been thinking about brunch since Alex and I got back from a wedding in Maryland at the weekend. We got to the town a few hours early and decided to have a wonder around the historic district (in search of a much needed cup of coffee and stretch of the legs). We wandered past Cafe Nola and a plate of their French toast caught my eye (see photo).  How could we resist something so fresh and yummy looking? What made the dish was the berry puree – bursting with flavor it negated the need for maple syrup (even for Alex who has a very sweet tooth). This was French toast FTW and only $9!

Now Cafe Nola is a little far to go for a tasty and reasonably priced brunch, and there are a few places closer to home that I enjoy brunching at (alas, there are far more places that I find disappointing). My top two places are the wonderful Clinton Street Bakery (excited to see that they are publishing a cookbook) and Freemans which has the added charm of being tucked away in an alley and has an array of dead animals mounted on the walls.

One of the reasons I am probably so hard on brunch places is that Alex doesn’t really care for brunching out he’d rather eat lunch – you know real food.  Over the years I’ve cajoled him to many a mediocre brunch spot and each time we sit down to watery eggs Benedict or clawingly awful French toast it re-confirms his firm belief that we should be eating ramen noodles instead. And he probably has a point.

Top Chef

Posted: 10/16/2010 in food, television
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Alex and I just finished a Top Chef marathon (Season 5: New York). Given how much we enjoy watching foodie and other chefie programs you’d have thought we’d have discovered Top Chef sooner but no between Extreme Cake challenges, Chopped, Ace of Cakes, Kitchen Nightmares (BBC America version), Last Restaurant Standing (BBC America), Hell’s Kitchen and Jaime Oliver’s intervention on America’s diet some how Top Chef had fallen through the gap. I was, of course, aware of Top Chef’s existence all the posters of the reflection pool with the giant knife in it for the latest season in DC around town helped with that but thought it would be as awful as the Hell’s Kitchen chef pantomime. It was only when we were driving down to Virginia Beach listening to Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw, and Bourdain sings the praises of Top Chef that we figured we should give it a go. And, you know what Bourdain is right – Top Chef kicks arse. The chefs taking part are talented, they can actually cook and the challenges puts them through their technical and creative paces. We are addicted but sadly only one season is currently available through Netflix. We can watch the rest through Hulu Plus which we’ll get as an add on to XBox next month. I am very much looking forward to spending the holidays holed up cooking delicious food and watching Top Chef marathons. Roll on November.

It’s been super busy the last week or so. Surprisingly busy for one who is currently semi-retired. The weekend before last we took off for an air show at Oceana Naval Base near Virginia Beach. It was a long drive down so we broke the journey in Annapolis. A cute colonial town that houses the Naval Academy, and like most places on the NE coast it was instrumental in the revolution. Alex took lots of great photos of the air show but apparently none of the ones of Annapolis are up to muster. If we go again then I’d like to stay a little longer and explore. Because it was such a short trip we didn’t stay at the beach but we had a great meal at Eat: An American Bistro (thanks to a recommendation from Bookishly Fabulous – great bread pudding).

We had barely got back home when we were off again – sort of. On Wednesday we had our anniversary meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns near Tarrytown. We had a late reservation so we decided to stay over. It was a good call because we started eating at 9pm and we didn’t finish till 12:30am. An eight course tasting menu with wine and coffee. I’ve done a few tasting menus over the years and this was the only one that did not leave me feeling grossly overstuffed (and the next morning I was able to have waffles). The food was outstanding. All fresh and locally sourced (if not grown on their farm). My personal highlights would have to be the field fresh veggies, braised cod head, poached egg and paw-paw desert. Did you know that paw-paws are indigenous to the East Coast? I feel compelled to try and source some and try to make paw-paw bread out of them.

We rounded off our little adventure with a William Gibson book reading on Thursday night. All in all a good few days.

Rice & beans

Posted: 03/16/2010 in food
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It’s late. I should be asleep but I had iced coffee with condensed milk at 9pm, and then stayed up to watch The Good Wife so I am over stimulated and bouncing off the walls right now. Instead of trying to sleep I am going to tell you about my lunch (thrilling I know). I had the greatest burrito ever. GREATEST. BURRITO. EVER.

It rocked my world. This burrito tasted like it had been sprinkled with birthday joy and a side order of Christmas cheer. After consumption,  I wanted to lay back and have a post-burrito smoke. The pork was damn fine with guacamole smeared all over it. The rice to beans ration was spot on, as was the spicy seasoning. It was pulled pork perfection wrapped in a tortilla.

Of course the burrito came from a street food cart – Calexio (on the corner of Wooster & Prince). The greatest food comes from carts and tiny hole-in-the-wall places where no one speaks English.