Monday, June 23, 2008
Saturday: Dinner out at Meridiana (UWS Italian) with my sister visiting from Washington
Sunday: Host a dinner party for Sarah's book club, reading Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska
Monday: Dinner out at Alouette (UWS French) to celebrate Sarah's birthday
Tuesday: Picnic @ NY Philharmonic concert in Central Park
Wednesday: Dinner at Puttanesca (Hell's Kitchen Italian) with Greg's colleagues, Sunday In The Park With George @ Lincoln Center TheaterThursday: Sarah's parents arrive from Kentucky, host them with Vietnamese or sushi
Friday: film scene for movie "Satan Hates You" (then possible celebration dinner for Sarah, post-birthday?)
Saturday: "Real" Chinatown in Flushing, NY with Sarah's parents, Uncle Bill and Aunt Yao, see a play downtown with all six of us
This canto of my epic poem, "Travelin' Travis" describes the steps to making an egg cream. There has been some dispute about this issue. Noted egg cream expert Dave Cook of www.eatingintranslation.com claims that the spoon should be rapidly jiggled up and down while submerged in the egg cream, not stirred round-and-round as described here. I have observed several practitioners of the round-and-round school, but none of the up-and-down faction. When we created them ourselves, we did round-and-round, and frankly, I don't see any reason to denigrate the proud tradition of the egg cream with any juvenile up-and-down-ism.
There was a diner called Key West
where somethin’ strange was cookin’
They treated him great, like a rich potentate
He thought “it’s prob’ly ‘cause I’m so good-lookin”
The soup he ordered to begin
had a big round yellow ball
Matzo, they said, unleavened bread
And he saw the writing on the wall.
He’d grow to love this new cuisine
and maybe all things Jewish.
Oh me, oh my! Corned beef on rye!
Plus pickles, one or two-ish.
And something new he’d never seen
and never heard of either
a chocolate dream called an egg cream
with a spoon used as a beater.
A squirt or two of chocolate syrup
(Fox’s U-Bet, if you have it)
Milk - a dash! Seltzer – a splash!
Then whip that spoon, dagnabbit!
and it foams over the top.
How odd it seems, no eggs, no creams,
but once you’ve had it, you can’t stop.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Unfortunately there are no bikini-clad babes to distract grocers and restaurateurs from the past week's salmonella scare. NYC's health department sez we should stay away from raw plum, Roma and round red tomatoes. The feds say that Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wyoming, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico might be infected. Really? Washington D.C.? Was that Georgetown or the Mall where the vast tomato fields have been stricken?
Florida sez they're gonna have to destroy $40 million worth. Tough luck, Florida. I'm sure that money would have gone to fair wages for legal workers on environmentally conscious farms.
I'm not one of those George Weld guys who only uses "local, free-roaming chickens and artisanal heirloom grits" in New York City. Too hard to chase down the chickens, especially on Park Avenue. But I've got to admit that the higher gas prices get, and the more industrial agribusiness gets pounded by scandals like this one, the better I'll be pleased.
I was talking to my uncle who runs a mushroom-canning business in Missouri, and he said "with these high gas prices, it just doesn't make sense to buy those mushrooms from California anymore." Hmm. Maybe the Missouri guys should can the Missouri mushrooms, and the California guys should can the California mushrooms, and then we wouldn't have to truck them halfway across the country just to turn around and ship them right back again.
I thought it was pretty funny that a decent grocery store like Gristede's took the time to make a nice sign to explain which tomatoes were from where and why they were safe, and Western Beef tacked up a four-week-old inspection notice from some company nobody's ever heard of.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Our introduction to Brighton Beach eats on this day was a "salty cheese" placynda, (empanada-type pastry) procured at the most exclusive deli in the world. Why is it the most exclusive? We don't know. But the placynda was frickin' awesome, as our surfer pals might say. The cheese was like a mild feta, with a strong dose of fresh dill, encased in a light, steamy, not-the-least-bit-greasy fried dough. I'm throwing in a photo of the ones from M&I, although we don't know if they're as good as the Exclusive ones. Also - as R. Kelly in "Ignition" says - it's probably a good policy to go with the ones that are poppin' fresh out the kitchen. In the Exclusive photo, you can see the lovely ladies selling them fresh from their table in front of the store.
Sarah and I decided to get our Russian on at M & I International food. We went up (past the alluring sausages) to the third floor, where there's a deli with about 25 indoor tables and 15 outdoor tables. I've seen another blog post that described a visitor as being "intimidated" by the uncooperative Russianness of the patrons and staff. In fact, Sarah scurried off for a while, before I could convince her to come up and try some of the goodies. The most surprising thing about the joint was that every single person was drinking this cherry-currant fruit juice. You just don't see that kind of conformity in the good ol' U. S. of A. It was labeled in the case as "fruit punch," so that's what we said when we ordered. The guy behind us snorted and said some guttural Russian word. When we looked at him uncomprehendingly, he translated for us "compote." It was pretty good, although I asked for ice and they didn't have any. Lots of cherries and currants in the bottom of the cup, although I seemed to be the only guy who ate mine. It was great with the very blintz-like rolled-up crepe with raisin cheese spread in the center. The cheese was like a ricotta, or whatever cheese they put in blintzes.
Downstairs at the grocery store, the hottest-selling items besides the sausages seemed to be the vegetable salads. We had already tried some cubed beet salad and the "Russian Salad" of cubed potato, egg, pea, carrot, and whatever else they put in there with mayonnaise. The Russian Salad was great but didn't travel well, so we stuck with more beet salad, plus a very popular carrot slaw, plus some "eggplant caviar" that seemed to be the hottest-selling stuff in the joint. Babushka after babushka seemed to order a gallon jug of the stuff. Or at least a plastic quart container. Even though I can't stand cilantro and this had some, this stuff was very good. Fresh-tasting, not acrid like some eggplant dishes, very light on the palate, we used it for all kinds of things. My dad made a sandwich out of it, although I don't know if that's allowed by the strict Russian usage bylaws. In the photo, that's the beet salad on the left, the carrot salad in the center, a pickled tomato on the right, some mushroom and some sauerkraut filled pastries, the eggplant caviar behind the tomato, sausage in front, and some fresh-baked pita chips on top of the pastries.
Out of curiosity, I opened this version from 2002. It was kind of fun!
There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for breakfast around town these days. Did you read the New York magazine article describing the city's best breakfast in that hipster haven of Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Get a load of this: "chef-owner George Weld has forged a modest kingdom from local-free-roaming-chicken’s eggs and artisanal heirloom grits." I'm sure you've noticed all the local, free-roaming chickens running the streets last time you walked through Brooklyn. And anybody who uses the words "artisanal," "heirloom" and "grits" in the same sentence clearly does not have a good picture of a)how grits are made and b)the grit-consuming demographic in this country.
Unfortunately Community Food and Juice, as you can perhaps deduce from its name, is given to some of the faults of the sainted George Weld. Everything is organic, local, sustainable, blah, blah, blah. It's got "energy-saving kitchen equipment, composting, and tables made of reclaimed wood."
The food is just okay. Both times we've been there, our orders have been screwed up. The B.E.L.T (b.l.t .with egg) was quite good, and the addition of grated carrots to the hash browns is a real treat. Sarah's potato pancakes with smoked salmon were nothing special--too fat and dense. The dill-laden creme fraiche, judiciously applied, ran out at the end of the first pancake. The latkes were billed having a "caviar creme" topping. They came with about a teaspoon of salmon roe with a scant tablespoon of the creme fraiche. And they forgot the salad that was supposed to come with it. All for $17. I don't know about you, but when I hear caviar, I want caviar. Or, if it has to be salmon roe....well, then at least give me the same amount I'd get at the corner sushi joint. The homemade salmon was good, and in great abundance on the latkes. I know it's retro, but some chopped onions would have been a nice accompaniment.
The juice is especially good, although there isn't much variety. They were pretty much limited to orange and grapefruit both visits, although our waitress helpfully pointed out that we could have orange and grapefruit mixed together.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I was thinking about this today as I finished a Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray celery-flavored soda, supposedly a Jewish/Brooklyn thing along the lines of an egg cream. I think it's about as Jewish as banana cream pie, but at least it's got a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge on the can. It's not bad, but it got me thinking about all the weird stuff I've been drinking lately. And then I thought "but it's not nearly as weird as when Chris brought that gazpacho in a box to a party in Madrid, along with a bottle of vodka to make Bloody Marias." And that was not nearly as weird as the drink that we had as we hung around Pamplona with college kids. I have no idea how those guys spelled it, but I've seen in spelled kalimotxo, pronounced CAL-ee-MOTE-cho. This was super-cheap red wine purchased in "bricks," or little lined cardboard boxes, mixed half-and-half with Coca-Cola and poured over ice. I guess it's a real tradition there in Navarra, Spain.
And I thought "is there any way in the world I would have drunk this stuff if I weren't traveling?" And I didn't just drink it, I loved the stuff! It tasted great. I couldn't get enough.
I haven't got up the nerve to try it here stateside, but I bet if I did, it'd be the world's worst drink.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Sunday, June 1, 2008
1. Woody Allen
2. Steve Martin
3. John Candy
4. Ben Stiller
5. Adam Sandler
6. Ashton Kutcher
7. That guy from Saturday Night Live. Not that one, the other one.
9. Pauly Shore
10. Anything in trousers, honey.
11. Dane Cook
Man that was hard. I kept thinking "4 - Tom Hanks? No, he's really a 3. OK, 4." "What about Leno? 5? 4? 3? He can be pretty funny. But so annoying." I definitely believe that John Candy is at least a 2, but I don't have the heart to make any more changes.
The point is if you can make it to 6 or so, you have got a dynamite sense of humor. If you can make it past 8, you're demented.
The reason I ask is that Sarah and I were debating about the level of humor we should have in the blog here. As you surely noticed (like fudge you did), in the posting on Virginia ham, apropos of nothing there's a hobo joke. And it's not clear what the hobo would do or why. Well anyway, there were several jokes in there about rednecks, hillbillies, being so broke you can't afford Confederate flag memorabilia, and questionable hygiene practices at roadside food stands. And Sarah decided that this sort of thing was tasteless and insulting. Which of course it was.
However, the question arose. What is the internet for, if not to provide a forum for feckless wiseasses to denigrate the honest, hard-working people of America?
So when Sarah and I started considering ways to lose weight, I thought - hey, I shouldn't drink so much. Often when I come home, I open the fridge, open a beer, drink it, then open another one. I thought - geez, that adds up after a while. So we bought plastic bottles of water (don't get on my case, we refill them from the tap), and now instead of drinking a beer, I drink a water. Much better for my health. I still drink beer, but I don't drink one after the other.
But since I changed my drinking habits, I've been getting strange drink cravings that water just won't satisfy. Yesterday I bought a fruit punch from one of those slushee-style machines at a pizza joint. I asked for a large cup half-full and bought a bottle of water to mix. Then I've been craving Fresca and checking for it at every store we visit. It's harder to find than you think. Usually we don't drink soda, but in the past few days I've had a Jarritos tamarindo, a Good-O redpop and whatever weird tropical soda I can find.
Sarah refuses to buy soda for me because it's unhealthy. This is a good policy, but there are many times I wish I had that button that Lyndon Johnson had installed in the Oval Office, where every time you pushed it, somebody would bring you a Fresca. But then, of course, he used to conduct his cabinet meetings from the toilet, too. Never trust a president from Texas, that's my policy.
But at home, with Sarah's stern refusal to allow soda, my cravings can get me stirred up with no release. But thankfully, we've found an ideal solution. Sarah makes a big batch of her famous mint tea to keep in the fridge. She juices a dozen lemons or so, then steeps a big bunch of mint with Lipton tea bags in boiling water for a few minutes, then adds some sugar and water. This recipe has been in the family for many generations, and we get to use home-grown mint on the farm in the summertime.
This tea can satisfy the meanest drink-craving, and can be modified with the addition of extra water (this is one of my oddball cravings) or even gin or vodka. Although we've only done that when we were doing a series of drink experiments, it turned out great. We don't drink mixed drinks during the week, but this is a great one for parties.
Some notes to remember when you make this recipe are that you need an efficient method of juicing citrus and that the type of mint you use makes a big difference, so you need to sniff before you buy. I don't think I can describe the smell of the right mint in words, though. Give it a shot, and let us know what you think!
At chowhound.com, some guy posted a "what are your favorite New York food blogs?" thread, and not only were there innumerable results, I had never heard of most of them, and they were all so professional and insightful it made me want to turn my face to the wall. I got very intimidated by one site, where a girl actually quit her job to move to New York and blog about food. She describes herself as "a very hungry and opinionated girl on a mission to become a key figure in the culinary world. Armed with a killer appetite and a blue ballpoint pen, she's ready to take the city by storm." This was before I read any of the posts. Not only does she misspell several words per post, she seems to gravitate toward the unpleasant. When reading "I basically decided that falafel tasted like body oder," I began to doubt the sense of shame I should feel at posting my own obviously foolish misadventures in the kitchen.
I found her blog while looking up stuff about bagels in NYC, and was trying to find a picture to show the difference between sable and lox. She was writing about some bagelry that she "discovered," then showed a picture of the bagel she was raving about.
Take it away!
Hide the children!
That's a hollowed-out(?) pumpernickel bagel, scallion(??) cream cheese, slippery-looking sable, lettuce(???), tomato(???) American cheese(?????!!!!!!?????), onions and more tomato.
Gah. Bluh. Ullggghh.
I'm sorry for subjecting you to that image. If there was any purpose to this post, it's merely to establish that, while my pizza may be ugly, at least we shouldn't be ashamed of the clearly frivolous content here.