Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The setting is much more compelling than the wanly lit pictures of food I took too early or too late. There was the mahi-mahi, grilled and accompanied with rice and peas when we first arrived at Siboney Beach Club and its restaurant, Coconut Grove. Rum punch immediately encouraged.

At Darkwood Beach we had home-made ginger beer with our fried fish sandwich (me) and curried goat (Liam). Digestive biscuits and water in between. Dinner at Coconut Grove one night was the local rock lobster (Liam) and channa (me) and the next - coconut shrimp, fried calamari, and pina coladas and more rum punch.

We went to Roti King for lunch by way of Trinidad (we had great dreams of the public market but it was pretty dead this holiday weekend) with veggie roti, doubles, banana bread, and more ginger beer (twice).

Dinner our last night at Papa Zouk - a rum bar with 200 flavors (we just had the P'tit Punch, marinated rum drink) - where they narrate the menu to you like a hip Williamsburg joint. Bouillabase, tapas plate (plantains, butterfish fried, some chicken and 3 dips), a whole snapper grilled with pepper vinegar.

Not enough bananas and never the famed black pineapple, but plenty of ginger drinks and fried fish. Not enough vegetables, but toast and tea on our porch each morning and with the sea rushing under our feet yesterday morning.

It already feels like forever-ago.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Favorite Foods of 2009

Both breads to the left - a semolina/raisin/fennel (toasted with butter please) and The Loaf - parmesan on the bottom, fennel on top and something soft in between (like pan de mie but Brooklyn-i-fied).

Cheeses found at Brooklyn Larder - recent finds, Pierce Hill (raw sheep milk - delicious from the first soft bite to nutty aftertaste) and calcagno, a hard Sardinian sheep's milk that is the best thing since parmigiano-reggiano in my book.

Chocolates that I've chronicled all year - Askinosie white chocolate with cocoa nibs (the perfection of it realized on one of those 90 degree July days when it was so warm it melted in goaty, cacoa-y goodness on my tongue) and Mast Brothers - 72% with salt and pepper, or the new ones - a seasonal spiced pecan and/or the Stumptown Bar with coffee beans.

The toasted cheese with pickles on the side at beer table. And while I'm thinking of them - the pickled eggs with jalapeno powder, ricotta on bread with concord grapes and dehydrated tomato chips have been some of the best treats this year. Other neighborhood dinners at Franny's and that homemade blue cheesecake on the cheese plate at Applewood with garlic toasts.

Lobster Rolls. At the Flea. The budget-buster at Brooklyn Fish Camp.

Broccoli rabe for dinner, days of Irish oats for breakfast, three kinds of salted caramels, and yogurt with a favorite homemade granola recipe or good old muesli.

Weekly coffee Haagen-Dazs, often with fresh whipped cream and Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips for most of the sweaty summer.

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting at Union Market (the mini-one).

Decaf cappuccinos at Cafe Grumpy while everyone else drinks this amazing fresh roasted coffee.

A cupboard of teas at home and work, predominantly gen mai cha, bancha, kukicha and sencha, but also a few new gyokuro, a first flush darjeeling, and a bottle of Fairway lavendar in my new "tea stick" from my in-laws.

Thinking ahead to 2010 - soups, beans pre-cooked and frozen, some sandwiches that Liam can make during the week (grilled provolone and rapini), and a winter of whole grains. More on that soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


December dinners have included Liam's famous omelet (best with chard and aged gouda) three times during the week, every version of broccoli (or broccoli rabe) with pasta, Annie's (twice), a huge pot of whole grain chili with feta and olive oil (1/2, then frozen, then the other 1/2), a bagel, toast, Chik Patties (a box), and yes, popcorn (cheese grated on top a la francais).

Standards for dinner diminishing by the December day.

I managed salted chocolate caramels, but after advising Sara on the to-do for them, somehow ended up with a candy thermometer at 255 when the chocolate hit the caramel, pulled them off the stove, and ended up caramel frosting.

5 1/4 hours later I had spoon cookies, but rather than recommended 1/2 strawberry and 1/2 cherry preservers (we always end up with jars for 6 mos after), I used four fruits (strawberry, cherry, currant, raspberry), which gave them an aftertaste of aged raspberry.

I treated myself to Gourmet Today (with sticker for Gourmet included) and a book about Japanese cuisine and paged frantically until I found a recipe for Earl Grey truffles. Even a colleague whose tastes admittedly run from Uncrustables to Hormell pepperoni to Eggos told me they were the best chocolate she ever had (they did taste better the next day).

There has been toast for breakfast and sometimes, for dinner. There have been many bags of Cheerios (even a box from my Secret Santa). Mast Brothers continue to make a weekly appearance in my snack bag and for some reason, boxes of soy milk have seemed the right thing drink. And there was the week of Russ & Daughter's whitefish salad on rye crisps on Monday and a tin of piri piri mackerel on Wednesday, leaving our office smelling like cat food.

Today, with just a brioche bumping in my belly for hours of spa indulgence and two cups of tea, I came home to a box in the foyer fantastically festive. My name was on it in red and green.


Good ones. Really good ones.

From Cookbook Club.

I'm not ashamed to admit I cried. Tears that might be more representative of the work it takes to open a new middle school serving low-income students and preparing them for college, but they were real, and they were falling on the cookie box. Ziploc bags. Notes. Comments. Old favorites (moon cookies, cream wafers) and new (alfajores in chocolate, caramel-nutty-amazing-ness).

I brewed a cup of kukicha, ate some cookies for dinner, and finished packing the bag for Antigua.

I miss time to make South Indian feasts and rural Greek pastas for dinner. I miss leftovers that leave colleagues envious as they queue behind me at the microwave. I miss thinking about what to do with turnips all day and braising them in butter that evening. I miss the time to bake a souffle and prepare apples with caramelized maple sauce on the side.

I miss Cookbook Club. Especially in December.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Around the block this fall (favorites)

I knew it was bad when I turned on my personal computer and I hadn't run the virus thing since August 3 - which would also be the last time I'd listened to Good Food. Updated three months worth to listen to during the trip home and in the end, listened to just one.

Inspired by Fall Favorites, what I've been eating when I haven't been trying to get this whole school thing off the ground. We tried a new place in the neighborhood for breakfast (pictured), where the goat cheese and walnut frittate was pretty good and the cappuccinos decent as well. I've been spending a small fortune on each visit to Brooklyn Larder, especially on the quadra bufala cheese - buffalo milk from a talleggio-maker. Yum. Also picked up goat milk caramels with buckwheat (not "pretty," as they were described, but definitely interesting), fantastic fennel/parmesan cheese for Thanksgiving Day lunch (along with more cheese and meats for everyone else) and a semolina/fennel/raisin loaf that I toasted in its entirety within 12 hours.

Within a span of two weeks I ate the veggie dog at Bark no less than 6 times, most of the times accompanied by cheese fries. The buttery toasted bun, the mushroom topping, the pickled mayo, the hot dog that tastes like someone spent time making something was worth it.

I've been cooking up whole grain foods to keep me going through the weeks thanks to 101 Cookbooks - whole grain chili, thai pumpkin soup, and caramelizing spicy popcorn to get me through the week.

Last weekend Sara and I went to New Amsterdam Market where we sampled our hearts out and walked out with a crispy crusted cranberry walnut loaf, a carton of white heirloom cranberries, cider jelly that's been made the same way for 100 years, a few hunks of cheese (tomme-style and cloth bound cheddar) and a belly full of sampled coffee, chocolate, and fat oysters.

We topped that off with lobster rolls to celebrate her birthday.

Ate my piece of leftover apple pie with cheddar today and just had a cup of matcha and extra sweet potatoes are roasting in the oven. Maybe that gingerbread from NYT. Maybe some cranberry muffins. Maybe back to Larder for more bread for toast.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cafe Pedlar

Saturday now means Saturday School, children arriving in their uniforms but with the Saturday addition of sneakers, some with tea in their hands, some still with sleep in their eyes even though we start more than two hours later than a regular school day.

Saturday meant brunch with another principal to compare notes, a plate of jalapeno cheese grits with eggs and tortillas and black tea to cut the chill of the suddenly-fall day. We went separate ways and I remembered a foodie email about Cafe Pedlar.

I looked at my phone. I searched on my map. I realized I was standing right next to it.

Because I had no camera on me, just a bag with a computer, calendar and another full of reading assessments, I took the picture from the foodie email. Olive oil cake soaked in such grassy sweetness. A decaf cappuccino with milk rendered so artistically on top I felt twice as badly adding a dollop of turbinado sugar.

I left with a pretzel roll placed across the reading tests. Highly recommended in aforementioned email I was curious - my choices were sesame or poppy (I chose the former) and the whole thing was so slender I wondered about paying 2.50.

I bit into it last night and loved the absence of salt that takes over your mouth with an actual pretzel, although I yearned for a touch of it with the sweet roll and sweet cream butter, I almost wished I ate it with the smoky roasted cappuccino. It was taking the place of a lazy Saturday dinner though, so I ate it up and just drank water instead.

So good I'm almost tempted to hop back on the F train today to try it again, lest my weekends become a bit too predictable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Starting a school has meant much less cooking and blogging. Last week I managed to make corn soup with pimenton and cilantro with some roasted cauliflower (and failed popovers) on the side.

I haven't stopped reading food news though, and read about Kajitsu enough to know I wanted to eat eight courses of Shojin cuisine where I could enjoy each vegan course.

Before we left I said to Liam, "I think some courses will be amazing and a few will be just OK."

I should be a food writer.

The array of foods we had were new, and exciting, to me. Dumpling made of Japanese potato with fresh wasabi on the side. Hand-made (and cut) soba with a seven spice imported from Kyoto. Yuzu fresh in the salad (see picture above) along with kabocha mixed with cous cous, tomato aspic, and a south american fruit that was more seed than pulp. I adored the seitan-like chunks in broth that were more matzo ball than fried tofu, crispy with rice crackers and some other encrustment.

The spaghetti squash with late summer vegetables tasted like sweet and sour veggie stir fry at any Chinese restaurant - the best part being two slim, slightly spicy peppers tempura-d on the side.

The final dish of rice with ginger and house made pickles saved my savory tastes before we embarked into mochi and matcha so frothy I wish I could have had a demo.

Escaping to a mountain stream in Kyoto with a bowl of burdock root is at least a year away, so if I get the craving again in a different season, we might go back, but the service was also a tad too zen for us (we could only get 9pm reservation and this, post-second-week-of-school, still had me exhausted) - the first 3 courses took about 35 minutes to serve. The service sped up for the final five.

For now we'll have some soba and spices as a Wednesday night meal - I can handle that in 30 minutes or less.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Red Hook Lobster Pound Roll

I've been seeking out this roll for several weeks now at the Flea. First time, the line was so horrendously long I began to doubt the sanity of everyone around us (and headed to our true favorite, Red Hook Pupusas). Second time, yesterday, the guy told me "we're 86'd on Connecticuts" as I searched the sign to see what he was referring to - I saw only - butter - mayo - 13.00. I asked for clarification. He said butter = Connecticut. They only had Maines (mayo). Again, I left for pupusas.

Today, we decided to meet Sara at the Brooklyn Bridge Flea and found ourselves the only ones in line at noon. The following conversation transpired:

me: I'll have two with butter.
RHLP: 2 connecticuts!
me: (handing over $30)
RHLP: 2 Maines!
me (to a motioning Liam): those aren't ours, I'm pretty sure he said butter = connecticut.
RHLP: 2 Uconns (Yukons?)
me: silent
RHLP: 2 Connecticuts!
me: taking the roll

Recovering from the confusing nomenclature, we inhaled them. Sara and I were on board, Liam realized maybe he doesn't like lobster as much as he thought. Despite the 8-dollars-more-than-a-pupusa-platter price, we were happy with the crunchy grilled bun and sweet, buttery taste - just glad we clarified the state.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

What we ate in June ...

Inside my bathroom mirror is a list of my goals for the year. Friends who've known me for a while will smile, this list is generally written in a flurry of gel pen and bucketed into categories around food and fun and all kinds of self-improvement. I even committed, in glittering blue, to blogging twice a month while starting the school.

I also set food intentions. Less chronicling, more eating, I must've thought. #2 and #1 are still to be determined, but we have been to Bay Ridge for Greek food, Brighton Beach for a Russo-phile's dream and Sunset Park for middle eastern. We've had a spring brunch featuring our new favorite: dutch baby.

I've stewed rhubarb, am jubilee-ing cherries as I type, and have eaten handfuls of peas each week.

I think if I could blog via the Blackberry, I could do more while I wait for elevated trains than re-read work emails too important to type with two fingers to or browse the happenings of people I haven't seen in years on Facebook.

Today we went to Egg. Sunday after a holiday we thought would be quiet, which it was, save the families around us with babies squealing like small birds. Liam ordered the CHB, I got the Eggs Rothko, and a biscuit, and we drew the story of our weekend on the table.

I just forgot to take a picture.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chickpea Crepes with Ginger and Hot Chiles (Chilla)

I always have chickpea flour (besan) in the cabinet - often for socca, sometimes for Indian dumplings, other times for breading okra before frying. When reading through Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, I found my new favorite for breakfast - chilla. According to Sahni, "chilla is a spicy delicacy, a delightful breakfast treat form the eastern regions of India"

She had me at spicy and breakfast.

I mixed these together and pulled out our warped crepe pan for lunch Saturday. According to Sahni, "to best enjoy chilla, serve them with a lot of hot steaming tea, Indian-style," so I put a pot on the stove for my favorite chair recipe while the crepes cooked.

I adore this cookbook and am only through the tiffin section, but still need some urad dal in order to make the other recipes I'm interested in. Several of you asked for the recipe when I told you about it, so here it is as it appears in Sahni's book:

Chickpea Crepes with Ginger and Hot Chiles (Chilla)

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
1 T chopped ginger
2 hot green chiles, chopped
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
1 t coarse sea salt
2 T light sesame oil or light vegetable oil*
extra oil for frying

1. Mix the chickpea flour and water and make a smooth, lump-free batter using processor, blender, or wire whisk. add all the other ingredients except extra oil mix well.
2. To cook the crepes, heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat until very hot. Then brush the pan lightly with 1/2 to 3/4 t. oil.
3. Pour about 1/4 c of batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to coat it evenly with the batter. Cook the crepe until the underside is browned (about 2 min) Turn and cook the other side for 30-45 seconds. Pour on 1/2 to 1 t. oil during cooking to give the crepe a fried taste and texture. Remove and serve immediately or keep warm, while you make more crepes with the remaining batter. For a crispier taste, use 2-21/2 t. oil per crepe.

*Sesame oil is the Indian kind - light - (Til, I think it's called) - not the darker one found in Asian aisle of stores.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

num pang, banh mi. asia dog.

I gripe a lot about not liking vegetarian sandwiches with their days-old roasted eggplants and slimy zucchini slices and bread pink with red pepper. I thought I would never eat a sandwich again after years of this, until I got into the idea of finding banh mi.

Then I read two articles about the banh mi craze, and found some answers.

On a very hot recent Sunday, we went to Num Pang near Union Square to have the peppered catfish (pictured) and pork. My catfish choice was the best - spicy and peppery and sweet and concentrated and briny and all that cilantro.

We were hooked.

When our movie at the cinema across the street burnt out the following weekend, we grabbed the sandwiches and sat upstairs to enjoy as we spied on the goings on at the theater - have they fixed the film? Were those people in the movie with us? Do people still look angry? and we finished our sandwiches and corn covered in spice, chipotle mayo and coconut.

Today I found myself at Brooklyn Flea picking up a lost earring from a fabulous jeweler.
Liam and I split ways after the greenmarket so I was cruising the aisles alone and figured I'd snack before I took off. Red Hook pupusas weren't up yet, so I passed along until I saw asiadog. All kinds of hot dogs covered in all kinds of asian toppings. Brilliantly difficult to choose, so I went with the Vinh - a banh mi topping-ed veggie dog.

The Smart Dog (my personal favorite for veggie dogs - it doesn't have that liquid smokey flavor of Tofu Pups) was charred and then popped into a toasted bun with veggie 'pate,' pickled daikon and carrot, jalapenos, cilantro, and my own squirt of sri acha sauce. It burned deliciously. I can't believe no one has thought of this before?!

My faith in sandwiches (and veggie dogs) has returned.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brazil, Part 3

Brazilian foods I ate for the first time included acai with granola, banana and honey at a beach shack in Paraty at a table with sand under our feet. Manioc. Farofa. More manioc. Juices of apple and ginger with water weakening it. Lemon verbana and mint. Pineapple and mint. Breakfast foods like a roll that looks like a Parker House meets croissant and is soft as white bread and has something sweet in it like Filipino butter rolls I used to eat in LA. Guava jelly with cheese and toast. Moqueca with soft shell crab. Moqueca with white fish. Moqueca with shrimp. Moqueca with another white fish. Salmon in passion fruit sauce, crunchy, sour and sweet. Guacamole with a tiny searing hot pepper on top. Caiprihinas with incredible amounts of kiwi or pineapple or watermelon or passion fruit or all mixed together. Banana juice with wheat germ. Thick, sweet mango juice. Pao de Queijo. Pastillas de Queijo. Coconut cakes. Coconut soaking in sweet cane syrup. Coconut in cane syrup flattened into a cake. Guava candies. Banana candies covered in chocolate.

Brazil, Part 2

Much of our meals out in Brazil included meat, in fact, nearly all did. I pushed the others to go to churrasco and what a BBQ it was. The others sat waiting for bloody chunks of seared meat to drip on their plates and I went straight to the salad bar of feta and Israeli cous cous, macaroni salad, sushi and French pastries (and lots and lots of veggies).

I filled my plate up and returned to see plantains, olives, butter and other spreads for our bread and more pao de queijo, flipping my coaster over to nao obrigado (and still got some jus on my plate).
Rio made me feel more of a vegetarian than France did, and the others around me were in love with the meat, saying it was the best they ever tasted.

I did like the plantains.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Brazil, Part 1

We arrived in Sao Paolo early morning, traffic creeping around us everywhere as we snaked through slow-moving mid-day streets. We had decided to stay at Fasano, in the Jardins, thinking that the chicest part of SP would decrease our chance of being robbed.

Sao Paolo had several food adventures. We started with Arabia, where we noticed that Brazilians wear jeans and button downs, men patting each other on the back as we dug into labne, fatoosh, and several kinds of breads. A woman next to us ordered watermelon juice and we drank cold mint tea. Dessert was a platter that allowed us to order by baklava and halva before we closed the meal with Arabic coffee.

While we ate our dinner at Fasano, which was incredibly expensive and not that good, we were much happier with our quiet morning at the Mercado Municipal (pictured), where at a chain food stand we had our first pao de queijo and cafe com leites as people around us shopped for Good Friday dinners of kilos of salt cod and olives and fruits.

Before we left for Rio, we visited a cafe across the street from the other swankiest hotel in SP - Emiliano - and had baguettes with cheese, fried eggs, and our first sucos (juices) - Liam's was lemon verbena and mint and pineapple, mine was apple and ginger and cayenne with not nearly enough of the latter two before we grabbed our second pao de queijo for the day. At the airport.

Friday, April 03, 2009


on the occasion of my 33rd birthday march 3, the best 33 eats of the past month.

birthday french toast adorned with the lemon to the left. mini-cupcakes from Union Market that are packaged differently every time and have frosting that is white outside and pink-tinged inside. homemade chai. kukicha in the afternoon. korean feast of tofu with garlic sauce, kimchi, soy-pickled jalapenos, and pa jun twice. hard-boiled eggs with anchovies or spicy pickles, spaghetti with meyer lemon, and marinated sardines at franny's. lassi for chana and paratha and lavendar masala chai.

salt cod hash at belcourt again. biscuits with ricotta and jam at belcourt, again. sunny eggs at little d with turkish cheese and beans and flatbread. le bernadin for the birthday with fluke laid out raw with gold leaf and rice krispies.

lemon butter cake. five pieces of white bread that the office manager's mother made. four cheese pies from trinidad bakery that she brought the next day. earl grey in the afternoon. medjool dates and blendheim apricots while i walk the streets of brownsville to spread the word about the school.

tortilla soup. refried red beans. 6.99 bag of tortilla chips. another baked egg.

all courses of our lunch at per se: cauliflower panna cotta with sweet and sour capers, salad with walnut beignets and stewed rhubarb, anglotti with goat cheese, homemade nougat and truffles and caramels, and the wine.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Belcourt Brunch

We missed brunch in Paris, trying to re-create it with courses of yogurt and muesli, pancakes, and some purchased croissants. It ended up looking more like Swedish breakfast. Our first week together in Brooklyn this fall, it was straight to brunch a few blocks from here.

Bellinis with maple, omelettes with squash and fresh cheese, biscuits and grits with it all, we were gladly American again.

As the months have passed, we've rarely branched out - who wants to travel further than a few blocks on a weekend morning (especially one peppered with snow or wind)?

Then I read on Tasting Table about a brunch place that had "reasonable" prices and took reservations. Somewhere in between the "house made labneh" and "home made biscuits with fresh ricotta, raw honey and preserves" I decided we would brave the slow Sunday F train to get there.

Early birds were there long before Belcourt opened, but despite the trek and snow flurries it met our highest expectations. Those biscuits were a definite, as well as the labneh, and Liam ordered Croque Madame while I had the salt cod hash with poached eggs and harissa pictured above.

It was like Paris - tarnished mirrors and tin bathroom walls and tight seating and harissa sprinkled in, but also with the luscious biscuits and ricotta and brunch feel that we missed.

I know, I know - it's been 8 months for me, and a few less for Liam - but we still feel really grateful for brunch. Even when it's not in Brooklyn.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Orleans

One thing I miss about our Paris apartment was the light. And my camera. My pictures always came out great. Now I'm often using a phone, and they're not as clear or crisp or macro'd, but in the moment when I'm dipping beignets into au lait, something about it just feels necessary.

I had never been to New Orleans, yet I'd created this culinary wish - I just want beignets and coffee. Maya made it come true, walking us to Cafe du Monde, just a few blocks from our hotel, just an hour before our sessions were starting on Sunday.

I enjoyed the previous day's hotel breakfast. Smaller beignets, grits with cheese, hunks of potato, hotel eggs, Oprah's favorite tea. I chewed through each piece of fried dough at the hotel channeling other memories - soapapillas, carnival friend dough, zeppoles. It got me through.

Sunday morning was something else - a dirty table outside with tourists like us all around, and piles of powdered sugar between here and there. Our dough arrived swimming in the stuff and while I'm not usually a dipper, I plopped each one eagerly into my tiny cup of coffee.

3.00 each. 4.00 with tip. We left our cash on the table, bloated bellies ready for our day, and re-lived our other meals - I had had puppy drum for the first time (Lauren used to catch it in the summers so she knew what it was), a lot of praline, and a mediocre po'boy, but the beignets were truly the best.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sushi Bowls

Maybe it was Restaurant Week, but something had me yearning for simple, healthy food last week. I then opened the cookbook I'd been both shunning and lauding, Super Natural Cooking. I'd had partial success with her recipes, and while many looked good, I wasn't always inspired.

Then I made these sushi bowls.

The note about sauteing mushrooms in the sidebar, the frozen edamame lonely in the side pocket of the freezer, the avocado that tasted great but was clearly cold-burned (see the lines in the picture) ... all of these inspired me to whip up these bowls.

Yes, brown rice may cost 5.99 for a pound at a market, but it was worth it.

The citrus soy vinaigrette, the cream of the avocado with the crunch of sesame and vegetal note of nori - we ate through our bowls as though they were endless. And got up for more.

I don't often make one-pot meals, but this one is a winner. The chunky lentil soup too - cooked long and topped with parmesan and good olive oil, these helped us recover from excess.

Until we went out for Liam's birthday on Friday. Lobster poached in butter and I was a goner again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

When I called Gramercy Tavern to say I knew they didn't accept reservations, so what could I expect for a weekend lunch, they told me to get in line.

I liked it.

"There's just one table for 6, so you if you get here, and someone else has it, you have to wait 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they're done. You can call and see if it's available. Sometimes people are lining up when we open..."

Those were the magic words that led me, my parents, and Liam to the door of Gramercy Taven at 11:00 for a drive-by, then in line at 11:35. While we waited for Liam's mom and her husband, another customer came up and tried the door right behind me.

"We're in line" my dad told him.

Which was good - because later, we realized he had a party of five.

And so, for the first of several times this weekend, the early bird got the fantastic lunch with the perfect round table in by the window for parents to meet and food to be enjoyed.

I was entranced with the arrangements - apples and pine cones on our table, grasses at the bar, paperwhites and amaryllis at the side table. And of course, the food. We sampled nearly half the menu between the six of us - merguez swimming in harissa and chick peas, shredded carrots with calamari, heirloom cauliflower salad.

Entrees were a hit from chicken to an open faced ham sandwich to my mushroom lasagna that was fired in the wood oven.

And the desserts - it's almost difficult to convey how tasty they were with just descriptions of ingredients: pear tartin with a smear of creme fraiche and hazelnuts, an egg-shaped selection of three ice creams, a luscious and fat apple pie, and for me one plate of cookies that included caramel dipped in dark chocolate with pepitas. If only I had room to try the martini with lavender or the Harrar coffee with orange, cardamon, and cinnamon.

We'll just have to go back.

We watched the line snake around the foyer, children peering through grasses and older men patting the hostess on the back. We heard about waits of 1 1/2 hours, pleas to move more quickly from bar to table, even a few glances at our table, but we had it. 25 minutes in the cold? Worth every minute.

And we can't wait to go back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tea Time

I miss the days of the Bay Area Tea Tour.

Friends and I circulated among several of the top tea shops in the Bay Area and compared. Places that don't give you milk even if one were to ask for it? No thanks. Birds in cages above your seat and old men playing Go next to you? Of course.

In Paris, there was a place for tea and cakes in the afternoon - with a special after 4 o'clock for 9 euros (that rose to 10 soon after I discovered it).

Yesterday, with an doctor's appointment that went quickly, I found myself with an afternoon hour in the city. I needed a place to do work that was also the hip cafe that would make me feel like I-am-working-in-the-city.

A place I could share with friends or see something with a story worth telling or just have a good cup of tea, with milk if I wanted.

I found it - a small place with a chair pushed against a wall and in between coats and people. I put down my 3 bags, huge coat, 2 scarves and settled my eyes on them.

Bundt cakes.

They do it for me every time. As soon as I saw lemon and asked about chocolate orange, I figured it was my best bet. One mug of assam and a slice later, I was doing my work on a cold, cold day in the city... if only it were my neighborhood, I'd have my place.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Brooklyn Food Adventure: Middle Eastern Food on Atlantic Avenue

In between Urban Outfitters and Trader Joe's, there's a street of Middle Eastern grocers, pastry shops, nut and candy stores and fantastic cafes. Sara did the research and we enjoyed a morning full of old favorites (the pastry with the stringy cheese in the middle on top of a sev-like sweet soaked in syrup that you microwave that I first had on my Other Side of Palestine tour) and new treats (Yemeni food pictured above).

The Yemen Cafe was worth our wait (we had great Turkish coffee and Arabic tea across the street first). Molten hot pots of beans and tomatoes simmering, the largest hunk of fresh baked bread (pictured above), a smear of babaghanoush and cup after cup of a dark black, sage and sweetened tea, yum.

Our adventure ended with pockets full of fresh pitas, pistachio halva, and some date cream with almonds. One shopkeeper told me to eat the halva with a banana (new to me), which I haven't gotten to try yet, but look forward to.

For now, the goods are on the table for some Turkish-like breakfast each day.

Next up: Arthur Avenue for Italian and Jackson Heights for Indian.

Sara may need to quit her day job and start leading tours!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Food Intentions for 2009

My 2008 intentions served me well as I transitioned from Paris to Brooklyn. I walk into the local cheese shop and know my pyrenees brebis from ossau-iraty. I stuffed several fish and served them successfully to friends. I had lunch at L'arpege and can finally tell the difference between Assam and Darjeeling.

There is currently salsify rotting in my fridge, again. Oysters left my life when I left Le Baron Rouge. I don't think I will ever be a confiture person with my toast or a willing salade consumer in my own home.

The vinegar mother made it here, and she's growing like crazy.

Food Intentions for 2009:

10. Korean chiles. Know 'em and use 'em.
9. Inspired by a cheese plate at the MoMA from Murray's Italian section (see above), I am in the market for 'flavored cheeses' and aim to find my favorite cow's milk with truffle and goat's with green peppercorn. 2009 is about flavor.
8. Brooklyn Cheese Club (complete with Oakland and Paris members!)
7. Make flatbreads. Pita. Foccaccia. Pizza.
5. Dinner/brunch parties 1x/month
4. Jackson Heights for Indian, Bay Ridge for Greek, Midwood for Kosher and other local food adventures.
3. Eat at a Michelin 3 star in NYC.
2. Continue to blog each week.
1. Demonstrate that it's possible to be an effective principal of a college-prep charter school for under-resourced students in Brooklyn AND cook delicious dinner during the week.