VittlesVamp is back on Moveable Type! I once again have a working RSS feed! Yay! And, a filter for comments spam has been added too! Whoopee!
VittlesVamp is back on Moveable Type! I once again have a working RSS feed! Yay! And, a filter for comments spam has been added too! Whoopee!
It might not be part of the Smithsonian, but darn if this new museum, set to open in New Orleans on January 12, doesn’t sound like the type of cultural institution that I can get behind. Co-founded by legendary mixologist, “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff, the MAC’s Web site explains that this non-profit history museum will offer a bevy of beverage-hound attractions:
The Museum of the American Cocktail will lead visitors through the fascinating two-hundred-year-old history of the American Cocktail. Situated in the Pharmacy Museum in New Orleans French Quarter from January through September 2005, the Museum will contain an extensive collection of rare books, Prohibition-era literature and music, vintage cocktail shakers, glassware, drink archives, tools, gadgets, cocktail memorabilia and photographs from the outstanding collections of our founders. Multimedia presentations will bring the cocktails history even more to life with film clips, interactive displays, songs, and sounds.
The American Cocktails history and lore are just two examples of the diverse subject matter that will be explored on an ongoing basis by the museums founders, guest curators, outside researchers, writers, and historians. The results of this research will be published on an annual basis in the museums journal; The Mixologist: The Journal of the Museum of the American Cocktail, in exhibition catalogues, and in original works written by the worlds top cocktail authorities.
A library of rare and out-of-print literature as well as modern titles on the subjects of cocktails, spirits, and drinking in both paper and digital form, will be made available for writers and researchers, housed in the museums permanent location. Books and films that document the cocktails influence on American and European culture will also be acquired for viewing.
Sounds like an educational field-trip is in order.
The plan had been set in motion a few weeks past - an afterwork evening jaunt to Jackson Heights with my friends Kurt and Kristin, in the hope of reveling in authentic Indian cuisine. Kurt, who actually lives in the ‘hood, was certain that the famed Jackson Diner was the place to go for Bolly delights. But, what the heck did Kurt know? He’s from Tennessee and will eat anything as long as it’s on a stick and/or fried. Besides, the folks at Chowhound didn’t have very good things to say about the place.
Kristin and I, die-hard foodies both, would have to conduct a little research before venturing into this multicultural nabe. We didn’t want to take a bad culinary turn and there was no trusting Kurt’s tastebuds. After some sniffing around on the Internet, we decided to take Chowhound “Big Dog” Jim Leff’s advice and hit Fiesta Mexicana, a Jackson Heights Mexican BYOB, rather than precariously explore Indian curries and such.
Kurt agreed to the gameplan, as long he could be in charge of the hot spot for drinks beforehand. Kristin and I had a strange feeling that although Kurt might not be a gourmand, that he most likely was quite a fine drunk. We agreed.
We headed off the 7 Train through the bustling city streets, trees aglow with tiny sparkling lights in celebration of the Indian festival of Diwali. On route to what Kurt promised to be a “fabulous dive,” Kristin and I couldn’t resist stepping inside the Indian grocery haven - Patel Brothers. The store’s air was thick with spices as we made our way down the aisles. We could hardly pull ourselves away from the shelves crammed with boxes, jars and bottles containing exotic wares such as Rasoi Magic Biryani Mix, Kelkar’s Sweet Lemon Pickel, Swad Gulab Jamun, New Vrindaban Cow Ghee and Haldiram’s Rose Syrup. But, once we spyed a box of Cannabis Incense (pictured above), we realized that it was time to move on. (Just the thought of M.J. was making us ravenous.)
Almost ready to turn heel and go straight to the restaurant, we instead forged onto Kurt’s barroom pick - the Ready Penny Inn. And, what a dive it was! The Coronas were cold and the barmaids were Irish (loved the buxom lass wearing the “See that you’ve met the twins!” tee), but the piss-poor booze selection (Gordon’s was top-shelf), nasty wood paneling, decades-old video games and loud, unsavory clientele took the tavern over the edge. If you think a good dive is a thing of beauty, the Ready Penny is the celebrity model of your dreams.
Three rounds later we staggered out, picked up a six-pack of Negra Modela and made our way to Fiesta Mexicana. A quick request from Kurt for a bottle opener brought the bad news - they wouldn’t let us open our liquor. Apparently there had been trouble from the authorities.
It was late, we were on our way to a lovely buzz - which we wanted to keep going - and we were starved. We wanted booze. We wanted food. We wanted it now. Where to go?
So, Kurt had is way after all - and to tell you the truth Jackson Diner wasn’t too bad. The Murg Tikka Makhanwala was particularly nice, as were the Mango Martinis (however, I don’t think the latter could be considered authentic Indian fare).
Don’t know what burg we’ll try next for ethnic cuisine. But, I do know this: We already have six Negra Modelas ready for the trip.
Answer: When it is a pizza pie.
And, the pizza in question is from Gonzo - a grilled Pumpkin Pizza Pie, wafer-thin, dotted with warm, rich chunks of pumpkin, a smoky dice of pancetta, sweet carmelized onions and melted bel paese cheese. This Italian marvel was shared amongst friends last night at a candlelit corner table at Chef Vincent Scotto’s West Village trattoria.
I’ve long been a fan of Gonzo’s grilled pizzas (a selection pictured above), from the restaurant’s Siciliano topped with tomato sauce, eggplant caponata, and cumin-scented ricotta to the Arugula & Proscuitto pie, which sports fresh tomatoes, bel paese and romano cheese in addition to its namesake ingredients. But, this pumpkin “pie” was truly a thing of beauty. Gorgeously crisp and fragrant it was a sultry autumnal treat for the tongue.
Wonder if it’s spoiled me for all other pumpkin pies…
Having trouble breaking into the New York real estate market? No worries. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, you can get into a new building boom that’s beginning to build momentum:
There’s a building boom going on in gingerbread houses.
Making them was once the domain of professional bakers and only the most ambitious home chefs, but in recent years, everyone from mom-and-pop kitchens to stores like Williams-Sonoma has started offering gingerbread-house kits, many of them pre-baked and even preassembled. And gingerbread isn’t just for Christmas anymore. There are now kits for Halloween houses, Easter cottages and even gingerbread doghouses complete with Fido and his fire hydrant.
Don’t really think that Donald Trump or David Walentas have much to worry about. But, let’s just hope that the present administration doesn’t see this pre-fab trend as a potential quick-fix solution for the low-income housing crisis. Talk about crumby housing.
Sorry about not posting on Friday, but at 1pm, while fighting a miserable cold of my own, I received a call from the emergency room at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson Hospital, where my mother had been taken following a very bad fall on her way to work.
A little history is called for here - My mother was in a horrible accident a couple years back, and wasn’t supposed to recover in any meaningful way. But, happily, the doctor’s prognosis had been wrong, and since then my Mom has been labeled a “miracle” of sorts in terms of her health. Hurrah for Mom.
However, in the past two years, my mother seems to have spent more than her fair share of time in hospitals, whether for surgery in relation to her earlier accident or new problems that have cropped up as a result from it.
So, hearing from the ER on Friday afternoon brought back a flood of anxiousness and upset built up over the past two years. And, the fact that my Mom spent a total of 14 hours, in severe pain, shoved on a gurney in the ER’s hall with an alley entrance door regularly opening to blow frigid air in her direction, didn’t help matters. Neither did my constant sneezing and sniffling.
By the time the doctors finally agreed to admit my mother for the night, and she was finally knocked out on morphine in a hospital bed, I wasn’t sure where to turn for comfort. I decided to settle for a simple cup of coffee at Cosi. Little did I know how much that cup of Joe would help warm and revive me.
The next morning, traipsing back to the hospital after a fairly restless night, featuring loads of worry and several sneezing fits, I wondered if lightning could strike twice. Dare I attempt to wield the power of mighty Java again? Deciding to forgo chain Joe, I stopped at a neighborhood fave Stellar Coffee and ordered a double-shot latte. The pasty white, bearded, nose-pierced barista shook his head in approval with a “Word girl” for good measure. I was tempted to let him know that he wasn’t black, but considering that he held my life in his hands - or at the very least, his espresso machine, I let it go. As I grabbed the hot, steaming cup, paid and offered “Thanks,” he proffered another “Word.”
I took a hefty gulp of the fragrant, warm liquid, and actually found myself invigorated and smiling.
So now, my mother is recuperating at home. It’ll be about 8 weeks until she’s back in top form. And, before I headed back to NYC this morning I made sure she had a solid breakfast under her belt. Coffee was of course included. Can’t imagine that it’ll have the miraculous restorative powers it had for me.
But, she still has tonight’s chicken soup to look forward too…
There’s something about the brisk wind in the morning, the leaves turning color and beginning to descend upon city streets, and the Hallmark store windows overstuffed with Thanksgiving and Christmas displays that gets me thinking of cinnamon, nutmeg and most of all - pumpkin. It’s such a wonderfully versatile veggie, lending its deep orange hue and mellow texture to soups and desserts alike.
Of course, pumpkin pie is staple at Thanksgiving tables, but I’m partial to the Union Square Cafe’s recipe for Pumpkin Flan. But, my all time favorite pumpkin recipe is from an old issue of Saveur - Pumpkin Ice Cream. Mixed up some of this super-rich, lucious, spicy stuff the other night. Having a hard time resisting its call from inside my freezer. But, I’m holding out for serving at an upcoming dinner party - possibly with a dark, rich, fragrant Gingerbread Cake or more delecate Walnut Tart. Suggestions are welcome…
And, in case you have the urge to crank out some of this glorious autumnal frozen confection yourself, here’ s the recipe:
Pumpkin Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 TBSP ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
Heat 1 1/2 cups of the heavy cream over a double-boiler. In separate bowl whisk yolks, sugar, and corn syrup together. Add the spices. Slowly pour a 1/4 cup of the hot cream into the yolk mixture and then pour into the double-boiler with the rest of the hot cream. Cook over medium flame, constantly stirring until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon - should take between 10 - 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a clean bowl. Mix in remaining cold heavy cream, vanilla and the pumpkin. Chill for at least 6 hours before churning in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
New York City is a wonderland for globe-trotting palates, from Egyptian fare in Astoria to Austrian vittles in Ft. Greene. But, what if our palates yearn not for a trip around the world - but a trip back in time?
Julie Powell of The Julie/Julia Project fame comes to the rescue with her article in Archaeology Magazine about ancient cookery - including dishes from the Mesopotamians, Mongolians, and Mayans. The decidedly urbane LIC-resident unearthed an astounding array of recipes from sources as obscure as Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and records from the eleventh-century court of Kublai Khan. But, actually uncovering the recipes wasn’t the least of Powell’s challenges in putting together her Archaeology story:
The first difficulty a twenty-first-century home cook runs into when attempting to explore cuisines hundreds or thousands of years old is in establishing the ground rules. Does one make use of refrigeration? (The answer, after a brief but definitive analysis of logistics: an emphatic yes.) What about mutton, one of the most common meats throughout the Old World but now almost impossible for the common consumer to obtain in this country? Would I be cheating if I settled for lamb? (In America today, sheep are slaughtered almost exclusively before the end of their first year, making them technically lamb. Anything older is very, very tough–to buy, I mean, although I presume it also presents a challenge to the incisors.) And what about all those archaic food-preparation methods? I possess neither a horse under whose saddle I can shove meat for tenderizing, as the Mongols did, nor a yard into which I can dig a six-foot-deep hole to cook my turkey Maya-style. And then there are the Sumerian recipes that call for blood. Is it safe to cook with blood? Is it even legal?
That said, in the name of full disclosure, I’ve worked with the magazine and Julie in my day-job capacity - and actually had the pleasure of dining on some of these ancient culinary treasures. The Mongolian Eggplant Manta is particularly lovely (pictured to the far left above). But, I just can’t get behind the Lamb Liquor.
I have a feeling that some of you were scratching your heads when I suggested last Friday that you picture me over the weekend at, among other events, a “chank” bachelorette party. Chank? What the heck’s that?
I realize that there are likely a few of of you high verbal-SAT-scorers jumping up and down right now with an - Ooh! Ooh! I know. Sorry buckos, I’m not talking about a shell-themed bachelorette soiree. (How lame. You guys needed to study less and party more.)
Chank is a term I coined several years back, a combination of the words “cheap” and “swank” - ultimately the perfect combo for experiencing the magnificent dichotomy of New York’s drinking and dining scene, while being kind to your wallet. Example? A Kir Royale at The Four Seasons followed by Indian food on Curry Row in the East Village.
Get it now?
And, so Saturday night began at the decadently delightful Campbell Apartment (pictured above), where we were immediately put off by a tall, unpleasant Nazi hostess. How fabulous! (Not really.) I attempted to work some VV magic and eventually secured a prime perch for our party and we began to toast the bride-to-be with Veuve Clicquot. (F. Scott and Zelda would’ve been proud!)
Certainly the swank portion of the night had been a winner. But, what chank evening would be complete without the requisite “ch?” And, what’s more “ch” than good ol’ BBQ and a few cool brewskys? So, we bid adieu to the luxurious surroundings of Campbell Apartment and headed to the Theater District’s smokehouse fave, Virgil’s (spread pictured below.)
A heaping platter of Hush Puppies, a plate of cold Jumbo Shrimp, several Memphis Pork Ribs, a helping of Georgia Pecan Rice, an oversized BBQ Salad and several ice cold beers served us well. It was finger-lickin’, downhome fun, featuring four fairly drunk, overstuffed broads and one goofy tiara. (Dolly and Loretta would’ve been proud!)
Chank. Live it. Love it. Go forth and chank…And, let me know how it goes.