Why don't we just create Sunnyside-Up Egg, Maple Bacon and Toast-flavored Coffee and get breakfast over in one fell gulp?!?
Why don't we just create Sunnyside-Up Egg, Maple Bacon and Toast-flavored Coffee and get breakfast over in one fell gulp?!?
No sooner do I mention my fondness for tripe, when my chef-type pal Stan admits that he has always wanted to tackle tripe in the kitchen, but never had a dinner guest who would oblige his fascination with bovine stomach line.
What can I say? I'm very obliging.
Good thing too, since his hearty Roman-style rendition served over Parmesan-scented polenta was utterly delicious. And, with my baking an Olive Oil-Lemon Cake to bring up the rear, a well-rounded meal was had.
Needless to say, we both felt very well-rounded at the evening's end. Well, more round anyway. In fact, rather roly-poly.
Next time, I have to get obsessed with rice cakes. Plain rice cakes. Dry rice cakes. Much better for the waste line.
But then I won't be able to use the phrase "roly-poly" in the resulting posting. Hmmm...Tough call.
Tripe stew it is!
I've been off the grid once again. This time, I have a good excuse. I was in Philadelphia for a long spell to be by Mama Vamp's side while she had to deal with yet another hospital stay. She is fine. Recovering well. We're hoping this is the last hospital visit for a good while -- at the very least because hospital kitchen staff seems to have trouble even making Jello.
When I arrived, Mama Vamp being Mama Vamp, knew all too well of the trays of insipid chicken broth and Saltines that were coming her way.
Insisting on keeping her spirits up before going under the knife, she demanded a humdinger of a last supper.
A humdinger it was.
We hailed a cab and landed in Washington Square West where we grabbed a table at Marc Vetri's new Roman-inspired trattoria Amis. Mama Vamp liked the bustling dining room and open kitchen filled with dashing young chef-types chopping, sauteeing and plating to her desire. (I was pretty darn happy with the scene myself!)
Then the food starting coming. First up, a Bruschetta consisting of a gorgeous heap of fresh Buffalo Milk Ricotta topped with cracked black pepper, served alongside thick slices of toasted peasant bread. A winning trio of Pork Liver Terrine with Mostarda, Coppa with Hazelnut Honey, and Fennel Salami with Marmalade followed.
Mama Vamp was smiling. Smiling, but nervous. Not nervous about tomorrow's visit to the hospital. Nope. She was nervous about the next dish to land on the table: Stewed Tripe. Offal can put off a lot of people, but I was surprised that my mother was so apprehensive about the beautiful casserole put in front of us. Pictured above, you can rightly see that there was nothing to fear.
Thankfully, one bite into this hearty, flavorful dish, covered in cheese and bathed in sweet tomatoes, and Mama Vamp declared tripe to be one of her all-time favorite foods -- at least if it was Amis' Stewed Tripe.
A fantastic dish of Rigatoni with Swordfish and Eggplant Fries hit the table next, with a few tender slices of Roasted Lamb Shoulder holding up the rear. They were both wonderful, but neither offered up the same greedy, gleeful glint in Mama Vamp's eyes as the Stewed Tripe.
Now, all Mama Vamp has to do is listen to her doctors, go to physical therapy and work her way back to tip-top shape -- so she can visit me in New York, where I can take her to Locanda Verde for Tripe alla Parmigiana with a Fried Organic Egg.
If that won't motivate her, I don't know what will!
According to today's Wall Street Journal, the "Underwear Bomber" may not have have caused the destruction he desired, but oddly enough, he has dashed the dreams of meat-loving Americans.
In the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed underpants bombing attempt on Christmas, the new slate of airport scrutiny -- pat-down searches, body scans and more-meticulous baggage examinations -- is throwing a monkey wrench in the plans of chefs hoping to sneak in a salami or ham from a faraway land:
Such measures might discourage terrorists, but they are also likely to catch chefs smuggling meat from Europe. Chefs such as Rey Knight, who once flew from Italy to Miami with a pork shoulder and fennel-pollen salami vacuum-sealed and hidden inside a stainless-steel water bottle. Another time, he says, he hid a 4-pound goose-liver torchon from France inside the belly of a salmon...
...Mr. Knight and other chefs go to such lengths because it is illegal to bring many of the world's most treasured meats into the country. (Fish are OK.) The government calls this smuggling. But chefs say their motives are mainly educational: They use them to reverse-engineer their own versions.
Apparently, Knight and other carnivore devotees have gone as far as to hire professional labs to analyze the foreign finocchiona and such, in order to recreate it here in the States. An admirable pursuit in my opinion, but customs officials seem to disagree:
Smuggling is something you do with drugs or kids," jokes executive chef Chris Cosentino, whose San Francisco restaurant Incanto specializes in dishes that use most every part of an animal. "Our goal is to improve the food system."...
...Because customs officials once caught him with sausages made from donkey parts hidden in shoes packed in his luggage, Mr. Cosentino's bags were already subject to extra attention. He once got around that by duct taping to the inside of his blue jeans seeds for a special variety of chicory he found at a pet-food store in Bologna, Italy. Scanners able to see through clothing, now being installed in many foreign airports, should put an end to such practices.
Don't the U.S. Customs Office and Office of Homeland Security have more important things to worry about than these sorts of chef shenanigans?
First Calexico jumped the cart and hit Court Street in Carroll Gardens.
Then Dessert Truck decided to go all "brick-and-mortar" on the Lower East Side.
Now word is that Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is going to have a storefront in Greenpoint.
Taking the trend West coast, Kogi Korean Taco Truck legend Chef Roy Choi is heading indoors as well, despite LA's temperate clime.
Still, there is something undeniably tempting about street food. Moving to a four walls and a roof situation just doesn't have the same vibe. And, no matter how many street meat operations go restaurant, I firmly believe that dining al fresco from well-wheeled vendors is here to stay.
After all, the Vendy Awards have been called "the Oscars of the street food scene" here in New York. Now, if only this year's event included a red carpet entrance! (Made of ketchup or Sriracha chili paste perhaps?)
The birthday partying continued. Regrettably though, there was an unfortunate theme that infiltrated two excellent dinners -- bad dining neighbors.
First there was a festive dinner at Bar Breton with Laurel, where we planned to celebrate both our b-days in fabulous French brasserie-style. As evidenced by the exquisite appetizer of Tuna Tartare pictured above, the food was indeed fabulous. The meal also included the restaurant's much-lauded BB Burger, medium-rare and juicy, composed of house-ground brisket and short rib, as well as warm Nutella Crepes for dessert.
Sounds lovely, doesn't it?
Well, the food and service was lovely. The view -- of a canoodling couple -- was not.
I'm not a prude, but there are times you just want to shout "GET ROOM!" This was one of those times. Especially, since the couple in question hadn't asked for a secluded corner table and instead sat smack dab in the middle of the well-lit dining room. I could see that the man was clearly twice the age of his blonde companion, so perhaps he wanted to show off a bit, but c'mon. No need to be unappetizingly amorous in public.
Next up was Saul with my pal Sandra. As always, the food was masterful, starting with a Cauliflower Soup that amazed and delighted...
Moving onto Aged Rib Eye Steak with Slow-Cooked Beef Shortribs, Garlic-Scented Potato Puree and Bone Marrow Butter, followed by a triumphant Baked Alaska for dessert, it was a truly divine birthday dinner.
Divine except for the newly engaged couple seated to our left. Seated only half a foot to our left.
The "he" in the couple had popped the question and given the ring at the entrance to the small, low-key restaurant and then "she" proceeded to gush about the ring at the table ad nauseum with stops for the requisite PDAs throughout the meal.
This really would have been okay, had they not been plunked down within easy earshot of Sandra and I, a mere six-inches away from our table.
I realize that I probably sound like a curmudgeon with this posting. But, is it too much to ask that these overtly ardent couples find more private tables? Both establishments had enough room and table options to satisfy that sort of request. Yet, neither couple made a move. And, if it is way too much to ask, can they just keep it to hand holding and a game of footsie, until they get home?
Yup. Guess I'm a curmudgeon after all. That's was you get for turning a year older!
And, maybe next time I'll simply ask for the secluded table.
Today's Wall Street Journal featured a Personal Journal cover story about making canned foods at home, spotlighting recipes for canning your own Pickles and Peach Jam.
Now, they're promoting canning. Canning?!?
Can't wait to see next week's Wall Street Journal feature on butter churning.
I feel like inviting Michael Pollan over for dinner. His diatribe in yesterday's Sunday New York Times Magazine was so darn sad, it inspires me to make him a chicken.
Titled "No One Cooks Here Anymore," Pollan's article presented a ying-yang view of food in the U.S.-- comparing past to present. For page after wistful page, Pollan waxed poetically about his childhood watching Julia Child in all her public television glory take on boeuf bourgignon,, duck a la orange and mousse au chocolat. Then he turned to his current despair in discovering that cooking has become a "spectator sport" in America and that suburban Moms are buy frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lest they deign to go through the arduous task of making the lunchbox classic themselves.
Michael: The women that buy frozen PBJ don't want to cook and have availed themselves of any tool necessary in order to avoid it.
On the flipside, there is a reason that gourmet supermarkets like Whole Foods and local greenmarkets are flourishing. There is very strong microcosm of the U.S. that has thrown themselves full-throttle into the culinary arts. Whether it simply comes to appreciating fine food or actually hitting the stove, it's a revelation.
Hasn't Michael Pollan seen how many people share photos of everything they consume on Flickr and alike? He might see it as part of the "spectator" aspect of food these days, but I think it has more to do with the savoring. These amateur foodies and photogs are snapping a fleeting image of a plate that goes beyond sustenance, taking it further into the realm of art.
Cooking hasn't disappeared. It's morphed. It's being cherished by a group of fervent foodies who don't -- and won't -- give up on the pleasures of the frying pan, whisk and blender.
Case in point: This weekend alone I whipped up tart and creamy Avocado Dressing, made Fettuccine with a rich Lemon Cream Sauce, brewed a pitcher of fresh Sweet Iced Tea, put together a fragrant batch of Basil Pesto, and indulged in the culinary hug that is making a Roast Chicken with Asparagus, Potatoes and Carrots (see above).
I made the bird for a friend who is in a bad way. Not Michael, mind you. Another pal.
But, Michael: The offer still stands. Just let me know when you're ready. Roast Chicken will be yours. I'll have my roasting pan on standby and the butcher on speed dial.
That said, I've seen "Julie & Julia" and Meryl Streep is breathtaking, warm and utterly charming as Julia Child. I couldn't help but smile with delight every single time she was on screen. And, an overwhelming need for all things French surely did follow.
The grumbling is really all about Julie Powell - the real Julia Powell, not the fictional one up on the screen portrayed by the ever-perky Amy Adams.
I say ignore it. Go. See Meryl as Julia. It's bliss.
It's called hair sausage. The hair is not grown. It's placed.
It's not from young Asian women relinquishing their long tresses. It's from Italy, where they relinquish strands of spaghetti by the millions.
Beautiful, ain't it?