The last few weeks have not been particularly kind to us here at The Manhattan [food] Project, thanks to a series of injuries, illnesses, and mounting work stress that inevitably comes at the end of the calendar year. While everyone is physically fine (or at least close to it) now, in the last few weeks I had to deal with a husband who had a nasty sinus infection and a father who smacked his head against a curb when he tripped on a slippery ramp in Danbury during a weekend visit. (They are both fine now, but I feel like my sanity was hanging by a thread there for a while.) Even before all of that excitement I had been feeling discouraged, frustrated, and uninspired, and had it not been for an email exchange with a lovely reader, I’d be a lot crankier right now because I wouldn’t have this dish, straight from La Boqueria, in my repertoire. Read More
With the gifting season in full swing (Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!), one of the most frustrating things I tend to encounter in shopping for gifts is finding things that stick to a certain budget. My team at work, for example, tends to stick to a $20 limit for its gift exchange, and it’s difficult to think of things that satisfy the following gift criteria that I have in my head:
- Unexpectedness (as in, it should satisfy the above two and also be a genuine surprise, if possible.)
So I’m going to share some of the things I really like and/or purchased and some of the things I think would make awesome presents for those who you want to provide something nice, but something useful. Read More
Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.
–Don Draper, “The Wheel,” Mad Men
It’s appropriate, I suppose, that I write this on the same day my madeleine mold tray arrived in the mail, if for the classic literature reference alone. But today isn’t one for cakes to be dipped into tea; no, it’s for listening to Nino Rota’s score for La Dolce Vita for the umpteenth time, and maybe drinking a nice glass of Barbera d’Asti with dinner. It’s about figuring out where in Stamford I can find the freshest eggs possible to make myself a plate of delicious carbornara and portioning out what is likely the last of the sage leaves from my balcony plant for some veal saltimbocca.
You see, our friend and innkeeper during our stay in Acqui Terme has formally announced that she and her husband are in the process of selling their B&B, and while I had a feeling that something like this was going to happen sooner rather than later, the finality of the news struck me with an overwhelming sadness that even threw me off-guard. We visited them just over five years ago on our honeymoon and spent an idyllic week there, walking around the northern Italian countryside, cooking little meals in their gorgeous kitchen, trespassing in their neighbors’ vineyards, and exploring the spa town that was a few kilometers down the hill from their property. I’ve written snippets about our trip over the years, but like most of our travels that have particularly resonated with me, I can never bring myself to write more than a few words at a time about how the trip affected me.
To be honest, I’ve struggled to understand this since-growing reticence of mine to write at length about these experiences, either here or even in my private journal; I mean, I’d assume I’d be just as quick to want to capture the words that described everything I’d seen and tasted and experienced in a place just as much as I whipped out my camera to photograph seemingly everything in sight while I was there. But I think there’s something to be said for not putting it to page, however private that page may be, because then perhaps once it’s released from the depths of both the heart and the mind, the urge, the yearning to revisit those feelings in person again could go away.
Or maybe I’m afraid of putting the experience into words lest they cause that experience to plummet from the profound into the trite. Isn’t that what can hurt about nostalgia the most—that our memories, no matter how fond we are of them, aren’t that special after all upon closer examination? Read More
Welp. Well, I guess it’s really fall, even if the temperatures have crept close to the 70s a few days ago, and threaten to do so later this week. You know how I know this? The darkness has been making a hasty return sooner and sooner every day, and as someone who lives in the Northeast and prefers taking pictures of my food in natural light, I hate it. So please bear with me as I once again readjust to the awful artificial light in our apartment. Clearly, I will never take this transition well.
One of the few bright spots about this transition to colder weather is feeling the need to take the shears to my pots of herbs while they are still lush and vibrant. My oregano plant has been left to its own devices all season and has gotten positively unruly; because it’s considered to be really strong in taste, the only amount I’ve needed to use are a few sprigs here and there in recipes all summer. I despaired of finding a proper way to dispatch of it until I found this lovely pesto recipe from Saveur, which called for one and a half cups of packed oregano leaves and only half a cup of basil leaves. A little more than a week ago I trimmed back my plant to make the sauce to pour over pasta, and the results were not only really satisfying, but this pesto felt more autumnal compared to the ones I’ve been making all summer. Read More
Not long after our friend T moved out to Chicago, he sent me a link to a wine bar/cheese shop that wasn’t far from his apartment that he thought I’d like, all but promising to go there when I eventually paid him a visit. I hadn’t forgotten about the place in the intervening months that followed, so when I was finally able to head out to the Windy City a few weeks ago to finally see him, going to Pastoral (the wine/cheese shop) and its sister bistro next door Bar Pastoral was one of the few definitive plans I had for the trip, and perhaps the only disappointment I had was that I only was able to eat there once.
But oh, was that one time a memorable one!
T was completely wiped from a particularly grueling work week, so by the time we sat down at the bar he was more than happy to let me run the show. Since this was my first time there, I decided to cede control to our very helpful bartender, who recommended a nice selection of cheeses: a soft cheese made with water buffalo milk, a lovely blue cheese, and a firm cheese that I’m pretty sure was Manchego. (This bad food blogger forgot to write them all down. Boo.) Some slices of chorizo and prosciutto di San Daniele finished the plate, along with a little loaf of crusty bread and a nice glass of red wine. Even better was that each cheese came with its own specific garnish, ensuring that when you loaded up a piece of bread with your cheese of choice, you were going to get a complex, complete bite.
A few Sundays ago, when we were waiting for our flight back to New York from Chicago, Michael and I were wandering through the United Express terminal at O’Hare and saw that there was a flight to New Orleans was on the board, and while it was full…we saw two seats were open. For all of two minutes we toyed with the fantasy of getting a flight there instead of back home, but alas–practicality won the day. (Also helping: those two seats were gone by the time we came back from getting a bite to eat.)
So while there are no immediate plans to take in the NOLA food and music in person, at least we have this season of Top Chef to live vicariously and recipes from Saveur to transport us there…if only for a meal. Read More
I spent the last few days in Chicago visiting a dear friend, and those days were surprisingly warm. I was all ready to embrace the fall and I even packed two sweaters to combat against the wind tunnel effect, but they and the jacket I packed were completely unnecessary. It was sunny, and warm, and largely reminiscent of not only the last third of this past summer, but also of our time last year in Barcelona. Between Thursday and Friday, I walked all over Lincoln Park, and the Loop, and revisited West Loop which was the neighborhood I stayed in the first time I was in Chicago ever. As a belated housewarming gift to my friend I brought him an immersion blender, and ever since then I was kind of preoccupied with making my favorite tomato pesto because it always comes out better using that than the traditional blender.
If I also wanted an excuse to post this recipe again to tempt T into making it before the tomatoes are lousy, well, I’ll never tell. Read More
OK, so I feel a little guilty. I’ve been sitting on these cocktails for most of the summer, but because I couldn’t write my way to a coherent blog post until now, these recipes have gone unpublished and therefore not enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t had the chance to hang out with us in the intervening weeks. But Fall Creep has started to rear its ugly head, so I need to share these post-haste before the it comes to wipe out what’s left of summer.
Let me be clear: I love the fall, but I HATE Fall Creep. Thanks to platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, people can indulge their desire for cooler weather practically year-round; unfortunately, CPG companies have realized that they can start pushing things like pumpkin-flavored lattes and Halloween candy even earlier than they ever thought possible as a result of said anticipation. It’s one thing when malls are decked out for Christmas before Thanksgiving–it is quite another when images of sweaters and pumpkins and dead leaves pop up on my feeds before the peak tomato season has even hit the Northeast. Tomato season is SPECIAL, you guys, and it is far too short to be passed over for fall-flavored syrups without a second thought.
So before you go and ruin the many weeks we still have left of summer with your fall cravings, may I suggest making at least one of these cocktails? I promise you won’t be disappointed. Read More
I had high hopes for this tortilla, and while it was delicious and did a pretty good job of matching the idea of the final product that was in my head, there’s also much room for improvement. But that’s how cooking goes some days. The key is, of course, is to crack a few more eggs and try it again.
My initial vision was to make a Spanish-style tribute to one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had: the omelette aux fines herbes at Pastis.* It’s enormous and fluffy and comes with a side of frites, and paired with a good French 75 it’s my platonic ideal of brunch these days. While the dish as-is would be a wonderful dinner, I’m not one for making frites at home, much less on a weekday. Here’s where the Spanish inspiration came in: crumble in some high-quality potato chips (in our case, the house-made chips from Fairway) along with the herbs into the eggs, and cook it all as a tortilla, served with a big salad.
Because really: if really tasty potato chips are good enough for both Feran Adrià and José Andrés to make the tortilla process a little faster, then they are good for all of us. While the resultant tortilla was tasty, it wasn’t perfectly cooked: the middle was a little runny while the exterior was just a touch too done. This didn’t bother me personally as I like runny eggs, but I’d really like to master the balance of exterior to interior doneness and make a tortilla that is as pretty as it is tasty one of these days. I’ve read that smaller pans are best, so I’ve placed a smaller nonstick on my birthday wishlist and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to report on my success or lack thereof.
So let’s call this the “before” photo, and the “after” will come when I have less pan to work with and the same number of eggs. Pending that experiment, a recipe will soon follow.
*I wasn’t into eggs, much less an omelette, until a few years ago and therefore I have a very limited data set for reference. Feel free to instruct me on where to find better omelettes in the comments.