On Week One

February 20, 2013

As of the publishing of this post, i’m halfway through my 21 day adventure in abstinence! I’m alive! And fairly well, I must say. I only cheated once, when I drank a tiny tin cup masala tea with milk in it, because I didn’t have the heart to send it back!

I wanted to check in, and give you all some of my more successful recipes for tasty vegan grub!

Mind. Ok. I wasn’t really prepared for the caffeine headaches. I will say that. I likely should have weened myself off instead of going cold turkey. I had gorgeous blood orange tea while a friend drank a flat white, and I wanted one so bad! Also, I formally disagree with anyone who has suggested there is some kind of mental acuity associated with hunger. I miss things (good bread and cheese seem to top the list), but that’s to be expected, and I spent about 45 minutes salivating over the St. Anselm menu yesterday. But  going without has helped me realize that I should stick to eating the best bread and cheese if I love it so much, which doesn’t include deli egg and cheese sandwiches on hard rolls. Dealing with the stress of work and life without a glass of bourbon (or four) to come home to has been a challenge, one that i’m better off for attempting. I am astounded at how productive I can be in a weekend sans-hangover.

I made myself these avocado chocolate mousses to celebrate making it through my first week!

Recipe, here, except I used unsweetened chocolate.

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I’m lucky to have a cohort in cleansing, Ms. Katie Hards, who has been great! Supportive without taking this ish too seriously!

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BODY. I seriously feel awesome. I have a crazy awesome amount of energy. I’ve been moving more – from walking home from work to taking dance classes. Samba this Saturday was really a blast. It was fun, and a serious workout shaking it to live drummers for an hour and a half. My pants fit better, and it seems like I lost about 8 pounds in the first 10 days, which is crazy.Also, my skin looks fantastic.

WALLET: In Week One alone I saved $50 by bringing my lunch every day, and an estimated $120 on bar tabs. BUT there is a definite time cost incurred to prep all that delicious grub.(This is a huge problem I have with the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan. Eating cheap AND healthy can be seriously time consumptive. Luckily, I really like doing it. Getting my mis-on is serious therapy for me after a long day behind a computer. I also spent more on groceries than usual, and got a mani/pedi on Saturday, because, duh, TREAT YO SELF.

CULTCHA: I’ve been trying to keep busy, but work is kind of starting to get a little crazy town, so I don’t have as much free-time as I thought I did.  I saw Toro Y Moi with Wild Belle on Valentine’s Day with my favorite lady, who made me a great dinner. Going to a concert sober was pretty interesting. I was able to stand right up front because I wasn’t concerned with being near a bar! The dance classes count as culture, right?

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The Grub. Ok, so my cookin’ has been on point! I ususally have a green juice or oatmeal for breakfast, a salad or leftovers for lunch, and then concentrate on making myself really nice dinners. Here are two especially good ones, with recipes! You’ll notice that they have a lot of the same ingredients, cause I made a huge pot of black beans and a big bowl of cashew cream last week!

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Black Bean Quinoa Burgers with Avocado Mash and Cashew Creamphoto(6)

Click through for recipes!

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Everything you ever read on the internets about starting a cleanse revolves around getting prepared, about easing into it, about getting your guts and mind ready to start this elimination endeavor.

You prepare your way, Gwyneth Paltrow, i’ll prepare my way, ok?

How did I prepare to take three weeks off from booze, coffee, meat, and dairy? I ate and drank all those things, in the best combinations ever, with the best possible company. My pre-cleanse weekend was pretty fantastic.

Let me elaborate:

I needed to up my resveratrol levels.

I needed to up my resveratrol levels.

Friday: As Nemo threatened to blizzard all over everything, I was able to scoot out of work early and somehow throw together a last-minute dinner party. My friend Kate, who is mentioned here probably too frequently, says that if “Speed-Entertaining” were an Olympic sport, i’d be GOLDEN. She and her beau, Kevin, who happens to be an incredibly generous wine representative, trudged through the snow with a few other friends to eat homemade chicken pot pie and imbibe on Kevin’s AMAZING leftover wine from tastings that day. We ate, and drank, and laughed, and watched all of these amazing videos of Nina Simone. My favorites were from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

Saturday: There must be something to the theory that good wine does not give one a hangover, because after the serious wine-o session mentioned above, I managed to peel myself from bed, grab a latte, and get to Central Park before 10 am – before the throngs of sledders and their parents. I walked around for a few hours, in sheer wonder of how beautiful and quiet the few inches of snow had made everything. It was glorious. People were smiling at one another. I SAW NUNS SLEDDDDDDDING. The sky got big and blue, and the sun got warm.

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Ok, Saturday was the only day I actually did anything to prepare for the week-ahead. I dropped a hundo at Fairway on fruits, veggies, bagged beans, whole grains, and pantry staples like olive oil, cider vinegar, etc. I also cleaned the shit out of my fridge! AND reorganized my spices, and finally put them in their proper homes – these adorable little glass containers that have been in my pantry for six months!

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Sunday: I ate tacos for breakfast. Smoked meat tacos. Two kinds. I met an old (great) friend at Briskettown for brisket and pork belly tacos, and what felt like endless cups of Blue Bottle coffee in great enamel mugs. Good food, good chat. Then I drank a million big beers in a big sunny room, with a big group of good looking people I adore. I tasted all of their sausages.  Last hurrah, GO!

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Incredibly Good-Looking Company.

So, now that i’m three days in, caffeine headache in FULL EFFECT, would I have done anything differently to prepare?

Yeah. Getting home Monday night at 7:30, HANGRY, to a refrigerator and pantry full of whole foods that needed real prep to get turned into dinner stressed me out a little bit. My go-to move would be to eat a half a baguette while dinner was cooking. This was not an option! I ate a few almonds, drank a big glass of water and went to town prepping not only dinner for that night, but staples for the rest of the week, as to not put myself in that hanger-pickle again.

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Bean-Still My Heart!

I’m going to post some recipe highlights from Week 1 this weekend, but quickly, let me just say that this huge pot of black beans has been the tastiest, saviest experiment this week. Don’t tell anyone this, but I buy canned beans, usually. I know – dried are cheaper, and more delicious, but they take forever. I rarely plan that far in advance, but I thought this would be my chance to experiment.  SO I tried this no-soak recipe from The Kitchn. AMAZING. A bag of beans, covered with water, 1/2 an onion, some garlic, and some cumin cooked in a dutch oven for an hour and a half, and then BOOM- BEANS FOR DAYS. My whole house smelled amazing, might I add.

ALSO you can get nightly photos of my dinners over on my Instagram.

Or follow my tweets, which are the most positive after breakfast, and whiniest around 5 pm when the caffeine headaches are the worst!

On Cleaning Up.

February 5, 2013

Dear readers, I’m hoping that by this time next week I’m not standing on a street corner, yelling out in hanger, or curled up under my desk, shaking, from caffeine withdrawals.

I’ve decided to take 21 days off from the things I love the most (namely, beer and beef), and clean up my eating/drinking act starting next Monday. Why, you might ask, incredulously with eyebrows raised as many of my loved ones have? A number of reasons.

But first, the rules:

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1. Dollar Dollar Bills. 2013 is my year to get my shit together, financially. Bourbon is expensive. 5 bourbons are even more expensive. The cab home from Brooklyn because you’re too tipsy to take the subway is expensive. Pasture fed short ribs are expensive. Being a lazy bum and eating shitty take out for lunch is expensive. I figure if I can focus on feeding myself good, healthy, home cookin’ and cut out my bar tabs I can save myself an average of $80 – $120 a week. (Oh my God, I am just looking at that figure and thinking that’s a vacation or two a year in savings.)

2. Pep in the Step.  I felt like I was going to puke on the sidewalk the other day when 3 out of 4 of the escalators up from the center-of-the-earth- hell that is the 63rd Street F station were out. Not cute. I think I used school as an excuse to eat whatever I felt like, and to not move as much as I should. That’s over now, and I have “time”. Time to cook, time to walk home from work, time to hit the gym. I feel a little bit sluggish. I feel really sluggish when I have a hangover and lay in bed all day on a perfectly good Saturday eating Annie’s Mac and Cheese and watching every episode of Breaking Bad.

3. Cultcha.   I have an incredibly fulfilling social life, filled with friends that are smart and funny and good-looking, and are excellent dinner dates and drinking buddies.I think meeting them for a beer or a burger will be the hardest part of this adventure. New York City as a place supports my two inherent genetic traits: workaholism, and alcoholism. I think focusing on activities that aren’t centered around booze or meat for a little while will force me to see more of the city – to see films, performances, etc. I’ve got two concerts, African dance classes, a knife skills class, hopefully some volunteer work and maybe an Opera planned for the next couple weeks.

4. Vanity.  I’m fat. That’s not going to change. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to ditch my favorite jeans because they are currently too tight.  I saw this picture of me from when I worked on the farm. I was still fat, but I felt strong as hell, and I felt the best in my body I ever have. Also, look upon that sweet tan! Also, PBR in hand, duh.

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In preparation for the weeks ahead, i’ve been cooking myself boss dinners each night, with enough leftovers for lunch, so that I can get back in the kitchen swing, and think about portions.

Mustard crusted pork chops with kale and apple hash with thyme.

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Garlicky Kale Linguine with lemon and Parmesan.

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OH ALSO, SHOWER BEERS. (I’ll miss you.)

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So follow along these next few weeks! I am bad at commitment, and half a lush, so I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead of me. Don’t give me cheese, even if  I call you crying in the middle of the night, ok?

On New Orleans.

February 1, 2013

I’ve been threatening to take a trip to New Orleans for a while now. The idea of a vacation built entirely around snacks, drinks, and dancing has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. I could not have been more thrilled to be joined by two of my favorite broads ever, who just happen to be grad school colleagues, and the brilliant aforementioned supper club beauties.

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I love The Kates and liberal street drinking policies.

There was serious alchemy on this trip – perfect travel buds, warm weather, eating, walking, the kindness of strangers, dancing. I feel like we did a great balancing act of seeing “new” and “old” New Orleans – from classic cocktails in touristy bars, to an amazing local ingredient soul food pop-up dinner in a fantastic smokey bar  – from Oyster loaf and chicory coffee to avocado ice pops and local meat “southern antipasto”.

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Happiness is ice cold beer in tiny glasses, and fresh gulf oysters.

I think that our experience, limited as it was, was indicative of the way New Orleans is a city reverent of tradition, of folklore, of cultural history – but moving forward, partially because they’ve had to. Maybe that’s reductive, but it feels honest. Also, New Orleans is decidedly a “High Life” city, which was literally and figuratively refreshing. (Yes, I also had lots of great local brews also. I’m looking at you, NOLA Brewing Hopitoulas.)

Touristy? Yes. Legit fucking pisco sour? Also yes.

We were lucky to have had a (handsome) local tour guide (THANKS, JOSH!), as well as great recommendations from our network of pals and NOLA enthusiasts (Thanks, especially to Cait!)

Below find lots of pictures, and a list of the highlights of our trip.

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Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde. Maybe it’s obvious, but if you don’t like doughnuts and coffee, just get out of America.

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LEECHES!

Kate and I spent the better part of a morning wondering through M.S Rau Antiques, jaws agape. Bear Skeletons, living room sized silverware chests, tortoise shell everything. There was a man there whose sole job it was to wind antique clocks. NICHE. It was amazing. If I could go back, I would totally swing by Lucullus which specializes in culinary antiques.

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Literally, all of the oysters.

I loved starting my day with a dozen raw oysters and a cold beer, cause i’m a boss like that. The best? The huge, tongue-like incredibly fresh ones from Casamento’s, shucked by Mike, who sweet talked the shit out of us. Follow your oysters up with more oysters, fried, between two pieces of white bread, slathered with mayo, and an healthy shake of Louisiana hot sauce.

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New Orleans has really great signs. Really great colored stucco – greens and corals. The kind of charming disrepair I found and loved in Key West.

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Every single person we met in New Orleans was kind. Like over-the top nice. Like,” here take this extra bus ticket” nice. Like, “Oh my cousin is the maitre d’ at that restaurant, do you want me to see if I can get you a table” nice. Except this man. He was the most fluid, beautiful short order cook I have ever seen, with the ability to make every burger flip look hateful. Never has disdain looked so elegant. I loved him. And I loved the burger + egg he made me at 3 am. The Clover Grill was the NOLA version of a NJ diner, and I dig it.

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We didn’t really eat very many vegetables in New Orleans, i’ll admit. We did however, have all of the best meats, in excess. If there is a heaven, it smells like Cochon Butcher. We stood there, faces pressed against the meat cases, like puppies. We were able to nab a table outside in the sunshine, where we went to town on sandies. Bacon and collard green melt, with an unhealthy amount of their sweet potato hot sauce.

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And then, the sandwich of all sandwiches: The Gambino. House cured meats, mortadello, sopressata on the best ciabatta i’ve ever had, piled with perfectly dressed arugula. It was truly, a beautiful sandwich. Best enjoyed with beautiful ladies, cold beer, and Bruce Lee.

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New Orleans is a classic cocktail city. A cold beer city. A craft beer city, even. But it didn’t feel so much like a wine city. That was until Josh took us out to Bacchanal in Bywater. The premise was awesome. Choose a bottle of wine from their (fantastic) selection, maybe scoop some local cheese from the cold case, and take it out back into the huge outdoor space. The live music was amazing. The wine, beautiful. The company, superior. I want to live in a place where I don’t have to wear pants in January.

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We are the happiest customers.

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Cocktails! All of the cocktails! Sazeracs! Vieux Carre! Mint Juleps! Pisco Sours! At all of the classic cocktail joints! Hotel Monteleone is worth a trip, I think. We went on a Sunday, and were able to snag seats at the carousel bar!

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Not pictured, but CERTAINLY worth checking out!

  • The Crescent City Farmer’s Market! Amazing! Within the first half hour I was awake on Saturday, I had had chicory coffee, an amazing tamale, and an avocado ice pop. You want all of these things, together to start your day.
  • Sylvain Fantastic farm-to-table grub. Earnest, New American with deep southern roots. Their Southern Antipasti with country ham, pickled eggs, local cheese, and assorted little picklin’s was one of my favorite things I ate on the trip.

So go forth, readers, unto New Orleans! But call me if you are going, because i’m coming.

On Where I’ve Been

January 25, 2013

Kids! It’s been a while, aye? You were missed.

Here’s a rundown of the past 4 months, replete with Instagram evidence.

OCTOBER:

Hurricane Sandy. Even now, months later, I find it hard to find the words to describe the way Sandy felt. The way I felt watching my hometown, and across the bay neighbors take one on the chin, hard. How coming back to New York via car service, at midnight, to half the city’s lights out felt. How the survivor guilt set in as I made my way to the Upper East Side while my parents were without heat for weeks, knowing the homes and businesses of friends and relatives were destroyed. How kind of amazingly fun being holed up at Aunt Sue’s, stocked with PBR, camping gear, and firewood was,until we found out just how bad it was down south. How no one really understood what it meant to see Seaside’s amusements in the middle of the ocean, or washing up on shore felt. How thankful I was that everyone I loved was safe.

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I turned 27. Sandy tried pretty hard to ruin my birthday, and failed. I had planned on a huge dinner at Edi & the Wolf with a gaggle of friends, which in the face of zero subway transit and widespread power outages seemed impossible. But then, party Gods be praised, the 6 train opened up from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and the restaurant’s owner called me personally to ask if we could make it in for dinner. And so we ate, a smaller group than planned, trudging past the exploded ConEd station, as the hum of generators filled the streets. It was beautiful – the wine, the candles, the company. And that’s how I crossed into my rock and roll suicide year  – grateful for good friends and good food.

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NOVEMBER:

Beer. I fell in like with a beer nerd. I started drinking all kinds of crazy and beautiful beers. Beers aged in bourbon barrels. Double and triple IPA’s. Smoked beers. Beers on cask. Strong Ales. Coffee stouts. Thick, dark, hardcore beers. Beers with great names – Brown Shugga’, Old Curmudgeon Ale, Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’, Panty Dropper Ale, Mama’s Lil’ Yella Pils. I learned so much, in great beer bars and shops. I will always pledge allegiance to the bourbon flag, but this fall into winter has been really wonderfully brew centric.

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Giving Thanks. I kicked off the holiday season at a huge, incredibly relaxed pot luck. All I had to do was wake up and make stuffing, drink beer, and kitchen dance with my mom. there was a bonfire, great cocktails, a zillion little kids, and plenty of good food.  The weather was warm. My little brother towered over me.

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Look. I had a lot of great #outfits. My awkward grow-out hair found it’s way into neat a neat little bun. Blouses got witchier. Lipstick got gothier. I found that one way to feel in control of my otherwise insane grad-school, full time job life was to feel like I looked together.

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DECEMBER:

I fucking finished grad school. I presented a final project that  I was really proud of – a business expansion plan for a food-centric branch of the accounting firm I currently work for. I got great feedback from my peers and advisers. I made my parents proud. I celebrated with oysters, fried chicken, and champagne with two of my favorite classmates/ladies. My adviser gave me congratulatory M&M’s. I finished with a 3.76. I am a master of Food Systems. I can breathe.

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Celebration. I threw a really amazing party. Stocked bar – pomegranate bellinis, celery gin rickies, mulled cider. Good snacks – lamb meatballs, scallop and grapefruit ceviche, blue cheese shortbreads. So many guests that I adore. Visits to the roof. My new (old) punch bowl. Dance party. I was reinvigorated as a hostess. I could not have been happier.

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JANUARY:

New Year. I rang in the new year with one of my favorite humans. We ate ramen, made a dinosaur cake, listened to records, and drank a few beers. It was quiet, and perfect. There is no greater sense of self-righteousness than being clear-eyed and hangover-free on New Years day in quiet NYC streets, and in beautiful art installations.

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Cook. I started cooking with consistency. For myself. For others. For and with lovers. It feels good to be back in my tiny kitchen – punching out semolina gnocchi, deglazing pans, making soup for the work week’s lunches. I missed cooking for people that I love. I am looking forward to lots of hearty Sunday suppers around my little table.

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So! I suppose this means i’ll be around these parts with greater frequency.

Talkin’ snacks and sass at all of you fine people.

Keep an eye out for next week’s post on the best ladies weekend ever in New Orleans, and the ways in which we attempted to see and eat NOLA right – balancing the classic with the new.

And now for a moment of zen: my perfectly organized, and recently stocked bar.

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On Camp Cooking.

October 5, 2012

Fall is setting in in these parts – marked by those amazing few farmer’s market weeks when there are tomatoes AND winter squash, the first night I eat only brussel sprouts for dinner, and my weakening resistance to tights.

Storm-Displaced Cookin’ Pit

I spent quite a few of this summer’s weekends dipping in streams and lakes, sleeping under the stars, and cooking for masses of happy campers. I love camp cooking. It takes planning (food for 30 people has to stay cold in a cooler for how long?) and improvisation (I don’t think we’ve ever remembered a strainer) and time (cooking over an open fire is delicate).  Everything tastes better when you’re camping (and drinking). I could have made a hundred boiled hot-dogs and I would still have been showered with praise and appreciation. We start prepping early and usually end up eating by propane lantern. I’ll miss the survival swims, day drinking, singe-ing of arm hairs over open fire, and spending real quality time with people I love. Peace out summer! Peace out camp cooking!

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We dig down deep to the most primal, whitest versions of ourselves for camping, and take our gear seriously. (Geariously?) We had a camp OVEN for the first time this year. Not a stove, but an honest-to-God propane powered oven with a temperature control. I made Tank a 30th Birthday FunFetti Cake on a our campsite. Tank said that I helped him realize a long-held dream of coming up from the creek, the wooded air scented with cake-batter.

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Everywhere we camp has excellent proximity to local farm stands, so there is no shortage of good tomatoes, fresh corn, salad greens, and mixed berry pies.

Best corn ever.

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On Supper Clubbing

August 30, 2012

I love Sunday supper – meals that are long-cooked, and long-lingered over at the table. I think that early dinners with lots of courses, good wine, laughter, and family are the absolute best way to send off the weekend.

I couldn’t have been any more chuffed when two of my favorite ladies from school invited me to the second installment of their monthly supper club, KatesInTheKitchen, an Italian themed meal in Katie’s  most adorable Brooklyn home last Sunday.

I love the Kates! They are truly fantastic women. Katie Hards is a New Yorker by way of California, giving up the West Coast life 2 years ago to pursue a Masters degree in Food Studies at NYU.  She’s a self taught cook, working the lines at sandwich shops and a taco truck, but Katie, like myself, is most comfortable in the kitchen at home with a cocktail in hand. She’s my favorite person to go to a music festival with, and one time she catered a party for one of Michael Jackson’s exes. She is currently my favorite red-head.

Kate Sann is a native New Yorker, and also a Food Studies grad student along with us. She has cooked professionally, grown wine in New Zealand, and butchered pigs in France. She does this fantastic little hat tip motion when she drinks. Working with the Westchester Land Trust, she helps new farmers get access to land. She works for and takes care of a fantastic old Upper East Sider, Bunny Grossinger, and we revel at her fantastic Bunny stories. You can see Kate and Bunny discussing Madmen, here.

Supper clubs have varied histories, depending on where you’re from. Midwestern supper clubs of the early 20th century were convivial destinations for rural folk to eat and imbibe in, that quickly became notorious as illegal watering-holes as Prohibition loomed. In Cuba, supper clubs, or paladares sprung from the need to obfuscate government limitations on businesses, and to cook real Cuban food for real Cuban people at a reasonable cost. Supper clubs in urban areas in the US are an increasingly popular way to challenge the home cook and their eaters to try new things – not just food, but where we eat (for instance, at a stranger’s house). They challenge what it means to be a “home cook” and the conflation between “restaurant quality food” and “home cooking”.

Sunday’s supper was really sublime. Two of my chosen-family donned our Sunday best and met in Park Slope around 4 for dinner. From the moment I climbed the stairs, and smelled Katie’s homemade bread and garlic in the air, I felt completely at home. The negroni topped with sparking prosecco I was handed only cemented the feeling. The dining room was warm with the kitchen’s heat, and we settled into our bench at the perfectly dressed table.

I would push an old lady down for the last slice of Katie’s homemade bread.

All set.

We started with delicate stuffed squash blossoms, spritzed with lemon, and these herbaceous, fantastic crostini with patty-pan squash and taleggio. I knew one of the other couples at the table from a recent Rockaway Beach visit, and we took turns introducing ourselves to the other strangers at the table.

Stuffed Squash Blossom Fritto.

Best Toast.

Now, I don’t know if it was the second round of negronis, or the warmth of the room, or how fantastic the food was, but I was starting to love these strangers. They were all women in their thirties, fantastic, hilarious, witty women. We talked astrology, and sex-strology. We talked about the food. We talked about living alone. No one talked about their job. The Kate’s tell me that they measure the success of a supper club by the volume of laughter between courses – by all counts this was a success. The best thing about meeting good strangers at a good party? They invite you to their good parties. And then you get to meet more good strangers.

As the main course rolled out, we didn’t feel like strangers any more. I am a pretty serious misanthrope, but after being so well fed and plied, I felt like I had made three new friends. The mains were spectacular – salt crust baked porgy with lemon and herbs, earthy bitter greens and porcini mushrooms with breadcrumb topping, the freshest most toothsome farro salad with fresh beans and heirloom tomatoes, and heaping bowls of sweet eggplant caponata and peperonata (the perfect topping for Katie’s homemade bread.)

Sea.

Greenery.

Farro.

Everything was just, so, for lack of a better word, lovely. The food was there in plenty, but it was light, and refreshing, and perfectly seasoned. There was no unbuttoning of pants that I could see. We joked as we picked the tiny bones from between our lips in between story-telling. We shared the wine we had brought.  It was like grandmas’s cooking – if your grandma was from the Mediterranean and knew her way around a farmer’s market. (Mine was Scottish, and fantastic as she was, she couldn’t cook to save her life.)

So, I am not that crazy about dessert, as a rule. However, this glistening olive oil cake with roasted stone fruit and homemade gelato was so INSANELY GOOD that I forgot to take a photo until it was almost too late. It was summer in sweet form. GOD DAMN.

Ferreal.

A good friend of mine, and noted cynic remarked to me before the meal, “$40 to eat in someone’s house? Yeah, ok.” On our walk to the subway after our KatesInTheKitchen meal, as he ate his entire goodie bag of biscotti, there was a marked change in his outlook. These girls are legit. They are fantastic cooks and hostesses, with huge hearts, whose love for food and feeding people is evidenced in every dish they serve.

I implore you to go to their next meal, scheduled for September 30th. It is a theme near and dear to my heart: TOMATOES! Menu linked below. You can friend TheKates on Facebook, e-mail them, or check their event page for more info. Be sure to tell them I sent you, so that I can cash in on mad leftovers!!

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On Tumblin.

August 30, 2012

I like Tumblr because I can do it at work, and with little serious thought.

I’ve been doing this serious called, “Things I Eat When I Eat My Feelings”, partly because I think it’s funny, and partly because I think people are constantly talking about “eating one’s feelings” in a negative way. But let’s be honest – every person feels a certain way when they’re eating – whether they felt that way, and then decided to eat, or the food made them feel that way.

Follow along, won’t you. I promise there will be over-sharing!

Last weekend was my second spent in the city all summer. This is probably not the most believable time to admit that i’m increasingly pleased to be back in New York. It’s just that it’s  been so hot, and the lure of the sea, and the lakes, and the waterfalls, and the sweating glasses of rose on patios have been forcing me onto buses and trains and behind the wheel every Friday evening. There are three whole other seasons for me to be lovingly all up in this town, significantly less sticky ones. But truly, most days, I feel really glad to be back. Here’s why:

1. Entertaining. I feel like I am the best version of myself when I am a hostess. I have my own space now, one big enough for plenty of good-looking people to come over and drink with me, and eat good snacks. A few weeks ago I did little Italian snacks – roasted cherry tomatoes, anchovy mousse, arugula pesto, olives, fresh ricotta with plums, black pepper and honey, some good cured pork, and bread. My favorite part was little cups of affogato (grown up root beer floats.) I have kind of shifted the way I entertain – from sit down food to snacks – in part because I don’t have enough seats, but in part because I am a grazer, and I like trying a little bit of everything.

2. Wandering.  I find myself taking a different way home from work almost every evening. I get on or off at a different bus or subway stop each time in an effort to figure out my neighborhood. I’ve found two good french bakeries, an incredible fish monger, countless buildings that I love, and a few fantastic second hand stores. Still on the list to find: perfect brunch, bar I can go to alone after work, perhaps with a book, and my favorite nook in Central Park.

3. Living alone. I’ve never lived alone. I’ve always lived with family, or roommates, or fellow farm-workers. I was nervous about living a lone – I like coming home to someone I like, and I like cooking for someone other than myself. But being on my own is great. I never have to wear pants. I can watch trashy TV sans-judgement. Eating intuitively – exactly what and when I want- is easier when i’m not considering the tastes/preferences of others. You get to know yourself differently when you spend your evenings alone, with some wine and a good meal. I’m looking forward to nesting here, and to making my apartment a better representation of me.

4. Being out. New Yorkers accept living in closets because they are never home. I am probably slightly more of a home-body than the average, but there is something to be said for the ability to be out at any time of day or night, and having the ability to be out somewhere that is awesome. You can choose a bar or restaurant for any mood, any size gathering, any type of food. Friday evening I had a magnificent lady-date with some really fantastic women in the garden at Maison Premiere in Williamsburg. It just couldn’t have been more perfect – elegant and private, teeming with greens and wrought iron tables. There were mint juleps in big silver tumblers overflowing with crushed ice,  oysters and lobster on three-tiered trays. We got a little rowdy – and likely ruined a few dates, but can you imagine a more perfect place for a gathering of ladies you love than this?

On Good Summer Eating

July 16, 2012

This was a fantastic week of eating – punctuated with long warm walks, windy roads, water slides, back of knee sweat, good wine, waterfalled swimming holes, and laughs.

It’s summer, and I have time to breathe and eat what I love rather than whatever is convenient (sometimes these are the same thing i.e – tostadas). I had this wine professor that told us that the only way to really get good at picking up all of the smells and tastes of wine was to smell everything – at the farmer’s market, in the garden, in clothing stores, just smell everything – be a medium. t’s the same thing with food, right? Just taste everything and your palate develops, and it becomes easier to figure out what you love.

I feel like I’ve been really good at just being wide open to things this week, and letting the city, and the farmer’s market, and the lure of the grill decide what’s for dinner.

On Monday I saw this post from Dinner 365, and thought, “I can’t go another minute without a hot dog and creamy potato salad.” I made vegetarian dogs with cornichons, and curry potato salad (boil 2 potatoes, toss with a few tablespoons of yogurt, curry powder, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon) and ate with huge salted tomato wedges. I ate this wish a Sixpoint Crisp.

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On Tuesday I was walking up First Avenue, and I saw this man with a fantastic ponytail eating a huge bowl of linguine with clams and red sauce outside at a little bistro. I zeroed in. I picked up a dozen little necks (the flirtatious fish monger threw in a few extra) and steamed then up in some spicy arrabiatta (fire roasted tomatoes, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon, splash of wine) and served them with some zucchini spears and the better part of a baguette. This was perfect. I could not have been more satisfied. So satisfied, in fact that I started some research for my thesis project after dining.

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Wednesday? Serendipitous Homemade moon shine in the studio of a bluegrass bassist, and Budweiser bottles with a music writer while a bad Beatles cover band played.

Thursday was maybe a little indulgent, oyster sliders, and brisket sandwiches at The Penrose. The sandwich was really supremely good, especially with a McClure’s pickle martini.

Friday was a BBQ at the old homestead in NJ. Sweet and spicy BBQ chicken legs, arugula salad with peaches, ricotta with honey, israeli cous cous with lemon and basil. Family. Perfect Provencal table cloth. Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

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On Saturday we drove upstate to pick up a friend’s car. We checked out future B &B locations and drank local cider in a river near a waterfall. We ate insanely good vegetarian burritos made by incredibly handsome fellas, overlooking a field of flowers for cutting.IDYLLIC.

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We bought the most gorgeous produce, nested perfectly into quarts and pints. My haul included hericots verts, eggplant, first baby squash, and enough stone fruit and blueberries to induce a stomach ache.

SO GOOD.

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Upon returning from our mini-road trip, I went to my favorite restaurant maybe in the world, The Belmont Tavern. The service is awful, the wine is awful, the tablecloths are plastic, and there is a screen door. We purposely gave my cousin a wine glass with lipstick on it, to see if he’d test the waitress for a new one. He did, and she groaned, “Jesus Christ” and brought him a new one.  But the food? The hand-rolled cavatelli and homemade pot cheese dotted with red sauce? The vinegary, herbaceous, fall of the goddamned bone chicken savoy? It’s like from another era. Everything is so fresh and amazing and constant.

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On Sunday we went down water slides and had a diving contest. We prepped for an upcoming camping trip (me making 31 Cajun burgers, and marinating serious steaks). And I made a big Sunday meal for everyone, because I love them – ravioli with baby squash, roasted tomatoes, and fresh basil. My aunt walked into a set table, and told me how much she missed me. I miss having people to cook for who really appreciate it. But it’s a good reminder to myself to appreciate the meals I make for myself.

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