February 12, 2015
I think a lot of people would argue that February is the most garbage month of them all in New York. (I actually think it’s March, but that’s because I’m an accountant.)
I usually try to make February even worse by abstaining from something I like (wine, dairy) just to see if I can. I feel like this year I have all my food and drink ducks in a row, so I’ve decided to team up with my gal pal Nora Wolf this year on what she calls “Month of Austerity” and on what i’m calling “FRUGAL FEBRUARY” because I like alliteration.
Here is Nora and me with our pups and her boo this New Year’s Eve!
(AMAZING ASIDE THEY MET AT MY CHRISTMAS PARTY LAST YEAR).
Basic rule: Don’t buy anything other than cook-at-home food. No booze or meals out (unless it’s for work). No clothes. No makeup. No cabs. (We both are taking exceptions for special occasions. Nora: ski trip. Me: Dad’s birthday).
Since this whole thing was Nora’s doing I asked her a little bit about her history with Month of Austerity and what it means to her, and I think that a lot of the things she pointed out as the benefits of taking a spending break are really true for me as well.
1. Choice Fatigue – “I remember when I was not making much money and trying to scrape by after college and there was a certain freedom from decision making. Should I get those pants? How many dinners out can I take this month? (During month of austerity) the answer was always no, none, you cannot do any of those things. I didn’t have to think about it.”
YES. Budgeting is goddamned exhausting. It’s really nice to just shut all that off for 28 days.
2. Clothes Horse – Nora has one of the best best closets/shoe collections of anyone I know. She says Month of Austerity helps her cull that collection, “No new clothes, and I usually purge some pieces from the closet for resale or giveaway.” I am SERIOUSLY in need of new clothes, but giving myself this month to really figure out what I want/need keeps me from impulse buying 10 new fringed kimonos. I’m also having a clothing swap at my house this weekend to see if I can get any must haves for freesie, and i’ll be able to get rid of a huge bag of awesome togs to babes I personally know so I know they’re going to a loving home.
3. In/Out – I think I am for sure more of a homebody than Nora. She is really good at finding the best dance parties/square dances/art things to go to. But she lets February be a down time for her, “I don’t eat out so I have more people over for homemade meals. When I saw dating I usually took a break from dating.” I definitely have been cooking at home so much more. I lapsed a little this week for a couple perfect beers out this week with a friend, but then had her back to my place for homemade meatballs, so that balances out. I have been on dating hiatus for a while, so i’ll just keep using Frugal February as an excuse!
Here’s what I bought last week that was outside of my weekly public transport budget and weekly grocery shop budget which i’ve bumped up to $75 because i’m cooking 90% of my meals at home!
$20 – African Dance Class
$1.50 – Can of Black Beans for “I’m sad I didn’t eat Super Bowl snacks yesterday” homemade nachos
Literally nothing! NO DOLLARS.
$12.55 – I forgot my homemade lunch on the counter. This got me a pretty good bowl of rice, tandoori chicken, and spicy braised greens.
$15.00 in Quarters – Laundry. Having to pay to do the chore you hate the most is the crummiest.
$3.00 – Iced Coffee. I know i’m not supposed to buy coffee but it felt comparatively warm this morning and I really wanted this.
$11 – A dozen Peter Pan donuts for a staff meeting. You’re welcome.
$30 via Venmo -To my little brother for gas and tolls to pick me up from my office and take me to NJ. This is somehow cheaper than a round-trip bus ticket, and I can bring back a bunch of heavy seltzer right to my Brooklyn door and he has big speakers so we can listen to a lot of hip hop very loud.
$13 – Coffees for my fam because I was up first.
$45 – Wine for my dad’s birthday after-party
$25 – This amazing steak.
Sunday: ZIP. Zero dollars.
That’s $176.05, which feels pretty good. BUT I want to just check my privilege for a minute and note that that’s still a fair amount of discretionary spending.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!!
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!
August 15, 2012
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 16, 2012
July 10, 2012
It’s been a while, I know.
But, i’m back.
It was a long winter, aye? I am just starting to feel able to cook and talk about food again, after an intense semester of full time food-school and work.
Things I did while on hiatus:
– spent a lot of time on commuter trains and buses, which lead to
– moved back to New York City, into a neighborhood that’s super new to me
– realized it’s probably for the best that I didn’t go to business school
– saw a fair amount of shows. Some great (Tune-Yards, Quadron, Holy Ghost, Destroyer) some not so great (SBTRKT, Washed Out)
– committed to growing my hair back, started wearing red lipstick in a meaningful way
1. celebratory promotion dinner at The Dutch (oysters, rabbit pot pie, french fries, champagne)
2. excellent friend dinner at La Silhouette (Fluke carpaccio with salmon roe and dashi, sweet breads, lamb)
3. first meal of official summer at Bahr’s (lobster roll, corn on the cob, root beer)
and felt incredibly drunk-portant. (You should listen to the new Food is the New Rock podcast.)
– spent almost every Sunday from December til May hungover in a library study room
– started drinking beer again
– rode bikes around Key West and went to a drag show with my dad
– upped my dinner party game
– started reading novels and poetry again
– stopped buying so much shit
– fell in love with the East River Ferry, watermelon cocktails, religious plates, red jeans, and Downton Abbey
– decided what I want to be when I grow up (now to figure out where)
– started referring to my late twenties as The Briney Years
That’s it in a nutshell. For the summer? Stay tuned for me working away, swimming, liberating shirts of their sleeves and pants of their legs, eating so many peaches, camp cooking, freckling, etc.
May 15, 2012
To say that The Beastie Boys are important to me would be a gross understatement.
My favorite, older and wiser cousin who made me mix tapes of The Violent Femmes and Luscious Jackson drove me to Philadelphia the summer before 7th grade to see The Beastie Boys on their Hello Nasty tour. It was hot and I got my first buzz, from my first stadium beer, foamy water in a plastic cup. I yelled, and danced. I fell in love. We drove back through the pine barrens, ate onion rings at Olga’s, and as the clocked ticked into the morning, we told Jersey Devil stories.It was the first of many concerts, of many un-girly girls nights with Lyndsey, and the first of many (many) beers.
They were my first favorite band, my devotion evidenced by my middle school wardrobe of Beastie Boys tees and cargo shorts. They were funny, smart, and irreverent – which is how I saw, and how I continue, to see myself. It’s funny to me how the boys have stuck with me over the years, and how deeply saddened I was by MCA’s passing this weekend. MCA was the impetus for the creation of The Beastie Boys, and was responsible for so many of the things that helped my love for the band become more than a passing phase – from their philanthropic involvement, to their love of this city, to their brilliant music videos.
I think, that from the general public, there was this was this kind of eye-roll when The Beasties’ publicly apologized for the errant misogyny in their earlier work. But for a budding feminist, who had been introduced to the band by a strong, smart woman, it felt important. License to Ill came out the year after I was born, and while I loved those songs, they always felt like jokes to me – maybe I just want to believe this, but even as they were rapping about girls doing dishes, they were apologizing to annoyed Brooklyn mothers for doing so.
The older (and punker) I got, I dipped backwards into the Beastie Boys catalog, loving Pollywog Stew and Some Old Bullshit (and Kate Schellenbach – forever and ever). I loved Paul’s Boutique, and when the critics panned it, they, in true Beastie fashion went out on their own. I remember where I was exactly the first time I heard At The Drive, all because of Grand Royal Records. The acts on Grand Royal Records, like Cibbo Matto, Bran Van 3000, and Liquid Liquid (god damn, they had a good line-up) opened me up to electronic-driven music that continues to inform how I value music now. MCA’s dedication to Freeing Tibet always felt genuine to me, and as I got older and more political, with an ever-bleeding heart, I respected him more and more. There was this sentiment that they didn’t give a fuck – until it mattered.
I was meant to see the Beastie Boys at All Points West in 2009, just as Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer. Jay-Z filled in for them when they were unable to perform, with one of the best live hip-hop sets I have ever seen. His cover of No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn was raw, and loud, and perfect after a soaking wet day of shows. Only after moving to New York could I really see how important this city was to The Boys, and how it informed their music, their videos, their personas. I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn this weekend, maybe on purpose. Friday night outside in a backyard bar, Check Your Head played on vinyl. Bar and restaurant sidewalk clapboards mourned the loss of one of Brooklyn’s boys. It felt good to know we were all together in feeling bad about this.
I’ll miss you, MCA. You were too young, and too good.
“Dear New York I hope you’re doing well
I know a lot’s happen and you’ve been through hell
So, we give thanks for providing a home”
November 23, 2011
Bourbon is pretty much always on my mind (and breath).
But even more so lately. I saw Joan Didion at the New York Public Library this week, and in fur lined snow boots she spoke about the way that a glass of bourbon “loosens her up” enough to edit, to really “mark up a day’s page or writing”. Similarly, one glass of bourbon while cooking helps me loosen up enough to not take myself too seriously, to edit (read:ignore) recipes. 4 bourbons loosen me up enough to dance and send (unedited) drunk texts.
My good friend Matt and I had a great ongoing conversation about bourbon this week.
He shares my affinity for brown liquor, Spring Lounge, and Faces.
So because I am thankful for all of you, I am sharing it, along with the recipe for a Maple Pumpkin Old Fashioned, which I will be drinking so hard on Turkey Day.
Get on these!
To make the pumpkin infused bourbon:
1 bottle of bourbon
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1 tsp each of : Ceylon cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg
Infuse in a mason jar for 48 hours. Filter through a coffee filter for a clear finished product.
Maple Pumpkin Old Fashioned
2 oz pumpkin infused bourbon
2 dashes of bitters (I am using Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters)
1 oz maple syrup
splash of water
Shake it! Serve over ice with brandied cherries and a peel of orange .
November 13, 2011
I am a summer person. I like tee-shirts liberated of their sleeves, the beach, tomato sandwiches, Kohr’s soft serve, sweaty bike rides, beach hair, tubing down the creek with a case of cold beer, camping, and general heliotropic behavior.
But that’s all over now, we’re halfway through the fall and we’ve already been through Snowtober. That means the oven is back on in full swing – roasted vegetables and slow cooked roasts. It’s nice.
Here are some fall food (and drink, of course) jams I am especially fond of, including the cutest hours d’oeuvres ever.
Halve some acorn squash, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chipotle. Place a pad of butter in each half, drizzile with maple syrup and roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
This is so great on some roast pork.
Carmelize a large thinly sliced onion. Add 2 peeled and diced apples, a head of finely chopped swiss chard, a few table spoons of cider vinegar, and some red wine. Reduce over medium heat.
Apple Grey Bourbon Hot Toddys
Yo, ferreal, these are brilliant. Look how pretty that looks! It makes your whole kitchen smell like the dream cabin you imagine for your grown up self. I am not a big scotch fan, so I go bourbon.
Bring six cups of water to an almost boil. Steep with six tea bags to make a good strong tea base. Add 1/2 cup of honey (more if you are down with the sweetness), some super thinly sliced lemons and apples, and bourbon to taste (I used about 3/4 of a bottle because I am a lush).
Pumpkin Prosciutto Blinis
These are so cute and so delicious. I had all of this Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake mix, and as we all know I don’t care for carby sweets for breakfast. So I decided I would make some savory little snacks. They are salty and a little sweet, with a touch of richness. I love them. Everyone loved them.
Make a some pumpkin pancake batter. (Add a little extra salt, maybe use a little less sugar.) Make tiny little baby buttery blinis, about the size of a silver dollar. Top with creme fraiche, a ribbon of proscuitto, some chopped basil, and a tiny bit of reduced balsamic.