Saturday, April 22, 2006


Last night I totally duded out with my friend Jackie! We're both sort of tired of our respective scenes and want to expand them, so we decided to go to this loft party on Wooster where Qtip was "spinnin'" and Bacardi was "flowin'" and the doorman was "chargin" $20. Hey, we reasoned, it's OPEN-BAR! That alone is worth $20. Let's DO IT!

First, though, we hung out in Jackie's apartment drinking what we both acknowledged to be "single-girl red wine". SGRW is basically that "extra" bottle of inexpensive, inoffensive Cabernet/Shiraz mix that an unpaired lady will pick up knowing that, at some point, she's probably going to drink it alone. While watching The Cat Channel. Okay, it's NOT THAT PATHETIC, but one day it could be, which is why Jackie and I were totally drinking her bottle of SGRW to encourage ourselves to go to some loft dance party that neither one of us had any real interest in going to.

"We should go to this thing."
"Yeah, totally."
"Yeah, we'll meet new people."
"Yeah. Totally. We should meet people."
"Do you want some more wine?"

After we finished the wine and our delightful conversation, we agreed we should probably leave her apartment. Because as much fun as it was, we really weren't going to meet people inside of it.

"What do you think?"
"I could go or not go. Either way."
"Yeah, me too."
"$20 isn't THAT much."
"Hey. Corner Bistro is right there."
"They have cheap beer."
"And people!"
"Let's go there!"

So we skipped the loft party and went to Corner Bistro, which smells like bacon (BONUS!) and is known for having one of the best burgers in New York City (DOUBLE BONUS!). Jackie ran into her cousin and had an awkward conversation with her while I scoped seats and found two at the bar. We ordered two $2.50 beers and watched as paper plates filled with the crispiest, most delicious-looking french fries got passed across the bar. And let's not even get into the glistening bacon cheeseburgers that floated around the room and were plopped, unceremoniously, onto tables. Those things ARE CRAZY! They are so incredibly gorgeous that they would make Wimpy's head explode on contact. Thank goodness Wimpy is a fictional character from Popeye.

Jackie and I drank our beers and decided, after only 15 minutes but what felt like an excruciating amount of discipline, to order some fries, well-done. The bartender, who must have been in his 60's, and who also must have been interested in getting sexed by two women, flirted heavily. Mostly with Jackie. I didn't mind. When the fries arrived they were everything I've ever dreamed french fries should be: thin, perfectly crisp, with the slight aroma of bacon grease, and HOT. We salted, peppered, and ketchuped them, and then ate the shit out of them. A group standing behind us at the bar also ordered fries, but made the mistake of not asking for them well-done. They still looked good when they were placed DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ME AND JACKIE, but NOT AS GOOD AS OURS. Speaking of ours: they were gone. Which was a sad fact, indeed. No one seemed to be eating the NEW fries in front of us, so Jackie did. I stole a couple. The bartender stole one. The group didn't seem to notice. We ordered some more beer.

Then something odd happened. The bartender placed a shot in front of me and said "From a secret admirer." ACK! WHAT?! My first thought was "Is this craggy old bartender the 'secret admirer'?" And my second thought was "Did this craggy old bartender roofie this drink?" I don't go out to bars much, OKAY?!

"Who's it from?" Jackie asked the bartender.
"It's a SECRET admirer," he said.
"What IS it?" I asked.
"A Kamikaze."
I pretended to know what that was and just sort of looked at it. I looked at Jackie. I looked around the room. I became very nervous. Now I felt like someone was looking at me, and I didn't know who it was. I avoided the shot and drank my beer. I told Jackie to take the first sip. She did. Then I sipped it. It tasted like vanilla and lime, and was pretty gross.

The bartender placed a beer in front of Jackie. "That one's from me," he said, winking at her. I wasn't jealous at all but instead admired Jackie's ability to attract appropriate attention from the opposite sex. I avoided looking around the room in case my "admirer" was watching me. It made me very uncomfortable. After a while the bartender noticed, because he said, "I'll tell you this. It's not NECESSARILY from a guy."


Jackie started laughing. "Who's it from?!"
"Come on," I said, "Spill."
The bartender got close and said, "Look. I don't think they're still here, but it was from a couple. But they weren't a couple. Two gays. A lesbian and a gay guy. I think they left, though."


Wow. WOW! Okay, first: what's up with the bartender referring to them as "two gays"? Weird, right? And next: WHY were they buying me a shot?! Don't people buy other people shots so that they can have sex with them? But a lesbian and a gay dude are the two kinds of people I am MOST unlikely to have sex with! Well, they are a few rungs above A Racist or A Child, but still...AM I SO NAIVE?!

Yes. Yes, I am.

I wish I could have met them and asked them what their deal was. Or, "What do you admire about me?" That would have been a FASCINATING conversation.

At least now I know that I don't like Kamikazes. It's good to learn stuff.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Sometimes I am amazing. More infrequently than frequently, but still, enough times to COUNT.

Yesterday I had one of those moments. My co-worker Jackie, who I am in love with to a point where I can see, if I were a guy or a lesbian, all the ways she would charm me and make my heart hurt, wanted to get a Starbucks Frappucino. However, my co-worker Jackie, who I am crushing hard over because she is charming in almost the EXACT same way that I am charming, recently admitted to being on a little Spring diet. Nothing too extreme, but the kind of seasonal renegotiation with food that most New York women are susceptible to.


I would like to take this time to note that Jackie DOES NOT NEED TO LOSE ANY WEIGHT; she is hot as-is, but I also respect her decision to lose a couple of pounds if that is her desire.

So: when Jackie told me she wanted a Starbucks Green Tea Frappucino, I told her "Are you crazy?! Those things have like, 500 calories in them! NOT WORTH IT!" After some back and forth where I argued she might as well just have a milkshake, Jackie went to the Starbucks website and researched how much caloric damage the variously-flavored Frappucinos are really capable of making. I was mostly right in my assessment, but the smallest-sized (I will not say "Tall," or "Grande," or "Venti" EVER) skim Frappucinos were about 250-300 calories. Not TERRIBLE.

"But listen, Jackie," I said. "I can make you a delicious-tasting creamy tea drink using only the ingredients in our Corporate Kitchen FOR FREE! AND, it will be LOW CALORIE to boot!"

I'll admit: Jackie was skeptical. But I persisted: "You just take some plain green tea, steep it in hot 2% milk, add sugar to taste, and you've entered Yum City."

Jackie considered this, and then decided to MAKE THE DRINK HERSELF. EVEN THOUGH I HAD OFFERED.

"Wait," I said. "You can't use the green tea in the kitchen. It's flavored with passionfruit, and that doesn't mix well with milk. It's too citrusy. DON'T DO IT!"

Jackie, being obstinate, insisted. She came back to our Writer's Cave steeping a passionfruit green tea baggy in water.

"What are you doing?" I asked.
"No, I mean, what are you doing?"
"I am steeping my tea for the creamy drink!"
"But WHY are you steeping it in WATER?!"
"Because then I'll add it to the milk!"

"Oh. You're right."

Jackie tossed her bad idea and went to make a new one. She came back this time with the passionfruit green tea steeping in hot milk.

"What are you doing now?" I asked.
"No, I mean, why are you still using that citrus tea! IT WON'T TASTE GOOD!"

"Oh. You're right. That tastes terrible."

"Come with me!" I said, and led Jackie to the Corporate Kitchen. "Now watch."

I poured 2% milk in a cup, and microwaved it. Meanwhile, I took two baggies of English Breakfast tea and unwrapped them. Then I found two sugar packets. When the milk was warm, I steeped the tea bags for about five minutes, and added the sugar. Then I poured the sweet milk tea over ice for Jackie. Then she drank it. Then she said, "Wow! This is DELICIOUS! WOW!"

And I said, "I know."

And that is why, sometimes, only sometimes, I am amazing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


So I'm reading Anna Karenina. The one by Leo Tolstoy. Okay, so I am reading it because I am SMART and INTERESTING but also because a person whose opinion I trust more than anybody's recommended it to me. I figure: this person GETS ME, you know, and also when he said READ THIS, MEGAN, IT'S AMAZING, HERE TAKE MY COPY YOU CAN EVEN UNDERLINE IT IF YOU WANT, I really had no excuses not to.

So I'm reading it, but honestly: ANNA KARENINA IS SOME HEAVY SHIT! How a Russian novel, in the first 60 pages, has already reduced me to tears on the F and B trains and, I am not kidding, the ELEVATOR up to my office, is beyond me. I haven't even gotten to the juicy juice of the novel yet, and I'm already a blubbering baby over it. Did I mention that I love being devastated by books? Well, I do.

Why do I mention this in a blog that's ostensibly about food? Because an early and memorable passage in the novel takes place over a meal at a hotel called the Anglia, and it's A. MAZE. ING.

It's amazing for so many reasons: because of the ritual and ceremony which surrounds the meal; the many servants and waiters who first serve Stepan and Levin, and then the single waiter's obsequiousness; how the information that fresh oysters have come in from Flensburg changes Stepan's original menu plan (he had already thought of what the pair should eat pre-arrival!); how the waiter insists on naming the dishes in French though Stepan and Levin refuse to do so themselves; the extent of the order, the vegetable soup, the turbot with thick sauce, the roast beef and also capon (!); the champagne, Chablis, and an order of Parmesan cheese; and, after all this, the CONVERSATION that occurs over such a meal!

The conversation, like the meal, is UNBELIEVABLE. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK IF ONLY FOR THIS!

Here is a sample, and Tolstoy uses one of the best food metaphors I've ever read within it. Stepan is the first to speak:

"Here's what. Suppose you're married, you love your wife, but you become infatuated with another woman..."

Levin replies:

"Excuse me, but I decidedly do not understand how I...just as I don't understand how I could pass by a bakery, as full as I am now, and steal a sweet roll."
Stepan Arkadyich's eyes shone more than usual.
"Why not? Sometimes a sweet roll is so fragrant that you can't help yourself. 'Himmlisch ist's, wenn ich bezwungen/Mein irdische Begier;/Aber doch wenn's nicht gelungen,/Hatt' ich auch recht hubsch Plaisir!'*"


Most of us are like Stepan. I wish to be like Levin!

*'Heavenly it would be to conquer/My earthly lusts;/But though I've not succeeded,/I still have lots of pleasure' - from the libretto of Die Fledermaus.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Turkey Chili. First bite: DELICIOUS. Last bite: VOMIT.

Why? How? What is The Lesson in all this?

Time changes EVERYTHING!


Eat faster.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


On Friday my extraordinary friend Matt, who is a member of the James Beard Foundation, treated me to dinner at The Beard House. Both the Foundation and the House, which is on W. 12th Street, exist for this reason:

"To celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence."

I can get on board for that! This celebration, preservation, and nurturing is accomplished by over 20 amazing dinners, workshops, luncheons, and wine events each month at the House. Famous chefs from all over the country and around the world are invited to cook, and members and their guests sign up and feast.

As Matt's guest, I got to experience an Italian Passover prepared by Italian chef Walter Potenza of Walter's in Providence, RI. This wasn't a religious dinner, although if you worship at the altar of amazing food then yeah, it was. Talk about a high-class affair! Matt greeted me outside, introduced me to his lovely wife, Susan, and led us through the Beard House's OPEN KITCHEN WHERE THE CHEF AND HIS HELPERS WERE COOKING RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! I LOVE AN OPEN KITCHEN! It's exciting and dynamic and I can confirm that nobody is hocking spiteful loogies into my food. I don't know if you worry about that kind of thing, but I sometimes do! We passed the kitchen and entered the glass-enclosed patio. There, I got to drink as much champagne as I wanted (which was two glasses), and eat delicious passed hors d'oeuvres. These were Radicchio filled with Venetian Haroset and Chestnut Honey, Asparagus Tarts with Eggs, Leeks, and Saffron, Duck Proscuitto with Radish Aioli and Matzoh, and Chicken Liver Pate with Sweet Onion and Roasted Pear on Matzoh. WOWZERS, right?!

The Radicchio rolls were RADICCULOUS! That's a bad pun and I apologize for it! Anyway, I didn't know a bitter lettuce could taste so awesome with honey, but I do now. Haroset is a Passover dish made of fruit and nuts and sometimes wine. It's always sweet, and its consistency is often a paste to evoke the "mortar" used by the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt. Haroset is generally delicious, and Walter's Vanetian Haroset was MIND-BLOWING. He wouldn't give details on the recipe, but it seemed to include mildly pickled figs, maybe apples (?) and some sort of water-chestnut type thinger. I wish I knew, because I would love to copy this dish. I think I ate about five of these. Outrageously yummy.

I didn't love the Asparagus Tart as much, so I only had one. It was like a little pancake. Cute. I wish it had been hotter? I sound like a jerk saying that.

I LOVED the Chicken Liver Pate on Matzoh. That's because I love fatty food over crispety-crunchety textures. This was that. I had three of these, and my heart did not thank me. Sorry, arteries!

The Duck Prosciutto was presented beautifully; its red color over the yellow aioli and white matzoh was very pretty, but I thought it was too salty. Again I feel like a jerk not totally loving it! And I know prosciutto is inherently salty, but I guess I'm just not into salty food. ACK! SORRY! IT WAS GOOD!

During the passed hors d'oeuvres phase Matt introduced me to Veteran Italian Chef Extraordinaire, Author, Teacher, and Hilariously Charming Genius Anna Teresa Callen. I want to live with this woman! A native of Abruzzo, a region of Italy that she was repeatedly forced throughout the night to geographically locate because NO ONE knew where it was, Anna Teresa referred to herself as "The intel-LECT-ual Julia Child." When she said this I literally melted. Without any shame she gave a rundown of her many accomplishments, spoke proudly of Abruzzo and its food, and declared numerous times that she wanted to, and deserved to be, on television. Which was a 100% correct thing to say. I've never been seduced by a native Italian, or a woman, or a senior citizen, but I was by all three on Friday. Luck was really on my side, because Anna Teresa and her American husband, writer Harold Callen, were seated at our table, #5. Which is where we ate dinner. Which is what I will describe for you, in glowing prose, right now.

The Menu

Passover Soup with Roasted Chicken, Eggs, and Matzoh Dumplings
Braised Fried Artichokes with Lemon, Mint and Sauteed Spinach
Lamb Stew with Mushrooms and Hard-Cooked Egg, Topped with a Roasted Eggplant-Matzoh Crust
Roasted Haddock with Braised Fennel, Pine Nuts, Raisins, and Citrus Olive Oil
Lemon Ricotta Cheese Tart with Macaroon Crust and Citrus Coulis
Matzoh, Honey, Almond Chocolate Truffles and Ocean State Chocolates

The Wine

Pieropan Soave Classico 2004 (White)
Rainoldi Valtellina Superior Sassella Riserva 2001 (Red)
Domain Chandon Charonnay 2002 (White. Duh)
Delas la Pastourelle Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2002 (DELICIOUS!)

The Review

Soup: Awesome. The vegetable broth was subtle, mild, and not the least bit salty. The dumplings were firm in the broth and on my spoon but then softened upon contact with my mouth. Their texture was like that of a meatball, but in a really good way. Hearty. A really high-brow rendition of Matzoh Ball soup...NOT BETTER than MY mother's, but probably better than YOURS.

Artichokes: Anna Teresa referred to these as Artichokes a la Judea, meaning "Jewish Style." It's true. When I was in Rome in 1999 I visited the Jewish Quarter and found, with my two friends, one of Rome's oldest and most famous Jewish restaurants. Its most prized dish was fried artichokes, and we ordered huge plates of the delicious stuff. Cut to seven years later, and not only was I eating fried artichoke again, but I was getting a lesson on how to from Anna Teresa. Now, I was raised eating whole, steamed artichokes, and I already knew to pick the individual leaves with my hands and scrape the meat off with my bottom teeth, but I certainly wasn't going to tell Anna Teresa that. So I went along with her, and she said I was "very good." And the dish, too, was Very Good. When Anna Teresa's husband left half his artichoke undone, she refused to let it go to waste and finished his for him. A woman after my own heart!

Lamb Stew: Wow. Delicious. Chunky meaty mushroomy mmmmmmm. I love lamb, and I eat a lot of it, but never in stew form. This was great, but I couldn't finish it because I was starting to feel way too full. There was also a Bonus Round accompanying the lamb: Tsimmis, a carrot, sweet potato, and prune stew. Anna Teresa called it "too sweet. It should be dessert!" while her husband Harold cracked jokes about the word's Yiddish meaning, which is "trouble," or "big deal worry." So he kept saying "Don't make a big tsimmis!" and Anna Teresa kept saying "It's too sweet!" and I just couldn't get enough of either of them. Oh, and the dish itself was delicious. And not too sweet! I DISAGREED with Anna Teresa!

Haddock: My favorite dish. I love fish, and I adore fennel, and this was just so mild and fresh and the citrus olive oil was like a bolt of flavor lightening across my tongue. The meat of the fish was tender and the texture of the pine nuts and raisins with it made for a perfect mouth-feel. I was REALLY sad that I could not finish it. Did I mention that the portions were kind of humongous? Well, they were.

By the time dessert rolled around I was just completely stuffed. I tasted everything because I had to, but I don't even remember if it was any good or not because I had food up to my trachea. It LOOKED really pretty!

Oh, and the wine. The WINE! Ahhhhh! It was AMAZING! The Sassella Riserva was one of the best reds I have ever tasted. I'm not going to pretend to be a wine expert here, but believe me this was some seriously good stuff. And I don't generally like white wine, let alone Chardonnay, but the Domain Chandon was really exceptional. I compared it to buttered popcorn, and I'm not sure that's an entirely inaccurate description although I AM sure that it is embarassingly unsophisticated. Just trust me: it was good. And the Muscat, the dessert wine, tasted, in the words of Matt's wife Susan, "the way you WISH perfume would taste but it never does." I totally agreed.

And then I could eat no more, and Chef Walter came out to talk to all of us about why he was interested in historical cooking. "Though I am not Jewish," he said, his father and other local townspeople in Italy during WWII had hid Jews. And when Walter discovered this fact about his father after his father's death, he began to resurrect the culinary traditions of Italian Jewish cooking. Wowzers again, right?! People are interesting and awesome; they really are.

I loved the James Beard House and I loved this dinner and I LOVED LOVED Anna Teresa and her husband Harold and I really LOVE my friend Matt and his wife Susan! You don't have to die to go to Foodie Heaven but it helps to know a few angels here on Earth.