My Favorite Restaurant Meals of 2017

When you’ve been food blogging for long enough, your old posts can act as your own personal culinary archives. What was I eating in December of 2010? The answer is just a few clicks away. (Looks like it was spaghetti and gingerbread cake.)

There’s a gap, now, in that data from July 2015 to September 2017, when I stopped blogging, and future historians and biographers will have no idea what I ate during that period. Not since the burning of the Library at Alexandria has there been such a loss for civilization. But here I am, ready to remedy some of that by sharing my favorite restaurant meals of 2017. Really, the idea to do this came to me while scrolling through all of the pictures on my phone from this past year. It’s been an insane 365 days: we’ve ping-ponged from Mexico City to Washington State to Provincetown to Florida, with frequent stops in New York, where Craig was working on his latest movie, Alex Strangelove. And, not to rub it in, but we’re ending the year in Paris. Paris! OK, I did just rub it in. But come on, it’s Paris, and Craig’s never been and we’re using all of our miles to go. We are très excited.

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A Response From America’s Test Kitchen

After posting yesterday’s post about applesauce and “best recipes,” I woke up to an e-mail this morning from Tucker Shaw, who’s the new editor-in-chief of Cook’s Country at America’s Test Kitchen. Tucker’s actually been a long-time supporter of my blog (a blurb of his is featured on my first book) and I had no idea he’d taken over the helm of such a storied institution. Since I called out ATK in my post, it somehow caught his attention and here’s what he has to say. Don’t worry: I asked his permission to publish this. And I figure it’s only fair to put his response on here, since it so clearly addresses my attack on their use of the word “best.” (Though feeling a little hypocritical after someone pointed out on my Facebook page that my cookbook is called Secrets of the Best Chefs.) Thanks, Tucker, for reaching out.

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There Is No Such Thing As The Best Recipe

OK, I’m going to tell you a secret, and maybe it’s an obvious secret, one that you already know (especially since it’s the title of this post), but I also think it’s a secret most people don’t want to acknowledge: there is no such thing as the best recipe.

Now I say this as someone who, for years, titled my posts “The Best” this or “The Best” that. My most popular post of all time was called The Best Broccoli of Your Life. I still have people who come up to me on the street and say, “Your broccoli recipe really is the best.” First of all, it’s not my broccoli recipe, it’s Ina Garten’s. Second of all, it’s an excellent recipe, it yields wonderful results, but is it the best? Let me repeat my point: there’s no such thing as the best.

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Cyber Monday at Trois Mec

I had a very good Cyber Monday, if I do say so myself. My KitchenAid mixer has been in decline every since that time, years ago, that I was using it to knead bread dough and heard a giant BOOM in the kitchen, only to discover it had toppled on to the floor, cracking a tile in the process. Now it looks like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, its whole back exposed to reveal stray wires and coils (the cover won’t stay on). The other day I accidentally put my hand on one of those wires and it zapped me. The thing is ten years old and so when I saw Jason Kottke link to a KitchenAid mixer deal on Amazon yesterday, it was if the food gods were smiling down upon me. I got the six-quart, professional series in Aqua Sky for $220 less than the normal price. It arrives tomorrow.

I may have also purchased a new food processor, a fire extinguisher (you never know!), and two mid-century serving platters on Etsy that weren’t discounted for Cyber Monday, but I was on a roll, so I just went with it. And then, one of L.A.’s most celebrated restaurants, Trois Mec, posted this on its Twitter feed: “We’re celebrating cyber Monday with a deal of our own! Buy for 2 and eat for 4, or buy for 1 and eat for 2! Valid for today only! Email luis@troismec.com for more details!”

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Whole Date Oatmeal

I’ve been making the same oatmeal almost every day for the past few weeks and the time has come for me to share it with you.

There’s a good thing and a bad thing about this oatmeal recipe. The good thing is that it only has three ingredients, unless you also add butter (as the title above the title on this post says). The bad thing about this oatmeal recipe is that it features the single ugliest picture I have ever taken of food in my life. You’re about to see that picture, but I don’t want it to scare you. Just imagine it like those pods in the movie Cocoon, sitting at the bottom of the pool, waiting to hatch into aliens who will guarantee you everlasting life. At least I think that’s what happens in Cocoon? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.

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My Favorite Restaurant in L.A. Right Now Is Botanica

There’s this notion that there’s an objective answer to the question, “Where’s the best place to eat in (insert city name) right now?”

Let me be the first to say that I don’t think it’s possible to be objective about such a thing. In fact, I’m planning a trip to Paris right now and listening to all kinds of advice. Many people are telling me about their favorite restaurants and I’m entering them into Google and though the menus look excellent, sometimes I just look at pictures of the restaurants on Google images and don’t get a great vibe. That’s enough for me to set that place aside, even if the food’s spectacular. Atmosphere matters just as much to me as the food (Craig too). That’s not true for everyone, but that’s true for us.

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The Tomato Test

Why is it that there are things in this life that we KNOW are good for us and yet we don’t do them? Even if they’re easy? Even if the minimal amount of work that they require will yield enormous results, ones that’ll absolutely transform our day-to-day experiences for the better?

In case you couldn’t tell from the picture, or the title of this post, I’m talking about sharpening your knife. Raise your hand if you’ve had your knife sharpened lately. OK, very good, you can leave the classroom. Everyone else: listen up! Go to your kitchen right now and grab a tomato. Then get your main knife, your chef’s knife, the one that you use to chop everything. Drag it across the tomato without applying any pressure. Did it make a slice or did it barely make a dent? If it made a slice, very good, you too can leave the classroom. If not, it’s time we had a talk.

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Lots of Seafood Cooked in a Big Pot with White Wine, Tomatoes, and Chiles de Arbol (Plus: Tahini Halva Brownies)

Cooking seafood for a crowd has never been my forté. The first time that I did it, over ten years ago!, I futzed around with a River Cafe Cookbook recipe involving potatoes cooked along with mussels, shrimp, and fish in a tomatoey broth. It was not a hit. The next time, about seven years later, I hosted an indoor clambake and though that was tons of fun, the sausage didn’t really cook along with the fish so I ended up dumping raw sausage on the table along with all of the clams and corn. I had to have everyone help me pick out all the sausage so I could pop it on to a cookie sheet and finish it in the oven. Again, not a triumph.

But last night I cooked seafood for a few friends and it was my best go at it yet. The key? Simplicity!

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