Sophisticated Candy For The Sophisticated Reveler: A Halloween Special

To quote Peter, Paul and Mary: “If I had an orange, I’d make a candied orange peel.”

And so it was that I had an orange left over from the recipe below. And so it was that I made candied orange peel.

Making candied orange peel is very easy. I used a recipe from but it was so easy I memorized it. Here’s what you do.

Buy an orange. Peel it with a vegetable peeler in long strips from top to bottom.


Fill a pot with water, preferably hot water so it comes to a boil faster. When it’s boiling add the orange peel and boil for one minute.


Immediately remove into a strainer and bring to the sink. Rinse with cold water. Dump the hot orangey water out and refill with clean hot water. Bring to a boil again and repeat the process. (Don’t cheat and reuse the water. Just be patient, it’s worth it.)

Once you’ve boiled and rinsed in cold water twice, take a small saucepan and place 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in it. Bring to medium high heat until sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the orange peel and lower to a simmer.


Let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the peel is “tender.” You can actually watch the process of the peel getting candied: it becomes transparent and very pretty.

Remove to a sheet with parchment paper. And let dry for one hour.


And that’s it! Candied orange peel!

What’s that? You’re not satisfied? It’s Halloween and you want me to dip my orange peel in chocolate?

My you’re pushy today, aren’t you?

Very well then: in chocolate we shall dip. Take 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chips and melt over a double boiler. Once melted, dip the orange peel in about 3/4ths of the way. Place on a new sheet of parchment and put in the fridge for 15 minutes for the chocolate to dry. You will have this: [click to enlarge]


The chocolate actually enhances the candied orange peel experience so I recommend it. Can you imagine the delighted faces of the little children tomorrow who come a’knocking for candy when you drop chocolate covered orange peel in their bags? No? Ok, neither can I. Which is excellent because you can keep it all to yourself. Happy Halloween!

If I Were Perky and Had a Cooking Show I Would Make This: Brazilian Chicken with Olives

There are two extremes when it comes to recipes. There are the soul-wrenching deeply-intricate 40-step recipes and then there are the Rachel Ray Sandra Lee Every Day Food 20-second recipes that appeal to working moms or non-working moms with slow reflexes. This recipe is mostly the latter with a hint of the former: it’s an easy to assemble, wildly rewarding dish that I learnt to make my first year of law school. Let’s admire the end product first so you can see what all the fuss is about, before we proceed:


That’s Brazilian chicken with olives! Doesn’t it look terrific? The picture doesn’t lie: what you can sense, perhaps, in that picture is a profound cohesion of chicken, rice, garlic, and cilantro, all in a moist heap surrounded by oranges. Wouldn’t a dish like this make you perky? Or at least Brazilian? (Bikini wax, notwithstanding.)

The recipe comes from (where else?!) Epicurious. Click here to view it. And because you can view it there, I won’t reproduce it here. I’ll simply walk you through the crucial steps.

The flavoring agents at the top are 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of orange zest and orange juice (which gets added later):


You add these to hot oil and already a bizarre exotic perfume infuses the air. Garlic and orange zest, who’d a thunk?

Next you add the chicken thighs. The secret to this whole dish lies in those chicken thighs: boneless, skinless chicken thighs. If you watch Food TV you’ve probably heard at least one cook say: “Chicken thighs have way more flavor than other parts of the chicken.” And it’s true: they’re richer in flavor and also way way moister. You cut them into 1/2 inch strips here and add them to the garlic, zest and oil and brown for a few minutes.


After that, you add the orange juice and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil:


You should keep your eye on the garlic before this step and when it starts to brown immediately add the liquid to stop it. Nothing can ruin a dish like this more than burnt garlic.

Now then. Once at a boil, you add a package of yellow rice, the seasoning packet, and 1 cup of green olives stuffed with pimentos: (I couldn’t find pimento stuffed olives so I just used small green pitted ones):


You cover that and simmer for 20 minutes (double check that in the recipe, but I’m pretty sure it’s right), take off the heat and let rest for 10, then stir in cilantro, surround with orange wedges and you’re done. And it’s an awesome meal in just a little bit more than 30 minutes.

Oh no. I’m turning into Rachel Ray…. 30 minute meals… E.V.O.O… how appropriate for Halloween! I shall terrify you with my perkiness! Wahahahahahaha….

An ok meal at Little Havana

&uotI just IMed

Now it should be said right away that Little Havana is very cute and that the one-man-band host, waiter, (owner?) was very charming. The place was pretty crowded with people who looked like regulars. On the table were little containers of candy corn. The menu was slightly expensive but we were hungry. And so we started with ceviche:


Ceviche, for those not in the know, is fish cooked in acid—usually lemon juice or lime juice. It’s really delicious. Here there were three large shrimp, though I thought there were four and wrongfully accused Kirk of attacking one of mine when there was only one left on the plate.

“How many did you have?” I asked.

“One,” he said.

“Oh,” I replied guiltily.

He cut the third shrimp in half and muttered: “I’m not the one whose religion forbids the eating of shellfish.”

My entree, I suppose, is where my meal entered lacklustre-land. I ordered the filet migneon because I haven’t had red meat in a while. [Ha, you can refute that when you scroll below and re-examine my meal at Craft.]


Are you swooning over that plate? Probably not. The steak was well prepared. I enjoyed the onions. The plaintains were confusing: they were flat and crunchy but where was the banana? And the rice and beans were adequate.

It was the cost that makes me say this meal is just an “ok” meal. If we’d had the same food for much cheaper I’d say: “It’s a great steal at Little Havana.” But as it was, it was pricey and right across the street we could have spent the same money and eaten Batali-cuisine. But a certain someone hates bar stools. And steals shrimp.

The Second Most Momentous Meeting of Food Bloggers EVER: Derrick “An Obsession With Food” [plus wife!] & Adam “Amateur Gourmet” Dine at Craft

Those reading since June will remember the first most momentous meeting of food bloggers ever when I dined with Clotilde “Chocolate & Zucchini” at Babbo. Before that I met Danny “A Year In Food” at The Bar Room at The Modern. So that was kind of momentous too. But at the time I didn’t think to call it “momentous” so Danny doesn’t get momentous status, but he’s in Europe so he’ll barely notice. And so the meal I had last night with Derrick “An Obsession with Food” and his lovely wife Melissa will henceforth be known as the Second Most Momentous Meeting of Food Bloggers Ever. Here we are at the end of our meal, aren’t we cute?


But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. How did this meal come about? Why Derrick? Why Melissa? Why now?

Well a few weeks ago Derrick wrote me to say: “So you may remember we’re going to be in New York in October. Any chance of meeting up with you for lunch or dinner on one of the days? We’d love to meet the famous AG in person.”

Pandering to my delusional sense of fame is the perfect way to get me to say “yes” to any dinner invitation. Plus, I’ve been a big fan of Derrick’s site for a long while now. He really knows his stuff. So I quickly said–or, typed: “Yes!” and then obliged his request for “any places you’d really suggest as don’t-miss?” by sending him the link to my list of all the restaurants I ate in in 2005, adding: “As for places I’ve yet to try that may be fun for us—I’ve always wanted to check out Craft (though I know it’s expensive), Gramercy Tavern, Aquavit, and a few others.”

And before I knew it, Derrick had made a reservation for three people at 8:30, October 25th at Craft.

So you know how in some movies there’s a raggedy woman who walks by a fancy clothing store and peers in the windows pining desperately for the mink stoll or the diamond earrings that she’ll never have? Sometimes I felt that way walking past Craft on 19th Street. The inside looked so forbidding, so wooden and brassy, that I could never imagine myself inside with the chic looking crowd. Plus the only chance I had—going with my parents—was shot because my parents once went there with another couple, saw the menu, found it too confusing and left.

But here I was—having braved the freezing cold winds and aggressive drizzle on the walk over—sitting in the lobby of Craft waiting for Derrick and Melissa to arrive. (I’m perpetually early for things.) I enjoyed overhearing many of the entryway conversations while I waited. Like there were these four women, three of whom looked like business women and one who looked like a model. The three businesswomen insisted on paying for the model’s cab. “Rob really gets upset, though, when I let people pay for me,” she said. I found that very interesting. Who’s Rob? Why does he get upset?

Before I could solve that mystery, Derrick and Melissa arrived. I recognized Derrick from his long hair—I’d done my research on his wife’s Flickr page before our meeting. It’s weird meeting food bloggers for meals: it’s sort of like a blind foodie date. Except here I was meeting a couple, so it had even more suspect swinging spousal undertones. Were they auditioning me to join them in some kind of Californian marital foodie triangle? What role would I play: houseboy? I found the prospect humiliating and told them, right away, that I had a terrible rash all over my body in the hopes they’d let go of that idea. [Though Craft did encourage us slightly with its food-sharing policies.]

What tangent was I just on? I have no idea. Anyway, let’s get to the food. We have a lot to write about.

Craft is famous for its notoriously “difficult” menu. Actually, the menu’s not difficult at all. (You can study it here). It’s divided up between “first courses” and “main courses.” The “first course” menu is divided between raw shellfish, cured/marinated shellfish, charcuterie, roasted meat, and salads. Easy! And the main courses are divided between fish and meat and within those categories it’s divided between braised and roasted. The vegetables are either roasted, sauteed, or braised. Are you confused? Ok, maybe it’s a tad bit confusing.

So let’s enjoy our amuse bouche:


Lord, you’re going to buy me a pad and a pen when you see how bad my recall is when it comes to what we ate and drank last night. On that spoon, I know, is some kind of fish. I want to say it’s white fish. Then there’s daikon radish, I remember that. Is that cucumber I see? Whatever it was, it was all bright on the palate and quite refreshing.

Derrick took to studying the wine list as Melissa and I discussed the menu. One thing that I loved about our meal last night was that Derrick and Melissa knew so much—I had a very edifying experience. So for example, Melissa turned me on to oysters. Since it’s a sharing restaurant, we ordered three of each kind of oyster to start. Here’s our big oyster platter:


Now from the menupages menu, I know for a fact three of these oysters are Kumamoto oysters. These are Melissa’s favorite. They’re small and sweet and creamy. We ate these last but I’ll write about them first because even though they’re Melissa’s favorite, I had some bits of shell get into my slurp and it detracted from the experience. But I could see why she enjoyed them. Our other oysters may have been Beau Soleil and Glidden Point (again, from menupages). Regardless of what they were, I felt like my oyster-eyes were opened: it’s been said that what makes oysters so enjoyable is that they taste completely of the sea. Is it Ruth Reichl who writes in her book about being on a boat with her parents, shucking fresh oysters out of the water and slurping them down? It’s a very romantic idea and I loved how the salty slimyness of the oysters was so evocative of the ocean. Plus they went great with the wine…

That’s right: there was wine for the oysters that Derrick selected. Derrick knows his wine and I really really don’t. I told him I would do my best to recall the wines we drank (there were two) and he can correct them later when he blogs about it on his site. The wine we drank with the oysters, if I remember correctly, was a mix of three whites: Chardonnay, Riesling, and _____ (Sauvignon Blanc?). It came from the _____ region in Italy. I really enjoyed it but I enjoy white wine. We drank most of it down with the oysters, but saved a drop for the scallops that came with our entrees.

And here they are:


I know these look outrageous, and I’ve heard the Craft scallops raved over before, but these weren’t the highlight of the meal for me. They were fine: I found them to be a bit rubbery and not that memorable. However, I was assigned the task of dividing up the fourth scallop (well–I assigned myself the task) and though I tried to cut it in thirds, it ended up in fourths. Who ate the extra fourth? I did. So I must have liked the scallops more than I let on.

For our entree food, Derrick consulted the sommelier for advice on an appropriate wine. The last time I’ve seen this done was in Monaco when we were at Joel Robuchon and mom and dad assigned me the task of choosing the wine. I chose a Riseling and the sommelier okayed it. It ended up being way too sweet and my family wrote me out of the will.

Derrick fared much better when he and the sommelier settled upon (and you’ll be proud of me that I remember this!) a Cab Franc from Australia. (Cab is wine lingo for Cabernet. I don’t know what “Franc” is wine lingo for.) This wine was really wonderful. Again, I don’t know my wine, but this wine was unusually distinct. I began describing it aloud: “I taste cherries…”

“Yes,” agreed Derrick.

“…and a hint of the forest.”

“Yes,” laughed Melissa.

“…a wolf howls in the distance. Small children frolick in a meadow.”

I could’ve gone on, but then came the greatest dish of the entire meal:


This is one of our “sides” and Melissa gets the credit for spotting it. It’s bacon and egg risotto. That’s right, the risotto tastse like bacon and there’s a poached yolk on top that you break into the risotto. The end result is wildly rich and decadent and wonderful. We scraped this plate clean as quick as you can say “Clogged Artery.”

These pictures are quite unorderly, but bare with me. Here are the hen of the woods mushrooms:


These were really enjoyable in a very simple, straightforward sort of way. In fact I think these Hen of the Woods embody what Craft stands for as a restaurant. It’s all in the name: Craft. Cooking is a craft before it’s an art. Like any other craft, the goal is to maximize the return with simplicity and grace. (I’m making this crap up but it sounds good.) That’s what these mushrooms are: simplicity and grace on a plate. (That’s the new NBC hit on the make: “Simplicity and Grace on a Plate.”)

Now for the meaty stuff. Here’s a braised short rib:


This was quite lovely and soul-satisfying in a homey but impressive way. The meat fell apart so it was really easy to eat and the herbs (I think that’s thyme in there) really enhanced the experience.

And then there was Venison (that’s Bambi’s mother, for the unknowledgable):


The Venison was prepared—(I just realized I don’t need to capitalize Venison, but instead of fixing it I thought I’d point out the mistake in a parenthetical aside)–in three ways, as you can see. But the venison chop was impossible to cut through because they kept the ____ bone intact (it was Derrick who made this comment, and I don’t remember the bone name.) So we sent it back for the chef to cut through it so we could share it.

Oh, the venison in the middle is bacon wrapped. I forgot to mention that. I really liked the venison presentation: it was earthy and smart and colorful but not over-the-top. Subtle with a hint of whimsy. (Wow, that sounds professional. But I mean it.)

I encouraged the group to try the cippolini onions beacuse I read they were in season in New York magazine:


These were definitely a highlight for me. I loved the flavor and the texture–sweet and crunchy with a slightly bitter undertaste. If you have access to cippolini (sp?) onions and New York magazine, go buy some and make their recipe. (Maybe I’ll do that this weekend if I feel so inclined.)

Now then, it may seem like we pigged out but you have to remember there were THREE of us and all three of us LOVE FOOD so it’s really not that much. Now then, Melissa’s a big cheese platter person so she ordered cheese for the table from the dessert menu.


She was impressively assertive with her cheese order. She knew which cheeses she wanted and so when the waiter offered to bring over the cart, Melissa said: “Well you can bring over the cart, but I still know which cheeses we want.” And if my memory were photographic, I’d tell you what they were. I do remember there was a goat (at 6 o’clock), a cow’s milk, a sheep’s milk (?) and then the waiter gave us a free one just to be nice.

I particularly enjoyed the condiments they served with the cheese:


That’s almonds, plums and honey. I love pouring honey on cheese. Since I’m scared of cheese (see salad post below where I recall my Cheeseophobic childhood) pouring honey makes the experience more Adamable–since I like things that are sweet. (That’s why I like YOU reader! You’re sweet.)

What’s next? Why it’s a gift from the chef: a concord grape spritzer.


Ah, refreshing!

Have we hit our limit?

We have not!

Naturally, a meal of this magnitude must end with donuts. (I kind of insisted on dessert since dessert is my favorite part of any meal.) Here they are:


Aren’t they pretty? And they tasted as good as they look: nothing beats a fresh donut. I think we should end all our meals with donuts from now on.

But donuts didn’t end our meal. There was another gift from the chef: caramel corn!


Ok, now they did it: I was stuffed into oblivion. And Derrick and Melissa, who’d been eating New York all day (they’d hit Mary’s Fish Camp, Sweet Sunshine Bakery, and Artisinal) they must’ve been busting at the seams. But we were all still in great spirits.

You know, a great meal is a confluence of many things. The food can be great, but if the company’s not it all goes to waste. And vice-versa. But when the two factors come together–great people and great food–there’s nothing like it. And that’s how it was on Tuesday night when the second most momentous meeting of food bloggers took place at Craft. I’d like to thank Derrick and Melissa for an amazing time and I really intend to come through on my promise to visit the Bay Area (where more momentous meetings await: Pim! Heidi! Alice Waters!) and we’ll eat Pacific oysters, drink wine, I’ll bring a pen and paper so I remember all the details for sure! Thanks, again, for a great night.

Salad Inspirations

There’s something thrilling about food shopping without a recipe. Last night I hungered for a salad, and I made my way to Whole Foods (I’ve been making my way to Whole Foods way too often lately) and stood in the produce section waiting for inspiration to alight.

“Excuse me,” said a woman, “You’re blocking the aisle.”

“One moment,” I snapped, “I’m waiting for inspiration to alight.”

She threw a tomato at my head.

That’s when I had a vision:


I will make a salad with pre-packaged lettuces—but exotic ones, with frisee because that’s sophisticated! And I will roast some beets and add tangerine and bleu cheese! And so I found a tangerine—actually it was a tangelo, kind of a tangerine/orange combo—and bought “nutty, slightly sweet” bleu cheese from the cheese section. This was a big step for me because I come from a Cheesophobic family [my family, by the way, is still without electricity two days after Hurricane Wilma plowed through South Florida—trees toppled, roof tiles fell, and they’re cooking frozen peas on a Coleman stove to survive! Hopefully things will get better for them soon!] and bleu cheese is the final obstacle in my slowly advancing appreciation of cheese. I really like how bleu cheese works in this salad: I stole the idea from Deborah, where I ate a few weeks ago, pairing it with the tangelo and the beets to contrast the intense pungency.

As for the beets, I roasted them at 400 degrees in foil pouches—this time drizzled with olive oil, a touch of balsamic, and salt and pepper. At one hour, I stabbed them and removed them. They were more flavorful than the last time I roasted them just alone in the pouch. So I now have a beet-roasting technique I can be proud of.

I’m The Food Guy

Many of you know that I’m a grad student in dramatic writing at NYU. What most of the dramatic writing department at NYU didn’t know, at least last year, was that I had a food blog. This year the cat came out of the bag when one of my professors, I won’t say his name, made the discovery and informed all the other professors about it. Now I’ve gained a reputation in the department as something of a food guy.

The reason I bring this up, though, is because I think it’s funny how my teachers are using food metaphors now to help me see their points about my work. And so it was last week, for example, that my masters’ thesis teacher was talking about losing the one thing that you love and having to go on. “Imagine that you couldn’t cook anymore,” she said to me, “what would you do then?” And then this week she was talking about the book “Blink” and she said some things are worth mulling over, like what play you’re going to write for your thesis, and other things are worth trusting your instinct on: “Like Adam, when you cook, you say: ooooh marjoram would taste good here, maybe some garlic. Those are things you can make split-second decisions about.” I took her point well and accepted my role as The Food Guy.

And in an e-mail from one of my TV-writing teachers regarding the “South Park” spec script I’m writing (yes, I’m writing a South Park!) he wrote: “Make sure you feed Chef too, and a couple of other traditional SP walk-ons, to taste. I can talk that way to you. Fold them in.”

The cat’s out of the bag. I’m The Food Guy.

1 2 3 5