Lauren & Diana

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In the history of this blog, I’ve had not one but TWO roommates. Both of them were women. They still are. The first, Lauren (pronounced LAW-ren, like Sofia Loren) was there at the very beginning; we lived together (we were attending Emory Law School at the time) and I said, “Hey I’m going to start a food blog.” And she said, “Sounds good to me” and then she was there for disaster after disaster in the kitchen, with a few successes in between. Here’s a quick Q&A with her about our time living together.

Do you remember when I started the blog? Did you think I was crazy at first?

I remember your posting on egullet and how the responses to your post increased exponentially by the hour. I was indeed impressed by the fact that several food celebs had responded to your post, but I was most impressed by the substance of the commentary you sparked. You seemed to hit a nerve in the food industry and it continued to echo through to our birthday dinner at Blais in Atlanta. I also recall you setting up your blog and providing me with reports every day or so with the number of hits you had received — 50 hits today… 100 hits today.. 170 hits today. Then came the Janet Jackson breast cupcakes and you were propelled into food blogger celebrity status, at least for the duration of the media blitz that followed the Super Bowl that year. It was nice to see you taking joy out of something that served as an outlet for your creative side. During law school I thought you were going to burst. The blog turned out to be a decent release valve for you. To the extent I thought you were crazy, it was law school… the blog helped bring around.

We all know you were around for lots of kitchen disasters, but was there anything I made when we lived together that you really liked?

Actually, you made a lot of really neat things back at the beginning… even though there were a few flops. For as much as it stank in our apartment while you were creating/nursing the sourdough bread starter, the resulting loaves of bread you baked were really incredible. The crust was fantastic and the bread tasted phenomenal each time you baked it.

[Note: That’s Lauren in the following video.]

I also loved the million-grams-of-fat vanilla bean ice cream and blood orange sorbet you made. The flavors were incredibly real and rich… and quite a treat in hot ATL. I think my favorite dish was your chicken noodle soup. I remember you making it for me when I was sick. Even with my cold I could still taste each of the flavors. It’s still my favorite chicken noodle soup.

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Ok, and what did you hate: let’s hear the worst?

The worst had to be the fish we never ate. Remember how you tried to bake it in wax paper? I was so frightened I was going to have food poisoning I remember insisting on pizza. I think you may have put Craig and myself dangerously close to sudden onset of cancer when you covered the pork dish in regular plastic wrap and put it in the oven. The fact that you were able to fish ‘some’ of the melted plastic wrap out of the dish was only slightly comforting. At least the final product tasted good and helped me forget that I was consuming liquid plastic. The marshmallows you made were pretty gross, but the film turned out great so it seemed like a success in the end. Finally, I have to confess your chili: it’s bad. I will eat just about anyone’s chili and be perfectly content, but yours looked way too much like canned dog food. It even turned ME off.

[Note: after much searching, I just dug up an ANCIENT video of the chili Lauren is talking about; I made this, from The Betty Crocker Cookbook, in my pre-blog days. You can even catch a quick glimpse of young Lauren at the end. I actually think it’s less gross than she does!]

What were your favorite meals we had together in Atlanta that were featured in the blog?

The best by far was Blais. Hands down. I can still rattle off at least 6 of our 32 courses. It was unreal. Probably the best meal of my life.

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[Note: The above picture was taken at Blais, which is no longer in existence; but its chef you may recognize as Richard Blais from last season of “Top Chef.”]

Float Away Cafe was pretty good too. That place was (and I suspect probably still is) solid. Their cheeses were fantastic too.

How about afterwards–in DC and beyond?

I thought our meal at Palena in DC was fantastic. I thought it was going to be a bit stuffy, but I remember our server being helpful and friendly. Maybe he just had a crush on you, though.

[Note: Here’s a video montage of that trip to D.C.]

I liked our NYC adventures when I would come up to visit. I think Momofuku Ssam Bar was your best restaurant introduction for me. I still love that place and perhaps that’s why I moved within a 1 block radius of it. Our meal at Spotted Pig was also a success. Figs wrapped in bacon and stuffed with goat cheese… mmm…. so good makes you wanna smack yourself.

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Well thanks Lauren for doing that Q&A and thanks for being there from the beginning!

Now, on to a more recent roommate: Diana Fithian, my friend my NYU’s Dramatic Writing program, who lived with me from 2006 to 2007 in the very apartment I’m still living now. Let’s talk to Diana about her time living with The A.G.

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Do you remember the first thing I made that you ate?

The first thing may have been Barefoot Contessa lemon bars, which you made as refreshments for me and some other classmates when we went over to your apartment to watch a movie.

The first few times I went to your place I noticed that you always had a delicious-looking cake in your cake stand or a pie cooling on the windowsill, and that’s when I knew we should be friends:).

When we moved in together, did you mind having all your habits and idiosyncrasies broadcast to the world?

You really didn’t air that much of my dirty laundry, considering. I think you may have blogged that it frustrated you when on nights you didn’t cook I’d order the same thing over and over from the sketchy Chinese place down the street (steamed shrimp with vegetables). But really I was just so spoiled that I had lost the ability to fend for myself, so it was kind of your own fault.

[Note: Here’s a video where I perform a gum experiment on Diana; one of the many cruel tests I performed upon her in our time together.]

What was your favorite thing I made when we lived together?

That year I lived with you was the best I ever ate in my life! I look back fondly on the days when I was working and you would IM me and ask what I wanted for dinner…it was like living with June Cleaver!

My favorite meal was probably the pot au feu you made on a freezing winter night when the heat was broken. It was delicious and I remember warming my hands over the pot of hot beef broth.

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I also loved the Martha Stewart chocolate chip cookies we made a few times which were the perfect marriage of chewy and crisp. I’ve made them on my own since moving out and somehow they just weren’t the same.

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[Note: I made these again last night and I love them so much, I should’ve put them on my list of Greatest Hits.]

Least favorite thing?

That’s hard. I can’t think of many things that haven’t been successful. I’ll say the onion rings you deep fried that nearly caught the house on fire. But at the end of the day they were delicious, and tasted even better because we had survived a near-death experience.

What’s your favorite meal we ate out together that was documented on the blog?

Maybe the first time we went to Al Di La as our celebratory move-in meal. It was my first time living in Brooklyn and I had never eaten much there, so I was excited to have such an awesome restaurant right in our ‘hood.

I also loved the big lobster bake we ate with Patty and James Felder in Kennebunkport, Maine.

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Have you been inspired to cook more b/c of the blog?

Definitely! I steal recipes from your blog all the time, and I’ve learned a lot of technique from you too. Before we met I bought my produce at the corner bodega and owned nothing sharper than a butter knife; now I shop at the farmer’s market and use a big chef’s knife.

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It’s funny to read these two interviews back-to-back because Lauren was there when I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen and Diana was here just when I started to get good. Thanks to both of them for taking the time to do this Q&A and, more importantly, thanks to both of them for being such supportive friends and former roommates.

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