My mom loves Regis Philbin. Growing up, she’d watch Regis & Kathie Lee religiously; she even once went to a shopping mall, somewhere on Long Island, to get Kathie Lee Gifford to sign a copy of her book. These days, she and my dad Tivo Regis and Kelly in the morning and watch it at night. I’m a View man myself (though Whoopie is no Rosie; I miss the compulsively watchable hysteria of Rosie vs. Elizabeth) but once I went to a taping of Regis & Kathie Lee, almost ten years ago, because my friend Dana was Harrison Ford obsessed and he was the featured guest.
Why am I telling you all this? Because if you’d asked me last week, “Who are the last two people you’d expect to have the key to unlock the mysteries of one of New York’s greatest cookies” I would not have said “Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa.” And yet, thanks to this post on Eater New York, it became evident last week that if I wanted to make Momofuku Milk Bar’s compost cookies at home, the recipe was right there on Regis & Kelly’s webpage.
Inspired by this piece in the Guardian, in which several successful fiction writers (including Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, and Jonathan Franzen) give their ten rules for writing fiction, here are my ten rules for food blogging. (I hope my other senior food blogging colleagues write their own ten rules too.)
1. Have a hook. That hook might be cooking your way through a cookbook, deriding disastrous cakes, or advising fellow workers on where to eat in midtown.
2. If you don’t have a hook, have a name. Like this guy or this guy, both of whom made a name for themselves in the food world before starting a food blog.
3. If you don’t have a name, have a singular, stand-out voice that’s unlike any other voice out there.
4. If you don’t have a singular, stand-out voice, take beautiful pictures of beautiful food and include recipes.
5. Update frequently, at least three times a week. Even if you’re not a great photographer, include pictures in your posts; preferably, a lead picture at the top and several illustrative pictures studded throughout. (Edit these pictures in Photoshop, for maximum effect.)
I don’t have a fast answer to the question “what’s your favorite restaurant?” (it’s a tie, at this point, between Blue Hill Stone Barns & Prune) but I do have an immediate suggestion when someone is coming to New York for the first time and wants to know where to go: “Cafe Sabarasky,” I almost always say. “It’s one of my favorite places in the city.”
The idea of a secret ingredient is a funny one. I think it’s based on a modern American notion of shortcuts; the idea that instead of working hard to be successful, you can win the lottery or appear on a reality show or read the Cliff’s Notes and still pass your A.P. English exam (I did that actually: sorry, Hester Prynne). This American obsession with getting everywhere as quickly as possible, to FastPass your way to accomplishment, doesn’t translate well to cooking. Which is why, I think, so many Americans don’t cook. They’d rather fast food it, or frozen dinner it, than stand over a stove. And when they do stand over the stove, they want “quick tips” and “30 minute meals” and the magical, secret ingredient that’ll propel their dinner to greatness. But the truth is no one ingredient can propel your dinner to greatness; greatness comes with patience and practice, over time.
Let’s say you have a loved one who doesn’t cook (ahem) and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (ahem) and you’re sick and tired of slaving over a hot stove, day in and day out, and wish that just once (ahem) they’d make you dessert.
Ok, my “ahems” are a bit unfair: that made it sound like I’m complaining about my own domestic situation. I’m not. I don’t want Craig to make me dessert–I like making my own dessert, thank you very much–but you, yes YOU, may wish your loved one to make you dessert this Valentine’s Day. It’s very understandable. Well here’s the solution: open up this post on their computer, leave it open, and maybe they’ll get the hint. This is a pretty foolproof beginner cook dessert option and it’s out-of-this-world good.
Last week I tried an experiment based on something I saw my friend Jeffery Self do a few days prior: I hosted a LIVE video Q&A on a site called ustream.tv. I called the show “Dinner Dish,” announced it 5 minutes before I did it on Twitter, and about 14 people came (including my mom) and asked me questions about food and cooking in the chat room. I promised the next time I did it I’d give more warning so here it is: this afternoon, at 5 PM EST, click here and ask me anything you want to know about cooking, eating, dining, spelunking, you name it. Today’s episode will be a special snowstorm edition.
Craig’s birthday has always been an excellent excuse to splurge at a high-end restaurant, the kind of place I couldn’t justify going to the rest of the year. Usually I pick a place that piques my curiosity, or a place I’ve been dying to try for a long time. Last year we visited Momofuku Ko, the year before–and it was quite a year–Per Se and, the year before that, Blue Hill.
This year, it finally occurred to me: all this time, I’d been choosing places I really wanted to go to without really factoring Craig into the equation. Sure, he loves food and loved all these meals, but would he have picked these places himself? Probably not (reading over my shoulder, he says: “I would’ve picked Blue Hill.”) Regardless, there’s one kind of food that Craig absolutely loves and that I just enjoy which, if this birthday was going to be about him, I would have to pursue: that food is sushi.
My proudest culinary achievements aren’t the ones where I followed a recipe really well or repeated a specific technique demonstrated by a chef, they’re the ones where on a freezing cold night, instead of ordering a pizza or Thai food (side-note: we still haven’t found good take-out in the West Village; anyone?) I whip up something delicious with what I have on hand.