To Cut An Artichoke


For months now I have watched Mario Batali cut artichokes on “Molto Mario,” demanding the participation of this three guests and charging that “it’s really easy and really worthwhile.” What’s infuriating (but admirable) is that he takes the time, each time, to explain the process to his audience. The religious viewer is left irritated at the repetition: “Ok, Mario,” you want to say, “I know how to cut an artichoke.”

I said that very thing last week watching him on Tivo when I had an idea. “I have an idea,” I said to myself. “Let’s buy some artichokes and see if I really do know how to cut an artichoke.”

And thus this post was born.

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As Easy As [Pie]


Bad pie makers, have I got a tip for you. Buy this month’s Gourmet magazine and follow their technique for making the perfect pie crust. I am a terrible pie maker and I worked up the courage to follow their recipe after too many bad experiences and guess what? This crust was killer. Without any bidding, people who tried this pie commented: “Wow, the crust is awesome. It’s so flaky and buttery and great.”

Here’s a quick visual tour of what you do. You put flour, salt, shortening and butter into a bowl:


You work it together with the tips of your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Once it does you add 5 Tbs of water (if you’re making a double crust) and squeeze a bit in your hand. If it stays together then there’s enough water, if it falls apart you need more. This is what it looked like when it had enough water:


Then there’s the cool novel part: you dump the dough out on to a board and you separate it into eight pieces. Then you take each piece with the heel of your hand and you shmush it out so you distribute the fat. You press it forward twice and then you scrape it all together and make a big ball. Then you divide that in half, flatten each half into a disc, wrap and refrigerate. Then you see to your pie filling.

On this particular day (it being Thursday) I had blueberries:


I didn’t have the other components that the pie recipe called for (tapioca, lemon juice) but I didn’t care. Like Eric Cartman, I wanted some pah. So I mixed the blueberries with 1 1/2 cups brown sugar and let them rest and then when I rolled out the pie dough, I placed the pie dough in the glass pie plate and added the blueberries.


Mmm, doesn’t that look so homey, homey?

Then I rolled out the other piece so badly that the pie top rejected the notion of pi, refusing to be a circle and deciding to become a clumpy, blumpy mess. I decided to spare you the horror of what it looked like when I plopped it on top. But no matter!

Into the oven it went:


And out it came, a perfect pie:


So the moral of the story is, go buy yourself a Gourmet magazine, read their pie recipe, get yourself some fruit and even if you mess up when you roll it out still bake it anyway and you will be glad. These are the profound directives of a formerly bad pie maker.

How I Survived The Blizzard

New Yorkers today had a laugh talking about yesterday’s blizzard. “Did you survive the blizzard?” we asked each other, kiddingly. Perhaps it all seemed so funny because the sun shined bright today like it’s been shining most of this winter. This is the least wintery winter of my life–and I say that having lived in Atlanta and Florida through many winters. At least those winters were typical for their locations. But this New York winter has been so tame that yesterday’s blizzard felt inevitable, if not downright welcome. “It’s the first snow of the season,” someone pointed out today. No kidding.

Here’s the snow from my window, yesterday morning:


It did, indeed, look wintery and blizzardy outside. Lucky for me, I’d done my homework, having gone the day before to Whole Foods to stock up on necessities. To see how I fed myself during the Blizzard of ’06, push da button.

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Once again, I urge you to make rice pudding with leftover rice from the Chinese food you ordered


[Here’s the recipe; although, I just improvised here–dumping rice into a small saucepan, adding some milk, some cream, a handful of sugar and then freshly grated nutmeg. After all the dairy was absorbed, I grated some more nutmeg and added blanched slivered almonds. It’d be cute, I bet, to serve this back in the original take-out container. But, in any case, you have no excuse, when you order Chinese food, not to make this rice pudding. Unless you’re a lactard*.]

[I like using the term “lactard” to refer to the lactose intolerant, although Clay Aiken would frown upon this. However, this is ok, because I frown upon Clay Aiken.]

My 1000th Post: How To Start a Food Blog

This is my 1000th post. Can you believe it? 1000 posts. That’s craziness. That means I’ve sat down exactly 1000 times with a new window here and a new idea, a new experience to convey to you all. That’s a lot of times. I hope you appreciate it!

Since I’m a veteran now of 1000 posts I am going to use this opportunity to play teacher. Despite popular opinion, I’m not playing teacher just so I can wear a wool skirt. You see I’ve had some requests–via e-mail–for advice on how to start a food blog. My response to these people has generally been: “How dare you expect a man of my calibre to throw away brilliance on fools such as yourselves!” but then my little conscience fairy woke up and was like, “Adam, be nice, these people need help.”

So here, in celebration of 1000 posts, is my small effort to get some of you going on foodblogging odysseys of your own. Let’s begin at the beginning.

Why should you start a food blog?

Great question! Many of you shouldn’t. Foodblogging (like any other blogging) requires time. You really have to ask yourself: “Why am I starting a food blog?” I can think of two legitimate answers:

(1) I have a love for food that I want to share with the world;

(2) I want to document my eating and cooking experiences but I don’t really care about sharing it with the world.

Those of you who fall into Camp 2 are basically not looking to be bloggers, you’re looking to keep an electronic record of your meals cooked and eaten using blog software. That’s fine, but I’m not giving you advice today. My advice is for those who want to grow a successful, largely read food blog.

So how do I do it?

Ok, you’ll need a few things. For starters, I really really really think you need a camera. There are some bloggers who can pull off blogging without pictures (Andrew Sullivan, Jason Kottke) but they’re not food bloggers. The few food bloggers I can think of who don’t post pictures on a regular basis are filter bloggers. What’s a filter blogger? This is a blogger who acts as a filter and fishes for food-related content on the web, posting it for all to see. Occassionally they come up with original content but more often than not they’re picking and choosing what they consider to be the best articles about food out there on the web.

What are some examples of filter food blogs?

The first that comes to mind is Alaina Browne’s A Full Belly. Alaina culls (is cull the right word?) great food content that you may or may not have found on your own and shares it with the world. She’s what I’d consider the perfect example of a filter foodblogger.

Josh at The Food Section acts as a filter food blogger on the side of his site under “Appetizers.” And Bruce Cole does a similar thing over at Saute Wednesday (built on the fact that food sections are published on Wednesday.)

What are the advantages of filter food blogging?

I think it’s safe to say that filter food blogging requires less time than other forms of food blogging. If you’re someone who loves to scan the net for food related content and you regularly discover items that the mainstream press doesn’t cover, you’d be a welcome addition to the filter food blogging community. Plus, you can make your blog as specific or as broad as you’d like. You can cover, as Alaina did in her former life, only NYC related food media or you can cover something really esoteric like three-headed shrimp stories. The choice is yours.

Ok, but what if I want to come up with my own content? Like you do?

Then you need to ready yourself. Again, you’ll need a camera. The best makers of original content in the food blogging universe (Clotilde, Heidi, and Pim come to mind) all have cameras and feature pictures prominently on their blogs.

There’s a reason for this. Unlike political or music blogs that focus on things that rarely have a visual component, food is something tangible, something you can hold, and something you want to see before you taste. And the fact that you see food before you taste it–the fact that how the food looks often affects whether or not you want to taste it–makes photography an integral part of food blogging. Any food blogger can write on and on and on and on about a piece of pie or a fish eyeball they ate at El Bulli, but more than in any other form of blog (and maybe I’m overstating) when it comes to food blogging, a picture’s worth 1000 words.

Ok, ok, I get it…

I don’t think you do. Not only should you have a camera but you should break up the text on your site with lots of pictures. For example, I’m growing concerned right here that this post is crazy text heavy. So I will post a picture of my cat, Lolita, to break things up a bit. When someone’s scrolling the site later this will catch their eye. It will be hugely effective.


Very nice. Now can we get on to the specifics? I don’t even know where to begin.

There are two things you have to do to have a food blog. Well only one, really. You have to choose blogging software. I’m a huge gigantic megawatt fan of Typepad which is what I use to run this site. It is so user friendly that I need only direct you to their site and you should be able to figure things out. So go to Typepad and look around. It’s great.

Next, you may want to buy a domain for your site. I actually named this site “The Amateur Gourmet” because I purchased a domain at and I needed to come up with something and I kept trying different combinations and suited me best. If I would’ve chosen, things would be a little different around here.

My advice would be to start your blog on typepad, use their domain for the first month or so and make sure you’re really committed. If you feel like you’re updating frequently and you’re enjoying it then buy a domain name. Typepad will help you send the data to the doman name (it’s called domain wrapping or something) but let’s not worry about that now. Typepad will help you with that.

You mentioned updating frequently. How frequently should I update?

Here’s the secret to successful blogging. Are you ready? To be successful, you must update frequently. That’s nothing new—most blogging gurus say the same. There are many reasons for this. The more you update, the more content you create, the more content you create the more Googleable you become. (I’ve learnt this watching my statistics: I get the large majority of my hits from Google searches for strange things that have nothing to do with food, only because there’s some obscure word in the title.) Clotilde explained to me once that Google has an algorithm that dictates how Googleable you are: it’s based, I think, on how many people link to you and how often you update. So updating frequently has its rewards.

But also, and more obviously, the more you update the more often people will check back to your site. The blogs I check most often are the ones I know will have new content every day. The more regular the new content, the more regular my visitation. I’m sure you can relate as a blog reader.

So what should I write about? Just cook stuff and write about it?

This is a tricky question. It’s as complex as telling a room of wannabe novelists what they should write about. It really depends on you and your interests and what you’re setting out to do.

The perfect example of this is Adam Kuban of Slice and A Hamburger Today. He loves pizza and he loves hamburgers and so he writes about them. It’s that simple!

Clotilde’s success is largely built on her wanting to share her experiences living and cooking in Paris. It’s a simple concept that’s attracted a huge audience.

The idea of a “simple concept” is one you should really consider. Some blogs can rest on the laurels and the talent of the people running them, like Heidi’s and David Lebovitz’s. But most of us have to create an easy to process “hook” that’ll keep people coming back. My hook, as you all know, is that I’m an incompetent louse who really wants to learn about food. Hence my blog details my adventures making mistakes and learning the ropes.

This sounds like work. What if I can’t come up with a concept?

Don’t worry too much about it. More important than a concept, more important than anything, really, is that quality that makes all great writing worth reading and that’s your voice. Bring yourself into your food blogging and everything else will follow. When I first started, I wrote a ridiculous food song every Thursday night and sang it for no good reason. You can still hear them on the lower left hand of the site. Why are those there? Do they really have anything to do with food? Of course not. But they give you a sense of what I’m about.

And that’s another thing: as a food blogger, you’re not just writing everything you know about food, you’re sharing your personal experiences and in doing such you’re sharing little bits and pieces of yourself. I believe that the more you share, the more loyalty you’ll generate among your readers. Of course there’ll be the occassionally hate messages (but you can delete those) and angry phonecalls from family members who think they look terrible in the pictures you’re posting (AHEM) but the more you give the more you’ll get. At least I believe that to be true.

What else might I get? I like getting things.

There’s lots of evidence that blogging, even food blogging, can bring you fame and fortune or at least a small semblance of it. Julie of Julie/Julia Project has a book out now (or at least it’s just about to come out) and other food bloggers have books on the way too. I’ve had lots of opportunities arise from my blog that I can’t tell you about yet. But rest assured that blogging is a great way to put yourself out there—especially when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in life, which is how I felt right before I started this blog.

Is there anything else great about food blogging

Yes. Aside from the fact that lots of people will read what you write on a daily basis (which is always exciting), you get to act as your own editor, producer, director, publisher and secretary. You can make money from blogads and Google ads (though not enough to act as a super incentive). You can find a way to channel your creative energies (hence all my films and songs and EXTREMELY LONG posts like this one.) And, best of all, you have a great reason to really explore the world of food: both in the kitchen and out in the world. If I didn’t have a food blog, I doubt I’d cook all the stuff I cook or eat at as many places as I do. I do most of it so I can sit down later and process everything that I just experienced, for better or for worse. And over time you’ve created this gigantic record of your journey. If you click my archives and read the posts I posted my first couple of weeks as food blogger, I think you’ll detect a marked difference in my competence level, my knowledge and my confidence both as a writer and as a chef. Foodblogging pays off.

You mentioned “as a writer.” Do you think food blogging helps your writing if you want to be a writer?

Absolutely. Sitting down every day and having to organize your thoughts and figure out new ways to describe the food you just ate definitely makes you sharper and, over time, more relaxed behind the keyboard. I write most of my posts in one long sitting and I reread them once and I publish. That’s it. And this proficiency becomes useful when you’re writing e-mails or essays or cover letters or plays, like the ones I write for school. You feel free-er to experiment and to make mistakes. Food blogging can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be. It’s really what you make of it.

Ok, wrap it up.

Ya, this post is really long. I hope some people found it helpful. I had fun writing it…but I think that’s the reason why I’ve lasted 1000 posts, because I do find this sort of thing fun. If you do too, I say come aboard! The more the merrier.

[P.S. It occurs to me that I didn’t talk about design. I’m really incompetent when it comes to that and I sought out the help of an internet designer who, unfortuantely (I believe) isn’t taking on any new clients. But if you’re worried about designing your site, shop around. I’m sure you’ll find someone…]

[Also, if you do start a food blog and you have it up and running for a few weeks let me know. I’d love to see what you come up with. Good luck!]

How To Open A Bottle of Wine When You Don’t Have A Corkscrew

Wine is trickling its way into my foodie consciousness: after dinner with Clotilde where the Babbo waiter paired some dishes with wine, I’m really starting to understand how wine enhances the overall dining experience. I like this Hemingway quote posted today on Gothamist Food: “In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.”

Friday night, I was too lazy to cook. It was hot and rainy or maybe it was cold and snowy: I don’t remember. All I remember is that I ordered a pizza again from Pizza 33. It’s a delicious pizza: crisp wood-fired dough; fresh cheese and sauce and basil. But a thought struck me as I opened the lid: “This pizza looks nice and all, but do you know what would make it better? Wine!”

I ran out the door and darted across 6th avenue to my nearest wine shop. I purchased a bottle of cheap Chianti—I wanted an Italian wine. I paid and ran back across the street, up the elevator to my apartment and through the door. Was the pizza still hot? Barely; now just warm—but warm enough.

Let’s get this bottle open. Where’s the corkscrew? Corkscrew, present yourself!

Instant recollection: a few weeks earlier, I was on the roof with friends drinking wine. We brought up wine and glasses and…the corkscrew! Now it’s gone forever, no way it’s still on the roof. And here I am with a bottle of wine: what do I do? The pizza’s getting cold!

I turned to the greatest resource available to us in the modern age. The internet! I googled: “opening wine without a corkscrew.” I came across a site that gave the following advice: put a butter knife in the cork, hammer it in and push the cork through. This seemed wildly dangerous, but I was desperate. Here are my tools:


(Ignore the cat milk: that’s Lolita’s wine of choice.)

What can I say? It worked. I made a mess–wine splashed everywhere–but the butter knife pushed the cork down (I hit it very lightly with the hammer) and then I used my knife sharpener to thrust the cork all the way in. I then used my rubber cork stopper to stopper the wine after I’d drank my fill.

The moral of the story is that no obstacle, however large and/or daunting, should prevent you from celebrating life with wine. A corkscrew, however, makes the celebration just a tad bit better.

How My Mom Lost 21 Pounds On Weight Watchers

(“Say 22 because tomorrow I’m getting weighed and I think I lost another pound.” – mom)

I am in the bedroom of my mother, Heidi Roberts, who is eager to tell you about her method for shedding 21 pounds and counting. Over the last year, mom put on some weight (her diagnosis, not mine) and now she’s eager to shed it. How is she doing it? That’s what we’re here to tell you. What follows shall be transcribed verbatim.

ME: So, how ya doing?

MOM: (snorts)

ME: Tell us: how did you lose the weight?

MOM: You’re asking me?

ME: Yes.

MOM: Adam you can’t write that. Brad, he’s plagiarizing me! You can’t repeat that. BRAAAD! What’s he writing, can you look? He’s annoying me. He’s writing everything I’m saying. No, you can’t write all that.

ME: Tell us how you lost the weight.

MOM: I joined Weight Watchers.

ME: Had you been there before?

MOM : Many years ago…but now I’ve never done the new program where you count points. It’s called…(flips through book)…I’m doing the Flex Plan. There’s two plans but I’m doing the flex plan.

ME: Why is this better than other diets?

MOM: Because it allows you to eat anything you want in moderation…and it teaches you…(it wasn’t that I was eating the wrong things, it was just that I was eating too much of what I was allowed.

DAD: Portion control, damn it! Portion control!

MOM: I always knew how to eat healthily…but at my age I had to learn to eat less of what I was eating.

ME: So what do you eat now?

MOM: A combination of vegetables, fruit…

ME: What do you have for breakfast?

MOM: Usually an egg beaters omelet with vegetables in it…with either a Kashi waffle or a Weight Watchers English Muffin and omelet…

ME: What do you eat for lunch and dinner?

MOM: Usually a small piece of protein…sometimes shrimp, sometimes chicken…sometimes fish…but no red meat, I haven’t had red meat in a long time. The same for dinner. On the weekends I’ll allow myself to have a glass of wine…

ME: How important is exercise to regimen?

MOM: It is very important. I now exercise at least three to five days a week… I wear a heart monitor and it’s important to…don’t talk about that, I don’t know enough about it…. It’s important to do aerobic exercise three to five times a week.

ME: Is there any recipe or food from Weight Watchers that you recommend?

MOM: Yes, their garden vegetable soup.

ME: What’s so good about it?

MOM: It fills you up with very nutritious vegetables… and there are zero points. Only 42 calories. 0 fat and 2 grams of fiber.

ME: Sounds delicious!

MOM: It is.

ME: Can you tell us the recipe?

MOM: Are you ready?

2/3rds a cup of sliced carrots

1/2 cup diced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups fat free broth beef, chicken, or vegetable

1 1/2 cups diced green cabbage

1/2 cup green beans

1 Tbs tomato paste

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup diced zucchini

1. In large saucepan spray with non stick cooking spray. Saute the carrots, onion, garlic over low heat until softened–about five minutes.

2. Add broth, cabbage, beans, tomato paste, basil, oregano, and salt; Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until beans are tender.

3. Stir in zucchini and heat 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot. Makes four 1 cup servings.

42 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber.

Sometimes I put in a little Equal or Splenda to give it a sweet taste.


Mom: Don’t go by her, she’s a terrible cook.

ME: How often have you made this soup?

Mom: (laughs) Once every few weeks.

Me: Really? How often have you made this REALLY…

Mom: Well I made it once and I froze a bunch of it…

Me: How long ago was that?

Mom: I used it up… I don’t remember…. he’s harassing me.

Me: This interview is over. I do not support this diet…

Mom: Wait, I want to give you more food suggestions…

Me: I am not impressed. Go eat a salad.

Grandma’s Hiccup Cure

Grandma got the hiccups at Thanksgiving and then proceeded to pour sugar on to a spoon and then lick it.

“Grandma! What are you doing!” we shouted.

“It’s my hiccup cure,” she explained. “Take a picture and share it with your internet audience!”

Incredulous, I did…


…and sure enough, her hiccups went away. Just something to think about next time you hiccup at the table. The key, apparently, is to put the sugar on the tip of your tongue. Make sure to thank my grandma next time you see her.