Now we all know the concept of the student beating the master and I don’t want to imply that my friend Diana was ever my student or that I was ever her master (though I was her roommate, which is kind of the same thing with me); what I’d like to imply, however, is that Diana–who was a timid cook when I lived with her–is now giving me a run for my money. I remember her not wanting to make a salad in front of me, back then, because she thought I’d be judgmental. Since then, and since moving in with her husband, she’s had a chance to hone her chops and by all accounts her chops are very good. Case in point: check out her potatoes.
Looking for a refreshing summer drink? Try this one on for size. On Sunday night, we went over to our friends Mark and Diana’s and they served up a delightful twist on the Pimm’s Cup, a cocktail called The Porch Swing which they learned from Blue Smoke in New York (the restaurant that also catered their wedding). What’s nice about it is it’s not too sweet, it’s not too alcoholic, it’s not too bubbly, but it’s very satisfying on a hot day. Here’s how you make it.
Tweaking a Daniel Boulud recipe is a little bit like rewriting the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. It’s a brazen thing to do.
But when I made that Smoky Beef Chili for Diana’s birthday (and, by the way, not enough of you liked that recipe on Facebook and Twitter; I think it’s because chili is hard to make beautiful…a fact confirmed to me by a food stylist I met the other day) I had leftover homemade chili powder. So the dessert recipe I meant to make–Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate-Ginger Pound Cake–instantly became Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate Chile Pound Cake. Don’t tell Daniel Boulud.
You know how people say “pretty please with a cherry on top?” but the visual you get, from that request, is of an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and whipped cream? From now on, I want you to think about salad. Because cherries taste really good in salad. No, not cherries from a jar, I’m talking about cherries that show up, in season (like: now) at the farmer’s market. Look at the cherries in the picture above (which I procured from the West Hollywood farmer’s market) and tell me you’re not craving cherries. Well, crave them in salad.
The ladies who lunch really exist. I saw them on the Upper East Side, where I stayed for several months recently, and they don’t necessarily wear hats anymore (“Does anyone still wear a hat?”) but they know how to command a room. Two women I sat next to at Maison Kayser completely ignored their bread basket, full of the city’s best breads, and complained that the iced tea wasn’t cold enough. You don’t see that in Des Moines.
Here in Los Angeles, I found myself alone one night and invited my friend Diana over for dinner. I decided that even though this was a dinner, I’d treat it like a ladies luncheon. I’d serve salad, a crisp white wine and a Roquefort Cheese tart from Simon Hopkinson’s Second Helpings of Roast Chicken.
Two things are making me more of a restaurant adventurer here in L.A. than I was in New York: (1) nicer weather and (2) a car. In New York, on the bitterest, most miserable days of January, I would stick to a very specific loop that involved lunch at Hummus Place, coffee at Joe, and a slushy trek home. Here in L.A., it’s just a matter of unlocking my car door, rolling down the windows, cranking up the Original Cast Recording of “Next To Normal” and hitting the road.
One thing I know to be true about cities is this: they’re best judged by their neighborhoods.
I fell in love with some of my favorite cities–Seattle, Atlanta, New York–by visiting off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods with hidden-away restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, book stores and movie theaters. In Seattle, there’s Capitol Hill and Ballard; in Atlanta there’s the Virginia Highlands, Little Five Points and East Atlanta; in New York there’s the West Village, the East Village, Williamsburg and Park Slope. In all three of these cities, you could easily go there as a tourist and miss the best parts: you could stay downtown and see the Pike Place Market or the Coca-Cola museum or (midtown) Times Square and never venture into the parts that make these cities so beloved. Then you miss the whole point.