You may not be surprised to learn that when it comes to what I eat, at any given moment, I can be a bit of a control freak. In fact I have a theory that most food people are control freaks: what better way to control what goes into your body than to become an expert on the subject? It’s rare to find a food person grabbing handfuls of snack food willy-nilly off a snack cart. Give a food person the opportunity to select his or own snack from a larger selection and a careful decision will be rendered. That makes us discerning, but also kind-of obnoxious in terms of going with the flow.
So lately, I’ve been going with the flow. The other night I met my friend Lauren for dinner and when she suggested a restaurant I’d never heard of–Casellula off 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen–I said “sure.” Turns out that’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
After the movers whisked my stuff away to California on Saturday, it occurred to me: “I won’t be able to cook for several weeks!”
That’s a problem for a food blogger. So while making plans with my friends Patty and Lauren, who live in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, they made mention of their C.S.A. box. (For those not in the know, C.S.A. stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pay a set price and get a box of goodies from a farmer each week.) “I have an idea!” I said, suddenly excited. “What if I come over and cook you both dinner based on whatever’s in the box? It’ll be just like Iron Chef!” I’m sure pretty Patty and Lauren exchanged nervous glances at this point (this was over I.M.) but before I knew it, Patty wrote: “Sure.”
At the bar of Michael Symons’s Lola in Cleveland, Ohio, I first encountered the Negroni.
Michael Ruhlman, who was there to participate in a segment we were shooting for Food Network online, ordered the drink and I asked him about it. “It has Campari,” he told me, “gin and sweet vermouth.” I ordered one too and when it came I assumed, because of the bright red color, that it would be sweet. I was very, very wrong.
April Bloomfield–the chef of The Spotted Pig, the late John Dory and now The Breslin–cooks bold food. That’s what everyone loves about her; her food is never, ever boring. It’s the metaphysical opposite of the boiled peas and carrots you remember from your middle school cafeteria. Her peas and carrots, if she ran a middle school cafeteria, would be browned and salted and spiced and acidified. Kids would be so energized by them they’d stop beating each other up, earn straight As and all go on to win Noble Peace Prizes. That’s the power of food cooked by April Bloomfield.
I love brunch but I’m always a bit perplexed when I arrive at a celebrated brunch spot–Prune, for example–and see crowds of people huddled outside, waiting desperately for eggs and pancakes and coffee, foods they can easily and much more cheaply prepare at home. Don’t get me wrong: a place like Prune can dazzle you with its brunch food, but at the end of the day, it’s brunch food and no brunch food–however spectacular–should require a one hour wait.
Which is why I’m delighted to tell you about the brunch I had a few weeks ago with my friend Lauren at Irving Mill, one block east of Union Square. The place is enormous, like a farmy banquet hall, and on Sunday at 12 noon it was almost totally empty, which should’ve been a cause for alarm. Instead, though it was a cause for celebration: Irving Mill serves a pretty killer bunch and the best part is, you don’t have to wait.
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.
Some people are haunted by ghosts, others are haunted by a sense of meaninglessness in a vast, expanding universe; but me? I’m haunted by food.
Restaurant dishes, dishes I make I home: it doesn’t matter. I crave them, I want them. Lately, I’ve been haunted by a dish I ate two weeks ago with my friend Lauren who kindly agreed to cat-sit for me when I was in Seattle. As a reward for her cat-sitting, I took her to The Union Square Cafe for lunch and it was there that I encountered the dish that’d haunt me for weeks to come: the cacciucco you see in the picture above.
Somehow, in the past two weeks, I’ve eaten at three new and relevant New York restaurants. Instead of typing up three separate restaurant posts, I decided to make a video summarizing all three meals. The only thing I think I got wrong is the price of the spaghetti and tomato sauce at Scarpetta; it’s $24, not $26.