April 2004

A Walk in the Park with Dad

This morning dad and I walked through Central Park. The weather here has been wonderful: a perfect 76 degrees.

We started on the south side where we encountered the Central Park carousel:


We continued upwards, passing a castle:


A shrine to John Lennon (at Strawberry Fields):


And the Audobon Society:


After which, we made our way over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art:


We saw Perseus with the head of Medusa:





I’m writing about my morning.




A food blog.



So in the Met I saw this picture of food:


And this sculpture of a siren that looks remarkably like the Starbucks logo:


We now have reached the conclusion of the morning walk in the park with dad. Thank you for joining us.

My Back Pages

So I reached the point tonight where I maximized the storage space on my .mac account, where I post 90% of the pictures for the site. I had two options:

1) Delete some of the older pictures, thereby rendering my archives pictureless and empty; or

2) Pay for more space.

I hope you appreciate that in a gesture of good will, I elected to do #2 (haha, that sounded scatalogical). Here’s to many happy pictures to come.


The Management

The ‘Oberts Family at ‘Cesca

[First, please notice the addition of a new category: Eating New York! Yes the time has come ladies and gentlemen. Only three months away before I move from Dixieland to Yankeetown. Oy can hoydly wait.]

As you may recall, last week my parents declared their love for ‘Cesca. They told me I had to go when I came to New York this week. Then they decided to come with me. And so tonight we went to ‘Cesca.

‘Cesca is located on the Upper West Side and is creating quite a stir there because up ’til this point, the Upper West Side had a bit of a sagging food culture. Now, apparently, business is booming. With this and Tom Valenti’s other pad, Ouest, Upper West Siders are eating like never before. Tonight we joined them.


The first thing to mention about ‘Cesca is the jovial, relaxed atmosphere. We walked in and right away the hostesses started to banter with us. I don’t recall the exact content of the bantering, but let me tell you: it was really good banter.

The walls are a rather soothing creme-colored with Medieval Times chandeliers hanging from above.

The bantering hostess led us to our table, near the back. We passed the wood-burning oven on the way:


The table was a half booth, half table situation. So mom and I sat on the booth side:


Dad sat on the table side (notice the Medieval Times chandelier in the back) (and why’s that guy got a napkin on his face?):


Our waiter came over and proved to be a good combination of knowledgable and fun. He put up with my mother’s inquiries of “what, honestly, is the best thing on the menu? Tell us the truth.” He revealed his amor for the pancetta-wrapped liver.

“Ugh,” said my mother.

My dad shook his head.

But I felt a tingling of inspiration. Did I not just challenge my readers to try food they hadn’t had before? (See The Upper Left Corner). Should I not now test my own capacity for the foreign and exotic? I quickly jumped at the opportunity and said: “I’ll have that!”

Mom and dad rather timidly ordered swordfish.

But first there were starters. Mom and I shared a scallop risotto with what might have been the best scallops I have ever tasted:


Notice the dark golden brown crust at the top of the scallops? They were perfectly caramelized. Both sweet and salty at the same time. I loved them.

Dad got the mozarella roasted red pepper salad he got last week:


Nice, but meager compared to our scallops.

The plates were cleared. Time passed. And then the moment of truth.

Mom and dad got their swordfish (not pictured).

And I got my liver:


Now for those of my parents’ generation, there’s nothing really shocking about liver. A staple of my father’s childhood, liver and onions doesn’t send a chill down his spine the way it does mine. And of course Jewish people–myself included–will occassionally tackle chopped liver (which, admittedly, IS good). I do have an anti-liver fanatic grandmother who, whenever someone orders chopped liver, announces with vigor: “Liver’s an organ meat!” Which, apparently, means that it will kill you.

But I’ve never eaten just a cooked liver, let alone one cooked with pancetta. I am a brave soul and I am here to tell you that: the pancetta part made it ok. I think just the liver itself would, as Grandma Cassandra predicted, kill me—not for its fatty content, but for its gamey body-part-tasting flavor. I mean it’s a flavor I could get used to, I suppose. But the pancetta–crispy, flavorful, almost sweet–masqued the liver’s bad qualities and amplified its good qualities. Plus the polenta was creamy and went great with the liver sauce. All in all, I’m glad I took the leap.

[My dad interjects: “What do you call a small piece of liver?” Anyone? Anyone? “A sliver.”]

For dessert we shared a marscapone cheesecake which was really nice and really light:


That sauce you see is bitter orange and it was a nice complement.

I can’t say that I loved my meal at ‘Cesca. I just really liked it. I wouldn’t run back there kicking scissor kicks in the air, like I had to do in my 6th grade production of “Oliver” during “Consider Yourself.” That I wouldn’t do. All in all I’d give it a firm, well-deserved ‘B.

I Ain’t No Pretzel Chump

On my flight this afternoon from Atlanta to NYC, I was the victim of a severe pretzel inequity.

The beverage cart on my side of the aisle had the same drinks as the one on the other side of the aisle, oh sure. But pretzels?

My pretzel distributor was distributing horrendous Fisher Pretzels; the other side was getting Cape Cod pretzels.

Fisher pretzels are gross, stale awkward lumps of cracker with a salty crust. Cape Cod pretzels are thin, delectable and shaped like lighthouses. Something had to be done!

So I flagged down a Cape Cod pretzel distributor and said: “Hey can I get some of those pretzels?”

She gave me a strange look and threw me a bag.

I ain’t no pretzel chump.


Interview with Ari Weinzweig

Check out this Morning News interview with Ari Weinzweig, author of “Zingermans Guide to Good Eating” (a recent purchase of mine).

I really like this quote: (when asked what cliched phrase/description he would drop from the troves of food writing): “Just one. The emphasis on the word ‘quality’ when it’s used without any definition. On its own the word has no real meaning. That’s the one that’s on my mind right now.”

The Thursday Night Dinner Song: “A Pulled Pork Sandwich”

Because I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon for NYC, and because I’ve been song negligent two weeks in a row, I thought I would treat you tonight to a special Wednesday night Thursday Night Dinner Song.

Before we go there, though, I would like to pat myself on the back.

(Adam pats himself on the back).

Why am I doing this?

Well first of all, I have very low self-esteem.

Second of all, though, tonight I was headed–sadly enough–to a grungy chain sandwich shop, akin to Subway but not as good, for a meatball sub because (a) it would be fast, (b) it would be filling, and (c) I could study while I ate.

But as I was sitting in traffic on Piedmont Road waiting to turn left, I thought about my harsh critique of American eaters and realized: “I am the pot! I am calling America black!”

“Whatcyu talkin’ about Willis?”

“Sorry. You know what I mean, Gary Coleman.”

“All right.”

So I spun my car around and headed to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack for genuine American cuisine. Aha! I realized. Here is authentic American food! BBQ! I mean other cultures have BBQ–Koreans have BBQ, for example–but American BBQ has a rich, savory history. This was just what the doctor ordered. I had the pulled pork sandwich with beans and coleslaw:


Let it be said that tonight the Amateur Gourmet led by example. I hope the next time you’re in your car headed to a dreary routine meal you spin your wheels around and head for something fresh and exciting. No, Hugh Grant, not that kind of fresh and exciting. You Brits are such pervs.

Here’s your Thursday Night Dinner Song, featuring yours truly on guitar. (I got 60% of the chords right).

Download “A Pulled Pork Sandwich.”

Not Entitlement, Per Se

So my mom just sprung some exciting news on me.

As a graduation gift (keep in mind, folks, I’m graduating a week from Monday…wow…that was weird to type) Saturday night will see the Roberts family dining at one of the most difficult to get tables in all of New York: Per Se!

For those unfamiliar with it, Per Se is the east coast derivation of the world famous French Laundry, consistently voted the greatest restaurant in America (if not the world) by chefs and critics alike. Thomas Keller, its chef and raison d’etre (<--am I using that right? It's my first time), is a towering food figure and, presumably, will be cooking Saturday night since it's the first night opening since the fire that shut it down two months ago. How my mom managed this is beyond me. Everything I read about Per Se says that people waited on the phone for 10 hours only to be rejected. Does my mom have superhuman powers? Is my mom Thomas Keller? That would explain the sideburns. In any case, stay tuned loyal site readers: I shall photograph and consume on your behalf, sharing Saturday's splendor with all of you. Now I just have to pass my final tomorrow...

So Busted: A Meditation in Two Parts


For my birthday (in February) Alex sent me a lovely Cookie Press from amazon.com. It was so lovely, in fact, that I kept it in the box and never used it. When Alex called to ask how I liked it I said: “I love it!” And when she said: “Are you using it?” I said: “Of course I am! I’m using it right now.”

Then Alex stayed over last night.

BUSTED! (It was still in the box when she got here).



I run a website called The Amateur Gourmet. I cook things when I have a craving and extoll the wonders of fresh, culturally significant produce.

Then tonight I got hungry and found Entenmann’s cookies in Lauren’s pantry.

BUSTED! (I ate 6).


The end.

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