October 2004

PUMPKIN CAKE: A Multimedia Extravaganza featuring the Music Video “Corner of the Pie”

Wow. It is 3:24 am and I am still exhilerated. What an evening! Pumpkin, spices, songs and magic and a beautiful cake to show for it. Where do I begin?

I know where. Epicurious.com. That’s where I found this recipe for “Stunning Spiced Pumpkin Cake” which Lisa and I decided to bake together tonight in honor of Halloween. (We decided not to do the chocolate leaves on top. Thank God. Or it would be 5:24 am and my eyes would be bleeding). Ricky came over and joined us too.

Let me tell you about our hijinks:

– We accidentally used an entire CAN of pumpkin instead of a cup of pumpkin and had to throw away the entire first batch of batter. A travesty!

– While the cakes were cooling, we went costume shopping. I bought bunny ears. I came home and tried them on and Lolita (the cat) had a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. Seriously. She began hissing and growling this horrible low grumble like something from a Stephen King novel. I think she scared me more than I scared her.

Anyway, back to the cake. The frosting is wild—butter, molasses, brown sugar, orange peel:

Add two packets of cream cheese and it looks like this:


I have to give Lisa a TON of credit for being a good judge of cake-doneness. After the recipe-suggested 25 minutes I thought the cakes were done. She didn’t. She was right. They were still wet inside. We let them cook 5 minutes longer and they came out PERFECT:


Then there was the cooling. That’s when we went costume shopping. Ricky ate a calzone.

We came back and frosted the cake.


Lisa applied her expert touch:


The finished product:


Beautiful, no?

But I’m not done with you people yet!

Lisa, Ricky and I have made for you a MUSIC VIDEO that defies all your wildest expectations and dreams. It fuses music, cooking, pumpkin and humor for one of the greatest cinematic experiences of your internet life. (I only hope you like show tunes.) There’s costumes, singing, egg-cracking and more MUCH more. You must must must watch this movie. I beg of you. It’s my Halloween gift to you. Happy Halloween! And enjoy…

And the WINNER of Gourmet Survivor 2004 IS…

First of all, let me say this was INCREDIBLY WILDLY close. In fact, based on six former survivor contestants who voted (Catherine didn’t vote) it was an absolute tie. But since there can only be one winner, I used the audience’s votes from the comments from the last post to determine the winner. Who is that winner? See the following video then click “continue” below to see how it went down…


Gourmet Survivor 2004: The Final Showdown, Andrea vs. Michelle

Well, it’s all come down to this. And by this I mean this lovely logo:

Isn’t it pretty? Can you believe it’s been 9 weeks since we began Gourmet Survivor? We began it when I first moved to New York and now it’s almost November. Who knows where the time goes?

Judy Collins does.

So. Here we are. Andrea vs. Michelle. Here’s what needs to happen: all you former Survivor contestants (particularly those still reading this) please e-mail me your vote by Wednesday. Andrea and Michelle should probably post a comment in the comments section pleading their case for Gourmet Survivor champ. Regular site readers should chime in too (as they are wont to do; though I wish they’d be a little less cruel).

What will the winner win? I’m still working on that. More on that later. But for now, cue the boxing ring bell. Ding ding ding. Final round. Here we go…

Worlds Collide: Kosher Vegetarian Indian Food at Chennai Garden

Since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve lived a bifurcated life. There’s my downtown NYU life and my “uptown” Chelsea life. My downtown NYU life involves a bevy of new friends, classes, teachers, projects, plays, meals and exotic dancers. My “uptown” Chelsea life involves Lolita (my cat) and my “old school” school friends—namely, Lisa. I’ve been neglecting Lisa lately. Don’t you miss her? I know I do.

So last night, worlds collided. I invited Kirk (my new school friend) to dine with Lisa and myself. Would these two get along? The risk was great. After all, Lisa is peppy and energetic and Kirk wears greens and blues and tends to put his finger on his chin and not smile:

Yet, there was magic in the air. We all clicked terrifically. And what better way to honor such an unexpected union than to eat Kosher Vegetarian Indian food at Chennai Garden?


Seems strange, the fusion of kosher and vegetarian. But Lisa has a theory:

“Honestly,” says Lisa, “it’s not that hard to make vegetarian food kosher. Because you already don’t have to deal with meat.”

She has a point. And with a few small changes (mostly dairy-related, I imagine) vegetarian Indian restaurants can broaden their clientele. Hence the kosher.

So, anyway, why Chennai Garden? Why now?

I read about it in New York Magazine and the Village Voice. Best Indian deal—all you can eat buffet at lunch. But we were going for dinner. Still, it was close to where I live. And that’s why.

What did we eat?

Ha, funny you should ask. To be honest, I didn’t keep my menu. I will now go to menupages.com to see if I can find it so I can identify our food. (I’m not very good at identifying Indian Food…)

[During this pause, Adam goes to menupages.com and discovers that Chennai Garden’s menu IS available. He consults it lovingly.]

So what did we eat?

I had Alu Palak: Savory Creamed Spinach with Potatoes.


Lisa had Alu Baingan: Potato & Eggplant with Tomato, Onion & Spices.


Kirk had Paneer Masala: Fresh Homemade Cheese in a Special Cream Sauce.


When I say “I had,” “Lisa had,” “Kirk had,” I don’t mean to imply that we each ate our own things. I mean to imply that we shared but this is what each of us ordered when we ordered. We were also brought rice that had peas in it:


And we shared a bread that wasn’t nan, but may have been either Chappati, Pulka, or Poori. I’m afraid I don’t recall.

Then Kirk made a daring move and ordered a mango Lassi for himself.

“Lassi,” I said, “what’s that?”

“Well,” said Kirk, “It’s a yogurt based drink. It’s sweet.”

“Oooh,” said Lisa, “I’ll have one too.”

Not to be a poor sport I said, “Oooh, me too.”

And soon we were greeted with creamy mangoey goodness:


I enjoyed my lassi, particularly for the undercurrent of coconut I detected.

Soon, the check came. Soon we paid. We were immersed in a conversation about eyeballs and Lasek surgery and near-sightedness vs. far-sightedness when the manager came over and asked us to leave.

“Did we do something wrong?” we pleaded.

“No,” he said kindly, “people are waiting for your table.”

We looked and there was a wait. So we left.

Where the evening went from there, I dare not reveal. I’ll merely suggest you rent a little movie starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles if you catch my drift. You don’t? Ok, so we went to a bar and drank beer and watched the baseball game. (I say “the baseball game” as if that were something I would do normally. I realize most people might do this normally. Especially since it’s the World Series. But when you create my character profile in your brain, I don’t want you to think of me as someone who watches baseball games. I want you to think of me as someone who ends his posts abruptly and poetically.) Worlds collided, my friends. Worlds collided.

Michael Frayn on Eating

From this week’s New Yorker:

“It’s nicer to have good wine than nasty wine, it’s nicer to have good food than nasty food, but everyone gets carried away by their enthusiasms.”

– Michael Frayn (playwright; “Copenhagen” and “Democracy”)

Happy 75th, Grandma!

Flew home this weekend (well, Thursday through Saturday) to celebrate my grandmother’s 75th birthday. Interesting fact: I’m 25, mom’s teetering on 50 and grandma’s 75. Numerologists would have a field day with us. We’re all divisible by 5 which, as we all know, means one of us will be attacked by quintuplets. But which one?

We celebrated grandma’s 75th with dinner at my parent’s favorite haunt, New York Prime. My Uncle Mark came in and all of us toasted to grandma’s good health. Then there was a giant slice of chocolate cake and we all sang “happy birthday.” I’d like to re-echo the sentiment: Happy Birthday, grandma!


Zoomerang Survey

Hey loyal readers—my friend Nate would like you to take this Zoomerang survey. It’s mostly about your TV viewing habits and your opinions of the Food Network. Please take it if you have a moment.

Gourmet Survivor 2004: The Final Challenge Fulfilled WITH A TWIST

Prepare to be surprised followers of Gourmet Survivor 2004. I know I was!

Let’s start at the beginning. A week and a half ago I assigned Michelle, Andrea and Nick their final challenge: prepare some kind of baked good (or anything that won’t spoil) and ship it to me. I will eat it and judge it. This will be your final challenge.

Time crept by. The due date was today, October 20th. And when I went to get my mail today there was only one package. ONE PACKAGE. So I said to myself, “Uh oh—two of our contestants have failed miserably. Who are they? What’s happened?”

And then I went upstairs and opened the package. I was greeted with this note (which I will transcribe below the picture so don’t hurt your eyes):


Dear Amateur Gourmet,

All three of us, the remaining Gourmet Survivor competitors, felt we should do something special to commemorate our achievement. In order to celebrate and honor our success, we gathered together in your traditional ancestral home: Oceanside, NY.

There we creamed, beat and baked our way through one long, delicious Sunday afternoon. The results are what you hold in your hands now.

Thank you for making this possible, Amateur Gourmet. We look forward to the exciting finale.


Andrea, Michelle & Nick

I flipped the note over and there’s a picture of all three competitors together in my hometown, Oceanside, NY:


How did this happen! Who arranged this? Michelle lives in Seattle! Nick lives in Philadelphia! Andrea lives in…New York! Were plane tickets purchased to bake pastries? Were these people faking their whereabouts all along? Am I on Candid Camera?

While these questions have yet to be answered, I turn to the pastry. Presented in three lovely packages were an assortment of treats that I greeted hungrily. Clockwise from the top there’s: Michelle’s homemade cinnamon rolls; Nick’s “Cafeteria” brownies; and Andrea’s Cranberry-Orange Drop Cookies.


Each package contained a note and pictures of the cooking process (which didn’t come out when I tried to photograph the photograph. Maybe Nick, Michelle and Andrea can link to their photos in the comments section?).

Michelle’s note read:

“Hi Adam–

Enclosed are two hopefully yummy homemade cinnamon rolls. For best eating results, microwave rolls for 10-15 sec and drizzle with icing (enclosed separately). The icing was shipped frozen and is cream-cheese based. It should still be cold enough to safely eat. Use your own judgment. Enjoy! Michelle.”

Here’s the cream cheese frosting which tasted fine:


Nick’s note read:


Ya had to be there to understand how much I realize these are “cafeteria brownies.” They taste like them, look like them, and for all intents and purposes ARE cafeteria brownies. My shame cannot be expressed in words. Sincerely, NSA (nick)”

And then Andrea’s note:

“Cranpberry-Orange Drop Cookies (1 dozen)

The bread end is for freshness purposes only, please do not eat it. Enjoy it! Sincerely, Andrea.”

(She had placed a piece of bread in the box to keep the cookies fresh apparently).

So after recovering from the shock of this strange turn of events, and arranging the food on the plate…


I sat down and began to eat judiciously. Meaning, I took bites of each item until I lost interest. I figured this final photograph of the plate post-eating would serve as an appropriate judgment on the quality of the food baked, packaged and shipped. It is no reflection on the gratitude I have for all three contestants for the huge effort they put into this. It simply reflects what I thought tasted good:


With that done, now, it’s time for you–the Amateur Gourmet reading audience–to vote off either Nick, Andrea or Michelle. Once that’s done, the two remainders will write a mission statement of why they want to be Gourmet Survivor 2004 and then those who’ve been voted off in the last nine rounds will vote on the winner.

Sound good?

So ready set vote, America. And thanks, once again, to Nick, Michelle and Andrea—you’re all survivors in my heart.

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