March 2006

How I Gained Six Pounds At Jean-Georges

My brother is outraged that I don’t weigh 1000 lbs. “How much do you weigh?” he asked me the other night when he was over. “160,” I said and he gave me a look that said: “Yeah right.”

“Yeah right,” he said. “There’s no way you weigh 160.”

On to the scale I went and I weighed only slightly more: 162. My brother was not pleased. “Your scale is broken,” he said and walked away to get dressed.

We were on our way to celebrate our parents’ 32nd anniversary at Jean-Georges. This was a long-planned, much looked forward to engagement. Jean-Georges is still pretty new to our family–we’ve only been there twice before. Both times were spectacular and this time would be no exception. The only difference is, I’d never weighed myself before eating there. And as you can see by my weight afterwards, the result is frightening!

That’s right: I gained six pounds in one meal. SIX POUNDS. What went into my belly? Was it worth it? Why don’t I belong to a gym?

Food Therapy

At a pizza parlor tonight with five playwrights and one playwriting teacher, the topic came up of what we wanted on our pizza.

“I like everything,” said our teacher. “Just not anchovies.”

“Why don’t you like anchovies?” I asked.

“I dunno,” she said. “They’re just slimy and gross. I don’t like to look at them.”

“Do you like Caesar salad?” I pressed.

“Yes. As long as there are no anchovies laid across the top.”

“But you know there are anchovies in the dressing?”

“That’s fine,” she said. “I just don’t want to see them.”

A moment passed. Then I said: “You have trouble facing reality; you live in a world of lies and deception.”

Everyone laughed. It was then that I realized: I have a gift. I can analyze a person’s psyche based on the way he or she interacts with food. I am a food therapist and I am here for you. Share with us–in the comments–your food phobias, fetishes and other strange feelings regarding food and I will (potentially) analyze you in future episodes. Just think of me as the love child of Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Chef Boyardee. I’m mmm mmm therapeutic!

The Del Posto Post-O

Fans and lovers of Mario Batali, his shows, cookbooks and cuisine, I come to you with sad news: believe not the glistening, glowing three-star review Frank Bruni bestowed upon Mario’s newest restaurant, Del Posto, in The New York Times just last week. I am here to bravely declare that Del Posto merits not three stars, not even two: our experience there last night was minimal at best. I am here to report back with firsthand notes, pictures, anecdotes–even video!–from a meal best left forgotten. I may not have the clout of a New York Times food critic, but I have the stamina and chutzpah of a first-rate food blogger. Would a professional photographer take a picture like this?


I rest my case.

Now let us study that photo above for a moment, so I may set the stage. We are on 10th Ave., mere feet away from the chilly Hudson River. We are north of the meatpacking district and south of Chelsea proper. Across the street from where we stand is Morimoto, the other restaurantasaurus receiving much fanfare in the food media. Notice the bridges connecting the two: my brother and I imagined that cows were led across these bridges before being slaughtered, though we have no evidence that these buildings were used for the slaughter of cattle in their former (less scrutinized) lives. If they were we’d like to call one of these bridges, after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, the Bridge of Moos. Otherwise, we suspect that these bridges are now used for shoveling money back and forth between the restaurants into rooms of jolly men laughing at the idiocy of upscale diners, who would spend (as we did) $30 on a single dessert. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Secrets of the Theater District: Dinner at Katsu-Hama

Meeting Patty for dinner in the theater district (something that’s happened at least once before) inevitably involves me bringing along Robert Sietsema’s “Food Lover’s Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York City.” This book is the perfect pocket-sized carry along guide for young, adventurous eaters who want something cheap but exciting to nosh on in a particular neighborhood, especially if that neighborhood is notorious for tourist fare. Here, in midtown Manhattan, Patty and I stood in the lobby of a theater on 48th street deciding where to eat dinner before the show. [The show was a show I received free tickets to on the stipulation that I only blog about it if I liked it. And while I did like it, the audience didn’t–people left during it–and I feel conflicted telling you what show it was since I can’t, in good conscience, advocate a show I worry you won’t enjoy. Hope that’s ok free ticket people!] We opened to the index, dragged our finger down the list for Midtown restaurants and stopped at Katsu-Hama. Instantly we were transported:

Katsu-Hama was a few avenues east and one street down from the show we saw. What excited me most about Sietsema’s review was he gave it THREE stars. Most of the places I’ve enjoyed from this book have all been only one or two stars. What made this so great? Says Sietsema: “This authentic Japanese tonkatsu-ya does only one thing, but they do it spectacularly: thin pork cutlets breaded and deep-fried.” And though Patty is a pescatarian, she was calmed when she read his last sentence: “You can substitute chicken or shrimp for pork, but don’t expect it to be nearly as good.”

A Post in Which Our Hero, Adam “Amateur Gourmet,” Makes Heidi “101 Cookbooks”‘s Apple Butter And Then, Somewhat Astonishingly, Creates His Own Ice Cream USING That Apple Butter. You will be astonished.

Lame “stay at home” Friday nights are some of my favorite Friday nights. A night out drinking and painting the town can’t compare to a night of watching Netflix movies by yourself and making caramel corn or chocolate chip cookies or, in the case of this post, apple butter. I have no shame in telling you that this past Friday night, instead of socializing with my peers and dancing on the proverbial ceiling, I stayed at home and (gulp) watched “Funny Girl” (it was my first time! It’s a rite of passage) on Tivo while making the recipe for apple butter I found on Heidi Swanson’s brilliant, beautiful site. I’d never cooked a recipe from Heidi’s site before and this was going to be the night. I’d march my band out and beat her drum, so to speak.

As you can see from her site, Heidi jarred her apple butter in vintage jars, but I used the only jars I had and they still look nifty:

As Heidi says on her site, “The cool thing about apple butter is that it is very straightforward to make.” All you really need are apples, cider, lemon and then the spices you have laying around for making apple cobbler and apple pie. I’ll let you go to Heidi’s site for the recipe and click ahead to see pictures of my endeavor. And then, of course, reveal my brilliant ice cream concoction…

Color, Light and Indian Food at Milon (aka “The Upper Left”)

Mark and I stood, last week, facing the building you see in the blurry picture below:

We were on 1st Ave. and Mark sang the praises of a meal he’d consumed in this very building a few weeks earlier. “I just can’t remember which restaurant it was,” he said. “The upper left or the lower right?”

Just as he said that a man emerged from the lower right. [Note: You can’t tell by the picture, but there are two restaurants below the restaurants you can see.] The man said “Hello” but it wasn’t clear he was talking to us. Then he did something I’ll never forget. He took a piece of paper, crumpled it up and threw it at Mark. “Come to my restaurant,” he said. “It’s very good.”

In my history of dining I’ve seen many tactics used to lure diners inside: all you can eat shrimp, topless dancers, free hot fudge sundaes. But paper throwing?

“Let’s go to the upper left,” I said and Mark concurred.

If I Had A Sunday Supper Club, It Might Look Like This [Featuring: Fried Zucchini, Kalamata Olive Dip and Fancy French Laundry Lasagna]

Kiss kiss, darling, let me take your coat. It is dreadful outside, isn’t it? Did you have trouble finding the place? Did Carl give you trouble downstairs? Really, good help is so hard to find these days.

Welcome to my black-and-white dream world, a world of drink and jazz and good old-fashioned New York glamour. In this black-and-white dream world, I am a Count–Count Backwardsfromten–and each and every Sunday night I throw a fabulous dinner party, a party for which everyone fights for an invitation. “Were you invited to the Count’s? Oh you weren’t? How terrible, darling.”

That is my dream world. And this is my reality:

So much for the jazz age. But who needs glamour when you have lasagna? And who needs fancy friends when you have friends in funny t-shirts, friends who bravely knock on neighbors doors to ask for an extra chair as there are only six chairs for seven guests? And who needs masterfully sewn tablecloths when you have multi-colored water glasses, like the ones I bought at MOMA? I may not be a Count, but you can count on me to throw a fun dinner party. Well…fun except for the few glitches…

At The Noodle Bar

Andrea Strong has the market on New York restaurant openings and closings and I defer to her frequently when I want to read up on New York restaurant gossip. It was on her site, in fact, that I first read about Noodle Bar. She wrote: “Quentin Dante, who opened and closed Yumcha with enough drama for a dozen reality shows, has opened up Noodle Shop on Carmine Street, just around the corner from his ill-fated pan-Asian spot.” Carmine Street? That’s my favorite haunt in the Village for delicious eats. I commanded James and Stella to meet me there before seeing “Blue Velvet” at Film Forum last night.

James and Stella were good candidates for visiting Noodle Bar. James likes noodles and Stella likes bars. Just kidding, Stella doesn’t like bars. She is a vegetarian, though, and noodle bars traditionally have good options for veggies like Stella.

One option that wasn’t good for her was the option that James and I started with: “Chili Fried Squid / Lime Maple Glaze, Fresh Chili.”


I watched a woman remove the calamari from a silver canister, dust it with flour and place it into a funnel-like colander apparatus which she dipped into sizzling oil. Stella stared with disdain at the slimy pieces of squid. This look of suspicion remained as James and I devoured the finished product.

“This is good,” declared James.

“Yes,” I agreed, eagerly lifting and dipping the calamari pieces.

“I’m so hungry,” said Stella.

“Eat one,” I urged. “A squid doesn’t have feelings. It tastes like a rubber band.”

But Stella wouldn’t have it. Since I had it, here’s what I liked best about the calamari appetizer: it was well seasoned (salty and spicy) and the dipping sauce was sweet with tiny depth-charges of heat by way of the pepper. A well done overture.

What’s fun about eating at Noodle Bar is that it’s an actual bar: you can watch them cook your food. While James and I devoured fried squid, we watched the chef manipulate our noodles in his wok.

You can’t really tell from that video, but that wok was mad hot. When he lifted it off the heat, flames shot up towards the ceiling. This is what we call cooking with heat.

James and I, kindred spirits that we are, both had the same entree: “Coconut Shrimp and Spicy Rice Noodle/ Egg, Sprouts, Scallions.”


I wish I could tell you I loved it as much as the appetizer, but I didn’t. It’s not that it wasn’t good–it was well made–but I was deceived. I asked the waiter how spicy it was when I ordered it and he said: “Not very spicy.” When waiters say this to me I usually trust them and I’ve never had a problem. But here, I found the noodles super spicy: spicier than any noodles I’d ever attempted before in my history of eating. It made the dish unpleasantly painful, like climbing an electronic fence with no destination in mind. If the heat served some larger Epicurean purpose, I’d go with it, but as it was it was pain for pain’s sake. And despite what you might hear, I ain’t no masochist.

Stella was equally disgruntled with her entree: “Smoked and Silken Tofu with azuki beans / lo mein.” Said Stella: “This tastes like ramen I could make at home.”

Yet, despite these grievances, I feel like Noodle Bar is a place you have to work with: maybe there are dishes that are more my speed that I haven’t discovered yet. I liked the feel of the place; I liked the mastery of the wok man and I liked the spirit of the menu. I will give it another go, maybe when I turn over a new leaf and decide to enjoy pain. You bring the chiles, Noodle Bar, I’ll bring the nipple clamps.

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