August 2006

Burrito french toast

Burrito french toast

Fried banana burrito french toast at shopsins i just ate this i am writing from my cell phone this is something to eat that will make you die i loved it

Five Things To Eat Before You Die

Apparently this meme is making the rounds and in a crunch for content, here’s my contribution:

The Amateur Gourmet’s Five Things To Eat Before You Die

1. A good Cuban sandwich. I like the one at Chelsea Havana, but if you’ve never had a Cuban Sandwich before you should find the best one in your area and eat it. Especially if you’re dying.

2. Pot Au Feau au Trois Viandes with David Lebovitz in Paris.

3. Rainbow Cookies. They’re the red, yellow and green cookies with chocolate on the outside and jam in the middle. They are my favorite cookie. Life without these cookies would be a fate WORSE than death.

4. This is such an obvious choice it’s practically cliche but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d want the lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar as my last meal.


It’s decadent but cozy, rich and deeply satisfying. It’s the best single food item I can think of that you can eat in New York. Although, be warned, if you don’t like mayo–as Diana doesn’t–this won’t be your favorite. But Diana’s crazy. She can’t nibble on my last meal.

5. Pasta. I just love pasta. It’s my favorite thing to make and eat. It doesn’t matter if it’s rigatoni with sausage and tomato sauce or a simple penne with butter, parmesan and nutmeg. No matter what, a deeply comforting bowl of pasta is life’s greatest reward.

And those are my suggestions for what to eat before you die though, the more I think about it, I think I misunderstood the prompt: I think I was supposed to just list five unheralded items for people to discover, not food everyone knows and already eats. This wasn’t a last meal question. Ah well. I still like my list. Tell us, though, what are YOUR five things to eat before you die?


– First a purge then we’ll binge. I just watched “Celebrity Duets” and seeing and hearing Xena The Warrior Princess sing a duet with Michael Bolton for judges Marie Osmond and Little Richard makes me want to purge. (Though I did enjoy it when Hal Sparks, who sang a duet with Gladys Knight, rebuffed Marie Osmond for calling his style too white. “Look who’s calling me too white,” he said.) (The fact that I am quoting this show suggests that I need medication.)

– A show that did not make me want to purge or medicate myself was “[Title of Show]” which I received free tickets to last week. For theater buffs, this is a fun evening. The ensemble is terrific and many of the show’s numbers had us laughing quite loudly. You can sample the songs on iTunes, those of you who live far away.

– Hey isn’t this a food blog?

– Yes, sorry, doing non-food business first. Let’s move on, shall we?

– My friend Kirk of The Daily Kirk who is moving far away quite soon joined me for lunch last week. He suggested we go to Westville. I’d never heard of it but I recognized it when we got there as the place I always walk past when I’m in the West Village.


We each had a sandwich and shared the other half. Kirk had a BLT:


I had the waitress-recommended chicken with mozzarella:


We enjoyed our sandwiches quite a bit. And Westville is a very cute Village joint worth checking out.

– Diana and I journeyed out to Park Slope this weekend to make sure we liked it before choosing an apartment there. Before leaving for the day, I Googled “food in Park Slope” or something like that and I got to Ed Levine’s post about fancypants burgers. He concludes his post with this statement: “One burger I wish I had checked out is the Stone Park Cafe in Park Slope. I will get there shortly and report back to you.” So that was our destination.

Diana and I had a plan to meet up in Park Slope. She was boarding the train at 8th Street, I was boarding at 28th street. The plan was this: “I will get on an R train at 28th and sit in the middle car. When it gets to 8th Street you’ll either get on and we’ll ride together or, if you don’t get on, I’ll assume you got on an earlier R train and we’ll meet at Union Street.” This was a very good plan and when Diana didn’t board the train at 8th street I assumed she’d gotten on a train further ahead. Well at Union Street, when I got off (30 minutes later) she was nowhere to be found. “Funny,” I thought. “I guess Diana was running late. She’ll be on the next train.” So I waited. Another train came. No Diana. Then another. This was nuts. I was waiting for her 20 minutes.

So I climbed the stairs and called her number. She answered. How was she answering if she was on a train? Had she never left?

“Where are you?” she begged.

“Where are you?” I replied.

“I’m in the train station, where are you?”

“Which train station?”

“Union Street.”

“I’m at Union Street.”

A long pause. “Oh no!” she said. “I rode the N train so I went too far and I had to ride it back so I must be on the other side of the tracks.”

And so she was. At Union Street there’s a big divider in the subway station so you can’t see the people on the other side. Diana was on the other side. We were sitting directly opposite each other for 20 minutes waiting for the other one to show up. We both found this funny.

Anyway, the Stone Park burger. Here it is:


Let’s see how it meets Ed’s standards:

– the bun was toasted

– cheese was melted

– the meat was of high quality and freshly ground

– there IS lettuce, an Ed Levine no-no

– the onion was raw: another strike

– pickle was not present

– cooked to order, yes

– no mustard or mayo, check. Instead there was a smoked chili dressing that worked nice.

I didn’t love this burger. I found it to be too big and it reminded me of a diner burger, my least favorite brand of burger. This is a burger on the order of Soup N’ Burger, a fine brand of burger for a Hungry Man, not a Dainty Man like me. I prefer the softness of a Shake Shack or a Burger Joint burger. I enjoy the slim beauty of a Blue Ribbon burger or the punchy intensity of a Spotted Pig burger. But this was just a big slab of charred meat. And though Diana enjoyed my fries, they didn’t please me. I can’t tell you why–I’m not a food critic–they reminded me of camp french fries, take that as you will. But the environment was nice: we sat on a patio overlooking a small park. And when I become a Park Slope resident I’m sure I’ll return. I just won’t order the burger.

– That night, Diana and I desperately tried to get some culture. I wanted her to see “Sweeney Todd” before it closes this week (it’s the last week) and we tried to get student tickets, but the only ones they had were awful seats at the very very very back. So far back they were in a different theater. So we decided we’d go see dance. “I love dance,” said Diana. “I always feel like I should see more dance living in New York.” We hopped on a C train to 14th street and exited on 8th Avenue, walking north to the Joyce. But the Joyce had bad news on its marquee: “Fall Season starts September 17th” (or some date that was far away.) “Now what?” we asked each other, disappointed. We decided we’d do the natural thing for food blogger and friend: we’d eat dinner.

There was talk of Fatty Crab, but we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. We considered the Village. But then I remembered the cute little restaurant in the Chelsea Market, the Green Table, which I was to a few times by myself for lunch but never for dinner. Diana gave the “ok” and we entered the market, enjoyed its emptiness the way you might enjoy an empty mall. And sure enough The Green Table was open. We entered and studied the menu.

“Hey,” said Diana. “This is very reasonable.”

And it was. It was so reasonable we ordered a bottle of Rose for $15.

“It’s cheaper to order a bottle than to order by the glass,” we discovered.

The waiter, after we ordered our rose, returned to tell us that “some idiot” opened two bottles but both were more than half full. “So I’ll just keep pouring and you’ll probably get more than a bottles worth,” he said.

“Fine by us.”

For dinner, Diana ordered a chicken pot pie:


I had baked eggs:


Unfortunately for everyone involved, the yolks were overcooked. Had they been runny this meal would’ve won big. Runny egg yolk is what makes a baked egg dish like this what Michael Jackson might call “devilish.” But the devilish factor gone, it felt a little too much like breakfast. But a good breakfast. And the wine helped.

Afterwards, I beat Diana at Scrabble even though I opened up a Triple Word Score with the letter “J” and she spelled the word “Jar” and got more than 30 points. I better stick to food writing and watching Lea Thompson sing with Smokey Robinson on TV. That’s my life and I’m sticking to it.

The next comment…

…will be this site’s 10,000th comment. Who will leave it? Will it be you? Best of luck!


Diana came over last night and helped me make a mini tapas dinner out of some Farmer’s Market finds, including Pimientos De Padron which Calvin Trillin writes about in his most recent book, “Feeding A Yen.” Neither of us were prepared for how spicy they were. I ate a few and thought they were fine but after Diana ate one that caused her to gargle with Clorax for relief, I ate a bigger one and had a similar reaction. What follows is a short film that highlights the three tapas we set out to make—we’re not even sure they’re tapas, we only know (with the exception of the Pimientos) that everything tasted good.

Note: That’s Diana squealing like a girl when she tries to flip the frittata. My scream is deeper and far more manly. (You can kind of hear it when I add the pimientos to the pan.)

Note #2: The recipes come from: The Craft Cookbook (for the potatoes and aioli), random online searches (for the pimientos) and Molto Italiano (for the frittata.)

MFK Fisher’s “The Gastronomical Me”

On my night table sat two new books, purchased–somewhat irresponsibly–in hardcover: “Heat” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” My rule about hardcover is this: only buy something in hardcover if you’re going to read it right away. Well I read the first few chapters of “Heat,” thoroughly enjoyed them but felt that because it was based on an article I’d read several times (a profile of Mario Batali which appeared in The New Yorker a few years ago and which immediately became one of my favorite pieces of food journalism) the book didn’t feel very fresh. It felt like yesterday’s leftovers whipped into something new and delicious but still–at its core–leftovers. And then “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which everyone is raving over, is crisply written and smart and brainy but, as I turned the pages, it felt too nutritious, too good for me, too “this will improve my understanding of food” as opposed to something sexy, seductive and naughty. What was I craving? What did I need? A soft female voice called from the other room, the room where I keep my food books on a wobbly bookshelf. I followed the sound, the deep resonant voice and when I found its source, I knew this was what I needed, precisely the kind of book I need to read right now in my life: MFK Fisher’s “The Gastronomical Me.”

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher is an artist, a true artist, a craftsman with words who can tell a story so deftly that it sears itself into your brain permanently: her memories become your memories, her stories become your stories and suddenly you can’t remember if it was her grandmother or your grandmother who made jams in the kitchen, when you were young, while you watched and tasted the strawberry froth left over in the bowl. Was that you or Mary Frances on a cruise ship sailing back from Europe with Germans on board saluting Hitler as the waiter brings out dinner?

There’s a dream magic to this book–it’s so careful and smart and yet loose and funny in a way that only a real artist can make it. And the stories! These stories are unforgettable. Whether pulling her sister out of a convent to take her out for beer or riding a train into Austria with a political prisoner on board who makes a run for his life with deadly results, this is not a food book: it’s an action movie, it’s a poem, it’s a celebration and yet a deeply honest account of a human life. And, my God, what a life. To have lived a week in MFK’s shoes would fill many of our lifetimes.

There’s no snobbery to this book, there’s only honesty. It’s a very hard book to write about because it’s so personal. It submerges you into the mind of a profoundly intelligent, deeply passionate person and if you’re lucky enough to spend time there, you’ll come out changed, with your vision clearer and your lust for living (and eating) enhanced. And as it goes back on the shelf in the other room and I return to those books on my nightstand (which have been trumped by a book on 9/11, “The Looming Tower,” which feels like a responsible thing to read these days), I know that her voice might still call to me, beckoning me to return to the soft embrace of her prose, the cool snap of her humor, the clear tonic of her imagery. And though many books will grace my nightstand as I get older, one thing’s for sure: there will always be room on there for Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher.


Clotilde’s Trip to El Bulli

Check out Clotilde’s site for a real treat: a write-up and photos from her trip to El Bulli. Before the jump, I was certain she was going to say: “I didn’t want to spoil the meal taking pictures of every course,” but then there the pictures were and it’s a real service to those of us who will probably never dine there–at least in the foreseeable future. Though I was telling my parents last night that I’d love to write a feature story where I go with my dad to El Bulli: if there’s one restaurant in the world designed for him to hate, this is it. It’s the furthest away from meat and potatoes you can possibly get.

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