February 2008

Homemade Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Rosemary & Gorgonzola

Sometimes the name of a dish sounds so intimidating your immediate reaction is: “Pish posh! I can’t make that! And why did I just say pish posh?”

Such might be the case with the pizza you see above. You hear “pizza” and that doesn’t sound so difficult, but you add “caramelized onions, rosemary and gorgonzola” and you feel like you’re on Planet Impossible. Well come back to Earth, Earthling, and let me assure you: that pizza you see above may SOUND difficult, but it’s really a cinch. Here, let me convince you.

Ninth Street Espresso

One of the best things about working at Food Network, which is located in the Chelsea Market, is that the elevators that get you up there are directly across from one of the best coffee bars in the city. That coffee bar is Ninth Street Espresso which many of my barista friends (including those that work at my favorite coffee shop, Joe) speak of with such great reverence there’s often a coffee glow in their cheeks.

Ninth Street Espresso takes its coffee seriously, as evidenced by its menu which does not allow for sticky, gloppy, blended coffee drinks but, instead, sticks to the classics: espresso, cappuccino, latte. They only come in one size, so no “super grande iced mocha latte with a twist of vanilla”–this is coffee as philosophy, as a spiritual exercise. And, correspondingly, patrons of Ninth Street Espresso gather around the bar like worshippers at temple: there’s a calmness in the air, a peacefulness and community cheer that’s unusual in this fast-paced city. It doesn’t hurt that the drinks are outstanding.


The cappuccino, as shown here, is an artful marriage of frothy milk and deep, dark espresso. Normally, I put a packet of sugar in my cappuccino but the balance is so right-on here that such an act would be criminal. It’s as if a cloud floated down to earth and landed in your cup–if you let go, the whole thing might float away.

Working at Food Network has been a very happy experience thus far, but Ninth Street has made it that much happier. If you plan to judge Iron Chef or guest on 30 Minute Meals any time soon, don’t miss Ninth Street on your way up. It’ll make your day.

The FN Dish Goes to Miami (The South Beach Wine & Food Festival)

At the end of the weekend and our trip to The South Beach Wine & Food Festival, my director, Matthew Horovitz, turned to me and said, “You’ve met everyone now. There’s no one left to meet!”

Watch the following video–the 2nd official episode of “The FN Dish”–and tell me if you disagree.

If that video left you dazzled and discombobulated, allow me to walk you through everything you just saw: a day-by-day breakdown of the festival with some big surprises thrown in too.

Off To South Beach

What a chore this Food Network job is turning out to be… now I have to leave this 26 degree New York weather for the tropical beaches of Miami and a forecast of 83 degrees. Could life get any harder? Feel free to hate me. Full reports and videos on Monday! Until then, have a great rest of your week.

Merkato 55

At a party recently, I was chatting with Amanda from Eater about how disconnected I feel from the world of New York dining; how I rarely know what’s new, what’s not, what’s worth eating at and what’s worth avoiding. How does the Eater gang stay so informed? And how do the throngs of savvy New York diners know where to descend each week? And, come to think of it, where should I go if I want to go somewhere new and hot and relevant?

“Merkato 55,” she answered, quite simply. “It’s Marcus Samuelsson’s new African restaurant in the Meatpacking district and it’s going to be a big deal.”

That nugget was confirmed today in Frank Bruni’s NYT article Newest Restaurants Still Reflect Flush Times. Wrote Bruni: “But neither Adour nor Bar Boulud is as daring as the experiment under way by Marcus Samuelsson. Mr. Samuelsson, renowned for his Scandinavian cooking at Aquavit, is betting that he can make pan-African cuisine magnetic enough to fill about 150 seats at Merkato 55, which jostles for attention and affection among the Asian and Mediterranean behemoths in the meatpacking district.”

I’m a big fan of Aquavit (see here), I’m always game to try a new cuisine and Lauren–the friend who shares my birthday–wanted to take me out tonight to celebrate. So I said, with great self-satisfaction: “Merkato 55. That’s where it’s at.”

“Sounds great,” she said. “See you there at 7.”

A New Camera!

Well what was I supposed to do? I was cameraless and therefore limbless in the world of blogging; what’s a food blogger without a camera? What’s an opera singer without a lung? I did what I had to do: I cashed in on a birthday gift from my parents (thanks mom and dad!) and headed to B&H, home of Hassidic Jews and hardware, where I took the advice of my dear friend James Felder (of Snapshot Artifact) and purchased the mighty and powerful Canon PowerShot G9.

It was a tough call–all of the cameras you guys recommended looked great too–but basically it came down to: a small camera that fits in your pocket that takes very good pictures or a big blocky camera that’ll be a nightmare to lug around but that takes fantastic pictures. Since great food blog photography is essential (see here and here) I chose the latter and I’m really glad I did. What follows are the first pictures I took with it at Joe on Waverly. I didn’t realize then as I realize now that the camera was set to shoot insanely large pictures that make giant files that take forever to upload on Flickr, but I just changed the settings and future pictures shouldn’t be a problem. So please enjoy these fresh coffee shop and outside-the-coffee shop pics from my new camera baby. Can anyone suggest a name?

Lost Camera

Missing: my big black Canon S70 with pictures from my birthday dinner at Hearth (a surprise from Craig), pictures of chicken knees at Yakitori Totto where I went with Diana, and the dessert she and I had at P*ng where the bartender practically hissed at us for not ordering drinks. Likely camera location: outside Food Network (at The Chelsea Market) where, yesterday, my umbrella inverted and I went tumbling into the street. (You may have seen me: I was literally splat on my face and my umbrella went gliding into the distance).

In the very likely chance that my camera is gone forever, any suggestions for a pocket-sized camera that takes good food photos? With my track record, I don’t think I’m ready for an SLR.

The Big Reveal: Introducing The FN Dish

Today’s my birthday–I’m 29 today–and though I’m usually a birthday junkie, exhausting friends and relatives with desperate cries for attention, presents, phone calls, etc–my focus is not on my own birth today. Instead, it’s focused on the birth of something that’s been gestating for the past three months; a project so big, so exciting, it’s been almost impossible contain it. And now I finally–finally!–get to share it with you. Are you ready America? Are you ready Lithuania? Here we go… I proudly present to you: The FN Dish!

What’s The FN Dish? What’s going on? What are you talking about?

Settle down, reader! Allow me to explain it. The FN Dish is my very own show on Food Network’s website (hey look, my mug is on the main page!), a show that will allow me access to Food Network’s stars, kitchens, events, and giant cookbook collection. But even more than that, this is a platform for me to share my love and passion for food and cooking: with Food Network’s blessing, I’ll get to steer the show into the kitchens of my favorite chefs, authors, and people–celebrating all of the food-related ideas, recipes and stories that excite me, excite you and that make you check this blog every day.

I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am about this show. Maybe I should stop yammering on and let you watch the first episode–click here to do that.

Wasn’t that fun? And now that you’ve seen that, watch longer versions of my interviews with Alton Brown, Bobby Flay, The Neelys, and Rachael Ray. And then join me as I watch and comment on Ace of Cakes and The Barefoot Contessa. Finally–and best of all–you’ve got to watch these 23 Awkward Seconds with Rachael Ray. See, they sat her down and I introduced myself and then it got weirdly quiet. The discomfort, as you’ll soon see, is palpable. I love it.

Actually, that last clip captures best what I love about this whole thing: I get to be me–strange, uncomfortable, nervous, anxious, excitable me–I get to ask the questions I want to ask, I get to react naturally to whatever circumstances they put me in. And I feel that my loyal readers–and I count you among them–will be grateful that the “me” they’ve grown to love, won’t become a different “me” just because there’s a Food Network stamp on it.

It being “me.”

What was I saying? Oh yes, The FN Dish. Isn’t this exciting? As you can tell, I’m stoked. And you have no idea how much awesome stuff I’ve already done for future episodes: there’s a trip to Cleveland, a California wine tasting, an intern cook-off. It just gets better and better and this Thursday I leave for South Beach to cover the Wine and Food Festival.

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to finally get to share this with you. Of course, once the excitement dies down I’ll be happy to answer questions about meeting the stars, where the show is headed, incorporating your ideas for what you’d like me to cover. But in the meantime, let’s wish a happy birthday to The FN Dish. It’s going to be a great year.

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