You can divide coffee shops, these days, into two categories: those pushing the sugar (Starbucks, The Coffee Bean, Dunkin’ Donuts) and those scorning the sweet stuff. Most of us start out in the former camp–I began my coffee-drinking habits with Frappuccinos–and migrate to the latter camp, the independent coffee shop where the beans are of the finest quality and the baristas glare at you if they see you shaking Sweet N’ Low into your iced macchiato. That glare, though, isn’t necessarily encouraged by coffee shop owners: at most of the indy coffee shops I frequent in New York and L.A. (Joe, Gorilla, Commissary, Intelligentsia) sweetener is offered up in a myriad of forms: blue, pink, white little packets and a big bottle of simple syrup to address your iced coffee drink needs. Last week, however, I visited a coffee shop that L.A. Weekly just named Best Coffee Shop 2013–Handsome Coffee–and discovered that sweetener isn’t offered in any of its forms. No pink packets, no blue packets, no sticky syrup bottle. If you want sugar in your coffee, you’ve got to go somewhere else.
When you’re having friends over for dinner at 7:30, and it’s getting on in the day, time grows precious and you have to prioritize. Do you spend it shopping or do you spend it cooking? More often than not, I spend it cooking. My usual cooking routine goes: rush to Gelson’s, gather up overpriced ingredients, hurry home, make the dessert, assemble the entree, get things ready for the appetizer and drink a glass of wine while listening to “The Music Man” just as the guests show up. But last week I changed my dinner party strategy. Instead of spending most of my time in the kitchen, I spent it on the road, gathering up great ingredients to see if it made a difference. And you know what? It totally did. That strategy yielded better results than if I’d spent that same time stirring over a stove. Here’s why.
At first I wasn’t nervous. Or, at least, I told myself I wasn’t nervous. My friend Barrett Foa, who agreed to come on The Clean Plate Club, told me that his dream food guest would be Suzanne Tracht, the celebrated chef at Jar here in Los Angeles (also, a Top Chef Master). Before I knew it, Chef Tracht agreed to come over and I found myself in a position I’d never been in before: I was going to cook for a chef. I’d never cooked for a chef before. What would I make? How should I serve it? The night before the dinner, I was wide awake in bed, unable to fall asleep.
As the 300th season of Top Chef looms, a few predictions: in the first episode, there will be an arrogant know-it-all who claims a superior set of kitchen skills, only, when asked to debone a chicken, he’ll crumple into a heap and cry, “My mother never loved me!” A duo of lesbian sashimi experts, formerly inseparable, will have their loyalties tested when one is told to pack her knives and go and the other is told that her knife skills surpass Morimoto’s. A down-and-out hard-on-his-luck dishwasher, who hosts supper clubs in his spare time, will bring tears to Emeril’s eyes when he recreates his grandmother’s gumbo, beating out a chef from a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Napa for the final slot on the show.
Today’s the Jewish New Year–Happy New Year, you Jewish people, you–but it’s also, basically, our two-year anniversary of moving to L.A. Last year, around this time, I wrote a post called “One Year in L.A.: A Reflection.” It’s a pretty fascinating thing for me to re-read because, at the time, we were about to go back to New York for Craig to shoot The Skeleton Twins and I could barely contain my excitement. The gist of that post was: L.A. is fine, but I’m a New York boy through and through.
Dear New York Times Magazine Food Section,
It’s very weird to be writing you right now because I’ve been reading you for so many years–almost a decade–and I feel sheepish calling you out in such a public forum. Let me start by saying that my motivations here are entirely pure; I’m writing as a fan, not a foe, and I want only the best for us both, you as a magazine food section and me as a reader. But lately something’s changed about your format and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s ruining what used to be a cherished Sunday morning experience.
Movie theater popcorn is a total treat, worse for you than a Big Mac (I’m making that up but I’m sure it’s true), but one of the best parts about going to the movies. I always get a small movie theater popcorn and a small soda (Sprite) despite the fact that, the way it’s priced, you can get a medium-sized popcorn and soda for $0.50 more. That’s how they trick you.
Most of us know the rules when it comes to cooking: wash your hands after handling raw chicken, don’t wash a cast iron skillet with soap, etc. Yet, over my many years of cooking (both with chefs and by myself), I’ve learned that certain rules are time-wasters that do very little for you or your food. Breaking these rules frees you up to focus on the stuff that really matters when making dinner. So here are 10 food rules that you don’t have to follow anymore.