Next to Proof Bakery, here in Atwater Village, is an Out of the Closet thrift shop that sometimes I wander into to check out their cookbooks or other random things that they have gathered on their tables and shelves. Rarely do I find anything that I actually buy but it’s fun to poke through everything while sipping an iced coffee beverage. The other day, though, a strong light came in through the window and focused on a box on a table as an angelic choir began singing from the heavens. “The hills are alive,” the voices sang in unison as I suddenly saw what the light was hitting: a box. The box you see above. I slowly staggered over to it and then opened it up and beheld the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen….
Watching Suzanne Goin Cook (With Special Appearances By Jackie Collins, Hugh Acheson, Scott Conant and Carla Hall)
This past weekend, I emceed the cooking tent at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. It was a pretty exhilarating experience: after the jump you’ll see pictures of me and Jackie Collins, Hugh Acheson and Carla Hall. But the highlight for me, personally, was getting to stand next to one of my food heroes–the author of one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Sunday Suppers at Lucques–while she made two extraordinary dishes in front of a crowd of adoring fans (myself included). That would be Chef Suzanne Goin and this post is about that experience.
So I have a friend named Rachel Sheridan who also happens to be a neighbor here, in Atwater Village, and recently she did an Instagram of a CSA box that had arrived at her doorstep. What’s a CSA box? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and the idea is this: you pay a set fee, each week, and as a reward a box arrives at your door full of fresh-from-the-farm produce. I asked Rachel about her CSA and she told me it was called Summerland and that I should check it out. Not only did I check it out, after clicking around for a bit, I signed up too. Cue the trumpets: this box arrived yesterday (Sunday) morning! What was inside? Let’s open it up.
There comes a time in every home cook’s life when you bid farewell to a favorite cutting board and replace it with something better. My cutting board, for the past five years (or longer), has been a neon green rubber affair, one that I purchased at Williams Sonoma after getting knife lessons at the Union Square Cafe for my first book. The advantages were pretty clear: you could scrub the hell out of it and it wouldn’t warp. You could even throw it in the dishwasher. It was big, sturdy, and, most importantly, didn’t damage your knife. I loved how versatile it was (oh no, I’m talking about it in the past tense). You could put raw chicken on it and you didn’t have to worry about salmonella seeping into the pores. You could put several vegetables on it at once and still have room to maneuver. It really was a thing of beauty.
On a cold December day in New York, I took the 6 train down from the Upper East Side to the Astor Place stop with porchetta on my mind. No, not Sara Jenkins’ glorious Porchetta sandwich served at her sandwich spot so devoted to porchetta it’s called, well, Porchetta. This time I was headed to Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria to try a porchetta sandwich that made a bit of a splash when it first appeared a year or two ago. Now the New York food media has moved on, as it tends to do, and that sandwich continues to be served with slightly less fanfare. I knew I had to give it a try before it disappeared entirely.
The first sign was the asparagus. It’s December here in New York and on the breakfast menu at Untitled at the Whitney, a Danny Meyer restaurant which we frequent whenever we’re in the city, there’s an asparagus omelette. “Asparagus in December?” I asked and then Tweeted something about it, prompting a sarcastic response from the very funny Twitter personage BoobsRadley: “Outraged!” Ok, ok, maybe it’s not something to be outraged about, but it is a sign that something’s a little off, especially when a restaurant’s proprietor is at the helm of such season-oriented restaurants as Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe.
Here’s a screenplay pitch (boy, I’m getting so L.A.): a young man lives for years without an oven window and then suddenly he moves into an apartment with an oven window. Are you sold yet? The oven window allows him to watch cakes as they cook so he doesn’t have to open the oven to check on them, keeping the heat trapped inside. It also allows him to watch chicken turn golden brown, vegetables sizzle on a baking sheet as they roast. Ok, ok, what if there’s a wacky neighbor played by Jack Black? A villainous oven repairman played by Vince Vaughn? You’re not sold. Fine. Maybe this works better as a memoir…
What you are looking at is a pastrami sandwich from The Oinkster in Eagle Rock. I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while. I started a post about it on Friday, but kind of lost my motivation; then, this morning, I started to write one again but found myself reading Breaking Bad recaps instead. Which got me thinking: why pretend that I want to talk about this pastrami sandwich when all I want to do is talk about Breaking Bad? So, on the surface, this post will look like any other food blog post, but really it’s a chance to talk Walter White. (Spoilers ahead.)