Breasts are trouble. Legs are easy.

[Hey, this is Adam The Amateur Gourmet. I’m on vacation in Barcelona, Spain and while I’m gone I’ve asked some awesome people to fill in for me. Now, I have to confess, when I e-mailed prospective guest bloggers, there was one person I was certain would never say yes. That person is one of the most feared food bloggers alive, a blogger who talks of her own “retractable fangs.” That blogger is, of course, Regina Schrambling of the legendary food industry blog, Gastropoda. (She also writes on Epicurious and Tweets on Twitter.) Lo and behold, not only did Regina say yes, she wrote her guest post with gusto. So I am deeply humbled and honored and excited to announce her contribution. Take it away, Regina!]

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One of the first serious dinner parties my consort and I ever gave was a duck debacle — I picked a ridiculously ambitious recipe from “Cooking With the New American Chefs” involving fried corn cakes and pinot noir sauce, and the two of us managed to put together what Bob said “looks like farmer food.” Tears were involved. Not to mention mangled breasts to the then-crazy tune of 30 dollars.

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The Churros That Saved The Dinner Party

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Have you ever had a son or daughter who plays the piano like a real champ, such a champ that you invite all your friends over one night and set up a little concert–with fliers and cocktails and a video camera on a tripod–and when your son or daughter finally sits down to play they totally freeze up and won’t hit one note? That’s how I felt two weeks ago when I had friends over to eat not one but TWO dishes from a new favorite cookbook, David Tanis’s “A Platter of Figs.” My love for this book ran pretty deep for a variety of reasons: (a) it was a gift from Craig’s parents; (b) David Tanis is the chef at Chez Panisse, one of my favorite restaurants; and (c) the book is knock-you-out beautiful, with gorgeous pictures and recipes and writing that’s heartfelt and really, really smart. But when it came time to perform, I’m so sad to report that the two recipes I made from it–the Green Chile Stew & the Spicy Pickled Vegetables–were total duds.

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Alex’s Birthday Dinner

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You may recall that the worst meal I’ve ever cooked for people in my life was the meal I cooked for my friends Alex and Raife in March of 2007 (see here). Rereading that post, I don’t think it was as awful as I remember it being; but the pressure was high because Alex, one of my closest friends from college, had never experienced my cooking (she’d only seen me defrost California Pizza Kitchen pizzas when we lived together) and I wanted to impress her. Well, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

Luckily, Alex has a birthday. And now she lives in New York and so does our friend Raife who was also there at that disastrous dinner. So to celebrate Alex’s birthday, which was in October, I invited them both over for a gigantic do-over. How did I fare?

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Dara

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My friend Dara, who I met because she went to film school with Craig, cooked me not one, but TWO fantastic meals over the past two weeks. The first was an intimate dinner with her, her husband Kieran, Craig and myself; the second was a Rosh Hashanah dinner for a small group of mostly non-Jews (Dara asked me to do the prayer for the bread, and I forgot it!)

So this is just a quick (public) note to thank Dara for her wonderful food. At the first meal, there was a barley risotto that Dara fretted over because it took a long while to become tender–but the work paid off: it was extraordinarily flavorful, and a great base for the scallops (perfectly cooked) that she served on top with a piece of pancetta.

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Have A Summer Dinner Party

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The weekend is here and you’re finally free to relax, to read, to toast yourself in the sun. But here’s what I think you should do: on Saturday? Go to a farmer’s market. If you don’t have one in your town, ok, you’re off the hook; but if you do, head over there and buy a bunch of fruits and vegetables. Buy zucchini and make Clotilde’s carpaccio (as you see above); buy beets and shred them in your food processor for Mark Bittman’s raw beet salad; buy carrots too and shred them before the beets, actually, so they don’t turn red and make David Lebovitz’s carottes râpée. Invite friends over and if that’s not enough to feed you and your guests, make Luisa’s focaccia di patate which I’ve made before and can’t get enough of…

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The Milk-Braised Pork Test

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You know those tests where they determine whether you’re gay or straight and they attach electrodes to your genitals and flash images in front of you to see whether naked men or women arouse you more? Well this post is like one of those tests, only there’s only one image and it’s the image you see above. We’re testing to see how hardcore you are when it comes to eating. So please attach electrodes to your genitals and stare at the picture: are you aroused? You are! Congratulations: you passed and can click ahead to learn the secrets of a fantastic dish.

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Into The Pages of Gourmet Magazine, A Summer Dinner Party Spectacular

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I recall a movie from my childhood–“The Peanut Butter Solution”–at the end of which a young boy whose hair has fallen out (I don’t exactly remember why) enters a room filled with magical, sparkly, landscape paintings. The paintings, you soon learn, are enterable: whichever one he picks, he can walk into. And I felt like that kid just a few days ago when, by way of Kristin (Craig’s sister), I was invited to a dinner party given by a group of Craig’s and Kristin’s friends. I felt like I’d walked into the pages of Gourmet Magazine.

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