From The Desk of The A.G. (A Day of Letters)

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Dear Craig Claiborne,

I am greatly enjoying your somewhat notorious autobiography, “A Feast Made For Laughter.” Sure, it’s a little creepy when you talk about touching your dad’s erect penis while sharing a bed, but I appreciate your zeal for people and food. Case in point: early in the book, you tell a story involving Parker House rolls. Your brother passes you a basket of them and instead of taking the basket from him, you start to reach your hand in and take one out and your brother, appalled, drops the basket to the floor saying: “When anyone passes you a basket of bread, you take the basket. Or at least you touch it as a gesture of thoughtfulness.”

This passage amused me because it’s a good story, but mostly it made me hungry–hungry for Parker House rolls. I cracked open “The Joy of Cooking” and found the most basic recipe in the world; a recipe that required only yeast, butter, flour, sugar, salt and milk. I’d write out the recipe here, but it’s so standard any internet search will suffice. And those rolls–which took a few hours to rise–were quaint and comforting, the kind of food you want an American food icon to eat. Thank you for inspiring me to make them; I look forward to the rest of your book.

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Omakase

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Those of you who know what omakase is, you may want to skip this post. This is for those of you who see the post title above and you’re scratching your head and wondering: “Huh?” This post is for you.

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Merkato 55

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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.”

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A New Camera!

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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?

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Plastic Pork Shoulder

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Dear Suzanne Goin,

I love you and your book Sunday Suppers at Lucques. It’s the book I go to when I want to dazzle, when I want to blow my guests out of the water. On Friday, my guest would be none other than Lauren, a great friend and former roommate who was there at the dawn of my website: she knew me when “uh oh” was a more common cooking exclamation than “a-ha.” This would be the first time I’d cook for her in three years, years in which my cooking has improved immeasurably. I wanted to knock her socks off and so I turned to your book.

The recipe I went for was the “Spiced Pork Stew with Polenta, Root Vegetables, and Gremolata.” I decided to nix the root vegetables and gremolata and focus on the pork: Lauren is a big fan of chili and I wanted this to be a kind-of highbrow chili experience. Well not highbrow, necessarily, just impressive. And I know it’s not really that chili-like, but slow-cooked pork shoulder with coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds should please any chili-lover, shouldn’t it?

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