Back in 2013, when I was still something of an innocent, I wrote a post called “Salad on the Same Plate as Dinner” in which I argued that hot food and cold food never belong together on the same plate. I was specifically reacting to a dinner that I had at Parm on the Lower East Side in which a chicken Parmesan was presented on the same plate as an Italian chopped salad. “[The] red sauce did not make the salad taste better. It was something hot and mushy underneath something cold and crunchy. Inversely, the salad didn’t do much for the Chicken Parmesan. The heat from the chicken wilted a few stray lettuce leaves which lay there sadly on my fork as I cut my way through the cheese and the breading. All in all, this dinner would’ve been better if the chicken had been served on a hot plate and the salad on a cold plate.”
Now I read that and think: “Wow, are you wrong!” Salad on the same plate as dinner is an excellent idea for many different reasons. 1. It provides a textural contrast; 2. It’s offers up some necessary roughage (great movie, by the way); 3. The acidity from the salad can often cut against the richness of your entree (especially if your entree is bucatini Cacio e Pepe, like in the picture above); and 4. It creates less dishes.
Earlier this summer, in Sun Valley, Idaho, I burned two racks of ribs. I’d made a dry rub with lots of brown sugar and cayenne pepper, sprinkled it all over the ribs, wrapped them in aluminum foil, and placed them in the oven for low-and-slow cooking. This, however, was an unfamiliar oven in an unfamiliar kitchen (we were staying with our friends Harry and Cris) and when the ribs came out, hours later, they bore a closer resemblance to King Tutankhamun than anything you’d actually want to eat.
Thankfully, there was coleslaw. Not just any coleslaw: my coleslaw. What can I say? I’m something of a coleslaw whisperer. It’s something that I ate often, growing up. My mom would buy cartons of coleslaw from the deli, along with macaroni salad (remember macaroni salad?) and she’d keep them both in the refrigerator next to a pitcher of Crystal Light lemonade.
Recently on Twitter, someone named @Bobby Tweeted: “The worst writing online is those quirky 17-paragraph preambles recipe bloggers post before telling you what to put in your fuckin lasagna.”
You might think that a Tweet like this (which has over 12,000 likes and 3,000 RTs) might enrage someone like me who spent over a decade of my life writing quirky seventeen-paragraph preambles before telling people what to put in their f-ing lasagna, but actually, I totally agree with this Tweet. In fact, this Tweet speaks to why I kind of gave up food blogging two years ago. The writing seemed besides the point; I was just becoming a resource for recipes rather than a person whose words mattered. In a screenplay or a script for a TV show, every word matters; in fact, sometimes you get into hour-long discussions with producers or actors about one or two words that you feel strongly about. So when the writing on food blogs started to feel disposable, I lost interest. What’s the point of writing on here if no one really cares about what you’re saying?
There’s a new restaurant trend afoot, one that takes the form of a casual, shoulder-shrug of a sentence, usually uttered by a server after he or she takes your order. It’s the sentence in the title of this post: “Just so you know, food arrives when it’s ready.”
It’s a sentence I heard last night at Alimento, a terrific new restaurant in Silverlake where I had some of the best pasta dishes of my life (more on those in a moment). It’s a sentence I heard last week at Republique with my parents, when they were here for Craig’s premiere. It’s a sentence we also heard at Bar Ama, where we went for lunch with both of our families (pictured above) after scoping out our secret wedding venue downtown. It’s a sentence that didn’t really bother me at first or even, really, grab my attention; but now that it’s becoming more and more common, it’s making me wonder: what’s it all about? And who does this really benefit: the restaurant or the diner?
It’s a very privileged problem to have, let’s acknowledge that out of the gate. Most people in this world who are worrying about food are worrying about how to get enough on to the table, not how to eat the very best the world has to offer while flitting about. Again, let me be the first to file this post under “Privileged People Problems” or “Problems That Are Not Very Serious In The Grand Scheme of Things.”
That said, I leave for Europe in one week and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the “shoulds” floating across my screen. “Oh you’re going to Paris, you should go to Pierre Hermé,” says one person. “Skip Pierre Hermé,” says another person. “You should go to Jacques Genin.” It’s almost like I’m studying for the S.A.T.s and pretty soon I’m going to be in a gray little room with my #2 pencil, guessing C when I don’t know the answer, instead of strolling carefree around Europe, letting the day unfold in ways that might take be surprise. This is what it’s like being a Type A food person planning a trip.
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.
Turkey and cheese is a sandwich staple for many people in this universe except I’m not one of those people. That’s because the idea of biting into soft turkey while also biting down on soft cheese totally skeeves me out. Soft on soft is absolutely the worst offense a sandwich maker can commit next to using mayonnaise but that’s a totally different conversation so let’s not get sidetracked. Let’s talk about the sandwich you see above.