Sunday, June 25, 2006

    A Moveable Feast

    I'm too crazed with packing to write a comprehensive post for the week. Who knew it would take so long for one little person to uproot herself, her cat, and four years worth of belongings? It's been going like: one for me, one for storage at Jon's parent's house, one for the trash can. One for... I haven't lived anywhere this long other than my childhood home, and the problem is that so many of my possessions evoke memories, many of them dusty. Me being me, I take a moment to pay tribute to each, until the cat jumps full throttle into an empty box and I realize I'm still in my obstacle course of a studio.

    Yesterday, Jon and I joined a friend of his who regularly volunteers in the gardens of Riverside Park, to rake, weed, and bag around 138th St. The trees blocked the rain, and the rain kept us from getting too hot and made the weeds give more easily. As a reward for our efforts, we came home with a bag full of Riverside Park grown, straight-from-the-ground lettuce and a young garlic bulb. With it we made an in-the-process-of-moving feast of chopped salad with feta, peppers, tomatoes, and garbanzos.

    Next Friday's the last day the root beer-flavored custard will be on the calendar at Shake Shack. Go forward, I urge you, and taste the genius, creamy fizz.

    Next week: A patriotic slice

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    Odds and Ends

    I think we all have a love/hate relationship with food – too little and our minds are cloudy and cranky, too much and our stomachs are achy and bloated. Finding the right balance with food, with everything, is a lifelong adventure.

    One of the best NYC meals I've had of late was a splurge with my friend Chloe, who suggested Kuma Inn, a Thai tapas gem on the Lower East Side. Chloe works in food PR and essentially eats out for a living. From the first taste, we were both enraptured by our meal. Each chopsticked bite was savored and every flavor, spice, and flash of heat had meaning. We shared edamame with Thai-basil lime oil; sauteed Chinese sausage with chili sauce and sticky rice; pan roasted scallops with bacon, calamansi, and sake; and a luscious tuna tartar. The prices are low, but the bill adds up since the dishes are petite. The meal was just under $40 each, including one glass of wine and tax + tip. To balance the budget, the next night I ate my old standing-up-in-the-kitchen standby of Boca fake chik'n and edamame.

    Inspired by my last blog entry, my dear Shayne and Tracy friends gave me an early birthday gift of ice cream bowls (very hi-tech: they are made of materials that inhibit the "transference of temperature from the interior to the exterior of the bowls"); an ergonomic ice cream scoop; and jars of dulche de leche; a very rich, fruity chocolate sauce; and strawberry rhubarb topping. All the better to eat ice cream with you, my dears.

    I first had rhubarb in a strawberry rhubarb pie at the now closed Sermets restaurant in the West Ashley neighborhood of my hometown, Charleston, S.C. On the menu was a pasta dish I still miss from 10 years ago: penne with squid and mint. I'm not sure if Sermet still serves the rhubarb pie at his downtown Charleston location? I had my first legal drink there with my friend Matt a mere seven years ago this month. Sigh.

    Along with ice cream, nothing says summer like sticky sweet fruit juice drippin' down my chin. After reading this New York Times story about cherry picking along the Hood River Fruit Loop in northwest Oregon, I sprinted to Whole Foods to buy a bag. Boy, are they expensive. Ha-ha, fruit loop!

    Speaking of Whole Foods, I am mui curious as to when the new one on Houston Street will open. The thing I thought I'd miss most about moving out of Chelsea next month was the close proximity to my dear Whole Foods -- mine has an urban neighborhood feel to it vs. the commuter vibe at 14th St. and the tourist laden crowd at the Time Warner Center. Turns out, Jon's and my new apartment in the East Village is a stone's throw from the as yet unopened Lower East Side location. By golly, a quick MapQuest check tells me I'm currently .34 miles away from WF, but will soon be only .31 miles away! I'll leave you to wonder if that's secretly why we took the apartment.

    While I do love milkshakes, or a healthy pour of milk in my coffee, I have always been a tad disgusted by the prospect of sitting down and drinking a glass of milk proper. Milk drinker or not, I bet that you too would be grossed out by Lucky Charms, Wheaties, Trix, Starburst, Milky Way, and 3 Musketeers flavored milk. Ewww.

    This morning Jon and I ventured out in the heat to The City Bakery for the best yogurt bar, pretzel croissants, and gourmet (i.e. expensive) salad bar you've ever met. As I was checking out, I spied fellow food blogger The Girl Who Ate Everything, whose face I recognized from the photos on her fabulous, fun, funny blog. One day later, we've each officially blogged about our random meeting. (I unapologetically don't do names, but due to a strong ability to imprint, I never forget a face -- sometimes to an embarrassing effect.) What a teeny, tiny New York it is.

    Postcard from: The City Bakery

    Next week: A slice of the big move of 2006

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    I Scream, You Scream

    “My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy the ice cream while it's on your plate” -Thornton Wilder

    “Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal.” -Voltaire

    Despite the fact that I have a bad cold and it's raining and 59 degrees outside as I write, the summer season is here (finally!), and along with watermelon slices topped with truffle salt; days at the beach that end by falling asleep with the sensation you're still riding the waves; that summer sexy feeling of wearing next to nothing and sleeping with a light blanket and a churning overhead fan; drunken picnics; dining al fresco or sur la rooftop; and reminiscing about summer camp, summer means ice cream.

    The New York Times just ran an interesting story on an ice cream brand I've never tasted, Blue Bell. Although it's only available in 16 states, the Times reports that Blue Bell trails only Dreyer's and Breyers in sales. While I won't pony up the $89 the article says they charge to dry ice and ship four half-gallons, I will cool myself off this summer with daydreams of tasting their Chocolate Covered Strawberries or Key Lime Pie flavors!

    Shell-shocked from signing a lease on our soon to be apartment in the East Village, Jon and I stumbled into Mario Batali's Otto for a late lunch last weekend. The eggplant caponatina and Pane Frattau (thin crust pizza with tomato, pecorino and an egg -- may sound odd, but it's divine...the sharpness of the pecorino combined with the egg, which is perfectly over medium and adds a slightly salty, not-too-eggy taste and texture, give a layer of depth and richness to the red sauce and crust) were really just formalities in preparation for the dessert that I knew I would order: a gleaming scoop of olive oil gelato. I've had other desserts at Otto, but for one reason or another never got around to ordering the fabled olive oil flavor.

    The gelato is simply made of olive oil mixed with cream and sugar, and it is a creamy dream of rich olive taste. While it looks like vanilla gelato with pieces of vanilla bean, those specks are actually bits from the oil that's mixed with the cream. The gelato is topped with a drizzle of more oil and sea salt, which counters the smooth taste just so. It's one of those incredible tastes that I didn't know I'd been waiting all my life to savor until I did. I will need more. Soon. Like maybe now. In the summer, Otto has a gelato cart at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park.

    Speaking of parks, I love that Shake Shack now sells their custard by the pint and has flavor calendars! Each month there's a new flavor of the day. Last Friday I sampled the root beer freeze. It too is creamy, flavorful, and has a hint of fizz mixed in. Oh the delight I will take in ordering a root beer float with "root beer freeze" custard next Friday! Also, when I tried the ginger custard, which is vanilla custard with ample chunks of candied ginger, I discovered that a kiddie cup was a perfect serving size and price ($1.25 with tax) for an after work snack.

    I haven't had enough Il Laboratorio de Gelato in my short life, and this summer, I'm determined to do something about it. The guy behind it started Ciao Bello, sold it, then did himself one better with Il Laboratio. I recommend mixing the cinnamon and dark chocolate flavors.

    Ben & Jerry's has been my pity party for one (as in the one of me readily eats one carton per sitting per purchase) since I was a freshmen in high school. Check out their Web site -- it's fun to read about the flavors that have bit the dust. Thankfully still in production are Chunky Monkey and Mint Chocolate Cookie. I actually mentioned their Brownie Batter flavor in a letter to the editor of Folio: a few years back (scroll below the ad for my letter) in response to a piece by media god Simon Dumenco.

    I recently discovered that I like the Likity Lite at Mary's Dairy better than Tasti D-Lite. It's richer, creamier, and supposedly only a little less light than Tasti-D. 'Member that "Seinfeld" episode about the non-fat yogurt?!

    Say it with me now: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream (and custard and gelato)!

    Next week: A Slice of Variety

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Al & Jennifer's Greatest Hits Part II

    The Japanese word manpo-kei literally translates to "10,000 steps meter." A few years back, my dad read an article about the Japanese trend where people wear pedometers to ensure they walk a healthy 10,000 steps per day, roughly five miles. Since then he's been pedometer obsessed, and when he visits me in New York, so am I.

    While I'm undeniably horrible at math, I do have a strange love of counting things (like days or years until or since, friendship lengths, and sheep), so as my dad and I traverse the city, I intermittently ask him how many steps we've taken and then challenge us to walk more. On our best days, we hit around 10 miles and, of course, stumble across new restaurants to add to our Greatest Hits list.

    One such is Carmine's Italian Seafood, which is adjacent to the South Street Seaport. It's an ancient, grubby pub that immediately brings to mind the mariners (or should that be marinaras?) of yore. Just over a year ago (see, I'm counting!) I had the messiest meal of my life there: a whole lobster over angel hair, smothered in marinara. Dad will never forget my determination to conquer that plate. It was worth it just for the chuckles we still share over my mess. My hands and chin were smattered with red, but I ate that lobster, I did! We especially like their less messy pasta with clams. I haven't been since the Fulton Street Fish Market moved to Brooklyn, but I'm hopeful the clams are just as fresh as they were when the best seafood source in the city was located right across the street.

    After a walk in Central Park, my pa and I like eating at Josie's. I usually order the tofu salad with spinach, roasted veggies, chickpeas, and avocado and crumble some of their homemade cornbread in for extra texture. The Lemon Ribbon Ice Cream Pie is one of the best non-dairy slices you'll ever taste. It has lemon curd, meringue and some kind of dairy free delight. Josie's bills itself as "healthier new American cuisine," which in their case means no dairy, lots of organic and free-range fish and meat, and a large menu full of yummies that doesn't tip the scale.

    Recently we were strolling near the Brooklyn Promenade and noted that the Grimaldi's Pizzeria line was at its usual length: very long. I do like Grimaldi's, for the fresh basil and circles of mozzarella that crown each slice, but John's will always have my heart wrapped around his little pizza crust. Also in Dumbo is Five Front, owned by the folks behind Park Slope's 12th Street Bar & Grill. FF serves weekend brunch, has a $20 prix fixe for dinner M,W,F, and a serene back garden.

    Before walking the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan (gotta get in those steps so we can eat more!), I can't resist making a Water Street detour to grab a piece of chocolate or a spicy hot chocolate from the original Jacques Torres Chocolate shop on Water Street. Unfortunately for my dad, he doesn't particularly like chocolate (but give him a banana cream pie or a cheesecake from Carnegie Deli, and he'll go to town)! Just across the street, the Brooklyn Bridge Park has a little "beach," a fun looking playground and dog park, and great views of the underbelly of the Manhattan Bridge and of my favorite borough.

    Photo: Exterior of Carmine's Italian Seafood

    Next week: A slice of summer