Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eating Paris 1906

I just saw this short video about the menu development underway at Next, Grant Achatz's anticipated new restaurant. The concept is innovative in that the menu theme will dramatically change every few months, with Paris in 1906 being the first.

Watching them plate this dish reminds me of my most favorite cookbook ever - the posthumous publication of Toulouse-Lautrec's personal recipes, circa 1905, entitled The Art of Cuisine. Oh Monsieur Lautrec... I could spend hours talking about how he was a brilliantly gifted misfit in search of acceptance from the Parisian women celebrities he adored from afar, and eventually made icons during his short life. Almost better, he was a sparkling wit and a skilled hunter with deep family pockets that he used to support his true love of the kitchen. Like his art, this book is an endless joy that tells so much about the person who adored nothing more than throwing an over-the-top and totally out-of-hand-party for his circle of now-famous and infamous friends. You can find it at used book dealers through Amazon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Only Gift You Need

This holiday, I'm all about ease. (That, and accepting the chaos, but that's another matter.) So rather than tax your already taxed yuletide attention span with a long list of potential foodie gifts, I'm going to give it to you straight.

Get all your foodie-fied friends the new cookbook published by the New York Times.


1. I'm hearing good things. Mostly from David Lebovitz, who thinks it's surprisingly great.

2. How often does the NYT publish a cookbook? Like, nevah. Hardly anyone has it yet, and its mere publication makes it a momentous event... Especially if the NYT doesn't exist in 5 years. Imagine the eBay value then!

3. With its significant heft, you can also use it to kill bugs, work your core, as a hotplate, or to press your own gravlax.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Owen & Engine

Can we hug? I'd been eyeing the renovation of this building across from the movie theatre for months, daring to hope for anything to break up the endless blight of fast food, empty car dealerships, and mechanics on Western. I thought it was a mirage Saturday night after our movie when I peeked inside the lovely wall of frosty French windows to see...tables set with sparkling glassware and linen napkins? A glimmering bar stacked four tiers high with premium alcohol? A late night menu...with a cheese plate? (Ok. I couldn't see the menu or the cheese. But I felt them like Yoda feels the presence of the Force.)

Me to husband: Do you wanna-

Husband: YES.

Inside, cozy heaven: candles twinkling in pubby darkness, servers in checky menswear outfits, the good vibes that come with excellent beer and wine circulating, an air of possibly authentic Britishness (although who cares on Western? I mean really), and a late night menu that reminds me of the Gage. Someone actually built a gastropub near Targhetto. And I love them.

The cheese included five stellar selections organized from mild to ballsy. They were accompanied by a pile of light savory crisps and rye bread, plus four relishes to smear it all together in dizzying combinations (honeycomb, vidalia onion, apple, and cranberry). My husband had the rarebit, which I always thought was related to rabbit. But then what do I know? It's what you eat when you don't catch any rabbit - i.e. good quality cheddar melted on rye bread with a few other goodies. Nice, cozy, simple food. Wallace and Grommet food.

Diverse wine list. Global selection of beers. Amazing cocktails. We're hooked.

Owen and Engine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anthony Bourdain vs. Food Critics

Jeff Ruby, the amusing Chicago magazine food critc, wrote a piece this month on why you should ignore Anthony Bourdain's advice and read food journalism for your restaurant recommendations rather than going to a site like Yelp. In a nutshell, Jeff tells us a) you can't trust Yelpers and b) they probably don't share your tastes anyway. I would add to the list that reading most of them is pure agony, whereas Jeff has sparkling wit and can spell "fork" correctly.

This made me think about how I make my restaurant decisions. Case and point, my wedding anniversary is coming up, and as new parents who've worn a path between our condo, offices and Target for four months, we've decided to go big. Not Alinea-big, but pretty dang big.

Problem is, I don't know where to go big at, because I've been in baby-love lala land for so long. Here's about how it breaks down these days:

1. Go to Urbanspoon online. Look at Talk of the Town list. Decide that this crappy economy is the reason that Alinea is the only expensive restaurant on it.

2. Go to Menupages online. Search for $$$$ restaurants that look intriguing. Click on descriptions of the newer ones. Link over to a couple of the restaurant websites to look at pretty pictures of dining rooms. Wonder if I have anything to wear. Decide new peeptoes may be in order.

3. Go to Open Table. See which of those places have bookings open. None do. Decide that this crappy economy is the reason that there aren't more options. Launch a new search for expensive restaurants that do have openings. Decide to book NoMi as a backup plan.

4. Go to Zagat online. Troll through reviews. Did I miss anything?...No. Get tired. Decide NoMi will be lovely. Go to bed, promising myself to read up on restaurants again at some point...by reading Helen Rosner at the Menupages blog, because the girl's got skills.

So Jeff, I have a recommendation for you. Develop a Jeff Ruby app for the iPhone. Charge $1.99 a pop. Now your writing is even more relevant and you don't need to rely on Chicago mag's plastic surgery ad revenue to keep you in foie gras.

You're welcome. xo

Paramount Room on Groupon

Hustle! Ok, so it's only $15. But the Paramount Room is dark, velvety, and delicious, with a stellar food and wine menu. And despite the name, it's odd location and tiny, underground weirdness make it feel like a secret.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Official, Obvs.

I'm back to the blog, as a new mommy. Life is totally different (more on that later). But the stir of fall in the air has me all giddy for two of my most favorite things: fall food + wine pairings, and fashion. Maybe that's three things? Whatever.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. And it's good to be back.

Perfect Middle Eastern Lentil Stew

This recipe for a cozy fall lentil stew from Epicurious is so ideal, I can't find anything to change for once. Nothing. It's easy breezy to pull together on a weeknight, it's totally healthy, and its earthy flavors brightened up with lemon and mint pack much more of a punch than I expected. It's even ultra-healthy and the ingredients are dirt cheap.

Beat that.

Ok - just thought of something. Double or quadruple this puppy to have it on hand for a few meals. Now you just saved yourself two hours in the kitchen for the week.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 cups canned vegetable broth
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed, picked over
  • 8 ounces red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 lemon
  • 6 ounces torn fresh spinach leaves (about 8 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

  • Crumbled feta cheese

Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth and lentils; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes; cook uncovered until potatoes and lentils are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate 1/2 teaspoon peel from lemon; squeeze enough juice from lemon to measure 2 tablespoons. Add lemon peel, lemon juice, spinach and cayenne to stew. Cover and simmer stew until spinach wilts and is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Mix in mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.)

Spoon stew into large soup bowls. Sprinkle feta cheese over, if desired.