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 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.