Thursday, September 30, 2010

Theatre, cheap and good.

Guys. Do you like theatre? Do you like things that are funny? Do you like things that are unbelievably cheap and still awesomely fun? Well, then, do I have the show for you!

Get your butts in gear and head over to West 54th Street, which is where you'll find Ars Nova, a an organization dedicated to developing new talents in theatre, music and comedy. (My little brother is their new Managing Director!)

Their current production is called Now Circa Then, and it was written by uber-talented playwright Carly Mensch, who's headed out to Hollywood to write for Weeds.Now Circa Then is the story of a two people who meet while working as historical reenactors at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. What follows is a hilarious and smart meditation on the meaning of history to the here and now, especially when you live in one of the most transitory communities on Earth.

And did I mention that tickets are wicked cheap? Only $25 a pop! For theatre! In New York! Get to it. (The show plays on Tuesdays-Saturdays, from now through October 9th.)

In case you're not already convinced (I swear it's good; I wouldn't lie, even for my baby brother), here are some of the reviews that have come in for the show (for links to the full reviews, click here and scroll on down):

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coffee. Coffee! COFFEE!

It's no secret that I absolutely worship a good cup of coffee. As proof, I thought I'd do a little coffee porn retrospective. Think of it as coffee Queenie has known and loved. Or think of it as the sort of thing that gives you a contact high. Whichever you prefer. Either way, enjoy!

The basics: French press, drip, whichever. You brew it, I'll give it a go.

Chez Queenie, 2009.

Hotel Fauchère, Milford, Pennsylvania, June 2009.

Chez Queenie, June 2009.

Café Sabarsky, February 2010.

Cold coffee, a classic summertime choice.

88 Orchard, August 2010.

Joe, August 2010.

Cappuccinos and lattes - milk does make everything better, or at least creamier.

Joe, April 2009.

Joe, December 2009.

Joe, April 2009.

And, finally, the perfect end to any meal: espresso.

Chez Queenie, August 2008.

Camille, Paris, November 2008.

Charlie Trotter's, Chicago, November 2009.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Would you move for a wine store?

My cousin Jason and his wife Abby have been living out in Greenpoint for about a year now, and they are the neighborhood's fiercest ambassadors. Or, at least, the fiercest ones with which I am acquainted. What they do, see, is invite you to their gorgeous, affordable two-bedroom apartment, lure you with delicious meals at local restaurants, and generally make the place irresistible.

Case in point? When they joined me to take a look at a new apartment building going up on the Greenpoint waterfront, they met me at the subway, had brunch with me at Marlow & Sons (see above for our discarded oyster shells), and showed me the most adorable wine store I've ever seen in New York.

Dandelion Wine on Franklin Avenue is drop-dead awesome. The owner, Lily, hand-writes price tags and descriptions for each bottle of wine she sells and hosts wine and cheese nights (FREE wine and cheese nights) every Friday. The shop carries a wide variety of wines, in terms of origin, varietal and price range, from an $11 rose to $100 bottles of vintage Pol Roger (1998, a very, very good year for champagne).

And did I mention the seriously amazing drawings decorating the chalkboard walls? Get your butts over to the Greenpoint Avenue G stop, people, and do it now.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Channeling the past.

This post is my second-round entry for FoodBuzz's Project Food Blog. To cast a vote for me in this round, clickety on over using this link, or click on the widget to the left! Thank you so much for all of your support, my lovelies!

I've known for weeks now that - if I made it to round two - the second week of Project Foodblog would be a tricky one for me. The assignment this week is to make a classic ethnic dish with which we are not familiar, and to blog about the making of it - and the inspiration for it.

That got me thinking about the fact that even though half my heritage is Jewish (the paternal half), I've never made matzoh balls, kugel - or brisket. I mean, BRISKET! Is that crazy, or what? Mostly, I think, it's because my paternal grandmother, Marcia, passed away when I was a little girl, before she had a chance to show me the tricks of the trade. My mother has told me that the real cook in the family was my great-grandmother, Etta Blocker, who apparently worked magic with tough beef and matzoh meal. (That photo is of me with my grandfather, Irv, Marcia's husband. Sadly, I couldn't find any snaps of Marcia amongst my collection.)

And so, when I was brainstorming ideas for an ethnic dish for this challenge, I passed over my usual favorites (Vietnamese - though you should definitely check out my homemade banh mi over here - Thai, Chinese) and turned instead to the cooking of my ancestors.

A bit of research - including conversations with some fellow descendants of Eastern European Jewish folks - led me to the conclusion that every family has their own special version of brisket. My colleague Liz's family, for example, adds cranberries to their braise. Another friend's mom adds a full bottle of red wine to hers. Since I didn't have a family recipe to work from, I decided to turn to a source I trust implicitly - Gourmet - to find a version that suited me: namely, one with lots and lots of vegetables.

And find one I did. The version I settled on includes not only loads of vegetables - chopped onions, chunked carrots and celery, whole cloves of garlic and a hefty supply of crushed tomatoes - but also a bit of cider vinegar. And I love cider vinegar. I also love the thriftiness of the ingredient list, which seems very true to the dish's heritage. Gussying the stew up with a bottle of red would, no doubt, make for a delicious meal, but using tasty, cheap ingredients pays tribute to the frugality from which braises are born.

In a twist of fate, my mom was here this weekend and came along to the Greenmarket to help me find the ingredients for the brisket. We found the most perfect little onions and carrots in every color of the rainbow, not to mention the celery-iest celery known to humankind. We visited the German butcher down the block for the brisket itself, and grabbed a can of San Marzanos at the grocery store.

Like most braises, this one begins with browning. I browned the brisket on both sides, then moved to to a plate to rest. In went the onions, then the rest of the vegetables, followed by a cider vinegar deglazing that produced an aroma fit for a king. Next came the tomatoes, some chicken stock and the meat itself, which I tucked into its bed of vegetables. The whole thing went into a low oven for three hours and emerged, well... a sweet tangle of fork-tender meat and rich vegetable goodness. It is - in a word - delicious. We'll be eating it tonight atop a mound of buttery mashed potatoes tinged with turnip, and topped with a gravy made from brisket trimmings, scallions and - yes, more - butter.

I think Marcia and Etta would be proud.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, my doves! It's been a busy week chez Queenie, and the weekend promises to be even nuttier, what with my mother and my friend Ellie making appearances in town. Before the excitement begins, it's time for the Treasury!

First up this week, an absolutely jaw-dropping set of photos documenting a gorgeous apartment set high above Central Park, courtesy of the over-the-top talented Jame of From Me To You. This apartment is amazing, and the views are spectacular. I particularly love the pops of kelly green and hot pink to be found amongst the very proper furnishings. Very glamorous, very livable, very New York.

Next, some insanely beautiful jewelry by another talented lady, Melissa Joy Manning. I'm particularly fond of the raw diamond rings, and of the studded diamond bands. Drool times ten.

Last but not least, a citrusy cocktail from Serious Eats that just looks downright delicious. It's called the Breakfast Martini, and it incorporates gin, marmalade, Cointreau and lemon juice into one tasty-sounding tipple. I'm particularly fond of the idea of a buttered toast garnish. Who wouldn't be?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mussels, two ways.

Last week, I bought some mussels. I don't usually make a lot of seafood at home; while I adore shellfish, I've never been a huge lover of the finned variety. And while I've been known to make shrimp scampi on occasion, mussels and clams are a rarity chez Queenie.

But last week, things were different. I'd run across Melissa Clark's recipe for mussels with corn and sherry on Serious Eats, and I knew that it had a fast-approaching expiration date. Corn is going downhill fast here in the New York area; if I wanted to experience this dish at the height of its sweet, er, corniness, I'd have to act now.

And in doing so, I realize something: I should make mussels all the freaking time. Unlike most seafood, they arrive alive, and can be kept as such in your fridge for a couple of days. (All you need to do is make sure they're in a bag that won't leak, soak a tea towel in cold water, stick it in the bag with them, and nestle them on the bottom shelf of your fridge.) So even if you buy, say, two pounds (enough for two servings or so), you don't have to eat them all at once.

I also realized that Melissa's recipe (which you can find over here) is insanely easy and delicious, and is a great way to help use up the dry sherry you bought in December for your holiday trifle recipe. (Not that I speak from experience or anything.)

On day two, I decided to skew Italian. I used Mario Batali's recipe for mussels with garlic and spaghetti, and man was it good. And pretty much just as easy as the mussels with corn - a little saute, a little steam, and boom! Mussels, cooked to perfection.

The lesson? Never restrict yourself to boring, leftover-friendly dishes just because you live alone. Also, always have sherry on hand. For cooking, or for other emergencies...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wherein your heroine begs for your vote.

Hello, dear readers.

In case you are not one of the poor victims of my Facebook, Twitter or email pestering, I wanted to let you know that today is the last day to vote for me in the first round of Project Food Blog. Even if you're not a FoodBuzz featured publisher, you can still cast your vote for the Readers' choice selection - there will be one in each of the ten rounds of voting!

I'm pretty psyched about this contest, mostly because of the twin opportunities to discover so many amazing foodblogs and to have my work judged by some pretty incredible food world luminaries: Nancy Silverton, Dana Cowin, and Pim Techamuanvivit. What could be better?

And, so, I'd like to beg for you to vote for me. You can get to my first round entry by clicking here. And here, for your enjoyment, is the description I wrote for my contestant profile of my most memorable meal. Bon appétit!

My most memorable meal is one I shared with my best friend, Louisa. In 2006, we spent two weeks traveling in Europe together. We ended the trip in Paris, where we spent hours wandering the streets of Saint-Germain and Le Marais.

It was during our explorations of the latter that we stumbled upon Bistro Camille, where we feasted on duck breast with black pepper and honey, perfectly grilled lamb chops, the best steak tartare on earth, and an array of the finest preparations of potatoes (pur
éed, gratin and fried) ever assembled. And the crème brulée? Perfection.

Even now, four years (and several return trips) later, the experience is tinged in memory with a combination of serendipity, luxury and utter joy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

To the fullest.

Sometimes I feel that, living as I do in the most exciting city on the planet, I don't take anywhere near enough advantage of its riches. Not even close.

Well, the last three days of my life have put paid to that notion. I've seen a fabulous new (and cheap) play at Ars Nova, eaten an amazing breakfast at Prune and brunch at Marlow & Sons, explored Greenpoint, and partaken of three cultural events the likes of which my adolescent, New York-obsessed self never would have dreamed.

Sunday brought a screening of an original print of Pretty In Pink - and a question and answer session with Ms. Molly Ringwald herself.

Monday night was dinner at Shake Shack and an evening of Margaret Atwood, who's been one of my political and literary idols since I read The Handmaid's Tale at the age of 15.

On Tuesday? A trip to the design blogger audience taping of The Nate Berkus Show, which was an entirely zany, over-the-top experience in its own right. (Clickety to see Design Blahg's take on how the day missed the mark in terms of its focus on the design blog world.)

Mission Do-More-In-The City? Accomplished.

Details on the food? Coming soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

This week's treasury is a wee bit late, coming as it does at the end of a whirlwind weekend of good times, good food and good theatre. To make up for my naughtiness, I now present to you this weekend's Treasury, which is all home design, all the time.

First up, an incredible home situated on a stream in upstate New York. I love it, especially the setting. And the trap door, too.

Next, a teeny Swedish apartment with a kitchen to die for. I would kill for this kitchen, seriously. Not to mention the book-lined sleeping alcove off the main living space. Sleeping in a book-lined haven? Could anything be more me? No, it could not.

Finally, an assortment of gorgeous kitchens from Emma's Designblogg. I love all of these, especially the one with lots of white, wood and pops of green. Swoon.

Why me? Here's why.

Dear Readers: This post is my first entry for the Food Buzz Project Food Blog contest. You'll see a few more of these over the next few weeks. If you're a fellow Food Buzz feature publisher I'd love it if you'd click on over via my widget on the left there and vote for me. And if you're not a publisher, you can still vote for me as your Readers' Choice! There will be a Readers' Choice winner in each of the ten rounds. If you don't feel like voting at all, or want to be extra, super-nice to me, post the link to this all over the place, wherever you can. I promise cookies. Smooches!

I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to travel. I love to write.

That's why I blog.

Hearing that someone has loved a recipe I've created, or that they've used Queenie as a travel guide to one of my more beloved destinations, or just that my photos made them hungry? It's really, really cool. And it makes me feel that my blog - something that is, at heart, a narcissistic exercise in sharing my own favorite hobbies with the world - actually does some good.

So, really, why I blog is a pretty simple thing to explain.

But as for why I should be the next food blog star? I feel like this is the sort of question I should have my mother answer for me, so as to appear all the more modest. She's not here right now, though, so let's think about what my mother would say, and see where that gets us.

I love my readers, and I want to do right by them. This means staying on top of what's going on in the food world in general, and in New York in particular. It means testing my recipes religiously before I post them, and being thoughtful about what makes a good recipe to begin with.

It also means taking on the responsibility for educating my readers - however gently and sweetly - about the things I'm learning as I go. This includes everything from what makes a true martini, to how champagne is made, to how to find sustainable seafood, no matter where you live.

I'm serious about exploring the world around me. This blog is well-traveled, both within the five boroughs, and to places further abroad than a MetroCard will carry you. I love to bring my readers along with me on my journeys, and I try my darndest to make sure they know what I've found along the way.

Finally, I'm kind of awesome. I know, I know - modesty. (But, remember, this is what my mom would say, so it's all cool.) I'm warm, I'm funny - or, at least, I try to be - and I'm all kinds of game for pretty much any adventure you can cook up. (Get it? Get it? Puns are awesome, right? If you don't like puns, please forget I made one.)

All in all, I think I'd be a pretty excellent food blog star. But, really, it's up to you now. So I'll end with this:

Pretty please?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Southern comfort.

On Saturday afternoon, after nearly three days of being holed up in the apartment with a nasty turn-of-the-season cold, I gratefully headed out the door and toward the downtown 6 train to meet my dear friend Anica for lunch at the newly opened Peels, a southern-inspired diner and takeout joint on the Bowery.

First of all, let's talk about the coffee. I grabbed a cup on the way to our seats, and I almost plotzed with joy when I tasted it. Peels brews Stumptown, one of my more favorite producers, and the brew they'd chosen on Saturday was insanely good. Rich, strong, nutty and a little earthy - but not at all bitter, despite being piping hot. I think I'm in love. Seriously; I'd marry someone just to get that kind of coffee brought to me in bed every morning. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, but this is the kind of coffee that invites hyperbole.)

Naturally, once my coffee had been enjoyed, it was time for a cocktail. I chose the Shaddock's Fizz, a delightful tall glass filled with Aperol, Saint-Germain, grapefruit juice and champagne. It was lip-smackingly good, and bracingly tart. Perfect for a lunchtime tipple.

Anica, that naughty girl, ordered herself a whiskey chocolate milkshake, which arrived in an adorable miniature milk bottle. She loved the flavor, and said the whiskey came through loud and clear, but that the texture of the shake was a bit uneven, and even icy in places. A rare misstep in a meal full of hits, it has to be said.

Next up, our savories. We each ordered a biscuit - me with jam, Anica with honey butter and eggs. (Eggs on the side, you see.) The biscuits are delicious, but they're more buttery than flaky, and I think they really need clotted cream and sweet-tart jam to set them off; the gingery jam on offer just didn't do the trick.

My fried chicken sandwich, though, was incredible. A slightly pounded chicken thigh was lightly coated in flour and fried to a dark, perfect crisp. The sandwich itself? Nothing fancy - a potato roll, shredded iceberg, and tangy honey mustard sauce. Pure, simple perfection.

Last, but not least, dessert! Anica ordered the homemade caramel ice cream, which was very, very tasty. The caramel flavor was deep and smoky, and the ice cream was creamy - no hint of the iciness that plagued Anica's milkshake. (Yes. Anica had two ice cream-based items at our lunch. Are you at all surprised that we are friends?)

We'd spotted homemade graham crackers in the take-out dessert display on our way in, and so I couldn't resist ordering the s'mores. They were pretty dang good - the homemade crackers were slightly chewier and far spicier than the commercial variety, and the fresh marshmallow was satisfyingly pillowy. The chocolate was dark and just a little bitter, the way I like it, and the better to contrast with the marshmallow. The only issue? It was cold! This is not a hot, melty s'more, and that, my friends, is a shame.

That said, I'm already planning my return trip, and I know what I'm ordering: shrimp with grits and bacon, and the sundae (topped with peanuts and pretzel bits) for dessert. Try and stop me, folks. I dare you.

325 Bowery (at 2nd Street)
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