Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hot dog, Austin style.

Austin is, as you likely know, hardly lacking in the Mexican food department. Taquerias abound, breakfast tacos appear on most menus, and you can get chips with queso and jalapenos at the Alamo Draft House movie theatres. In short, this is a town rolling in quality Mexican (which makes this good Mexican food-deprived New Yorker very, very happy).

One one of my first afternoons in Austin, we decided to pay a visit to La Condesa, an upscale, not-so-traditional Mexican place that sits in a super-cool space right downtown. (I've already asked Louisa to take me there for a cocktail one night before I leave, because the bar looks capital-A awesome.) We stopped in one afternoon for a late lunch, and proceeded to order very, very well.

First up were some superlative tortilla chips with excellent guacamole and a series of different salsas. One of them was a sort of grainy grey color and was positively redolent of black pepper. It was my favorite, for sure. I also had a cocktail: watermelon with St.-Germain and agave nectar. I broke my no-vodka rule to try out the melon and elderflower combination, and it was pretty tasty, if a bit too sweet for my usual cocktail routine.

My lunch, though, was pretty ridiculously good, and kind of over-the-top. After all, this is Texas. I ordered the Perro Perron, a Wagyu beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and served on a toasted brioche bun. Also on the bun? Chipotle mayo, queso fresco, jalapenos, crema and avocado. I was in spicy-beefy-porky heaven. This is the Mexican equivalent of a good lobster roll: open-faced, but anchored nonetheless by a perfect piece of toasty bread.

Happy times. Happy, happy times.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Um, so, I'm still alive.

Merry Belated Christmas, everyone! I'm down in Austin, enjoying lots of friends and family time. Right now, I've got some butternut squash soup simmering on the stove and some pink champagne in my glass. Life is good.

As is Austin, not so incidentally. Many, many pictures of the city's goodness to come in future blog posts, I promised. In the meantime, be good, be merry, and don't miss me too much!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Ladies and gents, if you plan to be in New York on New Year's Eve, I humbly submit to you a spectacularly awesome idea for how to spend your night: Ars Nova's Get Lucky party.

Yes, there will be gambling. There will be entertainment. There will be booze! Tickets start at $50, so it's a totally reasonable thing. Sadly, I will not be there to join you in the fun (I'll be in Austin), but my baby brother will be (he's Ars Nova's Managing Director), so make sure you bug him about how much you love me, eh?

And, just in case you needed more convincing, here's a look at just one of the acts that will be performing!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Brooklyn of Texas.

Kids, I'm psyched. I'm headed down to Austin, Texas tomorrow to visit my dear friends Nick and Louisa.

They moved down there earlier this year, and this is the first time I'm going to be seeing their new home! I'm excited to see them, of course - especially for Christmas and New Year's - but I'm also seriously pumped to explore Austin for the first time.

So, come on, readers! Tell me all about your favorite Austin haunts. Coffee? Barbecue? Live music? Other stuff?

'Fess up in the comments!

Photo by Texas to Mexico on Flickr.

Monday, December 20, 2010

During the holidays, it's always cocktail hour. Everywhere.

Darlings. Dearests. Doodlebugs.

I have been a bit remiss in posting of late, mainly because I've been unbelievably busy getting ready for my Christmas trip to Austin (more on that soon) while work has simultaneously and unexpectedly blown up in massive ways. I do apologize.

In the spirit of forgiveness and of spirits themselves, I'd like to offer you a list of holiday season cocktail recipes sure to tickle your palate and relax your shoulders from their shopping-amongst-throngs-of-slow-moving-tourists hunch. (Or is that just me?)

Some of these are Queenie creations, some are not; all are delicious, and not one is booze-free.

Sorry, kiddos. I need the hard stuff right now.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Saturday, kiddos! It's the last weekend before Christmas, so I'm betting quite a few of you are out and about and busy as heck. I'm about to join you, but, before I do, I thought I'd give you a few Treasury bits and bobs to enjoy in your downtime.

I don't know about you, but I'm fascinated by anything created on a miniature scale. From dollhouses to tilt-and-shift photography, I love it all. So I was bound to be fascinated by these snowglobes, created by artists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz. At first glance, they seem sweet, but a longer look shows some distinctly Grimm-like (I'm also seriously into fairy tales.) happenings captured in the tiny, snowy landscapes. I could pore over these for ages. (Discovered via Design Shimmer.)

David Lebovitz lives a pretty awesome life. An American ex-pat in Paris, he writes cookbooks and blogs about all of the fabulous food-related things he encounters. A few weeks ago, he posted a drool-worthy tour of one of Paris' marchés des producteurs, where shoppers can buy directly from the artisans who product their enviable food. I mean, look at that butter. Just look. Wowza.

For a long time, The Great Gatsby was my absolute favorite book. It's still up near the top of the list. And so, I found this poster - which imagines the business cards of Gatsby's guests from the summer of 1922 - to be pretty freaking cool. It's also really pretty. Well done, The Heads of State!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gingerbread madness!

Over on You + ME* Holiday today, Elisabeth posted the cutest gingerbread house made by her two year old daughter, Claire. She also suggested an awesome gift idea: a homemade, DIY gingerbread kit, candy and all.

As someone who made a gingerbread house (with my dear friend Caroline) every Christmas of her youth, I heartily endorse this idea. In fact, Caroline and I were planning to gingerbread it up this year, too, but time - as it often does when you're old and have obligations and stuff - got away from us. (We did make them back in 2005, as evidenced by this oh-so-flattering photo of us both.)

Next year, Lina, I promise!

Photo of the gingerbread kit by Angela Gaspar, styled by You + ME*.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gift Guide Number Three: (Mostly) cookbooks.

Darlings. My apologies for the lateness of this post. I fully accept that by posting the final chapter of my gift guide on December 15th, I am catering to procrastinators like myself (Amazon's Super Saver Shipping will still arrive by December 24th, people!), along with those shopping for January birthdays. So sue me.

For those of you who still seek inspiration - or are perhaps in the market for a gift to your fabulous selves - here goes. Queenie's suggestions for books - mostly cook-, some not - to give this holiday season.

1. Tartine Bread
Any of you who've been lucky enough to visit Tartine in San Francisco know that their wares are as gorgeous as they are tasty. This hefty new book (a companion to their earlier, pastry-focused tome) is no exception. Perfect for the carb-loving aesthete in your life.

2. The Gourmet Cookie Book
Gourmet was famous for their December issues, which always featured a series of delectable cookie recipes. The best of those are collected in this book, which is also a beautiful example of photography married with food styling joined with graphic design.

3. The Zuni Café Cookbook
This isn't a new book, but it's one I just received as a (very thoughtful) hostess gift this fall, and I am in love. It reads like a primer on good, soulful cooking, and has some insanely beautiful photographs to boot.

4. The Essential New York Times Cookbook
Edited by the indefatigable Amanda Hesser (co-founder, with Merrill Stubbs, of Food52), this collection of classic recipes is a must-have for anyone addicted to Craig Claiborne's original.

5. The Inn at Lake Devine
Okay, so this isn't a cookbook. Not even close. But it's one of my all-time favorite novels, and the main character is a chef. It's set mostly in the 1970s, and is pretty much the best translation of the Austenian spirit into contemporary fiction that I can think of. Food plays a central role in the novel's WASP/American Jewish culture clash plot (think Yankee pot roast vs. roast capon and blintzes), and I think you'll love it. A perfect stocking stuffer (or, um, late Hanukkah gift).

6. The Blackberry Farm Cookbook
It's gorgeous, it's full of good recipes, and it looks great on a coffee table. What more do you need?

7. The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual
You know of my obesession with Frankies. Therefore, you cannot be surprised that their cookbook, published earlier this year, has made the list. Go forth and make lots of tomato and avocado salad, plus some cavatelli with browned butter and hot sausage. You're welcome.

8. As Always, Julia
A collection of Julia Child's correspondence with her close friend Avis Devoto, this is one of my must-reads for the year. It may not be a cookbook, but if Julia's perseverance and dedication (which always shine through when she's doing the talking/writing) don't make you get up and do something, then nothing will.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ouest. Upper West Side, 10:15 PM, Friday December 10th.


"Martini." In quotes because it was made with vodka and barely any vermouth, and you know how I feel about that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, my lovelies! It's a bright and balmy Saturday here in New York, and I'm gearing up for some fun times in the city with my family (Mom's in town) and friends (Miya's having some folks over tomorrow). In the meantime, let's take a look at some fun tidbits I found on the interwebz today!

First off, I'm slightly obsessed with the Etsy seller Soraam, who makes some of the most beautiful textiles I've seen, well, ever. I love the intricacy of the patterns - and yet, they still somehow seem very Zen to me. I especially love the Labyrinth pillow and anything with the Big Bow motif. Swoon.

This incredible home sits inside a renovated water tower in a nature preserve in Germany. It has the best views imaginable, and is filled with amazing light. I would love to cook in that kitchen, gazing out over the snowy forest while stirring a pot of coq au vin.

Siw Haveland, the force behind the blog Design Shimmer, has a truly beautiful home. It's Scandinavian to the core, and I am totally in love the mix of whites, textures and blond woods. I especially love the way her exposed closet adds a pop of color to the bedroom - it serves as artwork and storage, all at the same time. (Via Decor8.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Solid freaking gold. Plus potatoes. And garlic.

Alongside a multitude of pages devoted to the wonders of Thanksgiving, Saveur's November issue included a guide and tribute to the traditional Parisian bistro. It was, in a word, amazeballs. It made me want to book a trip to Paris immédiament. It made me want to cook some seriously delicious potatoes.

Anyone who's eaten in a bistro knows that they elevate the cooking of potatoes to an art form. Be they puréed, sautéed, roasted, smashed, gratinéed, fried...you name it, the bistro kicks ass at it. And so when I read about L'Ami Louis' recipe for a potato galette topped with fresh parsley and chopped garlic, I knew I had to have it.

Responsible woman that I am, I decided it was probably best to forgo dropping all obligations to fly off to Paris. Lucky for me, the potato galette with which I'd become enamored was one of the bistro-style recipes Saveur included in the issue. Score!

Now, one of the reasons that bistros ace Potato 101 is that they follow a couple of basic, core rules: first, cook the potatoes in more than one stage. Fry them twice, simmer them before roasting, whatever. But cook them in stages. Second, cook them in animal fat. Butter is fine; duck fat is best. Bacon fat or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) are pretty damn good, too.

Which brings us to my big bowl of golden deliciousness. This, my friends, is my bowl of schmaltz. Each time I roast a chicken, I carefully pour off the fat from the pan juices and store it, tightly covered, in the fridge. After a few chickens, I have a good 1/2 cup of rendered chicken fat, and I start using it all over the place. It goes into the oil I use to fry my latkes. It goes into soups, where I use it to brown the vegetables. It goes into vegetable sides, where I use it to saute the sprouts or cauliflower. Hell, in Europe, they spread it on bread, so who am I to skimp?

So, while you can certainly go out and buy a big old tub of duck fat to have on hand, I highly recommend being patient and frugal with your chicken. It'll be more rewarding than the skip-to-the-end solution, and you'll always have a supply on hand, assuming you roast a chicken once or twice a month. Boom.

Oh, and the galette? So ridiculously delicious that I ate the whole thing (well, a half-recipe version) for lunch, garlic and all.

Potato Galette
Adapted from Saveur

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2" x 1⁄4" pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbsp. rendered chicken fat
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic

Place potatoes into a 4-qt. pot and cover by 1" with well-salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low,and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20–30 minutes. Drain potatoes and spread on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill for at least 20 miunutes. (If you're roasting a chicken to eat with the galette, let the potatoes chill until the bird is almost ready to come out of the oven.)

When you're ready to make the galette, heat oven to 400°. Melt fat and butter in a 6" skillet over medium heat.

Put chilled potatoes into a bowl. Pour fat and butter over potatoes (reserving skillet) and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Tranfser potatoes to reserved skillet and cover with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside rim of skillet.

Cook, smashing potatoes into skillet with a metal spatula, until edges begin to crisp and brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until potato cake is golden brown, 10–15 minutes (to check, use a fork to lift up one edge of the potato cake).

Invert a small serving plate over skillet. Using 2 tea towels, hold plate and skillet together firmly and invert skillet. Remove skillet and garnish potato cake with parsley and garlic. Serve hot.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hot chocolate...with booze. (Mais oui!)

Hello, doves! I'm over at You + ME* Equals today, where I've shared my recipe for delightfully boozy, sinfully indulgent hot chocolate. Check it out, wouldja? I'll be back here tomorrow with a similarly celebratory potato galette recipe for you lovely people.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gift Guide Number Two: Palm Beach-y.

There's a good-sized part of me that can't turn down anything from Kate Spade or Jonathan Adler. That's the part of me that made this gift guide. Enjoy the preppy brightness and gilded goodness!

One: Crystal Confection Necklace by Kate Spade. Two: Midas Collection at Design Within Reach. Three: Louis The Third print by Jessica Snow. Four: Herringbone Rug by Jonathan Adler. Five: Polka Dot Coasters by Kate Spade. Six: Ideal Bookshelf 101 by Jane Mount.

Seven: Color Theory T-Shirt. Eight: Forget-Me-Not Ring by Kiel Mead. Nine: Borgelo Needlepoint Pillow at Shop Ten25. Ten: Sugarcoat print by Michelle Hinebrook. Eleven: Ticker Tape Mugs by Kate Spade. Twelve: All Over Now necklace by Elva Fields.

See what I mean? How can this stuff not make you happy? So get to it and make someone very happy with something bright, shiny and preppy today!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gift Guide Number One: Woodsy.

Loads of girlie goodness to satisfy your need for woodland creatures. Especially recommended for those who don't get out of the city often enough.

Six: Owl Watercolor by United Thread. Seven: Kirie03 Clock by decoylab. Eight: Champagne and Roses Ring by Barbara Michelle Jacobs. Nine: Gold Dipped Bar Bracelet by Ayofemi Jewelry. Ten: Snow Forest Basket by PrintParty. Eleven: Vintage Brass Doe from AMradio.

Coming soon: my Palm Beach/preppy modern/kinda glam gift guide!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Santa, baby...

I'm a woman torn between two aesthetics. Part of me longs for the feminine woodsiness of Anthropologie and its ilk, while my other half is drawn to a Jonathan Adler-esque version of Palm Beach chic, all bright colors and white lacquer. It's a constant battle for my taste allegiance, but this gift-giving season I've decided to embrace the duality.

I'll be sharing three gift guides with you in the next few days. First, one that caters to the part of me enchanted by woodland creatures mythic and real, as well as all things faux bois. Next will be my slightly pop-ier, polished picks. And, finally, a cookbook gift guide - because, let's remember: this is a foodblog, right?

Back soon with guide number one!

Gorgeous shot of glamorously wrapped packages styled by You + ME* and taken by Trent Bailey.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Metropolitan Opera House. 10 PM, November 30 2010.

I love those chandeliers. Sigh.

Also, Carmen was fantastic. Get thee to see it (with Elīna Garanča), if at all possible. Trust me.
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