Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry merry!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm enjoying a cup of coffee in my Christmas cup before heading over to my brother's place to open gifts and have some waffles, bacon and insanely delicious maple syrup.

If you're celebrating today, I hope you and yours have a great one. And, if you're not, you should go see Young Adult. I hear it's truly awesome.

Photo from the early 1980s. My grandparents' living room; my first kitchen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Adorable and caffeinated.

Healdsburg is one of my very favorite places in all of Napa and Sonoma. It's small and charming, but chock full of excellent shopping, food and coffee. And they decorate the pine trees in the park in the center of town, too. So freaking adorable!

On this trip, we made a stop at Flying Goat Coffee before making a circuit of the town. I haven't made an exhaustive survey or anything, but I feel comfortable saying it's unlikely you'll find a better cup in the area. I had a bittersweet mocha, and it was delightful. Rich and interesting, and not at all too sweet. My friend Jeff had the Mexican version, with a whole host of ingredients that sounded overcomplicated, but actually turned out to join together and sign in perfect, delicate harmony.

And such pretty machines, too.

Flying Goat Coffee
324 Center Street
Healdsburg, California

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Under construction.

This weekend, I'll be building a gingerbread house! I'll be joined by my friends Caroline and Ellie, and it's going to be a blast, no doubt. Caroline and I used to do these every Christmas, back when we were growing up a block apart in our picture-perfect (especially at the holidays) little Connecticut town.

I'm thinking about doing a pink-and-white house this year, since I have some lovely, sparkly sanding sugars in those very colors. A final decision will be made once I peruse the candy on offer at Duane Reade and Dean & Deluca, but I've already got a copy of my template ready to go! I still work off of the version Caroline's mom Charlotte made 25-ish years ago, and have finally scanned it in for posterity.

Which, of course, means that if you wish to join us, you can check out the template (plus recipes for the cookie and icing/glue) right over here! Just print the images (size large) out on 8.5 x 11 inch paper, and you'll be good to go.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Take two.

A couple of weeks ago, I ventured out to the Sonoma Valley for a friend's 30th birthday extravaganza. Many a good time was had (with many a detail to come), but one of the highlights was revisiting the amazing taco truck I discovered back in 2009, when I visited Sonoma for my 30th.

While the truck is no longer named Angelina's, the food is just as spectacular - and, trust me, we ordered enough of it to be sure of its consistency. Something like 12 tacos and two burritos - not to mention the tlayuda the staff insisted on making us. It's a sort of giant tostada, and it's a popular food in Oaxaca, where the staff come from. It was pretty freaking good, guys, and I wouldn't recommend leaving the truck without ordering one. Carnitas, tomatoes, avocado and cheese adorned a huge, fried tortilla. Between the six of us, it went so fast that I couldn't even get a shot of the thing.

The tacos were stupendous as well, with the chorizo coming out ahead as a favorite. I ate everyone's radishes, since they didn't see fit to do so themselves.

And, finally, the burritos. You have to go supreme, because you need that crema, trust. And make sure to get the lengua. It's rich, flavorful and just a touch on the chewy side of tender, which is exactly what I like in a piece of meat. (I always go sirloin over tenderloin.) While the carne asada burrito was tasty, the lengua burrito brought us to our knees, to the point where we just repeated the word "lengua" at random throughout the weekend.

Lengua. Lengua. LENGUA.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And the winner is...

The winner of our Creminelli giveaway is one Tara Bellucci! Tara had the fabulous idea of using the salami on a pizza; I, for one, support this wholeheartedly.

Congrats to Tara, and many thanks to all of you who entered - your salami-riffic ideas were much appreciated! Tara, an email with the giveaway details is headed your way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giveaway: Creminelli Fine Meats

As loyal readers know, I am a huge (huge) fan of pretty much anything the fine folks at Creminelli see fit to produce. Their artisanal meats are just too good to pass up; I find myself drawn to their display at Fairway more than is probably healthy.

And so, when they reached out to me a couple of weeks ago to offer a giveaway to my lovely readers, how could I refuse? I promptly got down to sampling some of their latest wares, the better to ensure you are all informed about the giveaway for which you're volunteering. You know, just in case. For you, readers. I ate the salami for you.

I'm a simple woman, so the Casalingo, simply cured with salt and pepper, has to be my favorite. I imagine it would best be enjoyed with a plate of fresh and pickled vegetables, and maybe some roasted peppers to boot. A big glass of red wine wouldn't hurt, either.

The Tartufo I think I'll use in scrambled eggs, eggs being ever so delightful with a truffle or two. And lots of white pepper. And maybe some creme fraiche.

And, finally, the Barolo. This one is rich and musky, and demands to be served alongside some hard, salty cheese and a hunk of fabulous bread as part of a late, fireside supper. No, really - it does. It told me so.

My friends, there's no two ways about it: this is some damn fine salami. If you're interested in scoring one of Creminelli's Gourmet Artisan Salami assortments for yourself (you'll get the Tartufo, the Wild boar and the Barolo), here's how you can enter this most excellent giveaway:
  1. Leave a comment below telling me how you'll serve your Creminelli salamis this holiday season (and don't forget to leave an email address) (One entry.)
  2. Tweet about the giveaway using the hashtag #queeniecreminelli. (One entry.)
I'll choose a winner at random on Saturday, so be sure to enter by midnight on Friday, December 16th. Good luck, my porkers!

The fine print: Creminelli can only ship this gorgeous meat to physical addresses (no P.O. boxes), and only to the U.S.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oldie, but goodie.

Forgive me for rehashing old content, but nothing beats Gourmet's 2008 holiday issue for sheer holiday inspiration. Luxe, lovely and delicious.

I'm only including a couple of photos here, but you can check out this 2009 Queenie post for the full shebang.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What I've been up to.

Mostly this, which is Thomas Keller's fried chicken from his restaurant Ad Hoc in Yountville. I've been in California for several days, visiting a dear friend and celebrating another's 30th birthday.

I'm in a bit of a fried chicken fog, but I'll be back with far more very, very soon. In the meantime, get your holiday shopping done and leave a comment or two letting me know how your meal planning is coming along. I'm really feeling fancy latkes this year, and can't wait for my annual sticky toffee pudding.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gift Guide Number Two: Boozy, wintry picnic.

Does anything say "wintry coziness" better than a boozy, chocolate-filled picnic? The answer, my friends, is no. No, nothing does.

When I was thinking about gift guides for this year, it occurred to me that one of my very favorite things to do in winter is enjoy a chilly-as-you-can-stand outdoor meal, one spiked by bourbon, powered by vintage plaid and fueled by chocolate and cheese. You might want to bring a baguette along as well, but, let's face it - you need to buy that locally.

And don't forget to fill the thermos with the best homemade hot chocolate in the world. You won't regret it.

Without further ado, I present part two of 2011's giftiness, complete with blanket, booze and, well, cheese.

Clockwise from top left: Vintage wool blanket ($50), Churchill flask ($25), Vintage thermos ($12), Vosges caramel marshmallows ($27), Tuthilltown's Baby Bourbon whiskey ($50), Pierre Roger cheese ($30).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Now that's what I call breakfast.

Prune's butter-crumbed eggs with stewed chickpeas might just be the best breakfast I've had since my birthday migas in Austin. The crunchy coating on the runny egg adds a dash of textural contrast to the largely soft meal, and the preserved lemon on top of the Moroccan-spiced chickpeas is just...magic.

And if you're not veggie, you simply must have a side of the lamb sausage. No ifs, ands or buts allowed. No, sirree.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's tradition.

Last year, on the lookout for a way to bring brussels sprouts into the Thanksgiving meal (we've always been more of a green bean family), I stumbled across Zak Pelaccio's (he of Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue) recipe for the most obscene sprouts ever conceived. Bascially, you render the fat out of half a pound of bacon, then cook two pounds of sprouts in it - oh, and then you add heavy cream and good maple syrup, just in case you were worried that the recipe wasn't quite festive enough.

I know.

I tested the recipe first on a few willing victims at Thanksgiving, then pulled it out again for Christmas dinner at Nick & Louisa's in Austin. When this year's feast rolled around, I petitioned my Aunt Cathi, the hostess, for a spot on the menu for these little balls of goodness. Permission was granted, and the sprouts rode again.

I've tweaked the original a bit; Pelaccio added chestnuts to his, but since chestnuts aren't my most favorite nut - and are, in fact, a pain in the ass to roast and peel - I've left them out. As you all know, I like a bit of acid and heat with my rich flavors, so I've added a bit of red pepper for kick.

Need I say that they've been requested for the upcoming Christmas feast? I'll say it any case: these will be appearing on my table at least one more time in 2011, and I think you should give them a try as well.

Queenie's Holiday Sprouts
Adapted from Zak Pelaccio

1/2 pound applewood bacon, cut into 1/4 inch batons
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
Sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme
1 tsp. dried red pepper
3/4 cup cream
Scant 1/4 cup good maple syrup
Juice of half a lemon

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, render the fat out of the bacon until it is nearly crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, but leave the fat in the pan.

Add the sprouts to the pan, season with a generous amount of sea salt, and saute until they begin to get brown, about 4 minutes or so. Add the garlic, thyme and red pepper and saute until the garlic turns golden, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the cream. Cook gently until the cream has reduced by half; it will also turn a golden brown, thanks to the goodness on the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and the reserved bacon to the pan, and cook for a few minutes. Squeeze the lemon over the sprouts. Taste for seasoning (add more salt and red pepper as needed) and serve.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gift Guide Number One: Brights.

I'm kicking off this season's gift guide series with a bang: a collection of the most brightly colored bits and bobs on offer. See, in the dreary doldrums of winter in the Northeast (which follow hot on the heels of the holiday season), everyone needs a little cheering up. For some, this comes in the form of one of those vitamin D sun lamps; for me, it comes in a jazzy iPhone case and bright pink lamps.

People tend to think of bright colors as a girlie thing, but I happen to think that men could use a little neon in their life as well. Maybe help him start small, with a neon pen or two, or introduce a bright yellow Baggu into the grocery shopping rotation.

Up next, books galore!

The gifts, clockwise from top left: Neon enamel pens ($20 each), chevron iPhone case ($39.99), Baggu bag ($8), Dents suede gloves ($31.45), table lamp ($150.70), Swarovski beaded friendship bracelets ($65 each).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Queenie's Treasury, sort of.

Hey, cats and kittens! Just wanted to let you know that my gift guides for the 2011 holiday season will be coming your way this week. I've got three installments this time around - brights for those of you craving summer, books for those of you who want nothing more than to curl up with a good one, and the makings of the best boozy, cold-weather picnic ever.

Get ready, because here comes fun! (If, by fun, you mean holiday shopping ideas. Because that's what I mean.)

And, if you simply must have it, Oscar's blinky nose can be found here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On hand.

Sometimes I think there's nothing in the house for breakfast, and then I remember that I have eggs, scallions, a tomato and half an avocado. What's better than that?

Answer: the Sriracha I squirted all over it after I snapped this photo.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spicing it up.

I've always really wanted to love pumpkin bread. In theory, it should be an easy thing for me to do. I'm a big fan of the pound cake/quick bread genre, and I really love pumpkin-spiked baked goods, particularly scones and pie. It should be an easy sell. But, in my experience, most recipes for pumpkin bread result in overly-sweet, overly-oily, cloying messes of a loaf.

This year, I decided to take charge of the pumpkin loaf. No longer would I be a slave to such sub-par use of one of nature's most delicious ingredients. It was time for a revolution.

As a starting point, I used this recipe from Bon Appétit. I'd tried it before, and been pleased with the texture, but disappointed in the flavor. It was too sweet and not nearly spicy enough. After all, what is the point of baking with pumpkin if you're not going to exercise a moderately heavy hand with the ginger, cloves and cinnamon? What is autumn if not an excuse to clear out the spice cabinet?

And so I got to work. Out went one of the three cups of sugar, and, for good measure, I swapped one of the remaining two for half a cup each of dark and light brown sugar. After all, pumpkin and molasses (the "brown" in brown sugar) play pretty well together. In went extra cinnamon and cloves, freshly grated nutmeg stood in for the powdered stuff, and ginger was added to the mix.

The result is a pumpkin loaf that - I think - successfully bridges the gap between pumpkin bread and gingerbread. It's spicy and just a bit sweet, moist and fragrant. It made my apartment smell heavenly for days, and if you make it in these adorable little mini loaf pans, it just might be the best host or hostess gift the holiday season ever saw. Except for a bottle of bourbon.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Butter for greasing the pans
3 cups all purpose flour, plus a bit for flouring the pans
2 tsp. ground cloves
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can of pure, pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour two standard, 9x5x3 inch size (or four mini) loaf pans. If using mini loaf pans, place them on a cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, spices, baking soda and baking powder. Stir the salt in with a fork. In another large bowl, mix together the sugars and oils, then add the eggs, pumpkin and vanilla. If you have any lumps from the brown sugars, use a large whisk to help dissolve them into the mixture.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in two additions, mixing well with a spatula or wooden spoon after each. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, then place in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the cakes comes out clean - about an hour for mini loaves, and 70 minutes for the larger loaves. I'd also recommend rotating the loaves about halfway through baking - spinning them front to back and switching baking racks, if you're using two.

Cool in the pans for about 30 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges of the loaves. Invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Eat immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to four days.

Makes two standard loaves or four mini loaves.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Making it work.

As a half-Jewish girl growing up in the greater New York City area, I ate a lot of Chinese food. Correction: still eat a lot of Chinese food. Some of this is the more authentic dishes to be found mostly in Flushing and Chinatown; most of it is the gleefully Americanized stuff available all over the city, able to summoned with the briefest of phone calls.

Among my lifelong favorites from the latter category are cold sesame noodles. The peanut-y sauce, the chewy noodles, the thinly sliced cucumber and scallions - I love it all. They make an especially great canvas for hot sauce, which only makes them better in my eyes.

But since even I can't justify ordering in Chinese every night, I needed to find a way to satisfy my sesame noodle cravings at a moment's notice. The result? An actually somewhat nutritious version that substitutes julienned squash for the noodles and has a bit of yogurt in the sauce to add heft (and, incidentally, protein). The classic hooks are still there, though - peanut butter, sesame oil, scallions and cucumber all make an appearance. And though it's not often found in Chinese food, I added some fish sauce for funk and awesomeness.

Authentic? No. Tasty? I sure think so. Easy? Empirically so.

Queenie's Sesame "Noodles"

1 large yellow squash or two medium zucchini
2 tbs. Greek yogurt
1 tbs. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1/4 tsp. Sriracha, plus extra for garnish
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Using a mandoline or a julienne peeler, peel the squash (except for the seeds at the core) into long strips. Place in a mesh sieve and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. Toss to distribute the salt evenly, then set aside while you prep the sauce.

Combine all remaining ingredients except the scallions, cucumber and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Whisk together with a fork until you have an even, light brown, creamy sauce with no lumps.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to the boil. Add the squash to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Remove with tongs and place back in the sieve to drain a bit.

Place the drained squash into a large bowl. Add the cucumber and 2/3 of the scallions, followed by a couple spoonfuls of the sauce. Using tongs, toss the "noodles" with the sauce and vegetables until well-combined, adding more sauce until it's as saucy as you want it. Using the tongs, transfer to a small bowl for eating. (You'll want to use tongs, because you'll have a bit of watery sauce left over at the bottom of the mixing bowl.)

Garnish with the remaining scallions, sesame seeds and a bit of Sriracha. Eat immediately.

Serves one, generously.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Austin, Texas. Monday, October 3.

Go to Justine's. Order the salade de crevettes and the ratatouille. Thank me later.

Monday, October 31, 2011

In which I finally get it.

As is clear from many an earlier post, I love barbecue. My visits to Austin have never failed to include some example of the form, and for that, I am grateful. But it was only on my most recent visit that I've finally come to understand the obsession with barbecued brisket.

The brisket at Franklin Barbecue (widely believed to be the best in Texas, and therefore the world - this being Texas and all) helped me see the light. It's unbelievably tender, and the spicy crust is actually spicy and crusty. Unlike so many other briskets, the meat chunks off, as opposed to coming apart in anemic strings. It was, for me, a revelation.

And for those of you who insist your barbecue come with something tasty alongside (I am among your number, to be sure.), I should say: get a double order of the coleslaw. It's creamy and light. The barbecue sauces served alongside (one vinegary, one molasses-y, one coffee-y) are marvelous, as are the all-you-can-take vats of pickles and onions.

A visit to Franklin's is a time commitment, and occasionally a gamble. We waited in line for an hour, and they ran out of food by 1 PM. But it's well worth the effort. You will be rewarded with the best brisket of your life, and with some pretty darn tasty sausage, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Upon arrival.

I spent my first afternoon in Austin like this.

But before I lounged by the pool, I needed a bit of fuel. Nick, Louisa and I headed to 24 Diner (Home of the chicken and waffles Nick ordered back in March, remember?), where I ordered their veggie burger. It. Was. Awesome. Full of beets for a great texture and topped with arugula, roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and an egg.

Highly recommended.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Going Momofuku.

My mom was in town last week, so my sister-in-law Miriam and I decided that she needed to experience dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Turns out, this was an excellent call.

The great thing about the Noodle Bar is that they feature a wide array of seasonal, rotating dishes alongside their greatest hits (pork and mushroom buns, pork ramen, spicy cold noodles with sausage). This time of year, that means both Brussels sprouts and tomatoes. Glorious, right?

We started with the tomato and avocado salad, which ended up having cucumbers, too. I was pretty darn excited. The salad was creamy and fresh and just a wonderful bowl full of early autumn.

Next up, shrimp buns. I was a bit nervous about these, with, it turns out, no reason to be. They were amazing. The shrimp were perfect specimens - impossibly plump and sweet - pressed gently into a patty, bound with something delicious and unidentifiable. The patties were made on the griddle, I think, and arrived, piping hot, tucked into their yeasty buns and topped with a spicy mayonnaise and some iceberg lettuce. Slam dunk.

The Brussels sprouts with sausage were delightfully cabbagey - just a bit stinky and beautifully set off by the sausage. Should have been served with a spoon, though, the better to sip up the sprout-y broth. Apples brought a little sweetness to the party, and some puffed grain (they reminded me of Corn Pops, but savory) added crunch.

And, of course, there were noodles. Spicy cold noodles with spinach, sausage and candied cashews. You need the cashews to deal with the spiciness, trust. And chicken ramen, which comes in the very richest chicken broth I have ever tasted in my life. Ever.

Thanks for dinner, Mom - and you're welcome.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sheepishly yours.

Hello, my dear, darling, wonderful readers! I know there's been quite a bit of radio silence around these parts of late, and I heartily apologize. It's been a busy summer/early autumn in Queenie land, and I'm just now back from a ten-day trip to one of my favorite places - Austin, Texas.

There's lots to report on (barbecue, a homemade Thai feast), but for now, just enjoy these adorable pictures of dogs.

Back soon with lots more, I promise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ringing out the summer.

My friend Richard is an all-around fabulous person. He lives a glittering life, full of fashion and fundraising and other sparkly things. He also, as it happens, makes a mean corn salad.

When we headed to Abby & Jason's apartment for dinner a few weeks ago (Abby is Richard's sister; Jason is my cousin.), I contributed a peach-blueberry pie, and Richard brought this incredible salad. It was so simple, but so good. He mixed together raw, sweet corn, red onion, feta, avocado and - though he left a bit out of mine, knowing how I feel about it - cilantro.

I couldn't believe how creamy and salty and sweet the whole thing was. It went beautifully with the steak and potatoes Abby and Jason served, and it was just such a perfect dish for the end of summer. You know how it is - we're coming to the end of the bounty of ridiculously delicious summer produce, and you just want as much of it as you can get.

The version I made at home featured basil instead of cilantro (obviously), and mascarpone instead of feta, since that was what I had. I haven't written up a recipe for it yet - though hopefully I'll be able to soon: I have two precious ears of local New York corn waiting in the fridge.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Easy does it.

Sometimes, you just need a really simple salad. Last week was just such a time. I was overwhelmed at work, busy and home, and generally a bit wiped out. Cooking anything with a measure of complexity was simply beyond my means, and so I turned to one of the simplest standbys I know.

Sliced tomatoes (heirloom or otherwise; just make sure they're tasty and not bland), sliced red onion, torn basil, good balsamic vinegar (it should be a bit syrupy and rich and a bit sweet, not runny and tangy) and sea salt.

It satisfies the tummy and the soul.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mixed feelings.

Nick, Louisa and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at The Breslin last Friday. The coffee was stupendous, the baked eggs with tomato and chorizo simply glorious, and the service, frankly, lacking. At a restaurant of The Breslin's quality, I shouldn't have to wait ten minutes for sugar for my coffee.

But, man, what good coffee it is. Love you, Stumptown.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A decade.

Ten years ago today, I moved to New York City. My first apartment was on a slightly desolate block of the Upper West Side. Today, there's a Whole Foods a block away, and four high rises have gone up within a two-block radius. Times, you could say, have changed.

I've spent my entire adult life here in Manhattan, and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. My first few weeks were, obviously, colored by the September 11th attacks. I didn't even have my cable hooked up yet and wasn't due to start work for another week, so I spent the day curled up in my hallway listening to the radio. When I left to walk 20 blocks downtown to Caroline's apartment for company, cable and dinner, I passed Brooke Shields on the street.

That's New York, you know? The gritty reality crossed with the glamour of art and, in this case, celebrity - writ large.

My first forays into grown-up cooking were, to say the least, less than exciting. There were many grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a trick I learned from my slightly older and much wiser roommate), a lot of bottled marinara sauce, and tons of macaroni and cheese. But always a green salad. I've always been addicted to vegetables.

I spent my money at the bars and skimped on my food budget. A fancy night out was dinner at Big Nick's, an all-night pizza and burger joint on Broadway. I came home most nights by way of the local pizza place, slice in hand. I'd leave it in the oven to keep warm, hop in the shower to get rid of the bar smell (those were the days before the smoking ban, when I'd have to hang my coat on the fire escape overnight to air out the cigarette fumes), then eat the cheesy, greasy goodness while watching a movie on my hand-me-down sofa.

Today, I drink booze with flavor (bourbon or gin, not vodka), the dinners are nicer and the nights (mostly) earlier. The produce is fancier and more local, and the apartment a bit more pulled together. But the joy I feel every time I see the New York skyline, the rush I get every morning when I walk out the door, the satisfaction I take in having made it in this most insane and exciting and glorious of cities - that hasn't changed one little bit.

Thank you, New York, for raising me so well. I love you. Which is a good thing, because we seem to be stuck with one another.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Braving it.

If you weren't in New York on Sunday, you might not know this,, did it rain. Not pretty, misty rain. Serious, pounding, stay-inside-unless-you-feel-like-getting-soaked rain. It was one of those days that you're pretty sure you'd prefer to spend curled up with a cup of tea and a novel, you know?

But I didn't just curl up with a book - in fact, I had a pretty fantastic afternoon on the town, which started with a lovely brunch at Vandaag. Vandaag, opened its doors about a year ago in the East Village, and is one of my favorite eating spaces in the city. It feels cozy but open - nothing's crowded, but everything is intimate, if that makes any sense.

I've been for dinner, and I've been for cocktails, but this was my first brunch visit. My very favorite thing was the coffee, a pour-over brew of single-origin beans. Delicious - smooth, round and full. The way coffee should always be, but so rarely is.

I ordered the slow-poached eggs, which arrived cooked to oozy-yolk perfection and surrounded by mustard greens, some cherry tomatoes, croutons, a bit of corn, and the best part of all: pickled beets. The beets were sweet and just a bit piquant - and tasted to me as if they'd been tossed with a bit of butter on their way to me. Not a bad idea.

My friend Caroline ordered one of the house specialties: hette bliksem (hot lightning). A cast-iron crock arrived bearing the dish, which was made up of crispy potatoes and bacon tossed with a stroop syrup. (You know the filling in a stroopwafel cookie? That stuff.) Except that this syrup had a spicy kick to it. So it was a big ol' bowl of potatoes and bacon coated with spicy caramel. Crazy delicious and interesting, but perhaps better as a shared side than a main course.

I can't wait to go back and try the pork belly and scrambled eggs, or the other coffees. And since it's a straight shot down the east side, I don't think I'll have to wait too long.
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