Thursday, May 31, 2012

A not-so-short list.

Earlier today, I found out that a friend of a friend is headed for Austin and in need of some recommendations for the eating and the drinking and such. I've been itching to do a "My Favorite Austin Stuff" post for a while now (You can see all my Austin posts right here.), and so I'm glad to have the kick in the butt. Shall we begin at the beginning? (By which, of course, I mean breakfast tacos.)

Breakfast Tacos
Taco Deli

Austin is easily the breakfast taco capital of the world, and everyone has an opinion. My favorites can be had at Taco Deli, where the Jess Special and Vaquero are tops. My friend Louisa is especially fond of the Otto, and you can't go wrong by combining the chorizo with the Mexican mashed potatoes for one perfect, indulgent start to your morning.

Special mention to The Dirty Sanchez at Torchy's (pictured above), which is my other favorite Austin egg-based taco, though the rest of their menu - save the queso - pales in comparison.

Other Breakfasty Stuff
Go here. Order the migas and a side of sausage. Or the cornmeal pancakes with chocolate chips. (But, actually, just order the migas - and make sure they're of the Spicy Love butter variety.)

Actually, 24Diner is open, well, 24 hours, and serves all meals. I'm partial to their breakfast, though, where I typically order the hash - veggie or non-. Their veggie burger is delicious, too, especially when topped with a fried egg. (Notice a theme?)

Elizabeth Street Café
They serve lunch and dinner here, too - and Louisa assures me that the banh mi rock - but I've only been for breakfast. The menu has French pastries and savory Vietnamese specialties (the sticky rice with ginger sausage is heavenly), and the coffee is out of this world.

Lunch and Dinner
Uchi is possibly my favorite place on Earth to eat right now, for reals. It can be hard to get into, so be prepared to wait for a table. (If you're lucky, you'll wait next to Elijah Wood, like we did last time. And then Dominic Monaghan showed up. Really.) I can't tell you enough times to order at least one piece of the scallop sushi - and the foie gras ngiri isn't to be missed. Sounds odd; tastes amazing.

Uchiko is Uchi's younger sibling, but is just as awesome. They have sushi on the menu here, too, but they feature what they call Japanese farmhouse cooking - things like grilled shishito peppers, crispy brussels sprouts and eggplant tempura. (All of which must be ordered.)

Madam Mam's
Some of the best Thai food I've had, hands down. They particularly excel at grilled meats, so order anything that comes from, well, the grill. Especially if it's served with pickles, lettuce or any kind of sauce. And the special beef curry is to die.

Justine's is at the center of the East Austin explosion, and for good reason. It's a tiny little bungalow with as many tables inside as out, and the food is classic French brasserie - but with good, American-style cocktails alongside. I love the steak, the ratatouille, and the salade de crevettes, with butter lettuce, snap peas, and shrimp, all tossed with a creamy tarragon dressing.

La Condesa
Make sure you order the chicken salad. (The other food is great, too, but the chicken salad is magic.)

Franklin Barbecue
I don't really have anything to say, other than 1) you must go, and 2) get there crazy early, like 10:45 early.

Coffee, Booze, Movies, Ice Cream & Massages
Alamo Drafthouse
When I try to explain how awesome the Alamo is, people never have the reaction I want. So, you should probably just go and see what all the fuss is about. The beer is great, the food is terrible for you and delicious, and you get to watch a movie to boot. Try to go to a special show, like a Sunday brunch musical, or a Princess Bride quote-along. Oh, yes.

They have a few spots around the city, and all feature the Turbo, which is possibly the only frozen coffee drink worth having, ever. It's insane. (When they showed up at the SXSW convention center concession stands this year, I nearly cried with joy.)

Amy's Ice Creams
Amy's is like Cold Stone - all the mix-ins, but with good ice cream, the kind that doesn't coat your mouth with that nasty sticky crud. It's delicious. And the hot fudge is insane. It's worth getting a cup of it on the side.

Midnight Cowboy
This Sixth Street cocktail bar used to be a rub-and-tug joint up until very recently - this winter, to be exact. It's since been power-washed and turned into a teeny, very dark spot for interesting booze. I didn't love all the cocktails, but it's worth a visit just for the atmosphere. Also, you could always just order a Manhattan - I'm sure it would be beautifully made. (You need a reservation, which you can take care of online.)

Milk & Honey
Consistently the best massages of my life. Truly. And way cheaper than comparable treatments in New York. Make a booking if you can squeeze it in; you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cooking the cukes.

When I saw that Bon Appétit's June issue featured a recipe for cucumbers in coconut milk, I immediately texted Louisa about it and told her that I planned to make them over the long weekend, come hell or high water. And, on Monday afternoon, that's just what I did.

I have a deep and abiding love for cucumbers, and while my love for Thai food isn't quite as long-lived, it's no passing affection, either. So, to see the two combined like this? Made my day.

While I think I'll always prefer cucumbers in their raw form, these lightly cooked ones are pretty darn good. And the cool, light melon flavor of the cukes plays gorgeously with the hot chilies, creamy coconut and rich tomatoes. (The bright squeeze of lime and the sharp kick of mint doesn't hurt, either.) I added a dash of fish sauce, and I think it's really the only right thing to do.

The trick is to cook them just enough - but not too much. If you're worried about finding the right balance, slice the cucumbers a bit on the thick side. Underdone is better than overdone - think warm salad instead of unpuréed vichyssoise. But the best way to eat them, in my opinion? Cold from the fridge the next day. Pure, spicy heaven.

Spicy Cucumbers in Coconut Milk
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cups fresh cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Kosher salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 Thai red bird chilies, thinly sliced into rounds
1 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup mixed herbs, chopped (I used 2 parts basil to 1 part mint)
Juice of 1/2 lime

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the cucumber and saute just until beginning to soften. Season with a bit of salt, then add the scallions, tomatoes, garlic and chilies. Cook for another minute or two, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the coconut milk and the fish sauce and cook until the milk begins to turn a bit pink, and the cucumbers are warmed through - about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs and lime juice.

Serve immediately, or chill and serve later as a cold side dish.

Serves two as a side. Maybe three if you don't have a cucumber obsessive in your midst.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Kids, I don't know about you, but I really needed this long weekend. I was sick all week, so I spent Friday night in, sleeping like it was my job.

Then, the fun began. I lolled in Central Park, alternately napping and reading.

I wandered the streets of Nolita, sipping a delicious iced coffee from the new Gasoline Alley.

I spotted a wall decorated with hearts.

I saw Moonrise Kingdom.

I drank some more iced coffee (from Joe, which I think makes the best cold brew in the city).

I got some new freckles.

How did you spend the holiday weekend?

Monday, May 28, 2012

A patriotic breakfast.

Greek yogurt with strawberry-rhubarb compote and fresh berries. Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Memorial Day weekend, my doves! Summer has announced itself in New York with an appropriately warm, overly-humid day, and so I'm spending the afternoon inside with an iced coffee. (And a pot of strawberry-rhubarb compote bubbling on the stove.) While I mop the humidity from my brow, let's take a look at this week's Treasury, shall we?

I was thisclose to ending my subsrciption to Bon Appétit a year or so ago. I was riding out the tail end of the subscription Condé Nast had given me to fill up the issues remaining on my Gourmet tab, and I had been consistently underwhelmed. But then, in late 2011, they hired Adam Rapoport and went through their redesign, and I've been much happier with the magazine ever since. The recipes rarely rise to the level of Gourmet's, but the features have gotten much better - and are beautifully photographed. Case in point: this month's piece on interior designer John Derian, featuring his home in Provincetown. My brother and sister-in-law are in P-Town right now, and I hope they're eating as well as Derian's guests.

I've always been more of an individual cocktail maker than a punch preparer, but this bourbon, strawberry and lime punch from the folks at Prime Meats might just push me along the path to transformation. I'm thinking it's definitely going to need to make an appearance at my brother's 30th birthday festivities in Maine this July, when strawberries will be at their peak in northern New England. Yes, indeed. Fellow guests: prepare yourselves.

Now that Greenmarket season is back in full swing here in New York, I thought it was time to remind you all of the truly awesome blog Lucy's Greenmarket Report. Lucy visits the Union Square Greenmarket pretty much every day it's open, then posts a digest of what's available and what's on the way later in the week. If you're wondering if snap peas will be on hand yet, or if rhubarb is completely played out, Lucy's is the blog to check before heading out to shop for that dinner party.

Friday, May 18, 2012


More evidence that the class of 1997 is the best class ever? Witness, if you will, our cocktail hour on Saturday night. We assembled in the art gallery (where I was reminded of how incredibly sorry I am that I never took any studio art classes in high school), where our classmate, Craig, had arranged for a beer tasting.

Why, you ask? Because Craig (whose last name is Theisen, you should know) is one of the co-founders of Peak Organic Brewery in Portland, Maine. And Peak? They make some pretty awesome beer. (Organic beer, by the way, is organic because of its ingredients. When it comes to brewing, the methodology is akin to that followed by other craft brewers, like Brooklyn and Sam Adams.)

A huge array was available, but my two favorites were the Summer Session Ale, which was a pale gold color and tasted lightly of oranges, and the Pomegranate Wheat, which was a bit sweeter, rounder in the mouth, and altogether too drinkable.

Thanks again for the awesome beer, Craig - you are one talented and generous dude.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


 I didn't make it to the Greenmarket this weekend, busy as I was gallivanting around New England with my fellow members of the class of 1997 - but I spent the week before that with an apartment full of peonies.

Bright pink with bright yellow stamens, and blush pink with hints of burgundy - nothing could be better than a vase of these on every surface.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Basking in the familiar.

Amen Hall, my home for four years.
I took a little walk down memory lane at my 15-year high school reunion this weekend. I went to boarding school in New Hampshire, and the campus is as lush and beautiful as ever.

Ms. Eggers' history classroom in the Academy Building.
Whenever  I return, I am struck anew by how unbelievably lucky I was to attend such a wonderful school, and how impressive the people I spent those four years with were and still are.

The marble steps to Assembly Hall.
On this trip, I was also lucky enough to sample one of the region's classic delights, a frequent late-night snack in every dorm on campus: the chicken finger sub.

Chicken finger sub from Romeo's.
Crispy, piping hot chicken fingers stuffed onto a giant bun, topped with shredded iceberg, chopped tomatoes and, preferably, pickles. I like mine with a side of mayonnaise, too.

After all, it couldn't possibly be all essays, exams and lively intellectual debate.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Food plus feminism equals awesomeness.

I know, I know...I don't write, I don't call, I don't post's been something of an insane week chez Queenie, not least because I've been writing some other stuff that I'm very, very excited/nervous/giddy about.

A couple of months ago, my friends Miya and Elisabeth invited me to contribute to their truly awesome new effort, called The Equals Project. Its goal? To create a space where women come together to share stories, ideas and art, all driven by this incredibly true statement from their inaugural post:
We are more than what we can cook, we are more than what we can create, more than our makeup, our jewelry, our aesthetic tastes. We are people with complex ideas, and conflicting thoughts, who read, travel, discuss, do, and make. We are people who are influenced and inspired by the women who came before us, and we aspire to create something greater than the sum of our parts.
As much as I love sharing my food and travel adventures with you here on Queenie Takes Manhattan - and I truly do - I leapt at the opportunity to join a project that would allow me to think and write about some of the other important aspects of my life.

That said, my regular column will feature food in a big way, but with a twist: it's called The F Words: Food & Feminism, and it's all about getting to know remarkable women through conversations about food and the complex relationship many of us have with the domestic realm.

So, yeah! You should come check it out. And you should stick around, because the other contributors are pretty freaking awesome, too.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


It's that wonderful time of year, when asparagus season overlaps with ramp season, and all is right with the world.

This weekend, I made a variation on this sauteed asparagus dish - I subbed in ramps for the shallots (added the sliced bulbs at the beginning, and the sliced tops along with the chives at the end). I also happened to have some pea shoots, so I spooned the whole lot down on a bed of those. Extra grassy green flavor, FTW!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hello, gorgeous!

It's lilac season! In related news, my apartment smells heavenly.
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