Stay tuned, stay hungry, and go cook something already!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

10 Things I Learned About New York City

As my first summer back home in NYC comes to a close, I would like to share some of the things I have learned about cooking, eating, surviving city life, and public transportation:
  1. Never leave the apartment without CCGK. Which stands for Cash, Metro Card (which I still refer to as my bus pass), Four Pairs of Glasses (long story), and the Keys to a variety of apartments I have access to. I also carry a bottle of water, umbrella, cotton bandana, bandaids, phone and charger (I seem to only get one hour per charge) and lipstick (I'm trying to be fancy).
  2. The official MTA app is the bomb, and works in all stations and on the train so I always know where I am. Between that, and the Google lady in my phone who tells me when to turn and creates my travel routes, I am now invincible.
  3. The East Village is still the best place to eat cheap and get great food. Thai, Japanese, Korean, weird steamed buns with hipster filling, bubble tea, dingy bars, Pommes Frites with a choice of 30 sauces, and Ukrainian volume eating, East Village has it all!
  4. Brooklyn is the coolest borough ever. Not just WillyB, which is now like a caricature of its own self-centered, hipster self. I have now discovered and fallen in love with Prospect park, Park Slope and even Bushwick. Prospect Park is the park of the people and is enjoyed by all the kids in the play fountains, the folks strolling, riders on horseback, runners, bikers, wedding guests, and squirrels. The free and diverse Celebrate Brooklyn Festival (which just ended) was amazing and I went to most of the concerts. I saw Ornette Coleman, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Nickel Creek, to name a few.
  5. In terms of coins, New Yorkers have no idea what to do with them. Everyone I know has overflowing full jars of coinage (are all my friends hoarders?), taking up valuable floor space. I think I could start a business lugging the full dusty jars down to a bank and exchanging it for real money.
  6. Shopping locally has never died in the city, but now it’s even better. Every neighborhood has a small farmer’s market and they are not expensive. The other day I bought beautiful beets, radishes, and sunflowers from a delightful farm stand set up in front of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. There is a small urban farm in Brooklyn run by teenagers and they were at the stand proudly selling their harvest.
  7. Though I occasionally envision myself in fab high heel shoes and a huge designer handbag frolicking in a Sex in the City remake set in the meatpacking district, in reality, there is no reason to ever wear anything other then Nikes and carry a backpack.
  8. I am all about “free” and this summer I have discovered some great new spots. Best new place to wander is without a doubt is the High Line. Fills my need for two of my favorite things: 1) fantastic gardens full of flowers, grasses, shade trees, and even a water feature to cool your toes, and 2) people watching. The other day I watched a photo shoot with what I can only describe as a hooker taking head shots (pun intended).
  9. Cooking at sea level is a joy. All recipes work, cakes rise properly, cookies are not flat, rice and beans cook with ease, and when you go to a restaurant your food comes out and stays hot (which is how I burnt my mouth twice).
  10. Ice coffee is a NYC thing. Occasionally I even indulge. The secret to good ice coffee is don’t add hot coffee to ice, start with cold coffee. I know that seems obvious, but when I tried to get ice coffee in the Southwest it was always week and tepid. Here’s an old Martha Stewart tip: save your extra coffee or make an extra pot and then make ice cubes out of it so no dilution occurs. You are drinking it for a reason!
And finally, even though NYC is a tough place to live, there is no other place like it. The people are fascinating, the bagels are amazing, there really is nothing you can’t get or go to here, I make new discoveries ever day, and I could not have moved here without the help of my friends.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weekend in Cape May, New Jersey

Local Seafood, great friends! A few weeks ago, my dear friend Diane invited me to spend a lovely weekend at her family cottage in Cape May. I had never really been there before (aside from a brief, poorly planned honeymoon in February, 20 years ago when I was young and naïve). Cape May is a charming city and is actually considered the country’s oldest seaside resort. It truly feels like a step back in time. It has a family vibe, safe quiet streets, is super bike-friendly, and has a nice, slow pace. There are great beaches, big, beautiful Victorian houses, gorgeous gardens, deep history, and artsy and upscale shops. It is located on the southernmost point of New Jersey on the Cape May Peninsula. The city is also a big draw for nature lovers and birdwatchers due to its wetlands and wildlife refuges. Personally, I was there for the seafood, and the great company.


There were many great food moments, from visiting an amazing local fish store and grilling at home, to dinner at a great local places. Louisa’s Cafe, on Jackson Street just above Washington Street Mall, served skillfully cooked fish and to-die-for lemon cake among other yummy choices. One of my favorite meals was breakfast at Macedonia Baptist Church located at corner of Lafayette and Franklin Streets. Breakfast is served from 8:00 to 10:00 am on Sundays. It's prepared in the church basement with lots of love — eggs cooked to your exact specifications, perfect round and evenly browned light and delicious pancakes, bacon, sausage or grits, coffee and juice and all for $7.00 a person.

We also visited a real treasure called Elfin Farm Market on Sunset Blvd and they open at 10:00 am on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Two beautiful young woman sell an ever-changing assortment of homemade breads from their little shed on the side of the road in front of the farm they inherited from a grandparent. All baking is done the night before in their farmhouse kitchen. They also sell produce which you buy and pay for on the honor system. The line forms an hour before they open and they sell out every day.

And finally I want to tell you about the Cape May Seafood Festival which happened to be taking place the weekend of my visit. The sponsors described it in their literature thus:
"Join us for the inaugural Cape May Seafood Festival, highlighting the immense economic and food-supply contributions of Cape May's commercial and recreational fishing industry. Sample local seafood; learn about seafood harvesting and distribution, aquaculture, and sustainability; and enjoy live entertainment."
The food was local, contributed below-cost from four local fisheries, cooked by a local caterer in trucks parked on the street, served by volunteers from local schools and charities, and crazy delicious. They prepared enough food for 10,000 people and used it all. They made 2000 crab cakes alone. For $10.00, I got a crab cake sandwich on a potato bread roll, a slice of lemon, an ear of Jersey corn, french fries (the weak point of the meal) a little salad, and some rather delicious locally produced Tartar sauce. It was extremely well-organized with lots of tables and chairs to sit and eat under long white tents. There was also live music, cooking demos, and information booths about food and the environment sponsored by groups like the Nature Conservancy, and local preservation societies. Please enjoy the photos, and if you are anywhere on the East Coast, consider spending some time in Cape May.

Anyone have any Jersey Shore stories to share? Comments are open!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

King Arthur Flour presents the one and only Susan Purdy!

King Arthur Flour is hosting Food Writing with Susan Purdy at their Baking Education Center in Vermont
Join our pal Susan G. Purdy, prize-winning cookbook author, culinary journalist, and CSCA seminar teacher, for a three-day interactive adventure through the world of food writing and publishing. Explore all types of writing from recipes to reviews, memoirs to magazines, including cookbooks, websites and blogs. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the fine points of creating, analyzing, and selling your words. There will be long and short exercise assignments in class and time for consultation with Purdy.
Monday-Wednesday, August 11-13, 9 am to 4 pm Monday & Tuesday, 9 to noon $475
Lunch included
Limited seats available, click here for the course calendar, and to sign up!

For anyone who has ever taken a class with Susan in Santa Fe, you know what a great opportunity this is!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Welcome to the real-deal world of bagel baking

Terrace Bagels, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! In honor of Independence Day, I'm celebrating my independence from Santa Fe's lack of proper bagels.

One of the best parts of returning to NYC is of course, the bread. Many of the old-time bakeries have disappeared, but the ones that remain are treasures. I recently discovered this bagel bakery and appetizing store around the corner from my friend George Ryan's apartment (where his family has been living for the past 60 years — when you get a good apartment in the city you do not give it up!). On George's recommendation I went over to Terrace Bagels. The bins were all full and I asked which one was hot, expecting the usual answer which is "none" and he said the whole wheat everything, so that's what I had with a schmear of chive cream cheese. I sat down on the sidewalk to enjoy. It was one of the best bagels I have ever had! The moment I finished (which was about 1 1/2 minutes later) I walked back in and said "I would like to talk to the man who makes the bagels." I was then introduced to Louis Thompson, the owner, who welcomed me into the kitchen and was happy to answer my questions and let me photograph the process. I went in twice to photograph the process: at night to watch the rolling process; and in the morning to watch the baking process.

Some of the questions I asked Louis:
  • What kind of flour do you use?
    Pillsbury high gluten flour, "the best and most expensive of flours."
  • Do you add anything to the water when you boil the bagels and how long do you boil them?
    Just NYC tap water, and you boil them till they float and they look done.
  • What do you use for sweetener in the bagels?
    Malt barley syrup, no sugar.
  • How hot is your oven and how long do they bake?
    500 degrees about 12 minutes in a large oven with rotating shelves, it varies do to the weather and humidity.
  • What do you bake them on?
    We bake them on thin metal racks covered with burlap soaked in water for the first half, then we turn them directly on to the metal shelves in the oven and bake the other side. We then pick them up onto wood peels and dump them into milk cartons.
  • How do you proof them?
    When they proof they let out moisture and form a skin. We roll the dough into the bagel shape and refrigerate them overnight, we then bake more throughout the day.
  • What are you working on next?
    Next project, gluten-free bagels!

Enjoy the Photos!

Rolling bagels

Lots of rolled bagels!

Mixing the dough

The bagels go into the oven

Milk crates full of finished bagels

Water-soaked, burlap-lined, metal oven racks

Bagels in boiling water

Scooping bagels out of the water