Thursday, May 29, 2008

Come on, cupcake

We do a lot of things in public. At least I know I do. Public urination is a favorite pastime for many. Tonight I ate in a university cafeteria – pretty public (read: vomitorium). The French and Italians love public displays of affection. Public bathrooms are venues for all sorts of public activities.

But eating? Why is it so hard to pick up a tiny cupcake and eat it in front of your coworkers? At a small farewell gathering at work today (at a travel magazine – see, it all comes together), an editor passed tiny cupcakes around. The nearly 20-strong party ate barely half of the cupcakes. I shamelessly ate two. Daring, I know.

My coworker and I tried pushing them onto everyone, but people declined.

Fatty fear, I call it. Although it was entirely unwarranted by the crowd of young, thin professionals. One cupcake-less individual whispered something about her swelling derriere. Though my heart was all that swelled.

What have we come to that we can’t enjoy cupcakes?

In French culture, food is revered, honored, celebrated. I worked at La Maison Française of NYU, and at events with cheese, wine, bread, and desserts, rare was the day that anything of quality remained. Coworkers seemingly encouraged each other to indulge. Italians, in my experience, don’t know how function unless there is food present. And what tourist is ashamed of buying a hot dog off the streets of New York?

American culture is so silly. Just eat the cupcake. You think you’ll be wearing larger pant size after, but I guarantee you’ll only be wearing a smile!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Priceless Hunger


Apparently there’s a food crisis. Who knew? Living in New York City, it’s impossible to spend a day without passing a restaurant, a supermarket a street vendor, or a food wrapper wafting gently in the wind like some forgotten feather from an over-priced chicken.

I’m spoiled, I know.

But it’s not like I go out eating steak dinners every night. Post-college life (and the loans repayments that come with it) has proven to be the best thing for my waistline since I started listening to the Carpenters’ holiday album.

Her voice just makes me want to dance!

But here I am, trying to figure out how to live in New York without spending money on food. It’s not easy, but let me tell you, it can happen.

At a Memorial Day BBQ this past Monday, during a free meal (that’s one!) I explained to Suzy’s family the fine art of budget food shopping. Her aunt still cannot believe that Suzy, Lindsay (character development to come) and I only spent $4 on groceries. How did we do it? Don't ask Rachel Ray. Stick with us.

- Staying at the coffee shop around the corner until closing means free sandwiches and bread that would otherwise be trashed
- Reading the paper at the supermarket and buying 5lbs of rice for $1.99 is clever
- Buying the most nutrient rich food like eggs and apples, which are notoriously inexpensive
- We cheated. Lindsay has a meal plan and we visited the dining hall and stole a lot of fruit.

Still, the notion of eating cheaply is nothing new to someone who hasn’t bought a pair of pants at regular price in 8 years.

And besides, it’s summertime. Bring on the bathing suits!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Had I known...

On a recent trip to Germany with with the sassy pants to the right (the girl, not the sanwiches) , I rediscovered one of my favorite street foods -- the kebab. I first met the Middle Eastern sandwich in Paris, a stone’s throw from the St. Michel fountain.

A generous helping of chicken or lamb, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and a white sauce that only the gods could produce are all folded into a grilled pita or roll. And at 3-4 euros a piece, how could I go wrong? We ate them religiously.

Little did we know how dangerous this veneration was. While the kebab filled my stomach, sometimes twice a day, it was also filling my arteries, according to the UK's Guardian. I guess I’m not so sad that New York kebabs are anything like the European cousins. The fewer I eat, the fewer transfats that I have to put me in an early grave.

Moderation, of course, is key. But after a night on the town, a house salad or a fruit cup is hardly what anyone is craving!

More to come on the kebab affair…

When life gives you lemons...

Oh to have a kitchen all to myself! What bliss. I mean, obviously I’ve cooked at college before, but it’s been so long since I’ve been able to let loose without feeling guilty about wasting my meal plan.

Tonight, my sassy pants friend Suzy and I shacked up in our boss’s apartment to house sit, but Suzy did most of the sitting. I took to the kitchen. In this typically New York kitchen, armed with limited counter space, some expired bread crumbs, and a spirit to exceed, I began.

Chicken? Potatoes? Olive oil? This wasn’t promising. I smelled fried chicken and roasted potatoes if we were lucky. Boooring. Suzy is too sassy for that. So I got creative. Looking at this meager kitchen with its basic (read: scant and expired) ingredients, I had to figure out how to make something worthy of Suzy’s taste buds.

Garlic and balsamic vinegar on the chicken? Check. I doused the chicken with the sweet liquid and aromatic herb and tossed in the oven, leaving it lusciously moist. Sautéed onions in olive oil with brown sugar topped off the chicken. I tossed them in a pan and drizzled the mixture over the chicken and broiled it in the oven. The brown sugar and the onions’ natural sweetness complimented the bite of the balsamic vinegar

Mashed potatoes with garlic powder and a healthy dose of some aged (read: sell by January 2008) parmesan cheese? Check. I mashed them with a little butter and E.V.O.O. (oh Rachel…) and left out the milk or sour cream. Why? Because we didn’t have any. But they were smooth but hearty, and with a little bit of crispy bacon thrown in, well, who can go wrong?

While watching Sex and the City and enjoying the fruits of my labor, Miss Sassy Pants came up with the idea for a blog. Rachel Ray started out on public access, and Giada DiLaurentiis started out as a food stylist. A blog is just as good, Suzy insisted. While discussing ideas for recipes and names for my future TV show, we savored the tangy chicken and the potatoes quickly disappeared.

It was simple fare, but we made do with what we had in front of us. And the results were delectable. It just goes to show that it doesn’t take a test kitchen with everything from star fruit to ochre to make a good meal.

A little more counter space wouldn’t hurt, though.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Welcome!

Well, we finally found each other. I know it seemed like we never would, but we're here. Our love for food, different places, and the food in these places has united us at last. Welcome.

And really, I’m doing it all for you. While I could have a Food Network series or New York Times column, I decided instead to blog directly to you, the public. And besides, who can compete with Ina Garten, the sultry Food Network star that haunts my dreams like so many rotund chefs? What a slice.

So each week, I’ll be bringing you my newest concoctions, my most eye-popping discoveries, and my revisits to the familiar food joints that I’ve visited so many times before. After four years of dining hall food at NYU, I’ve been deprived of the culinary gems that New York has to offer. It’s time to take advantage, to ravish this city with my tongue and have the city reciprocate on my palate.

But four years of survival mode in New York and a stint in Paris (the culinary capitals of the world, maybe?) have forced me to learn some tricks in the kitchen. And with a little help from my cater-minded mom, an abundance of raw materials, and a dirty obsession with the Food Network, I’ve learned a thing or two about the wonders of cooking. I make a mean white chocolate cheesecake. I make balsamic vinegar my bitch. And I can make an onion do things that most TV channels won’t air until after 11.

And my travels, though limited, will often serve as the backdrop for my culinary crusades. Wurst in Munich, wine in Provence, fish and chips in London, poutines in Montreal, anything in Italy – I’ve been around the block. From Stockholm and Prague to Texas and Philadelphia, I love to taste the constantly changing local fare from nation to nation. I’ll go anywhere as long as they have kebab sandwiches.

Check in to see where I’ve been, what I’ve eaten, and what I’ve cooked. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two. Maybe you’ll be inspired to pick up a knife and fire up the oven. Or maybe you’ll just be jealous of the fantastically inappropriate way I look at food, restaurants, and travel.