Last Sunday, we hosted a holiday potluck. This has become a tradition of sorts, (see Easter Potluck Post) a collection of old friends and new friends, and piles of food. Our friend from Le Chef’s Blog smoked his own bacon (seriously, who does that?) and baked it into a deep pan of indulgent macaroni and cheese. One friend brought an incredible Arabic savory cheesecake that her mother had made, 2000 miles away. There were the obligatory dips, tortilla soup from an actual Texan, caviar from Russian friends, and a prosciutto-stuffed pork tenderloin. There was also Four Loko, the recently banned caffeinated malt beverage that is reeking havoc on college campuses. (While I did not sample this canned rebel beverage, I do support the ban based on the effect the beverage has on men in their thirties.)
After the party, I watched him collect the abandoned wine glasses, and consolidate the remaining ounces of red wine into one glass. He wiped off the rim of the glass with a paper-towel to remove our friend’s germs, and then proceeded to drink the leftovers. He justified this class act by the conservative defense “so he wouldn’t have to open yet another bottle”.
This was when I realized that my writing vacation needed to end. It is my duty to share party tips like this clever move with the millions of Edible Humor readers. People are out there contemplating holiday entertaining conundrums like:
Q: Should I serve Four Loko at my party?
A: The answer is yes. It will soon be illegal in New York, so carpe diem. Loko is so Holiday 2010.
Q: Is it safe to leave something like brussel sprouts au gratin in the broiler to achieve the coveted lightly toasted topping?
A: The Panko crumbs will go up in 3-inch flames faster than the obligatory pre-Thanksgiving dinner prayer, requiring a good pair of lungs to deliver a gusty blow. If fire is extinguished in a timely manner, you can peel the top layer of blackened crumbs off, to reveal the perfect toasty light brown level originally intended. This is not however part of the actual recipe for some queer reason.
Q: What does a funny gentleman from the South bring to holiday potlucks?
A: Sausage and Cheese Balls, naturally. My comedian friend Syd (who doubles as Clarence) brought these over yesterday. Stand by for the secret recipe. They’re like dog treats for humans.
Q: Someone just drank a Four Loko, smashed the can on his forehead and threw the crunched aluminum remains down the hallway, while two guys in plaid bow-ties watched and laughed. Is this normal?
A: Four Loko is not intended for men in their 30s, because it makes them act like 18-year olds. This is a very dangerous side effect.
Q: If someone is spending the holidays with their significant other for the first time, is it recommended to apply several fake tattoos, wear ripped fishnets and a few spritzes of Electric Youth, and start sentences with “Once when I was pregnant” or “Speaking of 9/11″ or “Once after my mom and I pounded a Four Loko” or “Christmas Eve on Rikers’s is actually quite special” or “these are better than the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster!” et cetera?
A: While this is a very tempting idea to “punk” your significant other while making a first impression on his entire extended family, this is a very delicate conundrum. Perhaps I will test the theory and report back.
For your questions regarding holiday entertaining, please submit via the contact tab above. My mother is exempt from this privilege.
The allure of the underground supperclub or the pop-up restaurant, is that it’s a limited-time only experience. The window of opportunity is small, you must be on the ball and in-the-know to take advantage of such occasions.
Which is probably why they rarely receive poor reviews.
Tonight was opening night of The Hunger, the second run for some chick from Top Chef and a few other guys I haven’t heard of. (Maybe you have? Camille Becerra, Alan Philips and Josh Yames?) The Hunger bills itself as a “series of themed restaurant concepts in New York and other sophisticated culinary destinations.”
Sorry Camille and other rando dudes….but “sophistication” isn’t quite the correct choice of words.
Let’s start with the positive. The event was held at the Soho Grande Hotel, in a narrow slice of faux-grass earth off their ground-floor outdoor bar. The weather was perfect, and the dueling long tables facilitated conversation amongst strangers. (We met a Jean Georges alum and an architect)
The set menu began with a gazpacho verde, farm salad, provaleta (basically fried provolone) and bread. The ho-hum gazpacho served it’s purpose as “something to eat immediately because I’m starving”…but wasn’t memorable. The salad was okay….the fried cheese was, of course awesome and I could eat an entire wheel-barrow full of it.
Moving on, we were served side items: charred tomatoes with basil, potatoes with roasted lemon, arugula and almonds, and grilled summer squash with parmiagiano reggiano and mint. These all sound good on paper…but were quite boring on the plate. And, note to self: if you’re serving potatoes and roasted lemon…make sure the potatoes are not yellow and therefor providing camoflouge for the lemons. Because eating a roasted lemon with its charred bitter rind is a great way to give your palette the finger for the rest of the meal.
A man with a large plate of meat came around, serving everyone portions of skirt steak, shell steak, pork loin and homemade chorizo. With jars of chimichurri sauce and peach chipotle on the table…this was the highlight. My meat was cooked medium rare and tender, while my homey across the table got the raw end of the deal with small end pieces. The natural way of a backyard bbq. I can’t, and won’t complain about the meat…considering I’m complaining about everything else.
Did I mention they “ran out of sangria” within the first 15 minutes of our arrival? Um, excuse me? Who was afraid of having “left-over sangria”? Someone fire that nerd.
The high point of the grilled meats were suddenly extinguished, with an utterly disgusting dessert. Grilled oranges and rosemary with yogurt. It’s August…there are about 29 fruits in season and you pick oranges? And you grill them? Seriously, someone decided to GRILL and OUT OF SEASON FRUIT completely bereft of sugar or honey, tossed on a few tablespoons of warm yogurt?
WASTE. OF. MONEY. Great atmosphere, fun way to meet people…but this dinner totally sucked. Don’t go. Now I don’t feel bad for leaving my camera at home. You’re not missing anything.
Deep in the Lower East Side, south of the puking hipsters and Lady Gaga clogging restaurants with her entourage…but just North of the city’s most pungent neighborhood (also famous for its cheap buses to Boston), lies an intersection of dopeness. I’m talking about Broome and Ludlow, the home of a handful of bars, restaurants and cafes that feel like a downtown secret.
Last week, friends and newlyweds Drew & Morgan introduced me to a tiny little Mexican restaurant. La Barra Cevicheria denies any specific regional homage, but the seafood-heavy menu feels beachy. It was a 95-degree night, and the air conditioning was like a lazy employee who couldn’t keep up. But something about eating Mexican food while sweating off your eyeliner and downing Pacifico Micheladas seems natural and authentic. Like the Spring Break you imagined before reality arrived with Pizza Hut in Acapulco.
La Barra Cevicheria is small and cramped (frankly not the best destination for obese diners). You will rub knees, elbows, and maybe hips depending on how things go. The music was a well-curated collection of everyone who has graced the stage of the Bowery Ballroom in the past year.
Water and Micheladas are served in tall plastic cups, the kind that normally say Coca-Cola on the side and could withstand a firing range. The daily sangria, served in Ball glass jars, seem about 4 ounces too light.
The menu features a variety of ceviches, tostadas, tacos, tamales and empanadas. With 44 small plates to choose from, the indecisiveness of the overwhelmed finds direction with the Sharing Menus.
I will never order the sharing menu again, and now you don’t have to. Go to La Barra on a date, or with a few friends. Don’t bring your parents, or your boss, or an obese person.
1. Start with the guacamole, and tell them exactly how you like it (super hot with extra lime and cilantro).
2. Move on to the ceviche. While the lobster ceviche is good, it’s not really ceviche, but just a 1/4 of tail. The mixed ceviche was fantastic, and the aguachile looks like a solid choice as well. The leftover tortilla chips from your guac come in handy here. (They’re homemade and awesome)
3. Tostada time. Definitely order the tuna and the crab, and every other option. Order and reorder.
4. Do not order a salad. If you take a date who orders a salad then text your friends from the bathroom and ditch out ASAP. The tacos are okay, highlights being the lobster and the steak.
5. After a meal laced with jalepenos you’ll probably crave something, but go somewhere else.
This little Mexican resto is great at a few things, but over ambitiously tries to take on too much. With intel on what to order and what to avoid, La Barra is a great little hole in the wall for a small crew of rowdy LES dining.
As a side note, I mentioned that Drew and Morgan were newlyweds only to share a hilarious little ditty from their June wedding. It was a Jewish wedding outside of New York, and as the happy couple ceremoniously cut their cake in front of 300+ guests, the lead singer of the hired Motown band screeched “RED VELVET?! RED VELVET?! RED VELVET NOW THAT’S A BLACK CAKE! BLACK PEOPLE LOVE RED VELVET”. Needless to say, this moment was met with uncomfortable sideways glances and confusion. I wasn’t aware cake flavors were preferred by some races over others, (other than the Asian affection towards red beans), but I may have to gather a multi-racial group for a taste test. What will the Pacific Islanders go for?
A few weeks ago, a foodie website that I love hosted a recipe contest that I couldn’t resist. Food52 is a fabulous source for recipes, and interaction with fellow food-nerds. Amanda and Merrill, the ladies behind the genius, are not only established writers and cooks but they also share the same kitchen values that I believe in. That cooking is like a religion, a demonstration of love and respect.
Every week, a different ingredient is called upon and the competition begins. When summer squash was up to bat, I couldn’t resist. I didn’t win, but I did make something delicious for a few people I love. Let’s be honest….what says love like a deep-fryer and ranch dressing?
Parmesan-Panko Fried Summer Squash with Buttermilk Ranch
Growing up in the Michigan, summertime was the luxurious season of eating from our garden. Every year, my mother lost control when planting the garden, and planted too many summer squash plants. With a bumper crop and neighbors who weren’t squash fans, she found many ways to cook the abundant summertime vegetable. This recipe is my updated version on an old family favorite.
Panko-Parmesan Summer Squash:
- 3-4 summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash)
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 eggs (whites only)
- 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Removing ends, slice squash into 1/4 inch disks.
- Add next three ingredients in small bowl and mix.
- Separate egg whites into their own bowl, and buttermilk as well, respectively.
- Dip disks into buttermilk, then egg whites, and finally panko crumbs/cheese mixture. Get aggressive with your dredging to make sure squash disks are at their panko-max.
- Heat 3/4 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet. When hot, carefully add squash disks. Turn when browned, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on plates covered in paper towel. Do in batches, and cover finished squash to keep warm. Add more oil if necessary.
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt 2%
- 2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons fresh black pepper
- salt to taste
- Pulse first four ingredients in food processor. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pulse once or twice more (if you lose control and over-pulse, dressing will be green.)
Dubbing itself “The Hunger”, pop-up Argentinean restaurant series will be grillin’ on the low-down in SoHo from August 3 – 6, with additional dates in the works. Underground dinner parties have been the ultimate foodie cool kid treat since Ghetto Gourmet went national in 2006– but now any old Joe can score tickets on The Hunger’s Gilt City.
Top Chef alum Camille Becerra will be wo-manning the kitchen, and probably attracting her old cronies.
BBQ, cocktails, elbow-rubbing, etc. My tickets are booked.
$50/person plus tax & tip, cash bar
There are certain situations in life where it’s extremely difficult to drink wine.
Last weekend, I tried to sip pinot grigio in the bow of a moving boat. Crashing over waves with the wind whipping like crazy, the wine sprayed all over my face every time I brought the petite clear plastic cup to my lips. After a few waves I was covered in white wine. (First world problem.)
Recently, a friend of mine put more thought into her summertime Sunday plans. When she and her fiancé faced with the dilemma of enjoying an afternoon bottle of rosé or making a healthy adult decision to go for a bike ride, they hopped on their bikes and cruised across the Brooklyn Bridge. With a Camelback full of rose. (I tip my hat to you, M & H.)
Wouldn’t it be convenient if there was an answer to these Sunday afternoon challenges? One simple apparatus equipped to contain 750 mL of liquid. Strong enough for a man, aesthetically designed to boost a woman.
Introducing, The Wine Rack. A sports bra with built-in bags for your favorite liquid. This is great for:
- The woman on the go…who requires hands-free drinking.
- Women who don’t have arms.
- New mothers who feel guilty about feeding their babies formula in lieu of human leche.
- Alcoholic trannies who throw in the towel after a few cocktails.
- Women who need a boost and a few drinks to build up confidence.
- Hazing of fraternity pledges (brosicingfromabro)
- Multi-tasking Moms power-walking with hand weights.
- Ladies who ride in motorcycle sidecars.
- Superior athletes who consume Gatorade for sports, not for hangovers.
The best part? When your liquid of choice has been consumed, blow into the tube to inflate. Which makes it great for swimming, but not great for Jersey Shore-style chest-bumps.
Buy one for your sister! $30 at www.baronbob.com
New York is obsessed with brunch.
Europeans don’t brunch. Chicagoans occasionally brunch, but don’t tend to linger. In Miami, they just skip the eating part and drink mimosas and rosé by the pool. And I think everyone just goes jogging in LA and San Fran, followed by a huge Starbucks.
Brunch in New York is an official institution, and one of the few leisurely experiences that is shared across the board in this sleepless town. And when it comes to brunch, there are two types:
- The Recovery Brunch, following a big night out.
- The Boozy Brunch, that can also follow a big night out, but most likely takes the helm and steers the direction of an entire day. (Boozy Brunch has been known to result in an early evening hangover)
Drumroll please…best brunch spots, in no certain order.
1. Prune 54 E. 1st St. b/w 1st and 2nd Ave
Extensive Bloody Mary menu, fave is The Matchbox. Carbonara contains addictive substance that is possibly crack.
2. Café Habana 17 Prince St. b/w Mott and Elizabeth
Between the Micheladas and the famous on the cob…what more do you need? Huevos Rancheros.
3. Freeman’s Alley off Rivington b/w Bowery and Chrystie
Escape the city down a little alley. Delish homestyle food and lots of pretty faces. Takes reservations.
4. Bubby’s 120 Hudson St. at N. Moore St.
Midwest-size portions of heavy classics…lots of strollers and perpetual celebs. Takes reservations.
5. Hundred Acres 38 Macdougal St. b/w Prince and Houston
This is just a cute place to park yourself for an afternoon for cocktail-menu exploration padded with comfort food. Takes reservations for groups of 6+.
6. Double Crown 316 Bowery at Bleecker
$30 for brunch AND unlimited access to the DIY Bloody Mary bar? Don’t mind if I do. Outdoor seating, takes reservations. They literally deliver you glasses of vodka for hours.
7. Jing Fong 20 Elizab2eth St. b/w Bayard and Canal
Dim Sum in an enoooormous banquet hall. Communal seating so strangers can eavesdrop on your Saturday night debauchery. Oh and it’s laughably cheap. I dare you to break $20 pp.
8. Back Forty 190 Avenue B at E. 12th St.
In the mood for chicken and waffles while sitting in a backyard? Don’t skip the doughnuts.
9. Commerce 50 Commerce St. b/w Barrow and Bedford
Classic chic on one of the cutest blocks in Manhattan…menu holds a few surprises.
10. Isabella’s 359 Columbus Ave at W. 77th St.
The only Uptown selection on the EH list, Isabella’s is elegant and precise. Eggs Benedict just the way it should be.
If you’re finished reading this post and huffing about how your favorite spot didn’t make the list…it’s your civic duty to comment below and share your wisdom.
There’s just something so romantic about microwave-cooked chicken.
I’m friends with a couple who have been dating for almost 10 years. He’s a chemist, a cook, a foodie, and the son of a wino. She’s a corporate recruiter, a connosoir of Lean Cuisines frozen entrees and drinking pickle juice straight from the jar. She took years to overcome a debilitating fear of raw meat.
I spent a few years in my early twenties living with her, and witnessed approximately 82 envelopes of Mrs. Grass Soup consumed. The crowning moment of our cohabitation occurred twice, during the year of 2004, when I successfully tricked her into eating buffalo meat in burrito form. (She loved them until I came clean.)
While she has made astounding progress over the years, he hasn’t completely rescinded his witty but cunning label, referring to her taste as “the palate of a trucker”.
Recently, she shared a hilarious story with me about the first meal she ever cooked for him during the infantile days of their relationship. In college, and completely unaware of his culinary ability or penchant for flavor, she invited him over to her luxurious college apartment for the ubiquitous First Homemade Meal.
“First, I took a package of Tyson’s microwaveable chicken cutlets and heated them up. Then I opened a bag of chopped romaine lettuce which I washed and tossed with Kraft Fat-Free Caesar dressing. Once the chicken was heated up, I mixed the meat into the “salad”. Then, I toasted a Lenders onion bagel, sprayed it with spray butter and sprinkled it with garlic salt. I also served diet lemonade (Big K brand) in a fancy cup with ice. He ate it without a single complaint. I mean, I really know how to impress a guy.”
Just take a moment to think about these flavors mingling around in your mouth. The plastic taste of the spray butter, the rubbery and floppy chicken, the acerbic chemical-sweet flavor of any processed fat-free condiment. Garlic salt…onion bagel…floppy rubber chicken…lettuce with brown edges…Kroger brand diet lemonade! Oh the horror!
The week after serving this Gourmet-inspired feast, she overheard someone thank him. “Hey man, thanks for dinner last night. What was that sauce you served over the filet mignon?”
Ten years later, they share the pants. But he definitely wears the apron.
It’s 99 effing degrees. You can’t cook. You can’t walk outside to dine in a neighborhood restaurant. You feel guilty for dialing up delivery…because it’s that hot outside.
Well folks, it’s time to bring the people to you. I selfishly gifted a Weber Q 200 Portable Gas Grill to someone special in my life. A small gas grill that can easily perform illegally on rooftop or fire escape…not that I am promoting such behavior, but it’s summertime in New York City. Hot as balls. We’re making “black-out” plans on where we’ll meet in the event of a brown out. Carpe Diem! Grill in inappropriate places!
Grill on the fire escape and quickly hide the evidence.
Bitchin’ Midweek Swelter-Q Menu:
Bevi: Homemade Arnold Palmer with Tito’s vodka
Watermelon Salad with grape tomatoes, feta and basil vinaigrette
De-constructed Guacamole Salad (see Ina Garten)
Burgers stuffed with Goat Cheese (3 parts sirloin mixed with 1 part ground beef. Fresh garlic, fresh shallot, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, thyme, more pepper, 2 eggs (per 3 lbs), whatever else you feel like adding just do it but only a little)
Bakery buns toasted (so much better with real buns and not those crap options in the bread aisle. But also not the end of the world).
Serve with red onion thinly sliced, iceberg lettuce, tomato slices and the fat dip from your childhood: mayonnaise.
Twice a year, a laundry-list of New York restaurants have a Blue Light special. Restaurants normally occupied by people with six-figure credit limits are suddenly invaded by the common man, and a lot of mediocre chains eateries frequented by vanilla borings just try to drum up business.
Reservations fill up fast, so consider this your fair warning. Chefs create paired down prix fixe menus, with typically 2-3 courses and 2-3 options per course. Lunches are $25/per person, dinners are $35/person. Make those resi’s immediately
Edible Humor has created two lists. One of our picks, and another list for people with poor taste.
Restaurant Week for the Informed and Clever:
1. A Voce Columbus
2. Café Boulud
3. JoJo (hot tip: JoJo has a great prix fixe menu every Sunday)
5. Adour Alain Ducasse
6. SHO Shaun Hergatt
8. Mercer Kitchen
9. Nougatine at Jean Georges
Other notables: Lure Fishbar, Morimoto, One if by Land Two if by Sea, Aldea, Barolo, Convivio
Restaurant Week for Fanny Packs and Neck Aches:
1. Ruby Foo’s (Times Square aka Headquarters)
2. Angelo & Maxie’s Steakhouse
3. Blue Water Grill (overrratted)
4. The Breslin (I just like the idea of this trendy joint getting overrun by the inverse of their target market. And you know that lamb burger won’t be an option.)
5. China Grill (Chain. Overpriced Chinese.)
6. Mr. K’s (This place literally dumps mediocre General Tsao’s Chicken in a gold-plated serving dish to make it feel fancy. Likewise with China Grill, don’t eat at a Chinese restaurant that doesn’t have a single Chinese diner.)
7. Michael Jordan’s The Steak House (I generally don’t trust an athletic restaurateur, however Tiger could have a chance with a cheap sushi chain.)
8. Sushi Samba (While I’ll never complain about the rooftop and the cocktails, there’s really no reason to actually eat sushi here.)
9. Bond Street (tied with dell’anima for bitchiest waitstaff in the city)
10. Mr. Chow (another resto big in LA and like-whatever in NYC)
For the complete list and reservations, visit http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek/summerlove.