Category Archives: Art/Lit/Design

Weekend Bites

Tis the season for those excellent, sweet, crunchy, HONEYCRISP apples at the farmers market.

My new favorite shoe line, DIEPPA RESTREPO, and their collection of boldly awesome oxfords and loafers, which are perfect for lazy Sunday walks from one cafe to another.

Sunday roast will be PORCHETTA, you can check out Sara Jenkin’s recipe that I’ll be following, or just go visit Jenkin’s PORCHETTA in the East Village.

Rent BABETTE’S FEAST, curl with with a SIDECAR, and watch what is supposed to be one of the best food movies of all time.

 

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Filed under AFB: Where to Go, Art/Lit/Design, Eating, Weekend Bites

Whale of a Good Idea

I’m a white plate kind of girl.  But I love these mariner inspired plates.  Wouldn’t the whale serving tray be great with grilled squid arranged on top?  The smaller plates I would use for decoration on a wall.

The plates are by NY-based designer thomas paul.  Available online at lekkerhome.com

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Spring Fête

that's the back of my head, at the top left

Now that it’s getting warm all I want to do is throw a party, like this Sunday afternoon party I attended last summer in the Hamptons (see pic above).  My first spring fete will have a Frenchy bohemian vibe (shocker) and lots of rosé and some springy, easy food.  Here’s my plan:

Get a couple of these:

french carafe from a+r store. buy here.

Fill it with this, which is a nice dry $10 rose from September Wines:

Throw down these (because money is no object in my dreams), carpets and pillows from Calypso:

visit Calypso

Go to Blue Ribbon Market and buy a little of this and a little of that:

Then to Murray’s Cheese for more of this and some of that:

And for a treat, I would attempt to make this slow cooked asparagus which is cooked in parchment and is oh-so-pretty and seasonal, from the NY Times (thanks, Em):

And as day turns into night, I would light these, and maybe, oh maybe, we would switch to red wine and order pizza:

$12 candleholders from Crate and Barrel

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Food Art

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to style Anthony Bourdain for the June cover of the Improper Bostonian. Why is this unapologetic New Yorker gracing the cover of a magazine about a city he once dissed? Turns out he got his start in Provincetown, frying up seafood and washing dishes. He was a great model, game for anything, entertaining us with stories of monkey meat in Liberia and how to scoop up hot curries with your hands.

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Butchers’n’Meat

What charmed me about Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market was the presentation, each piece displayed like a little jewel.  You could feel the pride they take in offering a beautiful product.  It’s not often I see squab and goat for sale at a butcher shop, so I gave it more points for being interesting.

Dickson's Farmstand Meats

This is Jake Dickson, the owner and meat mastermind.

Today’s butchers look a lot different than they did waaaay back in the day, when long aprons and mustaches were key.

Cute butchers. I love the polished getup at Japan Premium Beef, center.

It was the first time I thought of a butcher shop with any level of aestheticism, but I really need to get on the wagon, because there are a few new (dare I say it) boutique butcher shops in the city, like Japan Premium Beef, Meat Hook, and Marlowe and Daughters.  Still, old butcher shops are are so cool, and maybe a little, more, eh, rugged?

Butchers are fascinating characters, aren’t they?  I’ve always thought of it as such a bloody, thankless job, but I have to admire their understanding of animal anatomy, of muscles and tendons and fat.  It’s an intimate job, and an art.  Speaking of art:

Wagyu beef, left. Roy Lichtenstein print, 1962, right.

The Butcher Shop, Reinier, left. A Butcher Shop in Bucharest, Amedeo Preziosi, right

There is a restaurant in Boston called The Butcher Shop.  It’s a real pretty butcher shop; it’s also a restaurant and wine bar.  I like the idea buying my meat and having it too.

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Filed under Art/Lit/Design, Eating, Superior Foods, To Market

Things: A Breakfast Tray

“Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly-arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. We come to it freshly, in the dewy youth of the day, and when our spiritual and sensual elements are in better accord than at a later period; so that the material delights of the morning meal are capable of being fully enjoyed, without any very grievous reproaches, whether gastric or conscientious, for yielding even a trifle overmuch to the animal department of our nature.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

Le Petit Dej Breakfast Tray, available at aplusrstore.com

I take Hawthorne one farther and suggest that Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly-arranged and well-provisioned breakfast tray.  One of the simple pleasures of my life occurs when my boyfriend brings me coffee (complete with frothy milk) in bed.  I ask you, Boyfriend, is it too much to ask for breakfast? Perhaps a pain au chocolate and some greek yogurt with honey?  A bowl of fresh berries?  Fresh-squeezed juice?  Boyfriend, are you still there or was that a door slamming?

Le Petit Dej Breakfast Tray, $92 at A Plus R Store, visit their very cool website here.

other notables: Pain au Chocolate, preferably from Ceci-Cela or Balthazar Bakery.

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Chew on This

I came across a blog called the Blue Hour recently, and spent a good hour, no a very good hour, lingering over photographer Brian Ferry’s dreamy photos of, well, his meals. What is it about his photos makes me feel like I was there too?  Some warm fuzzy sentiment is triggered when I look at these;  his understanding of atmosphere and mood is so impeccable he manages to channel the best thing about food: the sharing of it.  Check out his site at bferry.wordpress.com.

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The Polenta Post

Some old school polenta making, by Pietro Longhi. Photo from Wikipedia

When I was little, my stepfather often made polenta to go with the steaks he’d grilled.  This occasion was severely disappointing.  I wanted creamy mashed potatoes.  What I got was a pale yellow square that looked like it could be cake but was instead a fairly grainy, wholly uncreamy bore.  None of the other kids had to eat polenta.  I chalked it up as another one of Carl’s Brazilian affections not easily given up (along with dipping steak in Yucca flour and Yerba Mate tea).

Years later I discovered polenta could be rich and creamy.  I was aghast.  Did my sweet stepfather Carl not know this?  Did all of Brazil live in polenta-ignorance?  I moved the grain from the column FOODS I MORE OR LESS HATE to the column FOODS I CAN CO-EXIST WITH.

The pork shank over creamy polenta at Bacaro. Photo from youngandhungry.com

Years after that epiphany, it was a dish at Bacaro in the Lower East Side that turned polenta into a FOOD THAT MAKES ME CRAZY HAPPY.  They serve a braised pork shoulder, meat falling off the bone into a pile of the creamiest, silkiest polenta you’ve ever tasted.  There are many reasons to go to Bacaro, and this dish is in the top 5.

Inspired, I decide to make a braised pork shoulder.  I would serve it over polenta equally as creamy and silky as Bacaro’s.  All day, my pork shoulder braised away in the crockpot.  A half hour before dinner, I pulled out the box of polenta.  Basically, you add water and stir.  You add butter and maybe a little cream if that’s your game (it’s mine).

What I didn’t remember was that scene from Bill Buford’s book, Heat (I wrote about this book), that describes his run-in with polenta.  It begins innocently enough, pouring the grain into a few cups of water and stirring while it simmers.  What happens with polenta, however, is that in a matter of seconds it thickens A LOT, and big bubbles of heat come up from the bottom of the saucepan and explode through the surface of rapidly cooking cornmeal, sending warm pellets of this ancient yellow grain everywhere, in this case all over my favorite cashmere sweater (why I’m wearing a cashmere sweater is a question often asked of me by my increasingly exasperated boyfriend) in my hair, my cheeks, my left eye.  With my right eye I see this bubbling mass shares more characteristics with an active volcano than it does a side dish.

Where did I lose control?  In Buford’s book, he describes the exact same thickening.  Polenta requires finesse, the most delicate balance of heat and liquid, and physical prowess… consistent stirring is important to distribute heat.  More importantly, you need to know how to maximize flavor.  What I ended up with is a polenta that only a baby or a dog could love.  It was warm, yes, but possessed about as much flavor as an unsalted cracker.  I added salt.  I added butter.  I added cream.  But it was too late.  In the cornmeal’s fury I had missed my chance to flavor the thing.

Polenta has now been moved into the column FOODS THAT INFURIATE ME. Until it moves into the column FOOD I HAVE MASTERED, you may find me at Bacaro.

To learn more about polenta, read lifeinitaly.com , wikipedia and get recipes from epicurious.com.

Or just go to some really good Italian restaurants, like Bacaro or its sister restaurant Peasant.

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Afternoon Snack Reading

an excerpt from Maira Kalman's Back to the Land post.

I love this lyrical essay of sorts on how and why changing the way we eat could make America sooooooo much better.  It’s a lovely read by Maira Kalman from the New York Times, it first appeared on Thanksgiving.  Click here to read and be inspired.

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At First Bite 2.0

 

The Egg as Art, from Wang Fine Art

 

 

The lights at this blog have been dark recently.  Anyone who doesn’t know me may have visited this site a few times only to see, for the twentieth time,  my last post on Irving Penn’s death and logically thought I sailed away into a dark ocean of depression, never to write again.  A friend emailed me a couple of weeks ago to ask if I was okay.  Almost daily, I have been gently reprimanded by readers and friends that I’ve been a poor excuse for a blogger.  Sigh.  I know.

Here’s the truth about blogging.  One, it does not pay.  You come home from the job that pays you, and then you spend two hours in front of a computer writing when you COULD be sleeping or snuggling with the man you love.  Two, if you don’t have a specific angle in mind, you’ll never really be that successful and you’ll lose interest quickly.  People tell me I should start interviewing chefs and become more newsy.  That’ll make my blog, and me, famous.  Too bad I don’t want to interview ANYONE, because that means I have to record conversations and really pay attention and  I’m not a reporter.  Three, you have to absolutely LOVE what you’re writing.

And I wasn’t.

So I took a break.

I put away my camera and just ate.  More remarkably, I started cooking some pretty good food.  And after a month of just eating and not worrying about recording it all, I had a EUREKA! moment while making polenta for the first time.  I had a second EUREKA! moment over an exquisite homemade pistachio ice cream with chocolate meringues (thanks to boyfriend).  Wild mushroom risotta- EUREKA! Oh, and then there’s what I’ve been eating out.  The 5-spice duck from BLT Market- EUREKA! Chocolate chip cookie sandwich from Babycakes! Truffled Lentils with pata negra ham and herbed yogurt from Boqueria! Chicken soup at Hearth! Momofuku Ramen! Sushi from Tomoe!  EUREKA!

We’ve all learned this via one relationship or another: sometimes you need to put a little distance between you and the thing you love in order to remember why you fell in love in the first place.  During what I now like to refer to as my foodie sabbatical (more like spring break, but whatever) I figured out why I spend two hours in front of a computer writing when I could be snuggling with the man I love.  Eating food feels good.  Cooking, just you and the ingredients and the kitchen, is therapeutic, and if you cook like me, it makes you laugh a lot.  More than anything, though, sharing food makes me ridiculously happy.

So this is AFB 2.0.  The angle?  Why eating this and cooking made me laugh, swoon, or both.

 

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