In Which I Conquer My Fear of Cold Weather for Love of My Tastebuds.

Hi kids!

It is WINTER in New York. Anyone noticed?

We all know I'm a desert kid. New Mexico gets snow, on occasion. By 'on occasion', I mean that one inch of fresh powder on the sidewalk shuts down schools and businesses city-wide. I have no idea what my fair hometown would do with the snow-rain-sleet-hail combo blanketing NYC the last three days.

But I, my friends, am determined to adapt. So, yesterday my sidekick and I decided to venture out into the 27 degree day for a little adventure. First stop: another one of Kathy's ideas.

The day we met Kathy and Mitzy at the Brooklyn Flea, she mentioned a great patisserie in Park Slope called Trois Pommes. She offhandedly mentioned that they make killer doughnuts, but only on Saturdays. This is information that I promptly forgot. However, my sidekick, failure of many a sweets-12-step-program that he is, has been pining away every weekend for a trip down 5th avenue to this fabled patisserie.

Don't ask me why yesterday, a Saturday in Brooklyn where I saw fewer people on the street than may have been out in Albuquerque after a snowstorm, was the day we decided to do so. I am, however, extremely glad that we did.

Exhibit A: Coffee and House-made Rasberry Jelly Doughnuts.

I'm back on coffee for the first time in years. And it's a good thing. Trois Pommes uses Gorilla Coffee, (a local favorite, which just so happens to live a block away from me) which I've decided is fantastic.

Exhibit B: An Extremely Pleased Sidekick.

So, with the boyfriend happy and sugar-ed, we decided to go for a little romp around Williamsburg and do a little (much procrastinated) Christmas shopping. Our plan was to kick around until afternoon for a late lunch at Fette Sau (famed Brooklyn beer bar Spuyten Duyvil's BBQ brainchild), as we've heard raves about it and are both meat fans, in general. I mean, pork is important. Disagreement with that statement baffles me.

However, much to our and our frost-bitten noses displeasure, we discovered that Fette Sau is dinner only. They open at 5pm to dispell their carnivorous gospel, and not before.

Instead, by very, very happy accident, we wandered into a diner. Well, not A diner, rather, a joint simply called 'Diner' at the corner of Broadway and Berry. Now, rumor has it, this mildly renovated 1920's dining car once held an actual greasy spoon.

I thank whichever restaurant god bestowed it's latest incarnation upon us.

It is a tiny, cramped, possibly architecturally unstable hovel. Which, if you know anything about me, you know appealed to me instantly. The menu, which I would guess changes daily, comes to you hand-written on a piece of cash register receipt. These are market-influenced offerings. You can just tell. That being said, it is a BARGAIN. Not ridiculously cheap by normal diner standards, but this is FAR from a normal diner.

Exhibit A: Sidekick's Sausage 'Sammy' (their words, not mine).

Soft, butter-griddled bun. Like the best bulky roll you've ever tasted. If they're not house-made, they get them from somewhere VERY close. Perfectly seasoned, home made sausage patty (I tasted rosemary). Two, perfectly over easy eggs. Runny yolks, tender-but-set whites. House-pickled onions (are you noticing a pattern here?). So simple, so perfect.

Exhibit B: My 'Market Salad'.

House-made buttermilk dressing (I am a fan of the newest Ranch come-back). Herby, leafy salad with chives, green onions and radishes. BACON LARDONS. And the most perfect (while maybe not traditional) Scotch Egg that's ever existed. Allow me to expand upon this (as if you have any choice):

I think Scotch Eggs are gross. They're usually a pretty stodgy amalgamation of hard-boiled egg, greasy sausage, stale bread crumbs, fried to death.

Diner's Scotch Egg defies physics. In order to... Scotch an egg (?), it has to be boiled first, at LEAST soft-boiled, so that you can shell it and add the crispy coating. It is then cooked again. The yolk inside that Scotch Egg is RUNNY. What does this mean?

This means that Diner has cooked an egg TWICE better than most mortals could cook an egg ONCE. And for that, I salute them. I believe the egg was missing the requisite sausage component, but aside from that it was a Scotch Egg for all others to aspire to.

Oh and GREAT coffee. Did I mention I'm back on coffee?

Happy Eidachristmahanukkwanzikah everyone!

Trois Pommes
260 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

85 Broadway (Berry St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11211


Employment Update: Noooooodles

Hi kids.

Ok, so, somehow I got myself an interview/audition in a kitchen in Carroll Gardens hand-pulling noodles. I know, WHAT? I think it's fate, but there's still a distinct possibility I will totally fumble it.

So everyone think good thoughts. Competent, steady-handed thoughts.

Here's what Eat It has to say: DUMPLINGS!

205 Sackett St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231


Tastebuds: "What a great weekend!"

Moving to a new city can be so stressful. You start over in so many ways. How to arrange the apartment, which spices to start re-filling cabinets with first, how on earth you'll ever find a job, which neighborhood spots are worth becoming a regular at... The possibilities are truly endless. Now move to Brooklyn and multiply those possibilities by 5,000.

We moved in on Saturday and everyone kept saying, 'How excited are YOU?'. And for some reason, I just couldn't muster up more than a half-honest, 'Soooo excited'. We found a great apartment, with an even better roommate, in an amazing part of Brooklyn that's convenient to everything, and I couldn't even find the energy to elaborate? To be honest, I was overwhelmed. I've wanted to live in New York since I was old enough to decide such things, which my sidekick and I determined last week was... about five or six.

It's like Chanukah (insert Christmas, Goyem); I'd wait and wait and wait for one specific present EVERY year, let's call it 'Hot Shots Basketball'. And every year I'd tear through my presents hoping for that ONE present to be unveiled. But every year my parents saved it till last, hidden away under their bed or something, just to see me squirm. They'd bring it out in this triumphant 'We got you' moment at the very end of the night, but by then I'd worked up so much agita about not getting it that I was exhausted! This is kind of how I felt about New York last week.

Now, let me be clear, this is not New York's fault. New York is wonderful and I love her. It's not you, New York, it's me. But don't worry, I don't want to break up. I still believe in us. Even more after this weekend. And New York, you and I have my tastebuds to thank for this...

Well, to be more specific, New York, my tastebuds and my loyal and supportive sidekick have another person to thank. Her name is Kathy.

Kathy writes a blog called 'A Passion for Food', which I was introduced to by a certain benevolent-food-and-booze-appreciating uncle, and I'm beginning to suspect that Kathy's tastebuds and my tastebuds have an awful lot in common.

This is a bowl of beef noodle soup. The beef, probably neck-meat, but 'parts' to be sure. The soup, a salty, murky, oily broth of dubious origin that achieves that perfect, blissful state of umami. But the noodles are the real star.

They're hand pulled.

The phrase itself really doesn't do the process justice. Here's what happens: When you walk into Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles at 144 E. Broadway -- if you are lucky enough to have someone clue you in on what this magical address holds -- you are greeted with the distinct feeling that you don't belong here unless you speak Chinese. Ignore that. It's a stupid reflex that will keep you from enjoying heaven on earth for your tastebuds.

There is a very short English menu, a noticeably larger Chinese version, an array of condiments unfamiliar to most and, in the back of the room, a man beating the truth out of a long glutinous strand of dough. When you order, this man in the back of the room interrogates the dough, slamming it down on a metal table like it owes him money. Twisting, adding flour, adding water, slamming, twisting... and then suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, the dough confesses, falling into perfectly uniform strands between this artist's hands.

My friends, we call these NOODLES.

And we call this: BLISS.


But Lan Zhou isn't quite done with us yet. There are DUMPLINGS. Doused with my new condiment of choice: Chinkiang Vinegar. Or black vinegar. Or... I don't know, mother's milk. I threatened to drink it off the plate with a straw. It sounds silly, but LOOK at the plate:

It's blurry, Mitch, I know, but you can only take so many pictures before things get cold. And that's just not in my nature. These things are piping hot, crispy and tender on the outside and filled with exactly the right ratio of pork : chive. Trust me on this, I've investigated, there's no other word for this but SEXY.

Now here's what happens when you leave the noodle bar on East Broadway: You know a secret. A very delicious, very cheap (noodle bowls max out at $4.50, I think), very share-able secret that will make people who love you only love you more. And if you're a recent New York transplant struggling with your ability to enjoy your favorite city in the world, you walk out of the noodle bar feeling warm from the soup and ready for anything. Because if you've found a place like this and enjoyed it, then my friends, you get it. You win. Your tastebuds, and possibly your sense of life-purpose will thank you. Don't thank me for this.

Thank Kathy.

It was all her idea.

Coming up next: Kathy's next contribution to my tastebuds, Parisian macarons a la Mitzy of Itzy Bitzy Patisserie. I'll let 'A Passion for Food' introduce you, as she introduced me, and in a few days, after I've devoured all dozen of them, I'll report back.

Lan Zhou Hand Made Noodles
144 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
(212) 566-6933


Jackson, TN: I'm Staying

There has been so much to catch up on this month (another cross-country road-trip, some time in Cape Cod, New York). I'll have to backtrack a little. Specifically, to Jackson, Tennessee, where I almost decided to spend the rest of my life.

The Scene: A Waffle House. My second Waffle House, to be precise. And as promised, I had a date with Hashbrowns-All-the-Way. She showed up looking like this:

For Waffle House nubes (like me), Hashbrowns-All-the-Way are hashbrowns scattered across the grill, then smothered with onions, covered with cheese, ham, tomatoes, mushrooms and jalapenos (usually including 'house chili', which scared the bejeezus out of me, so I left off).

And let me say that the combination of total potato induced euphoria, the charming Waffle House employee banter, and our waitress (named Betty Boop; a woman with tattoos, a gold grill and possibly the cheeriest disposition of any Waffle House employee in the nation) almost made me stay in Jackson, TN.

So, while my sidekick and I hunker down in New York, frantically searching for apartments and jobs, I hold onto the idea that if we can't hack it here, maybe there's a career for me in a waffle house somewhere. I've always wanted a gold grill.


Robin Hood... for food nerds.

The reasons that Eric Ripert is my largest food-nerd crush are varied and abundant. The first is his mushroom broth recipe, which I will interpret for you now: 1lb of mushrooms, bunch of water, cook for eternity until it turns a rich golden color and smells like Earth and happiness. The second, his symbiotic, unlikely friendship with Anthony Bourdain. I've just discovered another one.

On 'Avec Eric' (which I just discovered thanks to Eater), Ripert has instituted a kind of pan-internet monthly dinner party focusing on the freshest and the simplest. I have already decided to participate, without even viewing the November menu (which will be published on the site on 10/27). Who's in?

Blurry, badly lit food photos will ensue, I'm sure (Mitch will back me up on this).


Hashbrown Mecca Off the Highway

So, my sidekick and I just landed in Santa Fe at the end of a three-day, 10-state road trip. Along the way, I was exposed to a new phenomenon. It's called Waffle House.

Now listen, at heart, I'm a city kid. I know that everyone and their mother knows about Waffle House, has seen one from the highway on a roadtrip, but I've never been in one. We don't have Waffle Houses where I come from. While I'll concede that Albuquerque, New Mexico is not a booming metropolis teeming with excitement, there are no places in my home town that I can walk into, be recognized by the waitstaff on sight, and have my order put in without even asking for it. While my sidekick and I sat in this yellow and brown establishment, at least four regulars came in.

"Hi, Angie. Black coffee, sausage and egg sandwich and hashbrowns in a ring." I won't even go into the fact that eating at a Waffle House regularly enough to become a regular would surely stop your heart in a matter of weeks.

Let me say, I've seen Waffle Houses before. Once, when I was about ten, my family traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, FL to visit my great grandparents. The hotel that we stayed at was right next to a Waffle House. To me, at the ripe age of ten, Waffle House looked amazing. It was a bright yellow building, covered in windows, where you could sit and eat at a breakfast counter (eating at a counter has been, for some reason, the most appealing diner location for me since I was very young. I think it has something to do with the swiveling chairs.). It being summer, and Ft. Lauderdale having the climate of, say, a bubbling lobster pot, the bountiful windows were almost ALWAYS covered with a thick layer of steam. Ten year old logic being what it is, that made it abundantly clear to me that the Waffle House was some sort of secret meeting place for a secret society of people. And on Sunday, in a Waffle House in Huber Heights, Ohio, I discovered who the members of that secret society are: Hashbrown Lovers.

To say that I am a hashbrown lover is, as anyone who eats with me regularly will tell you, a gross understatement. We Jews have this traditional food called latkes that we eat on special occasions. They're hasbrowns. Lovely, oily, oniony, special-occasion-hashbrowns, but hashbrowns nonetheless. In a restaurant, if an entree comes with say, a yukon gold potato cake, or a rosemary potato rosti, or an ecuadorean mashed potato cake, you can always put money on me ordering it. Anyone who says that I am a complicated woman should pay more attention to how I eat. I am truly a simple creature.

Anyhow, it's this love for hasbrowns that has me supremely disappointed in myself. If I can call your attention to the picture at the top of this post: It's heaven. It's Mecca. It's a HASHBROWN MENU.

What I ordered, in my foggy, sleep-deprived, grease-deprived state was a bacon, egg and cheese melt on Texas toast, with a side of plain hashbrowns. Which was delicious, don't get me wrong, but what about "Hasbrowns All the Way" for god's sake? How did I not realize that those were hashbrowns with onions, cheese, ham, tomatoes, jalapenos, and the house chili (which I most certainly would have left off anyway)? I sat, eating my supremely greasy grilled cheese with egg and bacon, listening to the hilarious chatter of the three women manning the breakfast counter, pouring over the hashbrown menu. How could I have been so blind?

It took the meanest of the three waitresses/line cooks (they do both at Waffle House, amazing!) grumbling at another one for having wrapped the pork chops incorrectly in the walk-in to snap me out of my reverie and realize that I couldn't eat another bite. My stomach had literally reached critical mass. No room, for say, a dessert of "Hashbrowns All the Way".

But never fear, my friends. My sidekick and I are insane. Why is that pertinent, you ask? Because we've planned another three-day, 10-state roadtrip in two and half weeks, this time in a U-Haul (we're making the big move to New York). And on that trip, I will not be so swayed by the mention of Texas toast. Someday soon, "Hasbrowns All the Way," our day will come.


My First Challah and Other Unforseen Challenges of Adulthood

Last night, I made my first challah.

Well, technically, I suppose that isn't true. Technically, I made my first challah in pre-school along with ten or fifteen other drooling, malleable, yet-to-be-warped four year olds. We sat, fidgeting, in the arts and crafts room of our temple's pre-school, with germy, grubby fingers, waiting to dig into what we all must have assumed was edible play-doh. What emerged was hardly a culinary milestone. In fact, if you passed any culinary milestones at the age of four, please let me know as that sounds awesome, albeit highly unrealistic. That challah, that braided, rock-hard, salty mess that could have passed for a mezzuzah (for the goyem, google it), was technically my first. If you've never experienced a true challah, let me explain; challah is a traditional Jewish egg-bread that is eaten (among myriad other occasions) on Shabbat, the Sabbath. It is dense but fluffy, sweet but savory, and ideally comes with a shimmering golden crust, courtesy of a generous egg wash applied immediately before baking. I'm not a deeply religious person. I treasure my Jewish heritage for many reasons. But the bottom line is: I'm mostly in it for the food. For me, challah can be a truly religious experience.

Last night's challah was my first all-by-myself-challah.

Let me preface: I don't bake. As a rule. I'm not very good at it. I hate measuring. I hate math. For some, baking cookies or a cake is a great source of relaxation and joy. In me, however, it inspires soul-crushing memories of having to repeat Algebra II my junior year of high school. I mean, who knows how many ounces are in 3/4 of a cup?? It's like torture.

So much of what I love about cooking is improvisation. Seeing what goodies I have tucked away in the crisper from the previous day's indulgence at the market is sort of like opening a birthday present every day of the year. In baking, improvising is not an option. Maybe you can throw a handful of raisins into the batter here and there, but baking is an art which relies on precision. Precision being, let's say, decidedly not my forte, I once baked a sheet of cookies which melted into an entire SHEET of cookies.

So it was with great trepidation that I baked my first all-by-myself challah for my first all-by-myself Rosh Hashanah. This was not a choice, this was a necessity. This summer was spent on Cape Cod, and without realizing it, my sidekick and I stumbled directly into one of the only plots of land on the east coast with no Jews. So, you see, I HAD to make my own challah. I had no other choice.

I got lazy and didn't knead it for long enough. I think I may have added too much flour and too much honey. I transported it to work to bake it during the rising process. The stars were, as they say, against this loaf. But somehow, someway, it turned out like this:

The crust: beautiful. The inside: dense, flaky. The thing weighed about five pounds. So I've decided there can be only one of two explanations; either challah is the HARDEST baked good to screw up in the world, or, certain, benevolent, food-loving ancestors were looking down on this most bizzare of endeavors with a kind eye.

So, happy new year, shana tova and all that. Keep eating, I'll keep writing.