Enjoying Fiscal Responsibility: Eating at Home

Times are tough for everyone. Poor kids in Brooklyn being no exception. And, as my dear friend Dr. Booze once exclaimed, "My tasting menus don't pay for THEMSELVES."

With that in mind, my Sidekick and I have been eating at home with much more frequent regularity. This isn't really anything new as we both love to cook as much as we love to eat. It has, however, made us think more than we ever have about curbing our spending, especially on groceries. Lucky for us, I was raised in a house where budgeting was NEVER synonymous with eating things like Hamburger Helper. My parents lovingly instilled within me the ability and desire to use humble ingredients to delicious, fresh and noble ends.

So, we've started to think about each meal in terms of how we can stretch our hard-earned dollars. We've stopped letting basic ingredients like eggs, cheese, bread and milk sit around in our fridge to die a slow, lonely death.

Breakfast is an excellent place to start. I'm in a diner phase, which means I crave a hearty breakfast around 11:30 every weekend morning. My Sidekick and I pulled together this bagel sandwich with eggs, some speck and aged provolone from snacks the night before, and a fruit salad of bananas, Granny Smith apples, a tangerine, topped with a bit of mascarpone (left over from a pasta sauce a few nights before), drizzled with cinnamon and honey.

Toad in the Hole (or eggs in a basket, as I grew up with them) are one of my Sidekick's go-to breakfasts. I love this breakfast, but always feeling like it's missing one element.

DUH, cheese.

It's obvious that I'm a grilled cheese fanatic. I would eat it every day if I had my choice. I've also hatched a theory that most of my favorite meals are just a variation on a grilled cheese sandwich. Bagels and cream cheese, quesadillas, cheeseburgers, pizza, all just different forms of the same unbelievably wonderful idea. Bread, cheese, other stuff, heat.

With that in mind, I've started tinkering with Grilled Cheese Toad in the Hole. The first one I made (above) looked awesome in the pan. But the hole was so much deeper than in a normal piece of toast, that the egg couldn't spread out to cook evenly.

In subsequent versions I've made my signature Drunk-In-College grilled cheese and cut a much larger hole in the finished product. I then return it to the pan, drop a little nubbin of butter in the cut-out, and pour in an egg (seasoned with a bit of sea salt and some chives, this really becomes something to be proud of). The heat of the pan is important, I've discovered. If it's too hot, your egg starts to freak out, and becomes a mix of big craters and crunchy brown edges. Keeping the heat lower means that the whites have more time to set, while you keep your yolk nice and runny for dipping purposes.

I'll continue to mess with this and report back.

Extending this buy-cheap-eat-famously philosophy to dinner, we've been eating a lot of root vegetables, especially beets. Beets are awesome for so many reasons. They make everything pretty, taste delicious, are so easy to cook a monkey could do it and top out at $2.50 a bunch. It took me a little while to win my Sidekick over to beets. Anyone forced to eat nothing but pickled pink disks from a can in their childhood will obviously have some reservations. Now, he's a beet fiend.

Our cheap and quick Valentine's Day dinner? Roasted beet and goat cheese risotto, with a salad of roasted shitake mushrooms, sticky-sweet cubes of rosemary roasted parsnip, watercress and a roasted garlic vinaigrette.

The next night, we had some leftover beets and beet greens. This led us to a garlic and mustard rubbed flank steak with creamy horseradish beets and sauteed greens.

With stuff this dirt cheap and pretty, who could ever eat tuna-noodle casserole again?


Let's Play Catsup.

Oh, hi.

After being sufficiently ball-busted by my uncle (Mitch of Tasty Travails), my aunt (his Significant Eater) and my trusty Sidekick for not updating this mother, I've finally caved and will now fill you in on some delectable details. And you will, in turn, forgive me for my weeks of laziness/having a job.

Stomach Grumbles are GOOOO....

Let's start on some weekend day in the past. My Sidekick and I, mildly hung-over from the night before, dragged ourselves out of bed for our (semi) weekly bocce match at Floyd with our compatriots on If You Want My Bocce. The magical thing about Floyd is that it sits directly next to the second location of Brooklyn's Chip Shop.

I'm incredibly pleased to see that England's bad rap as having terrible food is quickly being beaten to death with a club. In fact, I credit the time I spent in England to really putting the nail in the coffin for my food obsession. If you've ever lived in a place where you have HP Sauce on every table, London Pride flowing from every tap and some of the greatest grocery stores in the universe, you'll understand.

I've come to think of this day as one where HP Sauce followed me nearly everywhere. Never a bad thing. What you see above is a Full English Breakfast. Or, as it is affectionately known at the Chip Shop when paired with a cup of coffee and a mimosa, The Hangover Special. And let me tell you, it really does have miraculous properties.

This breakfast led us to our first bocce win this season. Coincidence?

After plenty of beer in the middle of the afternoon (I heart Saturday), my sidekick and I made the decision to go see a certain crappy horror film in 3D, down near Prospect Park.

With a little time to kill, and grumbles in our stomachs (we're truly incorrigible, folks), we stumbled upon a Windsor Terrace gem from the DUB Pies folks (stands for Down Under Bakery), The Pie Shop. This is a tiny storefront cafe, with three two-top tables pushing max capacity. Their menu is written on a huge chalkboard wall, and consists nearly entirely of Australian/New Zealand style pies. Meat pies, fruit pies, veg pies. They also have a few soups on the menu, which are NOT to be missed.

My sidekick and I shared a steak and mushroom pie, and each got our own cups of the potato dill soup. If you go to Dub Pies and are lucky enough to have potato dill soup as an option, I urge you, I insist, ORDER A BOWL. A cup will never be enough of this perfectly seasoned, piping hot concoction. Although, should you ignore me and need a second cup after realizing your mistake, I'm sure that the phenomenally friendly staff would be happy to assist you. You'll be dead to me, however.

Clearly I'm biased, as soup is my favorite genre of food, but I can not think of enough praise for this stuff.

With a little extra time between HP Sauce's latest appearance in our lives and the movie we were about to expose our brains to, we decided to make one last stop on 7th Ave at Beer Table. This, another tiny storefront temple to booze and grub, is truly a place for people who love beer like some people love a fine wine. Their beer list is extremely intimidating, both intellectually and economically (the bottled beer list tops out at $110, no kidding), so my Sidekick and I stuck to a Long Island porter that was on special.

Paired with a bowl of fiery, citrusy picholines, a fresh baguette and tangy, piquant, house-made beer cheese, we were fortified against the cold, and just drunk enough to see a hilariously stupid movie in a theater full of screaming teenagers.

Also, apparently drunk enough to have documented my 3D glasses. Yikes!

Chip Shop
129 Atlantic Ave
(between Clinton St & Henry St)
Brooklyn, NY 11201

DUB Pies: The Pie Shop
211 Prospect Park West
(corner of 16th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Beer Table
427 B 7th Avenue
(Btwn 14th & 15th Sts)
Brooklyn, NY 11215


A Coffee Phenomenon

I'm sheepish.

I know I owe three or four posts of epic structure and meaning.

But I can't give you that right now.

What I can give you is the coolest blog about coffee I've ever read. To be fair it's also about New York and all of the wonderful ticks and tocks that make this city so much fun to be a part of.

Pictures of Cristoph Neimann's Lego representations of things we all love and recognize have been surfacing everywhere I turn. Today I found out that his love/hate/need/despise relationship with coffee is something I totally identify with. Enjoy. I'm going to go make a cup immediately.