Thursday, December 31, 2009

Small Bites

I look forward to another year of good eating with bites both big and small! Happy New Year!

- Anthony Bourdain weighs in on year seven of the past decade, a pivotal point in foodie culture.

- Want to know what the best cheap Champagnes are for your New Year's celebration? Both Slate and Salon have recommendations.

- The Asian version of a spork? A chopsticks, spoon, toothpick combination.

- The debate continues over the health benefits of coffee.

- Is Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel male food porn? Double X considers the "phenomenon of expert gluttony" on view in this show.

- Maybe using ammonia to eliminate E. coli from ground beef isn't so effective after all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make Bids for Charity

There's still time to participate in Menu for Hope, the annual charity event started by the blog, Chez Pim, five years ago. Tons of bloggers and people from the food world have donated a long list of events and items and anyone can make $10 bids to enter to win in a drawing at the end of the period, which goes until December 31st. The money goes to the UN World Food Programme and specifically to an initiative to help small, low-income farmers.

This year, I placed bids on coffee with Ruth Reichl (knowing I won't win), a set of knives and the grand tasting at Manresa restaurant (again, a hot item I won't win, but it's easier to part with the money knowing it's at least going to a good cause).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cambridge: Friendly Toast Review

The first meal of the day can set the tone for how the rest of the day is going to go. Too often, brunch (or breakfast) offerings are as sleepy as we are when we walk in the door. Almost always there'll be the usual french toast, basic pancakes and some variation on eggs, potatoes and/or meat. What we really need is something to actually bring us to our senses — an abundance of flavor wrapped in the familiar dishes, the smell of more than just grease, things that make our eyes bigger than our stomachs. The Friendly Toast in Cambridge, Mass., knows just how to do that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Say Hello to Bon Appetit

My first issue of Bon Appetit to replace my defunct Gourmet subscription arrived in the mail recently. And they already want me to extend my subscription!

First we'll have to see if I can get into their articles and get past the less sophisticated design that makes some of the content look like ads. I miss the gorgeous photography and well-organized quick recipes of Gourmet.

This issue of Bon Appetit features articles about meatballs, Austrian food and Sriracha (The Washington Post's food blog also recently weighed in on the popular condiment). I'll be back with more analysis eventually.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

My Christmas Eve dinner: Serious Eat's Pumpkin Chili (with pork instead of turkey).

and cornbread.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How Menus Control You More Than You Realize

The Times dining section this week ran a story about the psychology of menu design. After eating at Alinea a few months ago and encountering their unconventional menu structure, and after reading New York Magazine's feature breaking down Balthazar's menu, I had planned to pen a piece on my observations about menu designs (this is what I get for procrastinating). After all, it mimics my main job, as Sarah Kershaw says here:

"Menu design draws some of its inspiration from newspaper layout, which puts the most important articles at the top right of the front page, where the eyes tend to be drawn. Some restaurants will place their most profitable items, or their specials, in that spot. Or they place a dotted outline or a box around the item, put more white space around it to make the dish stand out or, in what menu researchers say is one of the most effective tools, add a photograph of the item or an icon like a chili pepper."

When we ate at Alinea, the menu was presented to us at the end of the meal in a black envelope. For someone looking to remember every detail of the meal just consumed, the spare list of ingredients left me wanting. Not only did the bubbles represent the size of the dishes, but the waitstaff explained that the position along the left-to-right spectrum indicated the savoriness or sweetness of the dishes. The farther left, the more savory; the farther right, the sweeter. Alinea had this luxury because diners didn't need to rely on it for ordering purposes. It was a dismissive hand wave to the traditional menu structure.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Small Bites

- Should we now worry about the ethics of eating plants?

- Is there anything wrong with men in the kitchen? It's always a funny thought to me that the stereotype is of women in the kitchen because, besides my grandmother, it was my father who was the main cook in my house. And it seems among many I know, the man is more the cook than the woman or at least an equal cooking partner.

- Does eating less make your stomach shrink

- The White House assistant chef shows kids around the White House garden as part of an after-school program to teach kids about nutrition.

- And some of D.C.'s top chefs spent time preparing holiday meals for kids in juvenile detention.

- In defense of the fruitcake. And the transformation of the cheese ball.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweet Inspiration

If you're looking for other baking ideas after reading about my holiday cookie-making, check out the Holiday Cookies and Recipes feature from The Times. It's a collection of reader-submitted photos and recipes. Who would have thought to make meringue mushrooms?? There are lists of cookie possibilities floating around everywhere. Here are a few others: The Washington Post's list, cookie memories plus recipes from The Los Angeles Times and a gathering of everything cookie and sweets from Serious Eats.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Busy as a Bee

I don't really need excuses to indulge in dessert, but the snowy weather and a coworker's recent annual baking frenzy led to my own afternoon of cookie-making. As my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, one type of cookie would not suffice. So, we ended up with four types: chewy ginger cookies (they turned out more crispy than chewy but after some time next to the spongey pumpkin cookies seemed to soften up), pumpkin chocolate chip, oatmeal chocolate chip and oatmeal cranberry chocolate chip. In all the cases, we slightly altered the recipes we had, whether it was to suit our purposes or for personal preferences.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cold Weather Comfort

With a strong chill in the air, it's a good time to pick some foods to indulge in to warm our stomachs. Start with a sweet drink that will melt away the frostbite: NYC Food Crawl has a hot chocolate crawl this Sunday on the west side of Manhattan. A friend also mentioned to me she was craving soondubu, a hearty Korean soft tofu stew. This is a great wintertime option — a stone pot of tofu, boiling hot, and spicy if you so choose. Serious Eats shows us how to make it at home, but if your culinary skills aren't a match for this, climb the stairs to Seoul Garden in K-town. Maybe it's time to load up on carbs in the form of mac and cheese; if so Macbar is giving away mac and cheese to the first 300 customers this Saturday afternoon beginning at noon. Or go for a classic chicken pot pie. Whatever you do, eat well!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Department of Health Makes a Mistake

Midtown Lunch reported that the Department of Health had banned street vendors from selling seafood. But it turns out the DOH was imprecise with their language and actually only meant to ban the sale of raw seafood, like ceviche, not cooked seafood. They intend to rewrite the regulation. Oops.

Small Bites

- Jonathan Safran Foer shares his Brooklyn restaurant suggestions for vegetarians.

- Serious Eats summarizes a recent discussion between Frank Bruni and Foer at the Jewish Community Center on what role food plays in our culture.

- Midtown Lunch informs us that New York City's Department of Health has banned street vendors from selling seafood.

- Anthony Bourdain is coming out with a followup to his book, Kitchen Confidential. It will be titled Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.

- Doughnut Plant has some fun holiday doughnuts like pomegranate yeast and cranberry cake. Serious Eats taste tests them.

- The story of the man behind Shake Shack and the burger joint's wild success with a great quote from Danny Meyer:  “The whole experience is to cram people into a cookie-cutter space, to feed them as many unhealthy calories as possible — then get them to leave. That stripping away of human experience? That is where fast food went astray.” The article also includes the news that more Shake Shack branches are coming in the future to the Upper East Side and Midtown (44th and Eighth!).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Allegretti Visual Review

The only decent last-minute Saturday night reservation I could get for my family was at Allegretti, a restaurant specializing in food from the south of France, in the Flatiron district. My father has high standards and is often hard to please when it comes to new restaurants, but he seemed quite pleased with what Allegretti had to offer. The dishes offered interesting combinations of ingredients and managed to pull them off well.

Octopus with  chickpeas, crispy prosciutto and anchovy sauce 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Anthos Upstairs Review

Michael Psilakis might well be considered New York City's premier Greek chef and he has been working hard to steadily expand his reach. He has three restaurants in the city: Anthos, Kefi and Gus and Gabriel. His cookbook, "How to Roast a Lamb," was also released recently.

Earlier this year, he made a move that has become popular in the recession — he converted part of his expensive, upscale restaurant Anthos into a more casual and affordable mini-restaurant known as Anthos Upstairs. Everything on the menu is $15 or less and offers decent-sized portions.

I previously tried Anthos during Restaurant Week a couple of years ago and enjoyed a delicious, filling meal in an elegant setting. So, Anthos Upstairs seemed promising, extending upon the principle of good cooking at a lower price point. On the night I ate here, it wasn't exactly "upstairs" because that area was closed for a private party. But the restaurant was offering the Upstairs menu in the front bar area. This meal echoed my first experience — delicious and affordable in a modern, stylish atmosphere.

A complimentary set of Greek taramosalata made from different types of fish and served with pita chips. It's always nice when you feel like the restaurant isn't treating the bar customers like second-class citizens. This was a perfect starter, speaking to the restaurant's Greek influences.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

It's the first night of Hanukkah. What better way to celebrate than with latkes! Before you fry up your potatoes and onions in lots of oil, take some tips from Joan Nathan, an expert on Jewish food. You can also try for a healthier version, though it likely just won't taste as good. For an alternative take on latkes, make them Indian style. And if you just can't stand the heat in the kitchen, let Russ and Daughters in the Lower East Side satisfy your Hanukkah needs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Small Bites

- New grass-roots food groups are bringing people together in San Francisco.

- Rolling Stone — yes, the magazine — plans to open a restaurant in Hollywood.

- A new vaccine is being tested on cows to prevent E. coli and make food supplies safer.

- Some food bloggers and Gourmet magazine mourners have started a site called Gourmet Unbound in homage. It is starting by posting readers' favorite Gourmet recipes.

- Is sustainable dining actually sustainable?

- Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia, talks to Salon about her new memoir, Cleaving.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In the Kitchen With Grandma

This fall, a book called the "Asian Grandmothers Cookbook" was released. I love the idea of this cookbook. Most people I know (and even ones I don't) admire, appreciate or yearn for the cooking of their grandmothers. Grandmothers seem to be synonymous with good cooking. Maybe it was because many of them came from a time, place or culture where cooking was a necessity to survive, when there were fewer other distractions, where it was just a natural part of life.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Corton Review

Another very belated restaurant review.

Corton is an upscale restaurant in Tribeca with lofty culinary ambitions. It takes after Alinea and the other molecular gastronomy powerhouses, striving for a modern, revolutionary take on food. But where Alinea brings us to new heights, Corton stays a bit too grounded.

Paul Liebrandt, touted as a talented young chef, originally from Britain, is Corton's bold leader. He opened Gilt restaurant and has many accolades to his name. Frank Bruni's verdict on Corton was three stars.
My meal here came shortly — and perhaps unfortunately — after my Alinea experience.  Alinea was like a time machine that showed me a glimpse of the future in its food. Corton, on the other hand left too much up to the imagination. The dishes at Alinea may have been wacky, but they generated a real, glorious flourish that left a lasting impression. Corton quickly faded from memory.

The restaurant suffers from ambition gone awry. The room is pretty but so formal as to feel pretentious and stuffy. The host was unwelcoming. The servers are so stiff and unfriendly they act as though they have been abused and are afraid to commit any misstep. (Liebrandt has been known to be temperamental.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Stumptown Coffee Review

Following on the tails of my visit to The Breslin, I stopped in to Stumptown Coffee, also attached to the Ace Hotel, for a cappuccino. It's one of the much-ballyhooed new coffees that arrived from the Pacific Northwest, specifically, Portland, this fall.  As you can see, these guys are serious about their coffee, swirling a fancy pattern in the foam for the cappuccino AND in the hot chocolate. The strong coffee is very good, a heavily roasted flavor but not too bitter. And the hot chocolate was perfect, chocolatey but not cloyingly sweet or rich.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Small Bites

- Iran gets its first U.S.-style supermarket.

- It's a rough season for oyster harvesters in Texas, coming a year after Hurricane Ike. It's so bad that some harvesters may go out of business.

- Bagels can be a dangerous food.

- Although it seems like street carts in cities across America mostly have enthusiastic support from customers, they face many bureaucratic nightmares

- Some restaurants are bartering free food for services like repairs and pest control.

- Daniel Gross, a columnist for Slate, asked readers why he couldn't find any chocolate in China. Turns out, there IS chocolate in China.

- The debate over charging obese airline passengers extra, which I wrote about in June, has been renewed by a photo posted on a blog showing a passenger so large he was spilling into the aisle.

- Do you prefer your sandwich cut into triangles or rectangles?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Breslin Review

The owners of gastropub Spotted Pig opened The Breslin not long ago in the barren stretch of lower Midtown Manhattan at Broadway and 29th Street. It only began serving dinner last week. But not too long ago, I sampled the lunch offerings at this dark, upscale gastropub. The decor is mostly black, giving the room a heavy, curtained feel. The calorie-laden food matches. We arrived on the early side of lunch hour - exactly at noon - and the place was mostly empty, but by the time we left an hour later, it had filled up. This would be a good pit stop before going into hibernation for the winter.

Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt Chips.
These chips were presented in a cute way, introducing themselves in a clear, plastic package with a "Hello my name is" sticker. But it also felt somewhat cheap. Because they came in a package, they had more in common with chips you would buy in a store, packaged and shipped in bulk, rather than something homemade. But the sticker indicated that these chips had been "born" just two days earlier. I used to hate salt and vinegar chips; they were personally an acquired taste. The vinegar on these was puckering at first, but I came to like them. And once I got past that, they were addictive!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Shake Shack's December Custards

December's custard calendar is not that appealing. Bring back pancake batter!

Monday: Roasted Chestnut
Tuesday: Figgy Pudding
Wednesday: Panettone
Thursday: Eggnog
Friday: Pomegranate
Saturday: Candy Cane Crunch
Sunday: Gingerbread

With Regret

At the end of last week, I received this card in the mail confirming that with the demise of Gourmet, the rest of my subscription will be replaced with Bon Apetit magazine. I had more or less planned on being an infinite subscriber and renewed continually, so I'm not quite sure how many more years were left on my subscription. But this random spokesperson "For Gourmet" has informed me that I may opt out of receiving Bon Apetit and instead choose to receive a refund on the remainder of my subscription. To give it a chance or just take the money back and run? What to do? 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Kyochon Takes Baby Steps

The pending branch of Kyochon, the Korean fried chicken chain, on the corner of 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue is making slow progress, it seems, just keeping pace with the change of seasons. And they know it. They're at least keeping their patient future customers amused with some fun plywood. I look forward to trying this "Chicken like you've never had before."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Motorino Review

Pizza is one of my favorite foods; I can eat it repeatedly without fast tiring of it (though were I challenged to eat pizza for every meal every day for a month, like this guy, I'm not sure I would succeed). Living in New York, it might seem that I should be easily satisfied because this is a pizza town, if there ever was one. But the city is so saturated with bad pizza places, it's hard to find the good slices among them. Not to mention all the different styles of pizza - thin crust, wood-burning oven or odd toppings. Luckily, my favorite pizza place in New York so far, Vezzo, is not far from me. But I'm always looking to try the pizza places that are getting a lot of attention to see if they can exceed my expectations or supplant my favorite pizza.

Motorino, a much-talked about pizza place in Williamsburg, recently opened up a second branch in the space formerly occupied by Una Pizza Napoletana in the East Village. Motorino has been on my list of places to try, but a recent strong endorsement from some coworkers (though they based it on the Brooklyn branch, which is of course cheaper), pushed it to the top of my list and I decided to check it out for lunch. Motorino has a lunch prix-fixe special: For $12, you can choose salad or ice cream and your choice of the Marinara, Margherita, Brussels sprouts or Soppressata pizza.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Maira Kalman on Food

I'm a big fan of Maira Kalman's illustrated column "And the Pursuit of Happiness." Her latest entry  addresses how we eat in this country — lots of fast food— and she explores how we might be able to change that.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Chinese Thanksgiving

On Salon's new food site, Francis Lam writes about how his Chinese Thanksgiving is different from the traditional American Thanksgiving. Over the years, my family has done both the turkey-stuffing-sides-and-pie Thanksgiving as well as the dim sum, eat-out-at-a-Chinese-restaurant Thanksgiving. It's been many years since I actually attended one of these family celebrations on account of my work schedule, but this year I made a return appearance to my aunt's house to a blend of the two versions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Murray's Cheese Ventures Into Supermarkets

Murray's Cheese has teamed up with Kroger supermarkets to open 50 stores-within-a-store over the next few years. Once you've had good cheese, it's hard to go back. But I've already professed my love for Murray's.

Small Bites

A heavier-than-usual dose of Small Bites to keep you stocked up for Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

- Is the consumption of animals and use of animal products murder? Strict ethical vegans think so.

- Eating carbs might help to boost mood, so the Atkins Diet could make you unhappy. This piece makes the interesting point that "Showing how people fare emotionally on a diet seems key to helping them stay on one."

- Fish tagine brings families together.

- Time Magazine tests out Top Chef frozen meals from Schwan's Home Service.

- Picky eaters take the fun out of dinner parties.

- Slate shares thoughts on the best ways to present pumpkin at your Thanksgiving table. 

- McSweeney's experimental newspaper, SF Panorama, includes a food section.

- Do food company hotlines actually help to answer questions consumers have? The Wall Street Journal finds out.

- Slate's Daniel Gross experiences the transformation of the hot pot in Chongqing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Pie, Oh My!

Despite loving pumpkin-flavored treats, I have never been a fan of pumpkin pie. There are few foods where texture is the defining factor for me, but the mushy body of pumpkin pie just turns me off. Thankfully, Shake Shack has found a way to make it palatable to me with its Pumpkin Pie Oh-My! custard special — vanilla custard mixed up with homemade pumpkin pie and topped with a mountain of whipped cream. Ice cream makes everything better.

This is a decadent dessert, more like a sundae. It's the whipped cream that does it. The vanilla holds strong but is tinged with pumpkin — the mushy pie is gone, melded into the custard. Bits of crust pop up in every other bite. They're so small as to be almost unnoticeable, but just enough to provide a texture contrast, especially as the custard heads toward soupiness, and occasionally a chunkier piece will make a surprise appearance. I wouldn't have minded more of them.

If you like a headier pumpkin flavor, go for the Pumpkin Pie custard on Mondays, but if sundaes are your thing, indulge in the Pumpkin Pie Oh-My!

Food Celebrities

I am terrible at spotting celebrities around New York, yet it seems I manage to recognize food-related ones who are less known by sight (although these days many do appear on television in Top Chef or other food shows) — again, it's my nerdy version of celebrity gossip. In the span of the past few days, I noticed Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50, talking on a cell phone and flagging a cab on Fifth Avenue, and Zak Pelaccio, the chef behind Fatty Crab restaurant, among others, eating at Motorino in the East Village. I also once spotted Food Network's Alton Brown in Klee restaurant.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Introducing Salon's Food Site has launched a food section led by Francis Lam, a former Gourmet writer and blogger. It feels like Salon is a bit late in coming around to cover the food world, but let's see what they produce. They've gathered a group of writers that includes Grant Achatz of Alinea, who also blogs on The Atlantic's food channel, and John T. Edge, who writes for The Times. I am always interested in compelling, original food stories, but this makes me wonder if the overlap will make the site less worthwhile.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The New Yorker's Food Issue

Last week, my favorite of The New Yorker's annual issues — the food issue — arrived in my mailbox. It has pieces by Adam Gopnik on reading cookbooks (a series of companion pieces online evaluates some of them, including one by Ferran Adria), Calvin Trillin on poutine (with a podcast online), Mimi Sheraton on something called spit cake and one by John Colapinto on the life of an inspector for the Michelin guides. Michelin insists on maintaining a high level of secrecy for its inspectors because they believe that only professional, trained reviewers evaluating restaurants anonymously can be trusted.

With cameras everywhere and blogs flooding the Internet, it's harder for restaurant reviewers to hide their identities and go unnoticed. It has led to a debate on just how important anonymity even is for reviewers anymore (Colapinto also has a blog post on a discussion about anonymity with various people in the food world).

There is something to be said for reading reviews written by professionals — newspaper reviewers who live by certain standards, or people with some food-related background and the knowledge to rate a restaurant smartly. But I don't believe that only reviews from those categories of people are trustworthy. The common person who eats out often develops an appreciation for what tastes good and, out of pure curiosity and personal interest, can learn the intricacies of cooking and what makes something good or bad. This means that personal preferences may play more of a role in those reviews, but after following any writer for some time, readers can gain a sense of that and determine how much they have in common with the writers as eaters.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Bites

- Don't even think about taking photos or notes when you eat at Shopsin's. Not even if you're dining with Heston Blumenthal, chef of the British restaurant The Fat Duck.

- Double X shares a tale of how regifting a cake is not a good idea.

- There are 49 million people in the United States not getting an adequate amount of food.  At the same time, the number of obese people in the country continues to rise.
UPDATE: The Washington Post's Post Partisan blog questions the term "food insecurity" used in the reports about hunger. Post writer Charles Lane makes some interesting points such as, "Adults are asked if they ever lost weight due to a lack of food money -- but not how much weight, or what they weighed before. In theory, a 300-pound man who lost a pound could count as 'food insecure.'"

- Serious Eats has an early, and mostly positive, review of Midtown's Momofuku restaurant, Ma Peche.

- Michael Bloomberg was spotted eating in Paris at Mon Vieil Ami. After much research, this modern French restaurant became one of the places I dined at during my weekend in Paris in March. It was a lovely meal and I had no regrets (except that I wished I had had more nights to try many other tempting places as well).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Taste Test: Pumpkin Chocolate


The Taste:  A friend recently gave me a box of Dean & Deluca chocolates and one of them happened to be a pumpkin chocolate.
The Test Verdict: 6 for flavor and texture. With the first bite, I thought this was going to be a generic chocolate that was pumpkin only in name and color. But the cream-filled center really surprised me with its balanced sweet flavor and smoothness. It didn't have the artificial, sugaryness that so many bad chocolates have. But overall it lost points because it lacked the depth of a good dark chocolate. When I bit into it, the top (which, though colorful, had little taste) popped off, in a funny way, resembling a carved pumpkin.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shake Shack and Doughnut Plant Team Up

On my last visit to Shake Shack, I noticed they had added another seasonal fall item - apple cider and doughnuts. What I didn't know was that the doughnut holes are provided by the Doughnut Plant. They also supplied the doughnuts in the coffee and doughnuts custard flavor of the day. No wonder those doughnuts tasted so good!

Additional Shake Shack news: With any luck, Boston could get its own branch.

Following the Twitterati

Twitter has its naysayers and its enthusiasts. I fall somewhere in between. While I haven't found it engaging for my own posting purposes yet, I have been amused by other people's posts. And in particular,'s "A Moveable Tweet" series has been entertaining. Alinea's Grant Achatz eating at El Bulli for the fourth time - wow and I'm envious (and it feels strangely incestuous). Ruth Reichl telling us that six different cookie covers had been prepared for the December issue of Gourmet — six times as sad that it will never arrive in my mailbox. Momofuku's David Chang spotted eating at the new restaurant The Breslin. I guess this is my own nerdy version of being into celebrity gossip.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A New Trader Joe's for Chelsea

I had heard rumors that a new branch of Trader Joe's would be coming to Sixth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets.  Curbed writes that it will be so (via The New York Observer), along with an Upper West Side branch next year. Hooray!

The Ghost of Gourmet

Gourmet may be dead, but there must have been lots of stories they had already lined up for issues to come or that were going to be published on the Web site. Eater put out a call for those homeless stories and today publishes one of its takers about speed-dating for farmers and chefs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Small Bites

- Among fast food chains, Arby's has struggled the most through the recession.

- Britain throws away $20 billion worth of food each year.

-  Slate explains the process of prisoners' last meal requests.

- As part of the health care debate, some focus has fallen on overweight people as greater consumers of health care. Congress is considering proposals to allow employers to reward healthy behavior while some are trying to point out that heavier people can still be healthy. But what does this all mean when some researchers are finding that exercise doesn't always lead to weight loss?

- Judith Jones, the editor known for making Julia Child, shares her secrets for shopping and cooking for one - plan out meals for the week and shop at farmer's markets for individual portions of ingredients.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Momofuku Authors Turned Bloggers

David Chang and Peter Meehan are on the book tour for their new Momofuku cookbook and are blogging about it on GQ's Web site. Meehan has also lined up his next project - collaborating on a cookbook with the owners of the Frankies restaurants.

More Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer has brought his touch to the Gramercy Park Hotel. His new Italian restaurant, Maialino, is now open. Thrillist has the menu.

He will also be opening another branch of Shake Shack in Miami next year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cupcakes and Cusack

If you're a fan of Joan Cusack and cupcakes, track down the Cupcake Stop truck today. Cusack is helping to sell cookies for charity. It will be moving around Midtown throughout the day. A schedule is posted, but the latest is on the truck's Twitter.

Korean Fried Chicken Fever Continues

Edible Manhattan magazine went on a Korean Fried Chicken binge with John T. Edge, a food writer and author of a book on fried chicken, with happy results. 

And Kyochon, which has been under construction on the Northeast corner of 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue for some time, put up an eye-catching decorative wrapping over its plywood a couple of weekends ago indicating an anticipated arrival of January 2010.  But this past weekend it seems to have been taken down again. Does that signify progress or that the target date is now obsolete?

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Way the Cookie Crumbles at Shake Shack

I took advantage of the first Saturday in November to test out Shake Shack's biscotti custard. I started by asking for a taste and got a small spoonful topped with biscotti crumbs. The Shake Shack employee told me that the actual custard would be topped with biscotti pieces but that this would give me the idea. The sample wasn't bad, but I did hesitate because it definitely had the potential to be a flavor that tasted good in a small portion but would lose any appeal in a whole serving. I had seen a few cups come out earlier covered in what looked like delicious cookie croutons and the lingering memory of that pushed me into the "I must try it" column.

My order must have come at a time when the biscotti bin needed refilling. I mostly got the crushed crumbs with just a few chunkier pieces. The custard had a strong flavor — I think it was almond — but with an underlying syrupyness to it that got tiring as I made my way through the cup. I really liked the texture contrast of the crunchy biscotti (which were great - not too sweet, not too hard) against the smoothness of the custard and I found myself, mixing the bits in as much as possible so I could get some in every bite. I don't regret having tried this flavor, but I probably won't spend any more Saturdays on it.

During my visit I also discovered that the Pumpkin Pie Oh-My! is available everyday, all month, at the Madison Square Shake Shack. A source has told me that that is not the case at the Upper West Side location. I have no confirmation on the reliability of that information at this time.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Note to Restaurants: Things Not to Do

Here is the second part of the list of 100 things restaurant staff should never do to diners.

Crazy Combos

First there was the "you can't be serious" Shopsin's mac & cheese pancakes combination. And it turned out to be an incredibly great one. Now you can get a mac & cheese slice of pizza at Hell's Kitchen Pizza. It sounds promising, especially because one of my favorite pizzas is the baked ziti slice at Calabria's Pizza in my hometown of Livingston, NJ. Pasta and pizza, perfect together!

But here's a combination might be more likely to generate a gag reflex: kimchi doughnuts from Dunkin Donuts in Korea.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Gourmet Farewell Gallery

Kevin Demaria, an editor at Gourmet Magazine, documented the magazine's shutdown in this set of images. A bit voyeuristic, a bit sad, but interesting to see.

Small Bites

- Former Times restaurant critic William Grimes has written a culinary history of New York.

- The Daily Beast talks to novelist Jonathan Safran Foer about his new non-fiction book — Eating Animals — on animal agriculture and meat production. It sounds like a good read for fans of books like Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma or Fast Food Nation. It has apparently turned Natalie Portman into a vegan. And The Huffington Post has several pieces responding to Foer's book.

- On a similar note, Nicolette Niman, of the Niman Ranch, known for producing higher-quality meat, writes an op-ed defending meat eaters against those who say eating meat contributes to global warming. She places the blame more with farming methods and industrialization.  The Atlantic Food Channel has a piece critiquing Niman's defense. Helene York agrees with some of Niman's points, but takes issue with others, noting that all animals raised for eating contribute to climate change and that the pricing of industrial meats — and the federal policy influencing it — is the more important problem.

- Over on, we learn how big farms can be better, at least from a worker's point of view.

- Small grocery stores around the country are trying to bring healthier food choices to low-income neighborhoods.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy National Sandwich Day

Today is National Sandwich Day and Serious Eats has a roundup of reviews of sandwich places around the country.

An Afternoon in Murray's Cheese Caves

New York City is bursting with food adventures. I am an advocate of creating my own, whether it be a walking food tour along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens or just a visit to a new restaurant. But sometimes its about taking advantage of organized food experiences offered in the city. Last month I had a chance to tour the cheese caves at Murray's Cheese. I previously noted Murray's as one of the great specialty food shops in the city. During Open House New York weekend, architecturally significant institutions all around the city open with free admission and tours, and Murray's participates, offering an afternoon of tours of their cheese caves.

I snagged a spot on one of the small, popular tours by e-mailing them as soon as the guide for the weekend became available. Throughout the rest of the year, you can get a tour of the caves with a cheese tasting as one of the classes at Murray's, but it costs $75. So this felt like a great opportunity.

Before the tour, while waiting for everyone to arrive, we headed to a classroom on Murray's upper level where some cheesemakers were and had a taste of a mild, young goats milk cheese from Vermont along with some sparkling wine.

The tour typically allows about 10 people to join. For our time slot, there were actually no-shows and some walk-ins were able to get in. We were given hairnets and led into the back doors, through a hallway in what looked like a stock area, down some stairs and another hallway — a real behind-the-scenes feel. It felt like we were being let in on a secret!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pumpkin Doughnuts

October is behind us, but pumpkin season isn't gone just yet. Bloggers Blondie & Brownie compare pumpkin doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, Doughnut Plant and Dunkin Donuts.

A Fresh Look at Farm Foods

NPR has a beautiful interactive graphic on farm foods around the country. It looks like they began compiling this earlier this summer as part of Morning Edition series. It covers a random assortment, but includes some less familiar items like fiddleheads, nopalitos and daikon. If you don't know what those are, you should check this out. Whether you're looking for a good little story (with audio), some quick facts and tips on how to buy these fruits or vegetables, or recipes, it's all here.

Shake Shack's November Calendar

It's the beginning of a new month. It's time to say goodbye to Pumpkin Spice Saturdays, but hello to:

Monday: Pumpkin Pie
Tuesday: Meyer Lemon
Wednesday: Cranberry Cinnamon
Thursday: Buttered Pecan
Friday: Apple Cider
Saturday: Biscotti
Sunday: Shack Shiraz Poached Pear

So, for another month, you can still get a pumpkin fix, but on Mondays instead!

UPDATE: Serious Eats also recently taste-tested something called Pumpkin Pie Oh-My! No indication of whether this is a limited-time-only menu item.

A Pumpkin Roundup

As we close out a month of pumpkin, here are a few more delicious-looking pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin pancakes
(And if you're afraid to make your own, Cafe Orlin in the East Village might be a place to get some good ones.)

Roasted spicy pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin whoopie pies

Spiced pumpkin muffins

Ginger custard pumpkin pie

UPDATE: (one more for breakfast) Pumpkin spice oatmeal

Friday, October 30, 2009

South of the Empire State Building News

[I say south of the Empire State Building because this area along Fifth Avenue and just to the East and West really falls outside of the nearby neighborhood boundaries. ]

- One of my favorite go-to restaurants - Tabla Bread Bar - will cease to exist as I know it. Chef Floyd Cardoz has decided to merge his two levels of restaurant into just Tabla with a common menu that will include dishes from both parts. Let's hope some of the more affordable prices stay on the menu too.
UPDATE: Grub Street has a copy of the new combined version of the menu.

- Pamplona, a tapas restaurant on 28th Street between Park and Madison, has closed and may become a nightclub. I ate there once and while the food was decent, the service wasn't great, the prices were slightly high and the space was dark, and I never went back.

- A new coffeeshop called Birch Coffee opens in the Gershwin Hotel on 27th Street.

- The Breslin Restaurant, by April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman of Spotted Pig fame, is now open for breakfast and lunch in the Ace Hotel at 29th Street and Broadway. This area really needs some good neighborhood spots with decent food at good prices. Most of the new places I've tried have fallen short on the food front. I hope The Breslin doesn't turn out to be too trendy.

Szechuan Gourmet Review

There's been a lot of praise heaped on Szechuan Gourmet, a Chinese restaurant on 39th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Former restaurant critic Frank Bruni gave it two stars. Midtown Lunch raved about the Pork Belly with Chili Leeks lunch special. And I'd seen other blogs make note of this lunch dish. It sounded heavenly - fatty pork, a spicy kick and a great deal that comes with rice and soup. While I'd ordered other dishes from here before, I really wanted to test this particular lunch special. So one day not long ago I decided to go for it and ordered the pork belly as a takeout lunch.

What I got was a full container of very thinly sliced fatty pork with lots of leeks coated in chili, looking as though it would be spicy and filling, a side of rice and wonton soup. When I dug in, I found pork dull in flavor, perhaps too many leeks, and a disappointing lunch. The pork belly was hard to eat because the slices were long with large strips of fat. It's supposed to be fatty, but if it is fried up well, you can eat it and hardly notice. Or if the restaurant had used thicker cuts of it, the pork might have stood up better in this dish. Unfortunately this pork was soggy and hadn't absorbed any of the chili flavor; the meat tasted plain and not terribly fresh. The wonton soup thankfully was good and helped to fill me up.

This dish left me craving a better pork belly, so I consulted a friend who had once made an excellent version for me. A couple of weeks later I went to Hmart, the grocery store in Koreatown, got my own ingredients and cooked up a simpler, yet more palatable, dish of pork belly than I'd had at Szechuan Gourmet.

Small Bites

- The city's study of the effect of the calorie count postings is more positive.

- The Times asks: Can biotech food can cure world hunger?

- Some tips for restaurant waitstaff - a list of things they should never do. Most anyone who has ever eaten in a restaurant will agree.

- With the World Series going on, Sam Sifton, Times restaurant critic, and Pete Wells, Times dining editor, have a timely discussion about the cheesesteak. I had my first one last month from Tony Luke's at the Phillies ballpark.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Meat on the Street

Yet another new option for street food: Frites N Meats, otherwise known as burgers and fries. It seems like an odd time of year for a new street vendor with the weather getting colder and fewer people apt to be on the streets. But they're on Twitter. (If you want to support the ones who do it the old-fashioned way - word of mouth, passersby etc - see last week's Times article on the more under-the-radar trucks.) Well, at least it has a catchy name!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weird Fruits

People are always ready to get excited over hard-to-get or interesting new fruits. Like mangosteen, which Trader Joe's sells freeze-dried. Or the super fruit that people claim has every health benefit you can imagine, like acai. The one I'd most like to try someday is the miracle fruit. The LA Times takes a stab at what the next trendy fruit will be - the maqui berry.  Another LAT article introduces us to Buddha's Hand. If you've never seen this one, it has quite the startling appearance. A few years ago, I spotted this in the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in Chelsea Market, but have yet to taste it or see some innovative chef add it to a menu.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taste Test: Pumpkin Bread

The Taste: Pumpkin Bread from Millport Dairy in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
The Test Verdict: 7.3 for flavor and taste (three tasters).
This pumpkin bread came from the Columbia greenmarket sold by an Amish man from Millport Dairy in Lititz, Pa. Pumpkin bread is my favorite of all pumpkin products and the best I've ever had was sold by the Amish at the Shaker Square farmer's market in Shaker Heights, Ohio. So, I was excited to try this bread. It had the basic key ingredients I'd hope to see in a homemade bread, listed on the wrapper: flour, sugar, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. It had a strong flavor, but didn't live up to the perfect balance of my ideal pumpkin bread. It was extremely dense and sticky; I'd prefer a drier, fluffier texture. One of the other tasters said it was "quite good, but a bit too sweet." Its saccharine nature made it so that I couldn't eat much more than a small slice of this bread at a time. When I'd buy my favorite pumpkin bread in Ohio, it took willpower not to finish off most of the loaf at one time!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Perilla Visual Review

Brunch at Perilla Restaurant, opened in 2007 by Harold Dieterle, the winner of the first season of Top Chef.

Complimentary corn cranberry muffins

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A French Appreciation for Pumpkin

Peter Mayle writes in The Times about the pumpkin and Halloween's place in France. The best part:

"“Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that pumpkins all over America are massacred, with all that good honest flesh tossed away, simply to provide a primitive decoration?” He took a deep swig of rosé and shook his head. “Do our American friends know what treasures they’re missing? Pumpkin fritters! Pumpkin and apple sauce — so delightful with sausages! Then, bien sûr, there is Toulouse-Lautrec’s sublime gratin of pumpkin."

And at the end, a recipe for pumpkin risotto.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fewer Pumpkin Pies This Year?

The Los Angeles Times reports that there is a shortage of canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling because bad weather last year made for a smaller crop. That might explain why on a recent supermarket outing for canned pumpkin, the supermarket clerk said "Whatever we have left would be in Aisle 15." And it's not even close to Thanksgiving yet.

Taste Test: Pumpkin Cupcake #2

The Taste: Pumpkin Cupcake from Billy's Bakery.
The Test Verdict: 5 for flavor, 7 for texture (three tasters).
This cupcake was light and moist, but if I had tried this blind, I would not have been able to tell from the scent or taste that I was eating pumpkin, only that it was a sweet baked good. While the frosting, a smooth decadent buttercream, was good, there was much too large a heap of it on a cupcake this size.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Preview of the Momofuku Cookbook

Next week, Momofuku king David Chang's cookbook will be released. The Wall Street Journal gives us a preview. The book is apparently written in his straightforward, vulgar language and the tone reflects Chang's ambitious attitude, covering things like boiling a pig's head. And if you need a refresher on the Momofuku empire, the WSJ's article includes a guide to the restaurants.

Taste Test: Pumpkin Bar

The Taste: Pumpkin Bar from Billy's Bakery in Chelsea.
The Taste Verdict: 7 for flavor and texture (two tasters).
I really liked this one. Solid, moist cake with a cream cheese frosting and nuts. A robust, spicy pumpkin flavor. I don't mind nuts in my desserts, but those who do might not love this dessert. This tasted more homemade to me than the other baked pumpkin desserts, but one unofficial taster disagreed, saying the icing tasted like confectioner's sugar. (But maybe there is a reason she's not an official taster!) I don't love icing in general so tend to shun it if it tastes just like sugar. This icing was rich and cheesey to me and while there was a bit of it leftover at the end, I felt more able to eat it a proportional amount of it with the cake.

Small Bites

- The Los Angeles Times has a look at different kinds of milk out there from goat's milk to hemp milk.

- The employees of the USDA sadly get food that is no better than that of any other bad cafeteria.

- The Chicago Tribune profiles Chicago chef Rick Bayless as he adds a new restaurant, Xoco, to his Mexican empire.

- Alinea's chef, Grant Achatz, writes about the experience of losing his sense of taste as he underwent treatment for tongue cancer. He says that his appreciation for aromas increased even more after that period. See my review of Alinea to get a sense of how he incorporates smell into his meals.

- There is a good debate going on about the benefits of at-home cooking. Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic makes the point that cooking makes us more aware of what we are putting into our bodies even if the food we cook isn't necessarily healthier than what we get from eating out. Matthew Yglesias argues that there's reason why people don't cook as much and that cooking won't improve public health.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Taste Test: Pumpkin Parfait

The Taste: Pumpkin Parfait from Three Tarts.
The Test Verdict:  3 for both flavor and texture (two tasters).
The pumpkin parfait was composed of pumpkin puree, apricot compote, whipped cream, molasses and dark chocolate cookie. These flavors were out of sync, each competing for the strongest play - the pumpkin against the apricot, the sweetness of fruit against the sweetness of the chocolate cookie. One taster thought that any two of the flavors might have worked together, but all of them together just made for a weak, distasteful dessert. "A parfait should present the option of tasting the multiple layers at once," one taster said. "In this case, I can't imagine what utensil would have allowed that." The mini parfait cup made for difficult eating because our spoons couldn't quite squeeze into the narrow bottom. And so for all these reasons, this treat wasn't so much a treat.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taste Test: Pumpkin Cupcake #1

The Taste: Pumpkin Cupcake from Penelope Cafe.
The Test Verdict: 7 for flavor; 7.3 for texture (three tasters).
This cupcake had a strong, spicy aroma with notes of nutmeg and ginger, but those things didn't come through as aggressively in flavor. The cake was fluffy, buttery cake with white raisins that blended in enough that they weren't noticeable except to someone analyzing the cupcake's texture! There was too much of the sugary sweet icing. But overall a decent cupcake.

For Lovers of Pumpkin Beer

Serious Eats recently took its own survey of several pumpkin beers. It includes two that Food in a Nutshell tried out recently.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Good Review

Good Restaurant in the West Village has seemed somewhat unfortunately named because I do think it actually puts out, well, good food. When I mention this restaurant, it always seems confusing enough that I feel compelled to explain that the restaurant's name is actually "good". Good is a popular spot for brunch and the waits can get long. Luckily, on my second vist here, I only had a 15-minute wait after which we were seated at a nice table in a cozy nook.

Good offers a terrific deal: The breakfast special allows you to choose any egg dish, pancakes or french toast (practically anything on the menu) plus a homemade bread or side and a choice of a Chipotle Mary or Passionfruit Mimosa. We both chose to go with the special.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taste Test: Pumpkin Custard

The Taste: Pumpkin Spice custard cone from Shake Shack.

The Test Verdict: 9.5 out of 10 (two testers) for both flavor and texture.
The custard had a very deep, pumpkin flavor and visible specks of spice. My tasting companion noted that the custard tasted just like pumpkin pie before being cooked. The texture was thick and creamy and, as I said after finishing my cone, I could have gone for another one a few hours later!

Small Bites

- A little woman who eats a lot.

- Corby Kummer argues on The Atlantic's Food Channel that New York City's calorie counts ARE working.

- The New York Times Magazine put out the food issue this past Sunday with essays by Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Pollan.

- A hilarious slideshow of cakes gone wrong.

Taste Test: Pumpkin Ale

The Taste: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale at  Rattle N Hum.

The Test Verdict: The Smuttynose was a lighter, more gently-flavored beer while the Dogfish Head was dark-colored and seemed heavier. Both had faint tastes of pumpkin to them. I should note I am not a big fan of beer and know little about them, but I liked both ales. But, for me, the Dogfish Head was better because it had more flavor to it. Another tester appreciated the Smuttynose's subtlety and prefers pumpkin ale at Heartland Brewery. Heartland currently has  a limited-edition Smiling Pumpkin Ale.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The New Critic's First Review

Sam Sifton, the successor to Frank Bruni as food critic for The Times, gives DBGB two stars in his first review. Food in a Nutshell went there back in August.

Does Science Make Better Ice Cream?

If you're bored with standard ice cream,  a new ice cream shop on the Lower East Side - Lulu & Mooky's - uses liquid nitrogen to custom blend your ice cream. The owner says his favorite flavor is chocolate with cayenne and ginger.

Buenos Aires: Resto (Retro) Review

I was lax in writing up a full review of my dinner at Resto restaurant when I was in Buenos Aires a couple of months ago.  But I thought I'd do a bit of a look-back review because it was one of the top dinners I had in that city and if you are going to visit, I'd recommend this place and we made reservations in advance. The chef is another who trained with El Bulli's Ferran Adria. And the menu here is a great prix-fixe three-course: the meals are presented in four combinations, but you can mix and match among any of them.

Resto is a small restaurant hidden in the back of the lobby of an architectural society. It's a very spare bright room, decorated primarily in white, with a few artsy photographs hung along one wall. The service was friendly and we were offered complimentary glasses of a great Rose Champagne to start. We ordered glasses of pinot gris to follow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Time to Celebrate Pumpkin

With fall weather really starting to kick in, it's time to bring fall to the food blog. So I am beginning a series of pumpkin-related posts. A friend suggested a taste test of various pumpkin-flavored products and the results will be coming soon. But I'll start with a set of interesting pumpkin recipes posted on Serious Eats.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili
Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Walnut Cranberry Quick Bread
Pumpkin and Leek Soup

If you decide to try either of these out, let me know and you can become part of the pumpkin taste test!

The Craze for Fried Chicken

For months now, the northeast corner of 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue has promised that Kyochon, a Korean fried chicken company, would be coming soon. There had been no signs of progress until two weekends ago when finally I noticed the door open and some men working inside. And more recently plywood went up. Maybe it won't be too long now....

It seems that it's coming at a time of fried chicken madness. The Times Dining section last week noted the many non-Southern style fried chickens available in the city.

And Bon Chon, which used to be on the opposite corner from Kyochon but became Mad for Chicken, is opening up a new branch in Midtown on 38th between 7th and 8th.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Risky Eating

This week, The Times ran an article about how beef, contaminated with E. coli, managed to ruin one woman's life. On a related note, the Well blog gave us a list of 10 common food poisoning risks. It's not just meat that can be risky to eat. I would never have guessed ice cream would make it on there!

The list:
1. Leafy greens
2. Eggs
3. Tuna
4. Oysters
5. Potatoes
6. Cheese
7. Ice cream
8. Tomatoes
9. Sprouts
10. Berries

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Advice For the Day

Food writer Michael Pollan posted a request on the New York Times Well blog asking readers for their personal rules about eating. There's a great interactive graphic with a fun design giving us Pollan's 20 favorites. Of them, I liked this one:

"Avoid snack foods with the 'oh' sound in their names. Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Hostess Ho Hos, etc."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Web Sites to Check Out

Today I received two e-mails that directed my attention to two interesting sites I hadn't seen before.

My Tasting Table newsletter today pointed me to Wine Chap, a site that gives advice on what are the best wines at restaurants listed in its database and points out what the best deals are. It covers not just New York but also London and Hong Kong and a few other select locations around the world. As for New York, it includes some of the top and more well-known restaurants in the city.

I also received an e-mail from a friend with a link to a Korean cooking site called Maangchi that contains videos showing you how to make Korean recipes.

Small Bites

For more on Gourmet's closing:
- The Times chronicles the life of the magazine and gets reaction to its closing.
- Ruth Reichl will write a memoir about her time at Gourmet.
Part of why I find the magazine's closing so sad is that Gourmet covered a niche of the food world in a specific design and manner not done by any other magazine. I've seen some criticism that lately the magazine's quality had deteriorated, but with declining ad pages, it had fewer resources to keep up. Most other food magazines run what could perhaps be considered more utilitarian content - simple recipes and day-to-day cooking tips and there seems to be so much overlap in that area. It's true - Gourmet was more of a magazine for foodies, covering restaurant news, food and travel and entertaining for a more sophisticated, high-brow audience. But, at least it was original. One writer, over on, argues it was also a magazine for the "young and scrappy".

- Slate conducts a yogurt taste test. I've only tried two of the yogurts tested here (Stonyfield Farm and Wallaby), but was surprised at the results.

- New York city calorie counts aren't changing the food choices people make. This surprises me because I've noticed that they do in fact influence me - for instance, in deciding between ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins, I'll likely just choose the one with fewer calories.
- Fast-food bans in poor neighborhoods (like the ones in Los Angeles) aren't working either.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival is Here

This past weekend was the beginning of the Mooncake Festival or the Mid-Autumn Festival, an important Chinese holiday. Chinese people usually celebrate by eating mooncakes and giving them to relatives. There are many different stories behind the festival, none of which I really remember hearing often and am familiar with only vaguely. Or maybe I just didn't listen. Serious Eats has a nice explanation of mooncakes and a review of a variety of them that you can get in Chinatown.

Mooncakes are a pastry with a slightly sweet, soft cookie exterior filled with a dense black or red bean paste and often with a dried egg yolk in the middle. We always had boxes of these in my house during the festival time when I was growing up, but mooncakes were never my favorite thing. And because they are so thick and rich, it's hard to eat a whole one at once. So it would take awhile to make that box disappear. And there are so many varieties, I never knew which we had gotten.

Serious Eats mentions one variety, "round and white cakes with a flaky exterior and red stamping on the surface" that is more prevalent in the Suzhou region. It was rare that we would get those, but those were always better - the black bean paste was tastier and the whole thing not quite as thick. If you're looking to try mooncakes, my recommendation would be to keep an eye out for that kind!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Gourmet Magazine to Close

I am highly disappointed in Conde Nast for closing Gourmet, my favorite of its magazines. No end date has been given. I know I won't become a Bon Apetit reader instead; it just doesn't have the quality of content. And Gourmet has built up a beautiful Web site. Maybe it will survive in that form somehow. But I am in mourning.