Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I can die now.

Tonight I had dinner at Aldea on 17th street here in Manhattan. Mom is in town and she and I went to dinner with David and her old college roommate Laura, as well as Laura's husband Larry and Larry's sister Joan. We had a truly fabulous meal, which lasted well into the eleven o'clock hour. Wine, scallops, black truffles, octopus a la plancha, bacalao croquettes and so on and so on.... ending with a lovely we-closed-down-the-restaurant chat with the absolutely dreamy chef, Georges Mendes. Oh, and he's extremely talented/qualified too.

However, the crowning moment of the evening happened as we walked toward the Q train down 17th. We passed a group of 3 people standing around talking.... I did a double take. There, before my eyes was;

Yes, Jeffery Steingarten. Out walking his dog! With a very necessary push from David I went up and rudely interrupted the conversation (well, only sort of rude, it seemed like they were finishing up anyway) and just said " I just wanted to say that I LOVE your books and your writing. You have been a big inspiration for me, and because of you, and a very few other writers like you I am getting a masters in Food Studies right now at NYU." So began the BEST 20 MINUTES OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!!! I have been in awe of him for YEARS- his rigor, his natural and authoritative style. At once self-depreciating, and disarmingly honest, Jeffery Steingarten is one of if not THE very best living food writer.

And there we stood, talking about Delmonicos, about the lunch menu at the Harvard Club in the 1930's and how bland and horrible it was, about contemporary food culture, Marion Nestle, the Cooking Channel-- and by gosh, he seemed like he was honestly enjoying himself! Just talking to someone with such an encyclopedic knowledge and such a true love and true devotion to food; to food history, to cooking, to taste. I am inspired.

This was one of those nights. I didn't have to worry about catching the Q train after that-- I absolutely flew home.

Oh, and by the way, that couple I interrupted that were talking to Jeffrey first, and who had been sitting right next to us all night at Aldea? It was just good old Wylie Dufresne and his new bride.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

NYC Food Film Festival

There is a revolution going on and it's all about ways of learning, showing, tasting. It makes so much sense, such an obvious thing! If you want to teach or show people something about food, shouldn't there be at least an element of something edible involved in the presentation itself? Enter the NYC Food Film Festival, a (literally) delicious event now in its fourth year, whose very tagline sums up this whole idea: "Taste What You See On The Screen"
It is basically a whole weekend of fun Food and Film events, and as you might guess most of the events have been sold out for months. However, I got SUPER lucky yesterday and scored 4 tickets at the last minute to last nights' event "Edible Adventure #001: Smokes, Ears and Ice Cream". Wowza! First of all, the venue. You watch the movies on a beach right on the East River in Long Island City, literally floating on the water as the sunsets, and the movies play on, the Manhattan skyline lights up before your very eyes. Oh, you think Long Island City doesn't sound so hot? Well, take a look at this place:

I won't waste too much time describing the videos, they're short so check them out for yourself! These were my two favorites:

Smokes & Ears (both of which we ate. I learned I do not like pig ears.)

Obsessives: Soda Pop

I am in the best field in the world. Goodness I love food people. and food movies. and food. And New York.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

North Market

For all the time we've spent in Ohio, Mom and I had never really been to Columbus. We always arrived and hit the road towards the middle of the state. This past weekend, we found ourselves with a little extra time. Decidedly a bit the worse for wear, we needed a little lightness, a little time spent nurturing ourselves and each other. So we decided to spend the few hours before we flew our separate ways and poke around the big city a big. A bit of yelp research guided us to North Market, and it was just the thing.

We started our visit at the little coffee stand, a very short americano for me, with crema to rival the best of the best, made clearly with love and heart, and just a touch of barista-snobbery, which you've sort of just got to love, especially when it yields caffine like this.

Mom and I wandered the paradise of good food, heartened by the jovial, milling crowds and local, sustainable ethos that permeated the market. We slowly assembled a lunch, with two Ohio cheeses from Curds and Whey, a lovely little cheese stand manned by a young Ohioan who was way too attractive for his own good. And he fed me cheese samples. Oh my. Next stop was Omega breads, whose focaccia- dotted simply with garlic and rosemary- I found so deliciously addictive. You can watch a video about the baker herself here: http://vimeo.com/5999326. She seems pretty much cool. Lovely.

That tub of green looking things is Leek salad (!) which we picked up along with kielbasa and an ultra-garlicky chicken leg at a Polish food stand, which was also really really tasty. Leek salad is like potato salad, only slices of crunchy, mildly spicy leek instead of potatoes!

Scrumptious as all of this was, never far from our mind as we snacked on cheese and bread was the fact that we knew we HAD to save room for dessert. Arguably the highlight of the entire North Market is Jeni's Ice Creams.

In our initial browse through the Market, we passed the stand and honestly as we read the descriptions it was very difficult not to just go ahead and eat ice cream for lunch! I mean, look at these:

We settled on a modest four scoops: #1 wildberry lavender. #2 was lime cardamom yogurt, juicy with lime and warm with cardamom, this was our hands down favorite. #3 was Thai chile peanut, which, between the peanuts and coconut and chiles was sort of like pad thai ice cream. Scoop #4 was rhubarb rose, which actually tasted like rose wine! All were inspiring and mind blowing- I will be learning to make ice cream this summer, it is decided. Ice cream like this WILL be within my repertoire ASAP because I can't go running to Ohio every time I want ice cream, it just isn't practical.

Mom's expression sums up our experience of Jeni's ice cream.

Nothing a little mother/daughter time can't sooth.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grandpa Jim

One of my very favorite people on earth passed away today, or, as I'd rather think of it, moved on to other astral planes. My Grandpa Jim was very, very special to me. He was a man in my life who always made me feel like I was going to take over the world. He loved me unconditionally, and I him. He could be cantakerous at times, with a lot of people, but never with me, and even when he was being a bit mischevious ( and thus driving my mom/grandmother/uncle/etc NUTS) I couldn't seem to help but side with him.

(Grandpa, mom, her brother Steve, David in Ohio in 2008)

An example of a bit of mischief (relatively low-grade, as these things go) a quite fancy cloth napkin from the chic restaurant Revolver. He couldn't believe the cost of the food, so I think this was him getting our moneys worth. And really, not a bad idea.

(resourcefulness at its finest.)

Grandpa was big on the video camera when I was little, and he always liked to keep up with technology (like another dashing fellow I know...) which is really lucky for me, because I can now watch videos of my (obviously adorable) 3 year old self, and the crazy hair my mom had in the early 90's, and most importantly, my amazing grandparents, who treated me like an absolute princess and whose presence every summer was a total treat. My Grandpa Jim and Grandma Becky taught me what a beautiful marriage was, and created another one of my favorite people on earth, my Mom.

Also, importantly, Grandpa Jim taught me to love cheese. If I ever have a sandwich shop, the James. O. Walton special would be a THICK slice of cheddar cheese (with more on the side for snacks), a slice of raw sweet onion, piled between two slices of squishy white bread.

(Amish Cheese. We went to Amish country often when I visited, mostly, I now realize, to load up on cheese!)

I got to see Grandpa Jim quite a bit in the last year or so, and I felt proud that my experiences in New York seemed to bring him so much joy. He was my biggest cheerleader and patron, and there was not a doubt in his mind that David and I were going take over the world. When I told him about Davids job at Starbucks, "He'll be running that place in no time" was his immediate and matter of fact response. In one of my recent visits, as I was leaving, Grandpa found the perfect words for our special closeness- one which I always felt was unique, like we just understood each other, and were always on each others team, but had never really found words for. A secret society of two.

As the car pulled up to take my mom and I to the airport, Grandpa took my hand and said simply "Why are you my favorite?". His clear green eyes were earnest and sweet, they winked at me without actually winking, something he did a lot.

I didn't really tell you all the amazing things there are to tell about James O. Walton of Ohio. I feel so lucky that he took the time during his retirement to write his autobiography, and maybe over time I will tell you about parts of it, but for now, I just wanted to write what was on my mind, sort of a toast I guess. This was really more for me than you, blog-ether. I just want the world to know that a wonderful man left us today, but he lived an enviable life, and he will live always in my heart, right at the center. I hope someday I can build a life and family as full and beautiful as his was.

I love you Grandpa Jim. You're my favorite.